Wright, George


Collection date: Jun 1908

Area: Derbyshire

George Wright of Wensley village, nr Matlock: George was the fiddler for Winster Morris: age 72, 4 morris dances (FT1694-7) + 8 country dance tunes (FT1698, 1708-14):

Wensley is just over a mile E of Winster village. It happens to be the village where Kitty Sorby (one of Sharp’s intermediaries) was brought up and she had already sent Sharp a ‘Derbyshire Morris Tune’ (FT1148) in 1906. She then sent him George Wright's ‘Maypole Dance’  (FT1403) and finally a letter in March 1908 enticing Sharp to visit George  https://www.vwml.org/search?q=Sorby%20Derbyshire%20Sharp&is=1

This he did, watching the Winster morris men rehearsing on 25 June 1908 before they performed on 4 July 1908. He collected the tunes and figures of 4 morris dances – The Processional (or March); The Gallop; The Reel; and the Blue-Eyed Stranger (FT1694-7). The figures are described in fuller detail in FW1535-48 and the Winster processional dance appeared in Morris Book 3 (1909 p43).

It must be remembered that Sharp’s understanding of morris dancing was still in its early stages in June 1908. He, of course, knew the Headington Quarry style well and had seen it promulgated by the Esperance Club girls for over 2 years. In his first Morris Book (April 1907) he had patiently tried to draw up the first principles of morris stepping and figures, presenting 8 Headington dances and 3 Bidford dances. However, he had not yet met George Simpson of Sherborne (July 1908), William Wells of Bampton (Aug 1909) nor Henry Taylor of Longborough (May 1910), who would greatly improve his knowledge and technical grasp.

The Winster dances must have somewhat puzzled Sharp. They were what Lionel Bacon called ‘intermediate between Cotswold Morris, North West Morris and Country Dancing’ (Bacon ‘Handbook of Morris Dancing’ EFDSS 1974 p314). For a start, there were 16 dancers, not 6; the dancers had no bells; and there were extra characters – a King, Queen, Witch and a Fool. 

George Wright was born on 14/1/1837 and baptised at Darley church on 5/3/1837. He was the only child of George Wright Snr, a lead miner, and his wife Sarah. Lead mining had gone on in this area since Roman times and steam power had enabled deeper mines to be dug and thus prolong the industry. George Jr began mining like his father but became a railway labourer by 1881 and then a quarry man and general labourer. He married Ellen Marsden in April qr 1880 (7b 1017) and they had 7 children. George lived his whole life in Wensley and died October qr 1916 aged 79 (7b 925).

For doubts about Winster morris, see Georgina Smith 'Winster Morris Dance' in Traditional Dance ed Theresa Buckland (Crewe 1982) but also Ian Russell's critical review in Folk Music Journal vol4 no.3 1982 pp300-303 (online jstor.org).

For information on the Winster morris today, see https://www.winstermorrisdancers.org

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