1950s : Furry Dance in Looe

It's that time of year, folks!

Liskeard Carnival, Midsummer Bonfire (Tansys Golowan) with the Old Cornwall Society, Mevagissey Feast . . .  time for a #furrydance or #floraldance.

This time last year, I was in Pengelly's fishmongers in Liskeard having a natter with the lovely Angela Pengelly about Cornish dancing (as you do), 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 with an imaginary set of dancers, sing-humming the words . . . "John said to me one day . . . "

Here's one of those shots - looks like Hannafore Point - and that "opposite directions" movement is very clear as the dancers process forwards.

Note the right-hand hold, rather than the inside hand hold: Linden & Jose, two dancers from Lostwithiel, also adopted this hold the first time we danced 'North Cornwall Furry' to the 'Bodmin Riding' tune at a 'Sparkling Saturdays Cornish Dance Workshop" in Liskeard: "it's because it's easier to go into the right hand star..." And so it is!

The twenty-something girls used to jostle-up to the front to get in all the pictures, much as they'd probably do today.

St Pinnock Band with dancers in front
I had the pleasure of meeting Angela's mum, Ruth, a while back in Angela's shop in Liskeard just after she'd had her hair done. Her face lit up as she started reminiscing about how things were when she danced Looe Furry Dance 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 came into the shop, and I was transported back sixty years ... "... if there weren't enough to make up a set, then a set of three would just join in ..."

"There used to be 3 bands playing the tune..." and no surprise with that number of folk."  Would love to know how they all managed to keep in time with each other.

I love this picture - such movement as the dancers travel forward from right to left, or left to right.

Fabulous to see so many people out . . . and by now the youngsters in the pics would be in their seventies . . .

Dapper styles . . . wonder where everyone went after the furry dance 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 our wonderful fishmongers in Liskeard!

If you happen to spot any of your folks in these pictures, or if you've got any of those old photos of furry dancing in Cornwall or beyond from back-along tucked away somewhere, it'd be lovely to hear from you.

Dha weles skon - see you soon :D

** update ** September 2015 from Chris Luckhurst **

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!

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!