Dancin’ clever clogs!

Three Shires Clog Dancers.  Pictured is Chairman Ann Ellis and Squire Margaret Roper  (w120222-2)
Three Shires Clog Dancers. Pictured is Chairman Ann Ellis and Squire Margaret Roper (w120222-2)

MILl girls trudging to work in Lancashire in their clogs could hardly have guessed that the noise of their footwear would inspire a form of dancing.

But the heavy clump of their shoes, together with the sounds of their whirring looms, made a steady rhythm which was picked up on and put to music.

The result is clog dancing, a younger sister to Morris dancing, with the movements of the dances reflecting the patterns woven by the cotton mill women.

Three Shires clog dancers are based at Harthill and can be heard practising in the old school room next to All Hallows Church on Tuesday nights.

Their black leather lace-up clogs have a wooden horseshoe sole and bells on top to make a jingling sound as they dance.

Squire Margaret Roper was one of the original founding members in 1990 and she puts together the dance moves.

She said: “There are four basic steps so it’s not difficult to pick up.”

“There is the skip step, the polka, fluffy morris and one, two, three, hop. Each dance lasts a few minutes and will have a chorus and then you have all the figures in between.”

“Dances are usually for groups of eight or six dancers.”

Margaret, of Pryor Mede, took up clog dancing partly because her husband Harry is a member of Harthill Morris Dancers and because she had always been a dancer.

“I’ve danced all my life, doing tap, ballet, ballroom, since I was a child. I really enjoy the social side of it.”

The clog dancers perform in Harthill, sometimes with the Morris men, on special occasions like May Day and Boxing Day and money raised is given to the two village churches.

Three Shires secretary Lesley Ellam, of Hudson Close, is the other original member of the group.

“A lot of the dances are named after villages in the north west like Prescot and Gisburn but clog dancing has spread well beyond there,” she said.

“Most people can pick it up within a few sessions. All our dancers are female but we have male and female musicians.”

“Anyone from the age of 18 is welcome to join us.”

The Three Shires clog dancers wear outfits of red, white and blue, chosen by the members when the group began.

Their swishing blue skirts, red tights, patterned waistcoats and sashes add to the occasion as their clogs ring out on the wooden floor. They also carry archways of fabric flowers as they move around each other with the squire calling out the occasional instruction.

Newest member of the group is Lesley Wright, who joined about a year ago after seeing the dancers performing at a garden centre in Barlborough.

Lesley, of Gateford, said: “I used to be a folk dancer but this is totally different. I’m enjoying learning a new skill and they are a lovely set of people.”

Leslie Ellis, of Glebe Avenue, plays the accordion for the clog dancers and has a vested interest because his wife Ann is a member.

He is also chairman of Harthill Morris Men. He said: “We play old English folk tunes, like Tip Top Polka. We have a book full of them.”

“I play the guitar and violin as well.”

The dancers pay £1.25 a week subs but any newcomers get a couple of lessons free until they have decided whether they would like to join.

Anyone interested in joining can contact Margaret on 774845 or Lesley Ellam on 770129.

l To watch a video of the Three Shires clog dancers performing the Harthill Village - adapted from a dance called the Banks Village - go to our website at www.dinningtonguardian.co.uk