by Derek Schofield

Derek Schofield has been involved in folk music and dance in England since he was at school. He is the recently retired editor of English Dance & Song magazine (published by the English Folk Dance & Song Society), and has also contributed to the Folk Music Journal, fRoots magazine and other specialist publications in the UK. He is the author of two books on the history of folk festivals in the UK: The First Week in August: Fifty Years of the Sidmouth Folk Festival (2004) and Towersey Festival: 50 Years in the Making (2014). He also wrote substantial biographies of Headington Quarry Morris musician and dancer, William Kimber, and of traditional Shropshire singer, Fred Jordan, for the booklets which accompanied their CDs. His research interests lie in the history of the folk music and dance revivals.

In December 1914, Cecil J. Sharp boarded the RMS Lusitania and set sail for the USA. The First World War had started four months earlier and his son Charles had already joined the armed forces. Uppermost in Sharp’s mind might well have been the progress of the war, the safety of his son, and leaving his wife Constance behind in England. He may have thought about the male dancers from the English Folk Dance Society (EFDS) already serving in the armed forces. Sharp may also have reflected on the previous 15 years, and on the remarkable impact that folk song and dance had made on his life.

Cecil Sharp
Cecil James Sharp — Photograph courtesy and copyright English Folk Dance and Song Society. Not to be copied without permission.

Cecil Sharp was born in 1859, the son of a slate merchant. He was educated at Uppingham School and then coached for entrance to the University of Cambridge, reading mathematics at Clare College, although a university friend commented that Sharp spent more time on his music than on his mathematics. [For Cecil Sharp’s early life, see Fox Strangways. This was written “in collaboration with Maud Karpeles,” who later partly rewrote the book, published as Karpeles 1967. Both publications are uncritical of Sharp’s contribution. More critical approaches to Sharp’s life and work have been published in Boyes 1993, and in Harker 1972 and 1985. More sympathetic treatment of Sharp’s contribution has come from Bearman 2000, 2001 and 2002. For Sharp’s period in Australia, see Anderson 1994.] On graduation, Sharp’s father suggested that he seek his fortune in Australia, and he left England in the autumn of 1882. He worked in a bank and as associate to the chief justice of South Australia, but also involved himself in the musical life of Adelaide. From 1889 on, he devoted himself entirely to music, becoming joint director of the Adelaide College of Music. When the partnership was dissolved in 1891, he returned to England, arriving home in January 1892. Determined to make his living through music, in 1893 he became the part-time music teacher at Ludgrove School, remaining there throughout the main period of his folk song and dance collecting, resigning in 1910. In 1896, he was also appointed Principal of the Hampstead Conservatoire. In August 1893, he married Constance Birch.

The start of Cecil Sharp’s interest is folk song and dance is usually dated to Boxing Day (December 26) 1899. The Sharp family were spending Christmas at the home of his mother-in-law in Headington, east of Oxford. The Headington Quarry Morris Dancers, with their musician William Kimber, performed outside Mrs Birch’s house, Sandfield Cottage, and attracted Sharp’s attention. Their usual performance date was Whitsuntide [Ed.: the religious holiday of Pentecost, celebrated on the seventh Sunday after Easter: in 2016 this will be on May 15], but it was a particularly hard winter and many of the dancers, including Kimber, had been laid off from their jobs in the building trade. This exhibition was an opportunity to earn some extra money. After the dancers had performed, Sharp came out of the house and asked Kimber to return the following day so that he could note down the tunes. This he did, and Sharp noted five tunes. [See Schofield 1999, and Grant 1999 for details of this first meeting between Kimber and Sharp. Schofield includes transcripts of Kimber’s account of the first meeting.]

It is often claimed that the Boxing Day meeting was the turning point in Sharp’s lifei but in fact he did little more than note and orchestrate the tunes. Certainly, he had little or no interest in the dances themselves. That would come later.

