Scaife, Thomas


Collection date: Jul 1910

Area: Yorkshire

Thomas Scaife of Stillington Sword Dance (1853-1941): The first sword dance that Sharp investigated was at Stillington, 11 miles N of York, which he visited in early July 1910 (Field Notebook Words 1910/2 p11). He had just resigned and left Ludgrove School and was a free man.

Sharp was told that the sword dancing had ceased ‘25 or 30 years ago’ (early 1880s). His informant Thomas Scaife, who had been foreman of the side, was apparently the sole surviving dancer. The Stillington side danced each New Year with 8 men - swords were 3 foot long with wooden hilts, fashioned by the village blacksmith Richardson. They danced to the tune of ‘The Girl I left behind me’ but they did not sing the song. Scaife promised to get one of the old swords for Sharp.

Sharp wrote up these notes (Folk Dance Notes 1/148). He tried to reconstruct the dance figures when he got back to London, writing to Mrs Horatia Eden on 16 July 1910 that he had been investigating a a village about 12 miles North  of York and, had you been here, in Adelaide Road, 2 or 3 days ago you would have seen a very fair reproduction of the dance on my lawn!' (CJS1/8/1/3). In the end he did not feel able to publish the dance.

Thomas Scaife was born c1853, 5th child of Thomas Scaife Snr (1818-1903), agricultural labourer and his wife Ann. Thomas Jr was a Road Repairer according to the 1901 census (RG13/4543 f12 p15). He had married Elizabeth Hodgson in January qr 1875 and they had 12 children. He died July qr 1941 aged 88 (9a 382).

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