History of North West Section

of the Folk Dance and Song Group

Compiled by Pete Mac

Because memories of the start of the North West Section vary considerably, much time was spent unravelling what happened. In the process I have ended up with considerable detail of meets and those involved. I can’t guarantee this sequence of events, but it is my best effort at linking the versions together.

At the Whitsun Meet, 27/28th May 1966 at Stowe by Chartley, near Rugeley, Staffordshire, Vic Ward and family said that they would like to have a go at forming a North West Section. Joe Ward, Vic Ward’s brother, who came from Lancashire was also very keen. But, to quote Bob Whitlock, the Section didn’t in fact get off the ground at that time.

Even though the recognised start date of the present North West Section is 1970, it is clear that there were meets prior to that. Because of different information as to the start date from several sources, I quote the following Newsletters between April 1967 and August 1970 that refer to the North West Section.

Original North West Section

April 1967 Folk Group Newsletter, MIDLAND SECTION NOTES: “Your Chairman, Eddie Cammack, decided we must have a meeting and during the ‘early hours’ of Easter Monday morning decided the time was right. Section members arrived to learn of many things, one being that we have received an invitation to the North West Regional Meet on 19th/21st May, in company with the newly formed North West Section of the Folk Dance and Song Group.”

Under NORTH WEST notes in the same Newsletter, Hon. Secretary, Vic Ward, announced that the following officers had been elected at a meeting during the Easter Meet at Blockley: Chairman, D.V. Hunt; Secretary, Vic Ward; Treasurer, J Simcock. So this puts the start of the original North West Section as approximately 25th March 1967. The first meet was at the North West Regional Meet at Comberbach on May 19th/21st 1967. The Newsletter stated “The organisers of the meet are the North East Cheshire D.A. who will welcome all members who are able to attend and assist them in laying on entertainment. Site is Mr Edgerley, Hough Lane Farm, Comberbach, near Northwich, Cheshire.”

May 1968 Folk Group Newsletter, NORTH WEST SECTION: “We have two fixtures arranged but if this Section is to continue we must have a new Secretary. Perhaps the Northern members can get together at the following Regional Meet. D.V. Hunt, Section Chairman. 25th/26th May Regional Meet; Mr Oliver, Peck Mill Farm, Chelford, Cheshire.”

June-July 1968 Folk Group Newsletter, NORTH WEST SECTION: “The Section welcomed members of the Midland Section to the North West Regional Meet on 25th/26th May at Chelford, Cheshire. Dancing had been planned to take place in a grassy arena as part of the Saturday evening activities, but heavy rain made that impossible. So the Chelford Village Hall was hastily booked and an evening of dancing took place. The M.C., Yvonne Hunt, started with easy English dances to encourage newcomers, and then later in the evening introduced some interesting European dances. Next morning, when for an hour the sun broke through, the Midland Nomads led campers in a community sing-song. Next meet of the Section is 13th/14th July as guests of the Liverpool and S.W. Lancs. D.A. at Hough Lane Farm, Cogshall, Comberbach, near Northwich, Cheshire. D.V. Hunt, Chairman; Mrs J. Taylor, Hon, Sec.”

February-March 1969 Folk Group Newsletter, NORTH WEST SECTION: “26th/27th April Camp at Pontfadog. Mrs J. Taylor, Hon. Sec.”

June-July 1969 Folk Group Newsletter, NORTH WEST SECTION: “It rained all the time for our Folk Dance weekend at Pontfadog, and the field was very muddy. Nevertheless, we had a very successful weekend. It would have been even muddier if all our members had come along to take part. Mrs J. Taylor, Hon. Sec.”

August 1969 Folk Group Newsletter, NORTH WEST SECTION: “13th/14th September, FOL at Pontfadog. 26th/28th September, Group AGM at Towcester. Mrs J. Taylor, Hon. Sec.”

So, after spending many hours piecing information together, it can be seen that there was a North West Section running between March 1967 and September 1969, which was dissolved. Then a meeting was held to form the present Section in 1970. Eddie Cammack recalled in a letter to me, that “The formation of the present North West Section took place while I was Group Chairman.” He went to a meeting and a dance, and although people were not sure if the Section would be viable, Eddie suggested ‘trying it for 12 months by which time it would either be going or sunk!’ This would tie in with 1970 as the normally recognised start, as Eddie was Group Chairman from 1969 to 1970.