Folk Song

As a music teacher in a preparatory school, Sharp would have considered both teaching methods and repertoire for school singing lessons. [For Sharp’s role in music education, see Cox 1993 and Schofield 2004. In England, a preparatory school (such as Ludgrove) is a fee-paying school which prepares 8- to 13-year-old children for entrance to a fee-paying private or independent school (confusingly also called “public” schools in England), such as Eton, Harrow and Uppingham. Elementary schools were established in 1870 and catered for the children of working people; by 1900, attendance was compulsory for 5- to 11-year-olds. They were replaced in 1944 by primary schools.] There was a view that the song repertoire in many schools, preparatory and elementary, was trivial, although increasingly from the 1860s onwards, specialized song books for schools were being published. After nine years at Ludgrove, Sharp set about producing his own book of school songs published in 1902, A Book of British Song for Home and School.

Sharp’s awareness of folk song is clear in this 1902 collection, with 40 percent coming from existing folk song collections, such as Broadwood and Fuller Maitland’s English County Songs, 1893. Yet he had had no experience of hearing the songs as sung by working people–a situation that was rectified in 1903.

While he was in Australia, Sharp had made friends with an outspoken Christian Socialist minister in the Church of England, Charles Marson. He returned to England in the same year as Sharp and, after working as a curate in London’s Soho district, he became perpetual curate in the village of Hambridge, Somerset. [For details of Marson’s life and work, see Sutcliffe 2010.] In August 1903, Sharp visited Marson in Hambridge and it was there that Sharp heard his first folk song sung by a member of the rural working class. It would appear that Marson had already heard the singer, the appropriately-named John England, singing the song that Sharp collected, The Seeds of Love, and had invited Sharp to visit and hear the singer. Over the following week or so, Sharp—assisted by Marson—collected a total of 42 songs in and around Hambridge, most notably from the sisters Louie Hooper and Lucy White. Just a few months later, in November, Sharp gave a lecture in London on folk song, with musical examples provided by trained, classical singers. The lecture was extensively reported upon in the national newspapers, and during the Christmas holidays, Sharp was back in Somerset, collecting more songs, and he again delivered the lecture, this time in Taunton.ii

Sharp was already setting himself up as an authority on folk song, even though his experience “in the field” was quite limited. He was not, of course, the only folk song collector at the time. The Folk Song Society had been established in 1898 to bring together the collectors who were already active, such as Lucy Broadwood, Sabine Baring-Gould and Frank Kidson, as well as others who were interested in the subject. Sharp had joined the Folk Song Society in 1901, but by 1903 the Society was moribund, due mainly to the illness of the secretary, Kate Lee.iii Sharp launched an attack on its inactivity and was elected to the committee, along with the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams who had also started collecting folk songs in 1903.

Sharp’s initial impetus for collecting folk songs was for use in schools, and in 1905 he collaborated with Baring-Gould in the publication of English Folk-Songs for Schools. Not all his fellow Folk Song Society committee members agreed with him that teaching the songs in schools was a desirable aim. Conflict within the committee increased when they welcomed the government’s Board of Education Suggestions for the Consideration of Teachers, published in 1905, which included recommendations for using “national or folk songs.” For Sharp, it was folk song or nothing, and he publicly criticised the inclusion of “composed” patriotic songs such as Tom Bowling and Hearts of Oak. The committee refused to back him.iv Sharp’s response to this, and to other challenges as to the value of folk song, was to write English Folk-Song: Some Conclusions, which appeared in 1907.

Vic Gammon has identified three motivating ideas behind Sharp’s folk song collecting and promotion (ideas that could also be applied to his views on dance): romantic nationalism, aesthetic Darwinism and national regenerationv. Gammon dates Sharp’s ideas back to eighteenth-century romanticism and the folklore studies of the nineteenth century, which combined with the racial or nationalist view that English folk songs are distinctive and should be known by English people. Aesthetic Darwinism can be seen in the three principles that Sharp recognised in folk song: continuity, variation and selection. National regeneration can be seen in the importance Sharp placed on education: he wanted folk songs in elementary schools “to effect an improvement in the musical taste of the people, and to refine and strengthen the national character”vi.

