Simpson, George

Collection date: Jul 1908

Area: Gloucestershire


George Simpson at Upton, Didcot (1850-1916): age 58, total of 14 morris tunes: Sharp initially collected 6 morris tunes (FT1724-9) from George on 25 July 1908 and (a year later) wrote up his interview notes (Field Notebook Words1908/4 pp8-10) in FDN (Folk Dance Notebooks) vol 1 pp53-4. These notes concerned the personnel and costumes of the Sherborne side, dancing at Whitsun events etc. Sharp then revisited George Simpson four times during March 1910 and once in April 1911 to check previous tunes, to collect new tunes and to finalise the stepping and figures (FT2445-62; FT2569). These interviews were written up in FDN vol 1 p101a.

George Simpson was the main informant of the Sherborne morris tradition and had a reputation as a great dancer but he was not a musician and actually sang all the tunes to Sharp. The musician at Sherborne for many years had been William Hooper* on the whittle and dub (pipe and tabor).

*William Hooper spent his whole life in Sherborne village. He was baptised there 19/6/1836 and married Emily Kilby in 1866. They had 11 children. He was a 'land measurer'. (1901 census RG13/2451 f101 p6). He did not die until January qr 1927 and it is surprising that Sharp never interviewed him. Nor did he consult Thomas Pitts (1855-1940), former Sherborne musician and dancer, who lived at Eastleach 10 miles to the south.

George Simpson was baptised in Sherborne on 19/5/1850, 6th child of William Simpson, labourer and his wife Hannah. On 28/10/1871 at Sherborne George married Miranda Timms, daughter of Edward Timms, labourer. They never had any children of their own but for over 20 years looked after a niece Miranda Simpson (b Portsmouth 1881). George was an agricultural labourer and moved to Upton, nr Didcot by 1891 census. He had become a farm bailiff by 1901 (RG13/1137 f147 p18). George died in January qr 1916 (Wantage 2c 433).

Note 1: Upton village used to be in Berkshire until the boundary changes of 1974 when it was transferred to South Oxfordshire.

Note 2: The Sherborne tradition was published by Sharp in Morris Book 4 (p39ff) in 1911 and is found in 'A Handbook of Morris Dances' (Lionel Bacon 1974 p279ff).

Note 3: Sherborne has a distinctive stepping style that marks it out from surrounding traditions. It is kept up today by the Gloucestershire Morris Men and a few revival sides. See their website http://www.glosmorrismen.org and the Morris Ring website https://themorrisring.org.

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