Eric Stones Reminiscences

November 1997

            On one occasion we played at a dinner dance at the Royal Hotel, one of the guests took delight in picking up the Hobby Hoss’ turds and throwing them around the room, while, I, Besom Betty was trying to collect them in my apron. I suppose they had run out of bread -buns.

            When I played Dame Jane I wore a pair of long blue knickers, with two black hand prints on the seat. I believe the knickers were donated by Hazel Tomlins. Don’t know whose handprints they were. I also wore a badge, saying “Half a lager and I'm anybody’s” and also one saying, “Folk singers do it orally.”  My rolling pin broke in half one time, after a particularly rough encounter with Beelzebub’s frying- pan, and my Rag Doll (son) looked worse for wear also.

            My first year in the jag, in 1976, I took the part of Besom Betty from John Davies who at the time had scarlet fever. This was the year of the great gale. Headline in the Evening Telegraph, ' Haxey Hood stolen £500 ransom.' I still think to this day that the Folk Club stole it, but it was all hushed up. We started the Jag at Berkeley Junior School, then Caistor Market place, and then we had lunch at John Walker's sisters' house in Caistor. Back to Scunthorpe we had a drink at the Bell and Anchor, and then did the Jag in the precinct. From there we went to the Phoenix Club for a drink, followed by Elm House Club and Big Social, before going to John Walker's for tea. Some of us played backgammon. After tea we went to the Berkeley Hotel, then the King Henry, a then to the Wortley, where we played the Jag for Barker's dinner and dance. Then we went back to the Phoenix Club to finish the night with a few pints and a few songs. That was the night I got molested by a lesbian.

  The Phoenix Club was on Winterton Road that was before it changed to the Pig and Whistle pub. The Club was dog rough in those days; we walked in, ringing bells, and shouting, “Bring out your dead". There wasn't many people in the place, but at the bar stood two huge women, both wearing men's suits, of dubious sexuality. We did the Jag, had a few pints, then a few pints more. The two lesbians were also getting drunk. I was playing Besom Betty and the largest lesbian came over to me and tried to grope me. She took my besom and started sweeping up around the club, then she mounted it and pretended to fly on it, like a witch, much to her amusement. When it came to leaving, we all got into the mini-bus, and, of course, the lesbian wanted to come along as well. She jumped on the bus and started snogging us. Sue Dalton was on board, as a Hatman (incidentally dressed in trousers), the big lesbian grabbed hold of her, and poor Sue said “But I'm a woman.” The lesbian said, “So am I darling.” and gave Sue a big wet sloppy kiss on the lips. Sue was never  the same after. We left the Phoenix after time and then we all tried to get into Tiffany’s, (now Henry Africa’s) but we couldn’t get past the bouncers. 

            Overheard in the Precinct one year, as I was collecting money dressed as Dame Jane. Mother to her little lad, “Don’t stare, they can’t help it."

            One year it was snowing when we did the Jag and two young lads were snowballing us in the precinct. We got hold of one of them, daubed him with make-up and hauled him up on the roof of the van, and threatened to drive off with him, but we didn’t, we got him off the roof. I think it was John Walker who shouted, “Off with his trousers!” The lad was off like a shot. I've never seen anyone move so fast. I wonder if the lad remembers the day when he snowballed the Plough-Jag.

            We did used to frighten children, but they did make the best audience.

            I was in the Jag before Clamart, when I stood in for Geoff Miller. I played Besom Betty two or three times but I can't remember what years.

            In Clamart was the first time I played Dame Jane after previously playing Besom Betty. Bob Cleveland played the spoons and he realised on the way that he had left his spoons behind. When we stopped at a service station on the way to Ramsgate, he unconsciously borrowed a pair. I believe he put them back, a bit bent, on the way home. After crossing by Hovercraft, we went though the French customs. Among the luggage on the conveyor-belt, were a set of swords, a gift from the council of a large hubcap (at least that's what it looked like), various musical instruments, a huge corn dolly (a gift from the Folk Club), but I think what confused the French customs more than anything was a Hobby Horse complete with snapping jaws.

The hotel that we stayed in Clamart was not as posh as the one the councillors stayed in, but it was OK. I was the only one to get a room to myself, so I was spared the vomiting incidents and musical interludes in the middle of the night.

I well remember the wedding party in the hotel. We provided the music and we all had a good knees-up, and they gave us food, sweets, and cigars a-plenty.

             The twinning and Jag went off all right, and I think the French enjoyed it. But what they understood I can't hazard a guess.

            I still have a letter from the French guide ‘Terry’ who thought it was hilarious.

            We managed with a bit of cheek to get into the civic reception in the Town Hall, but one of the French guides said, on the quiet, that it was the cheap stuff that the dignitaries were having.

The money that was collected at the cafe by the owner, we used to buy train tickets into Paris itself. Incidentally, the cafe man even got a policeman to cough up some money for us.

I didn't go up the Eiffel Tower, I don't like heights, but I enjoyed going round all the sights that has been recalled by others. All in all we had a great time, and the French people treated us like royalty. - A never to be forgotten experience.

            Footnote - We were the only long sword dance team to use French bread loafs instead of swords, there were a few crumbs when we clashed rolls. Someone has photographs to prove it. I kid you not.

            One year, I think it was the last time I played in the Jag; we had tea at Dick Skinner’s house. At the end of the night we went to Dick’s house to get the make-up off and change into our clothes. I was worse for drink and declined the offer to sleep it off on Dick’s couch. Instead, in full Dame Jane gear and blacked up face I got my moped, and put on my crash helmet over my bonnet. Drunk as a skunk, I rode home. Good job I wasn't stopped by the police, I would have had some explaining to do.

            When we did the Jag on the Sunday at the Wortley, I thought I would add a bit of drama. I had bought some fake blood capsules from a joke shop. Unknown to anyone else, I popped a blood capsule into my mouth during the fight with Beelzebub. I went down on the floor on my back, and bit the capsule, but the blood was a bit thick and didn't trickle out of the corner of my mouth like I'd planned. When Geoff Miller, as the Doctor, put the Ping-Pong ball in my mouth and I blew it out into the hat, it came out pink, much to their astonishment.

            When Keith Constable introduced the sword dance he was dancing in the Kirkby Malzeard sword team I think. For a while we were going to have our own Longsword team in Scunthorpe organised by Keith Constable. Keith, Bob Cleveland and me were certainly in it but it never seemed to get beyond rehearsing.