The pattern of Sharp’s folk song collecting followed the academic year, with the Christmas, Easter and summer holidays giving him the opportunity to explore Somerset in particular, though he ventured into other counties as well. Sharp produced a series of books, starting with Folk Songs from Somerset, published in 1904, and contributed songs to the Journal of the Folk Song Society, especially the 1905 issue. [The English folk songs collected by Cecil Sharp were edited for publication by Maud Karpeles, see Karpeles 1974. His fair copy manuscripts, bequeathed to Clare College, Cambridge, are now available on The Full English online digital archive,] The publicity that surrounded Sharp’s activities encouraged others to collect folk songs, with, for example, the Hammond brothers concentrating their efforts in Dorset and George Gardiner working in Hampshire. In total, Sharp collected almost 3,000 folk songs in England alone between 1903 and his death in 1924.

Morris Dances

One of the crucial opportunities for introducing English folk song to young adults as well as to children came in 1905. Herbert MacIlwaine, musical director of the Espérance Club for working girls in London, read a newspaper interview with Cecil Sharp and suggested to the club’s leader, Mary Neal, that such songs could be added to the club’s activities. Neal met Sharp and after the songs proved to be such a success, she asked him if there were any dances the club members could learn. This was the start of the morris dance revival. [Information on Mary Neal and the Espérance Club is contained in Dommett 1980, Judge 1989, Schofield 1999, Neal 2014 and Martz 2014. The Neal 2014 reference is to a manuscript autobiography that was published on the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) website in that year. It was written in 1937-39.]

Mary Neal. Photograph courtesy and copyright English Folk Dance and Song Society, with thanks to Lucy Neal. Not to be copied without permission.

Clara Sophia Neal (1860-1944)–later known as Mary–was the daughter of a Birmingham button manufacturer. She had a deep social conscience about the living and working conditions of the London urban poor and, like others with similar concerns, became directly involved in helping, through the mission and settlement movements. At the West London Mission, Neal met Emmeline Pethick and, in 1895, they established a separate Espérance Girls’ Club to introduce drama and dance as a leisure-time activity for working-class girls. This was followed by the complementary tailoring business, Maison Espérance, which provided improved working conditions and pay. Pethick was the club’s musical director, being replaced by MacIlwaine after her marriage to Frederick Lawrence.

An important issue at the time was women’s suffrage. Women did not have the vote in Britain, and middle-class women in particular led a restrictive lifestyle: charitable good works was a way in which they could express their freedom, but living away from home, as Neal and Pethick were doing, was more adventurous. The period leading up to the First World War saw an increasingly militant campaign for the suffrage cause. Mary Neal was already a committed socialist and supporter of the emerging Labour Party, and after Pethick-Lawrence met Manchester-based Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), the two friends threw their support behind the campaign. With Sylvia Pankhurst, they established a London branch of the WSPU in 1906–Neal took the minutes at the inaugural meeting. Some of the suffragettes took part in civil disobedience, although Neal was not one of them. She did however write about the cause for the magazine, Votes for Women, but her principal concern at this time became the revival of folk song and dance.

When Neal asked Sharp about dances, he recalled his experience at Headington and recommended that she contact William Kimber, who visited the club’s headquarters twice to teach, with the girls learning enough to give a private display of morris dancing on February 15, 1906. This went so well that a public performance, An English Pastoral, was given on April 3, 1906, preceded by a lecture by Sharp; all extensively reported in the national press. Sharp was still embroiled in his battles with the Board of Education over the inclusion of folk songs in schools, but now he had another aspect of traditional folk culture to promote, with the positive experiences of the Espérance Club girls giving weight to his argument about the value of genuine folk material, plus the added physical education value of the dancing. As Roy Judge has written, “Both of them [Neal and Sharp] wanted to use these songs and dances, not simply as a nostalgic entertainment, but as an instrument for good.”vii

The success of An English Pastoral led to Neal being asked to send her girls to teach the dances elsewhere–by the end of the year, they had visited six English counties and six London clubs. Neal was a born organiser, Sharp was the musician and “historical scholar.”viii However, it was Sharp’s co-author, MacIlwaine, who devised the system of dance notation, and notated the dances, not from Kimber’s dancing but from the Espérance principal dancer, Florrie Warren, for the first edition of the first volume of The Morris Book, published in April 1907.

