Handy, Michael

Collection date: Apr 1912

Area: Warwickshire


Michael Handy of the ‘old’ Ilmington morris side (1867-1943): Sharp interviewed Michael Handy twice in Apr 1912, when he noted his address as 147 Warren Rd, Saltley, Birmingham (Folk Dance Notes 2/136). He thought Michael was ‘about 50’. In fact the 1911 census showed Michael Handy as age 42, railway foreman, at that very address (RG14/18364). His place of birth was Ilmington and his wife Elizabeth was from Ebrington, Glos. Their 2 children were Kate, 16, and Harold 10.

Working backwards in time, we find the family at Aston, Birmingham in the 1901 census (RG13/2863 f13 p17). Michael, 33, was a ‘goods guard’ and his younger brother Henry (Harry) age 17 was lodging with them. In 1892 (21 August) Michael Handy had married Elizabeth Rawlings at Bishop Ryder church, Birmingham and he listed his father as Thomas Handy, labourer. The 1891 census showed Michael Handy as single, 23, a railway porter, living as a boarder in Aston, Birmingham. This is important information as Michael was a member of the revived 1886 Ilmington side, which lasted only a short time. Michael must have left it to find work outside the village.

There is no baptismal information for Michael but he was probably the son of Thomas and Phoebe Handy. Thomas Handy (1826-1893) was an agricultural labourer, son of John & Elizabeth Handy - their last child was William Walton Handy (1837-1928), a dancer in the 1886 side who was interviewed by Sharp. William Handy was a ‘great crony’ of Michael Johnson, who was so critical of Sam Bennett’s 1906 side (Folk Dance Notes 1/134). It can thus be seen that grumpy William was the uncle of Michael Handy of this profile. He was also the husband of Prudence Handy, from whom Sharp collected 2 folksongs (see her separate profile).

Michael Handy confirmed to Sharp the tunes of ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’ (FT2771), ‘Black Joke’ (FT2772) and ‘Old Molly Oxford’ (FT2776). Sharp noted: ‘When I first went to him, he did not remember much, but at my second visit a great deal had come back to him…He danced a lot with me’ (Folk Dance Notes 2/137). This shows just how persistent Sharp was in his research, checking many technical points.

Michael Handy died in Birmingham on 27/8/1943, aged 76, leaving £928 to his daughter Kate.

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