Present North West Section

The Inaugural Meeting of the present North West Section took place on 21st February 1970 at 3.00pm at Latchford Hall, Warrington. Ray Cope (known to all as ‘Moose’) was at the meeting, and had intended keeping a low profile. But in his words, he “had to clear his throat, and thus became the first North West Chairman!” Mary, his then wife, became the first North West Secretary. The Treasurers were Messrs Jim Simcock and Frank Lloyd. Committee members were Harold & Florence Lamb, Kath Lloyd, Gladys Simcock and Bob Rilley. After the meeting there was an American tea and a dance in the evening.

Moose continues “The first North West meet was at Chipping where new families, ‘who were looking for a site below the cloud level,’ were recruited.” One of the early successes was a joint meet with Midland Section, at Chipping, in October 1970, when there was a Saturday evening trip to the Blackpool Illuminations and a Fish and Chip supper on return.

Moose called and also instructed in such aspects of folk as song, sword, mummers plays, and Morris.

May 1970 Folk Group Newsletter, NORTH WEST SECTION: “The Section’s first meet at Hartington was successful despite the usual ‘Midland’ weather, but many thanks for the support and encouragement given by the Midland Section, complete with ‘Betsy’ Annie Lawrie Chapman, who borrowed his attire from the ladies in the kitchen. Special thanks to Eddie for the use of his equipment and to John and others who provided music for most of the day and night. Mary Cope, Hon. Sec.”

July/August 1970 Folk Group Newsletter, NORTH WEST SECTION: “Our meet at Chipping was not as well attended as we had hoped, but it coincided with several Wakes Weeks, so maybe this was the reason; we live and learn. Nevertheless we did have an enjoyable time. Eighteen dancers and one dog assembled in the Lambs’ tent for a singaround on Saturday morning, during which we were interrupted by four exhausted youths who had been ‘bivvying’ on Jeffrey Hill and had been driven down by the inclement weather. They joined in all our activities (including the sword) with enthusiasm and in return entertained us with excellent guitar playing. Saturday morning saw Bob Rilley leading a short ramble. After the dance, which was supported by several visitors, the aroma drifted across the campsite indicating that the local ‘chippy’ had been well patronised. Is this where Chipping gets its name? Our next meet will again be at Chipping on 2nd/4th October. If we get sufficient support we intend to run a coach tour of Blackpool lights, followed by a Fish an’ Chip supper. Please notify North West Secretary as soon as possible so that we can make arrangements. MOOSE.”

In 1970 Jean & Ron Stirrup became aware of the Folk Group and they became involved at the North West Easter Meet at Chipping in 1971. Group Easter meets had been suspended due to Foot and Mouth Disease and Sections were running their own Easter meets to avoid travelling across the countryside.

In 1971, Ron Stirrup became North West Chairman and his wife Jean became Secretary. However, due to Ron & Jean moving to the Midlands in early 1972, John & Jean Askew then became Chairman and Secretary. 

Others becoming involved at the time were Joan & Lewis Parry, Doreen & Ken Shaw, Lyn & Ray Wright, Gwen & Bill Franklin, Myra & Eric Pollitt, Judith & Roger Little, Anne & Brian Smith, Sydney Ridgeway and Jean & Roy Clarkson. There were lots of children in the Section, the older ones looking after the younger ones, and the children enjoyed taking part and became competent dancers.

In 1973 the North West Section, and in particular Roy Clarkson, organised a very successful Folk Group 10th Anniversary Meet and Group AGM at Heaton Park, Manchester, which is described elsewhere in this History. 

In 1980 the North West celebrated their own 10th Birthday.

In June 1995 the North West held a 25th Birthday Meet at Cartmel in Cumbria. In a packed village hall a birthday party tea was enjoyed. Among the Guests of Honour were Ray Cope (Moose), the North West’s first Chairman, and other past Chairmen including John Askew, Roger Little, Kevin Downing and Allan Dean.

Colin Paley has been a key member of the North West Section and very involved in Group activities for many years.