Ormskirk Folk Dance Club
70 years. 1950 to 2020…
George Harrison was born in Longton, near Preston on April 30th 1902 ((Preston Guild Year). He became interested in Country Dancing, Morris, Sword etc at Chester College where he trained to be a teacher. He danced in Preston although from 1928 lived and taught in Ormskirk.
In 1950 George was invited by Ethyl Anderson, the North West representative for EFDSS (English Folk Dance and Song Society) to start a Folk Dance Club in Ormskirk. Because of his connections with Preston and Lancashire he requested that the new Ormskirk Club be part of Lancashire District, rather than Merseyside District – which it could have been!
George continued as chairman of the club until 1996 — a total of 46yrs. For a significant part of that time he was the sole teacher and built up a small repertoire of "core" dances that all club menmbers got to know very well.
In the early days Country Dancing was very popular and Classes took place on Tuesdays with Mondays becoming a second night later. One Class was for more experienced dancers the other for beginners.
Eventually Ormskirk FDC became a Night School Class at St Bede's RC School. When numbers dropped, about 1980 a meeting took place at the old Congregational Church Hall (near where the Beaconsfield Statue stood). It was decided to become an independent group
Over the next 11 years the Club went from the Guide Hut in Green Lane, to the Guide Hut in Moorgate, then to the Scout Hut in Park Road – always starting at 8.00pm. Ormskirk FDC finally moved to the Langham Hall, Emmanuel Church, Derby Street, in 1992, meeting at 8.15pm to 10.15pm after the Girl's Brigade.
More recently as the Class ended about 10.00pm a few members meet for 20/30 mins to dance a more challenging dance chosen by the Caller. All members were welcomed at this latter time – not necessarily the most experienced and we hope everyone has benefitted.
The repertoire of dances in the early days were the Playford Dances researched by Cecil Sharp, (from 17th C, 18th C and 19thC source), Community Dances, Apted Dances, and Square Dances. These were either danced to the music of a pianist or musicians. Records also became popular – 78rpm and later LPs 33rpm, then tapes and more recently CDs.
In the last 30 to 40 years the repertoire has increased enormously. Some dances are the result of more research in the Library of Cecil Sharp House but many more are composed – often with music by enthusiastic Callers and Country Dancers.
In the early days of the Club, there were Saturday Dance at the Institute (Bus Station) where the programme contained the dances practiced in the term. Ormskirk FDC organized 6 Dances over the winter on the second Saturday in the month October — March. George Harrison was the Caller with a local Band which after a while became almost always The Hoghton Band.
In 1983 George decided to retire from Calling at the Classes and 4 Club members took over the Calling. Two or three years later he gave up calling at the Saturday Dances and Callers and Bands from Lancashire and further afield were invited. Dances were held at St Bede's and Cross Hall High School. Dancers came from the Club and other Clubs in Lancashire and Merseyside.
Today we hold 5 Dances in the Winter, October, November, December, January (with Afternoon Workshop) and March and a Summer Special (with Strawberry Supper) in June. Callers come from a wide area as do Bands and maintain a very high standard.
There are so many other attractions these days and our dancers are getting older. Numbers at Dances have declined from the heady heights of 110-130 to 60-80 typically. The future depends on younger people becoming interested. Several other groups meet in the area which is encouraging. So the future is still pink if not rosy!!
Some notes about Ormskirk FDC…
George Harrison from 1950 to 1996.
Norman Bearon 1996 and ongoing …..
Vera Hughes from 1950 to 1977 – died 1977.
Mary Mitchell 1977 to 1991 – died 2009.
Margaret McFarlane 1991 to 2013
June Jones 2013 and ongoing…..
Miss Howard. When she left for one year to become President of the Soroptomists…
Margaret Percy took over temporarily and continued for 40 years!!
Val Trencher and continuing.
Various members sold tickets – more recently Marjorie Lamden – but currently Denise Bearon.
Membership currently stands at 40+ ( a typical Monday night will have 18-24 attending). Members coming mainly from from Ormskirk, Maghull, Southport and Wigan.