1950s : Furry Dance in Looe

It's that time of year, folks! Liskeard Carnival with the Furry Dance, Midsummer Bonfire (Tansys Golowan) with the Old Cornwall Society, Mevagissey Feast...and #cornishdance is a great way to bring folks together.

This time last year, I was in Pengelly's fishmongers in Liskeard having a natter with the lovely Angela about Cornish dancing, and in particular the "Flora Dance", the variations across Cornwall, and how it always used to be danced in Looe.
We were talking about whether it was danced in a straight line (like I know from "North Cornwall Furry"), or diagonally, with the front couple going one way, while the back couple went the other way (as you still see today for Liskeard's Furry Dance on the Wednesday evening of the Carnival).

"My Mum's got some pictures of the Flora Dance from overhead, where you can see them dancing in opposite directions," said Angela as she proceeded to dance the steps in the shop as if she were in a set of 4.

She sang-hummed the song as she danced the right hand star and then the left hand star and then back into the going forward diagonally one way and then the other part.

Here's one of those shots - looks like Hannafore Point, and you can clearly see that 'going in and out' movement as the sets move forward.

You might notice that most of the dancers are holding right hands, rather than inside hands. Linden & Jose, two dancers from Lostwithiel, had also automatically done this the first time we danced 'North Cornwall Furry' to the 'Bodmin Riding' tune: "it's because it's easier to go into the right hand star..."  And so it is!

The young, twenty-something girls used to jostle-up to the front to get in all the pictures, much as today!

St Pinnock Band with dancers at the front
One day, I had the pleasure of meeting Angela's mum, Ruth, just after getting her hair done in the town.  A lovely septuagenarian, her face lit up as she started reminiscing about how things were when she was in her twenties.

"We used to start up at the station in the early evening, dance all the way over Hannafore Point and then across the bridge to the sea front."

"It took about an hour and a half and by the time we were finished, we were all tired out."

Ruth's friend of the same age also came into the shop, and I was transported sixty years into the past...

...and if there weren't enough to make up a set of two couples, then a "set of three would just join in", as you can see in both the picture above...

...and in the centre of this picture as they turn the corner into East Looe.

I love this picture for the movement of the couples, particularly at the front, along with the onlookers walking alongside the procession.

The really young girls dance by the Rose Garden. I guess they'd be about seventy or so, now.

"There used to be 3 bands playing the tune..." and no surprise with that number of folk. Keeping them all playing at the same time was no mean feat.

A very dapperly dressed couple at the front of this picture. I wonder where everyone went after the dancing finished?

Big thanks again to Ruth for sharing these wonderful pictures and stories, and of course to Angela for sharing her stories, and for singing and dancing in the shop!

Please let us know if you happen to spot any of your folks in these pictures, and if you've got any of those old photos of Cornish dancing in your cabinets, or any stories about Cornish dancing, it'd be lovely to hear from you.

Dha weles skon - see you soon :D

** update ** September 2015 **

The marching band is St Pinnock Band, who provided the music in the 1950's and still do today.  The pictures show the same band in the St Pinnock Band uniform worn at that time, and there's one player who played in Looe Flora from 1954 onwards who's still playing today!  

Thanks to Chris Luckhurst of St Pinnock Band for the update!

You can find St Pinnock Band on the web here, on Facebook and twitter, and hear them at events and band competitions across the south east of Cornwall and beyond!