The Abbots Bromley Horn Dance by Tony Motley of Bennetts Funeral Directors of Brentwood & Billericay, Essex
The Abbots Bromley Horn Dance
Not strictly a Morris Dance but an ancient Ritual Dance. It was first written about in 1226, although the horns predate that. In 1976 a small splinter of bone from a broken horn was sent for carbon dating testing and gave the age as around 1065 and reindeer were extinct in Britain by 1100. Some small herds have been reintroduced in recent years. The dancers consist of a band of twelve, and by tradition, usually men. Six men carry the reindeer antlers accompanied by Maid Marian, the Hobby Horse, the Jester of Fool, a boy carrying a bow and arrow another a triangle on which he beats time, and a musician, nowadays playing an accordion, but in the past years a fiddle. Two local families the Bentley’s and the Fowells have been the predominant members and one, Dougie Fowell served for 71 years beginning as Triangle Boy and finally No. 1 Musician. A lovely guy!
Monday 10th September 2012, I attended the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance in Staffordshire, having attended this one day ceremony since 2003 with the exception of 2009 when undergoing surgery.
I arrived early and met up with fellow Morris Dancers from Surrey to see the ancient set of Reindeer Horns removed from their place of safety, St Nicholas Church and set off with the increasing crowd of followers to witness this ancient ritual, spotting many ‘regulars’ some of which are fellow Morris Men.
Later in the day I once again had the privilege to be invited to actually join in the set and perform the dance, my colleague sadly had to miss out due to an achilles tendon injury.
In the evening as usual I changed into my Mayflower Morris Kit and danced with the combined sided (teams) of Stafford, Hearts of Oak and Lichfield Morris Men, then it was handshake time, goodbyes to old and newly made friends and the promise ‘See You Next Year’.