As an “historical scholar,” Sharp’s knowledge of morris dancing was limited and he needed to expand his direct experience. In the summer of 1908, Sharp noted the dances in Winster, Derbyshire. His chance overhearing of two sewer workers whistling morris tunes in a London street in 1906 provided leads in Gloucestershire which resulted in the collection of dances from Bledington (1909), and Longborough and Sherborne (1910).ix In 1909, he also collected dances from Bampton, followed by Field Town in 1910-11. All the time, he was gaining confidence in notating the dances and, with MacIlwaine’s assistance, in refining the published notation system. The second Morris Book was published in 1909, the third in 1910 and the fourth in 1911. Sharp then produced a new edition of the first book in 1912, and book five in 1913. New editions of books two and three were published after the war. [For a summary of the various books and editions, with a list of which village traditions were represented, see Karpeles 1967, 203-04. Volumes I to III were written by Sharp and MacIlwaine, volume IV by Sharp alone and volume V by Sharp and George Butterworth. For Sharp’s morris dance collecting in this period, see Judge 2002.]

Sharp was also changing his theoretical approach towards morris dancing. In the first Morris Book, he suggested that it was “in all reasonable probability Moorish in origin.”x By the second edition, Sharp believed that the Moorish origin “will not bear examination” and instead regarded morris as “the survival of some primitive religious ceremonial.”xi

Sharp and Neal were two strong-willed individuals, and their close co-operation did not last long. At the root of the rift between them were the issues of how best to transmit the dances from the traditional dancer to the new revivalists, and how to maintain a good standard of performance. Sharp regarded himself as the conduit for transmission: he would collect the dances, often from elderly village dancers, make a clear notation and publish the dances. Having established a fixed notation, revival teachers and dancers could then refer to that notation to ensure that performances were reaching the correct standard. On the other hand, Neal’s view was that the dances were “ever-changing, ever-evolving” and that “they should be learnt in the first instance from the traditional dancer and passed on in the same way. The written instructions are only useful as a reminder of steps and evolutions, and should never be made an unalterable and fixed standard.”xii Neal’s comment in April 1910 that the morris revival had to ensure that “the blighting touch of the pedant and the expert is not laid upon it” is clearly an attack on Sharp.xiii

The earlier mention of the women’s suffrage movement is also relevant to the discussion of folk song and dance. Cecil Sharp was a Fabian socialist, but he does not appear to have had much sympathy for women’s suffrage, in contrast to his sister Evelyn Sharp, who was involved in both the Labour Party and the women’s suffrage movement. She became editor of Votes for Women, to which Mary Neal contributed, and was imprisoned for her activities.xiv Neal’s suffrage politics were a further reason for Sharp’s disengagement from her.

A consideration of the rift between Neal and Sharp is not just of historical interest. As Judge wrote in 1983: “[a]lso significant is the fact that Neal’s approach to the morris tradition has a considerable appeal for the contemporary dancer, with her view of it as ‘simple, dignified, vigorous and joyful’, combined with her regret for ‘the necessity of books of instruction.’”xv Such a comment is even more appropriate to the contemporary English scene 30 years after Judge wrote it, but if Neal’s approach now seems attractive, it does not necessarily mean that this approach was right at the time, when there was much less knowledge and understanding of morris dancing. The written notations and Sharp’s field notes have allowed subsequent generations to see how the dances had been performed in the early twentieth century, and to interpret them in various ways.

