Steve Hindley's Recollections

January 1997

    When I joined the Plough jag team it was a facet of the Scunthorpe Folk Song Club and all the parts were taken by club members. A feature of each years performances was that the Jag was performed on the Saturday nearest to 6th January, as is still the case, and there was always an extra performance on the Sunday night as a curtain raiser to the second half of the Folk Club evening. Mo was still alive and he played melodeon for the dancing at the first performance I took part in. John Baker was doctor, Mo Ogg the fool, Bob Cleveland, Geoff Miller- Joe Straw, Eric Roberts  -Terry Hood (driving instructor) Beelzebub, I think, Dave Barlow was Dame Jane, and Dave Markham the Flash Hatman, Paul Dalton appeared as did John Baker and John Walker was always the Recruiting Sergeant. I was just a Hatman. Mo died in December 1980, so probably my first year was 1979. I started playing piano accordion in 1980

    The day started at Gainsborough (but may have started at someone's house in Scunthorpe as it does now, to get the make-up on), at the Mencap centre, Gainsborough House, adjacent to the Old Hall where we were met by the lady members who entertained us to coffee and mince pies. These ladies then accompanied us to the Market place where the first performance of the day took place outside the Co-op. The Mencap members collected and the Mini-bus, (borrowed from the Scunthorpe Mencap group), was left at their centre. I don't remember exactly which pubs were then visited but it became traditional to start at The White Horse (still the starting point) or The Tiger but it was probably when the Gainsborough House ladies stopped entertaining us.

    A trip back to Scunthorpe meant lunch at the Berkeley Hotel the home of the Folk Club at that time, and run by Gerry and Kay Beck who provided a substantial fare for a modest sum.

    The Scunthorpe performance was on the High Street, near the Clock, near to the Market and I remember there being considerable crowd stopping to watch. One year I was featured in the Evening Telegraph as the fearsome Besom Betty, but on several occasions prior to this I was just ' A Hatman’, and wore a Black plastic Sou'wester Hat with a badge saying ‘Musician’, just in case there was some doubt.

    The afternoon was spent in the Elm House Club (pubs weren't open in those days) or the Labour club, both were used for several years.

    Tea was at someone's house - John Bakers I think. Then it was off on the road again to Winteringham (Bay Horse) and West Halton (Butcher's Arms.)

    The Jag features a sword dance. This is not common in North Lincolnshire and, in fact, the one used is part of the traditional long sword dance of Kirkby Malzeard. The late Keith Constable, of education and folk dance fame, has been an influence and mentor of the Ploughjag since its resurrection. Keith was a member of the Lincoln Morris Men at about the time that Mo Ogg was putting together the Coleby Jag, and it was Keith who influenced the use of the long sword dance. The Tune used is 'Congress at Laceby' a local tune from the collection of Joshua Gibbons, of Tealby. This was another of Mo Ogg's achievements, in that he discovered the collection in Scunthorpe Museum and was instrumental in introducing many of the tunes to the folk club audiences throughout the country. Although not performed by any of the Coleby Jags, Mo did also obtain from Oswald Readhead, and his cousin, the description of, and the tune for, 'The Burton upon Stather Broom Dance.' The tune, as whistled to Mo, and annotated by Mo, as 'The Burton upon Stather Broom Dance' is that now published in some music books as ' The Lincolnshire Polka '. Mo Gave a description of the Broom dance to John Walker in the form of a large sheet of paper with sketches attempting to show the figures of the dance, but unfortunately no-one has yet been able to make a 'go' of a performance. A clue to what characters performed the dance is given by the sketches including a good caricature of John Walker himself as the Recruiting Sergeant and of a Female figure - Dame Jane? There is hint of a relationship between these two characters in the Coleby script. 

    In 1984 the Scunthorpe Mencap Bus was no longer available and it was fortunate that Paul Brown (the Lady with 72" bust) became manager at the Grange Farm Hobby Centre and through him we were able to use their Mini Bus. When he left we still used the Hobby Centre Bus, as the Morris dancing team, that was to become Tatterfoals, was still based at the Hobby Centre and had access. Later a Mini Bus was donated for several years by Dean Graham a bricklaying company working for me in British Steel. Since 1993 we have had to resort to hiring a Mini-bus.

