Collection date: Apr 1912
Fred Gardner of North Leigh morris at Witney (c1830-1927): age 80, 3 morris tunes FT2765-7 on 2 Apr 1912: Sharp interviewed Fred Gardner at his baker’s shop in Corn St, Witney and his notes were written up in Folk Dance Notes vol2 pp126-7. Morris dancing at North Leigh (3 miles NE of Witney) ceased c1865. See also William Partlett profile. Partlett described Gardner as a good dancer 'as lissome as a cat, an out and out dancer'.
North Leigh danced with sticks and with handkerchiefs but intriguingly they also used coconuts in one dance, to which ‘Mrs Kaysey’s morris tune’ (FT2765) was the accompaniment. Gardner said that ‘They sawed a cocoa nut in half, scooped out the kernel and then made a hole in each half connected with a ribbon. The hand was passed through this ribbon as under the strap of a concertina and the half nut held in the palm, concave outwards. They struck each other’s hands as well as their own together.’ This percussive form of dance is in no way related to that of the Britannia Coconut Dancers of Bacup, Lancashire.
Frederick George Gardner was born in Marylebone, London c1830. He arrived in Witney as a journeyman baker in the early 1850s and married Mary Wright, daughter of Robert Wright, a blanket weaver. They had 3 sons and 3 daughters. Fred ran his bakery in Corn Street for over 40 years and his son Alfred carried it on. Fred died on 21/2/1927 aged 97.