The dances attracted the interest of educationalists, but at first the only teachers available came from the Espérance Club. Beginning in March 1909, Sharp and Kimber taught morris dances to women teachers at Chelsea College of Physical Education, London. In September, Sharp’s School of Morris Dancing opened at the Chelsea College, providing Sharp with adult dancers to give demonstrations and teach. The dancers included Helen Kennedy (Douglas Kennedy’s sister), Maud and Helen Karpeles (Helen later married Douglas Kennedy) and, when the School was opened up to men, the composer George Butterworth and Douglas Kennedy.xvi

In August 1909, the Board of Education published its new Syllabus of Physical Exercises for Public Elementary Schools, which recommended the teaching of morris dances in schools. The fact that Sharp’s teachers were college-trained, in contrast to Neal’s working-class girls, obviously gave him an advantage with the educational establishment.

Mary Neal’s visit to the USA for three months beginning in December 1910 took her away during a critical period, thus allowing Sharp to gain ground, and there was a further blow when her principal dancer, Florrie Warren, who had accompanied her, stayed in the States to marry Arthur Brown.xvii

Sword Dances

Starting in the summer of 1910, Sharp was able to add a new dance form to his repertoire: the sword dance. First there was the long-sword dance from Kirkby Malzeard (collected in May and September), followed by Grenoside near Sheffield (August), before Sharp travelled to north-east England to note the short-sword dances at Swalwell and Earsdon. All these dances were published in 1911. He visited Flamborough (December 1911) and Sleights in north Yorkshire (January 1912), plus Beadnell in Northumberland and published those dances in 1912. Part III of the sword dances book contained the Escrick, Handsworth, Ampleforth, Askham Richard and Haxby long-sword dances, and the Winlaton and North Walbottle short-sword dances. [In addition to Sharp Sword 1911, 1912 and 1913, for the long-sword dances see Allsop 1996 and Davenport 2015, and for the short-sword dances see Cawte 1981, Heaton 2012 and Metherell 2012. Cawte and especially Heaton both consider the derivation of the term “rapper” for the short-sword dances, and also the origin of the flexible swords.]

The first long-sword dance to be displayed by Sharp’s dancers was in December 1910, and the short-sword dance debut was February 1911. They both had a great impact on the audiences. The Chelsea School dancers provided a group of willing volunteers to try out the complexities of these dances, and assist Sharp with a new notation style.xviii

Social Folk Dances

With the growing enthusiasm for folk dancing from adults of both sexes, Sharp must have recognised that he would also need to add some social dances to the evolving repertoire of display dances.

In September 1906, Sharp collected a broom dance while on a visit to the Devon folk song collector Sabine Baring-Gould, and in April 1907 he returned to collect five country dances. In June 1909, Sharp collected eight dances in Surrey from a man who was originally from Devon. Finally, in September 1909, Sharp visited Armscote, Warwickshire, and there collected nine country dances from a group of dancers led by master of ceremonies, Thomas Hands from nearby Honington. [For more details of Sharp’s folk dance collecting, see Schofield Everyday Dance 2011.] 

By the end of 1909, Sharp had published all these dances (apart from the broom dance) in The Country Dance Book, Part I: eighteen dances in total (some of the 22 dances were duplicates). The introduction to this volume reveals some of Sharp’s views about both folk song and dance:

… the unlettered … have always sung the songs and dances of their forefathers, uninfluenced by, and in blissful ignorance of the habits and tastes of their more fashionable city neighbours. But this is, unhappily, no longer so. … In the village of today the polka, waltz, and quadrille are steadily displacing the old-time country dances and jigs, just as the tawdry ballads and strident street-songs of the towns are no less surely exterminating the folk-songs. … [The country dance is] the ordinary, everyday dance of the country-folk, performed not merely on festal days, but whenever opportunity offered and the spirit of merrymaking was abroad.”xix

The collected dances presented a problem for Sharp. In the section of the book on the steps to be used for the dances, he wrote: “The usual Country Dance step is a springy, walking step . . . . The gallop, waltz and polka steps are occasionally used.”xx When Helen Kennedy saw the dancers from Armscote dancing in Stratford-upon-Avon a few years later, she noted that they used the polka step throughout.xxi Sharp was intent on promoting these dances as a further example of traditional English folk culture, but they utilised a dance step from a continental European dance form that had been introduced first into fashionable society. Sharp’s intentions were set out in his Introduction to the 1909 volume: “Many of these older dances [in Playford’s The English Dancing Master (1651)] are extremely interesting, and some of them, deciphered from the old dancing books, will be described in the second part of this work.”xxii