    One notable year when Geoff Miller (the Doctor) drove the bus, Dick Skinner (the Fool) was directing him to reverse into a parking space outside Greens in Gainsborough and was saying " 6ft, 5ft, 4ft ----,” but forgot to allow for the back door which was open, and the door smashed the headlight of the car of an unfortunate lady who virtually stood and watched it happen, unable to understand what was going on with all these men with coloured faces and strange costumes stood around watching.

    Another year after a visit to the Scunthorpe Precinct the venue for after lunch was to be Keadby and the bus had been left somewhere away from the Pig and Whistle the pub used for lunch after Gerry Beck left the Berkeley, and for some reason we lost the Horse (Mark Freeman). No amount of searching found him, so, because the pub in Keadby (The Mariner's Arms?) was staying open for us to visit, it was decided to carry on. As we passed a telephone box in Keadby, who did we see? The Horse. He was probably as inebriated as the horse from the Burton on Stather team of 1937 that was lost, but luckily the outcome was much better.

    During the first few years of my participation when Paul and Sue Dalton were still in Scunthorpe, a big feature of the money collecting was the presence of the buxom Sue who Dressed a as a 'Hatman' but with short skirt and fishnet stockings. (Apocryphal? I seem to remember she wore trousers) Many's the time old hands have said that we never collected so much as when Sue was a Hatman.

     John Baker commented during 1997 Jag that a female Hatman was a feature of the Coleby Jag for many years Julie Hindley being the last in line. One old man was heard to tell the early Jaggers, 'You've just about got it right, but we never had any women involved.’  I personally never recommended having women on the jag after Julie because of the black hand print on her right breast at the end of the day. ("Spoil-sport” they say.)  

    My second wife, Roberta, made a very fine smock in blue brushed denim, which was originally for me to wear for Morris dancing when we started the Scunthorpe Morris dancers with Jean Fillingham. But this became the standard costume for Joe Straw from my first appearance in that role (1983). A brown linen smock made by Gill Walker had been the costume until this time but unfortunately it was rather small in size, too small for me. Both Smocks were lent to the Civic Theatre for the performance of 'Larkrise' in 19? , And later both appeared in the Scunthorpe Folk Song Club presentations of ' The Transports' in 1987 and 1988. John Walker wore his brown smock in 1987 & 1988 in his appearances as a Hatman with the Jag.

    From the first year that I was Joe Straw I inherited a stick with a pigs bladder attached by a piece of string. The bladder was dry and had a football adapter in the neck - so that it could be re-inflated. This lasted for another year but then I had to try to get a pig's bladder. -Getting some was ok. It was the preparation that caused problems, as no one seemed to know how, and Mo who did the original had since died. Fran Ross arranged for some fresh from the abattoir at Winteringham. The hard bit was cleaning them, removing the attached 'bits', inflating whist still wet and then curing. By experience I can say that sow's bladders were the best, but only after having over-inflated several and having bits of bladder all over the bathroom. They dried best suspended by string from a clotheshorse. Quick drying was not recommended, as the grease ran out and later solidified at the bottom. I managed to get two or three bladders to last for about two years before having to replace them. One year whilst cleaning some, my parents-in-law visited and their dog, Bonnie, growled and went for me and never again would come near me at that house without baring her teeth. (Luckily I have a very poor sense of smell.) In 1993 my last bladders were moth eaten and unusable - they got a lot of wear, beating on the poor old Hoss, even if it was only once a year, so, reluctantly, I resorted to yellow balloons. These were not at all the same, even though they were the general replacement for the bladder. From 1996 I gave up and actually used on old leather whip to beat the Horse.   

    In 1987 I moved to West Common Crescent and in 1988 the Start was from there and has been ever since and we always try to get a team photograph, although on one occasion photos were taken with an empty camera.

    I have been the Musician for the Jag since Mo died. For, although John Walker played accordion, he was always involved in the sword dance. Also Bob Cleveland, who played concertina, did not often play for the actual Jag. Various musicians have toured with the Jag over the years and a feature of the pub visits is the unaccompanied singing of rousing chorus songs interspersed with tunes. At one point this singing took over from the jag and I'm sure people wondered what was happening when we went into pubs dressed up and with painted faces and just proceeded to sing and play tunes. Come to think of it, they probably were equally bemused when we did do the Jag.

    The Plough Jag also went to Luneburg in 1987 and performed one of the rare times out of season at the town-twinning event. For me this was a very trying time since I was in the throws of marriage break-up but still with the Tatterfoals Morris team, and with The Stubblejumpers who were also performing at Luneburg. John Davies also played with the Stubblejumpers to enable me to dance or perform in the other groups. In the sword dancing of either the Jag or Tatterfoals, (I'm not sure which,) Alan Hather suffered a fit and his place in the sword dance, was taken, at very short notice, by Joan Corlett.

    The only year I have missed was 1989 when I went to New Zealand for New Year and this unfortunately coincided with the Plough Jag Convention held at Riseholme Agricultural College and organised by Brian Dawson. Here what remained of the traditional plays (e.g... Revesby) and revivals were all performed and videoed. On this occasion Keith Brown played the part of Joe Straw and Ernie Geddes that of Flash Hatman. Keith played the music on his concertina with some assistance at the 'convention' by a fiddler, (Jerry Oakes) and accordionist (Kate Bilmore). John Baker came out of retirement to perform in this as Besom Betty.

    Kate and Jerry have performed as musicians at the Gainsborough venues since 1989, and Peter Barnard has also appeared as a musician (usually in costume) at Gainsborough since his arrival in the area.

    Scunthorpe Folk Club closed on 23 December 1990, and with its demise the annual Carol Singing also stopped. The Carol Singing used to be as much a feature of the Folk Club Year as the Plough-jag, and contributed greatly to the charity collection.

    In 18/6/94 the Jag performed at York, for a Freemasonry event, with a depleted team.

    In 25/11/95 the Jag went to Bourne to perform for a seminar being held by Rosie Cross on Lincolnshire traditions.

            The money collected by the Jaggers has always gone to a charity. At first it was for Mencap and later for the Ambulance service, the Scunthorpe Hospice, and for Scunthorpe Hospital Laser Scanner Appeal, but after John Walker died, there was a change to The British Heart Foundation. Only in 1997 has there been a change again, this time back to Mencap and The Gateway Club.

    Presentations of cheques to the chosen charity of the year have taken place in all sorts of venues and at odd times, often later in the year, well after the plough-jag. Sometimes the presentation would be on the Sunday night at the Folk Club, as in 1984 (Scunthorpe Asthma Society), but I can also remember presenting a cheque to the Ambulance service at the Ambulance station dressed in costume. One unusual occasion was at a presentation of the cheque for the money raised for the Miss Stringer Scanner Appeal (for Scunthorpe Hospital). Not many people knew that she was a dab hand with catgut   on the violin, as well as in the operating theatre, and I had the honour of accompanying her on guitar as she played a tune (Soldier’s Joy) on a borrowed violin.

            Mostly Geoff Miller drove the van until about 1985 after which I drove, because I stopped drinking (for health reasons); although somewhere along the line Eamon Greene had a session. The journeys between venues have always been a chance for much chorus and limerick singing. Ian Shaw introduced a new song.’ There is a happy land.' which appears most years if things go quiet. In 1993 Dave Hoy did, what he claimed was the full version of ‘Eskimo Nell’, although no one could argue, he did so many verses that others didn't know.

    Every year the day’s first drink is accompanied by the toast, “May we have a good, enjoyable, day and here's to absent friends." To which there is a chorus of, “Absent friends!”

    In 1997 Jim Hancock, although not a performer in this year, introduced a self penned song in honour of absent friends. Also in, 1997, the newcomer, Geoff Turner, in his first year, made a good contribution to the day with his humorous songs.

    In such a way John Baker's comment in his article of 1988 is demonstrated and proves to be true of not just the play. - Each performance carries something of the performer!