The second part of The Country Dance Book was published in 1911, and contained 30 dances from various editions of the Playford collection: 19 from the first edition (1651), two each from the second and third editions, six from the fourth and one from the seventh. By relying so much on the first edition, Sharp was able to include dances in what he regarded as the “older forms of the dance” such as rounds, squares and longways dances for various numbers, rather than just the “longways for as many as will” that dominated later editions.xxiii Further selections from the Playford editions were published by Sharp in 1912, 1916 and 1922. After the first part of The Country Dance Book, Sharp published no further traditional dances from England, although he did collect some, for example from Goathland in north Yorkshire.xxiv

Sharp wrote: “[f]or those interested in the revival of folk-dancing, it [Playford] is the only book in which the English Country Dance, in its earliest, purest, and most characteristic forms, is described.”xxv Nevertheless, his approach here contrasts with folk song and the morris and sword dances where he always insisted on collecting folk material from traditional, oral sources.

Sharp was not interested in publishing the Playford dances for the purposes of historical re-enactment; his interpretation was for contemporary enjoyment. Keller and Shimer have written:

He saw them as lost folk dances which, with some modification for modern dress and deportment, could be enjoyed just as much as they had been many years before. Although he tried to keep as close to the original as possible in his reconstructions, he leaned heavily on the movement and style of the traditional dances he had collected.xxvi

Sharp used the absence in Playford’s editions of any indication of the dance steps to suggest five steps that “are still used by traditional dancers” such as the “springy walking step” though not the polka, gallop and waltz steps which “are obviously of more modern derivation.”xxvii

Sharp was including the traditional country dances in his lecture-demonstrations very soon after The Country Dance Book Part I was published. [In October 1909, Sharp was being encouraged to provide teachers of country dance immediately: see Judge 1989, 560. Morning Post 1910 indicates that Chelsea students were demonstrating country dances at a Sharp lecture in April 1910, and it is unlikely that this was the first occasion.] By early 1911, “Sharp was drawing markedly ahead of Neal in the range of his available repertoire.”xxviii A presentation to the Worshipful Company of Musicians in January 1911 included folk songs, morris dances, traditional and Playford country dances, morris jigs from Kimber and a long-sword dance.xxix The following month, a rapper dance was included in his lecture, making the Sharp-determined repertoire for the folk dance revival complete. [Sharp did not include the broom dance in any of his publications, and he also failed to notate any of the maypole dances or step and clog dances he encountered. He similarly neglected morris dances from Lancashire and Cheshire and from the border counties with Wales. The inclusion of all these folk dances in the English folk dance movement had to await the post-1945 revival.]

English Folk Dance Society

English Folk Dance Society dancers at Cheltenham, circa 1920-1922, dancing Bonnets so Blue. Photograph courtesy and copyright English Folk Dance and Song Society. Not to be copied without permission.

By 1911, some of the keenest dancers associated with the Chelsea College School of Morris Dancing had formed the Folk Dance Club, which met in the home of the Karpeles sisters. Members of the club illustrated two of Sharp’s lecture-demonstrations that year, in May and on the first of At the latter event, notices were distributed for a public meeting on December 6, 1911 at which the English Folk Dance Society was founded, “with the object of preserving and promoting the practice of English folk-dances in their traditional form.”xxxi According to the press report of the meeting, Sharp stated that “the folk-dance movement was primarily an artistic movement” but that it was “very liable to suffer at the hands of philanthropy, for philanthropists would see philanthropy in it and nothing else. A movement of that kind was subject to the ravages of the Philistines on every side.” An aim of the people setting up the new organisation was to “keep that particular artistic movement on its right lines and prevent it from being vulgarised and popularised, although they aimed at popularising it in the best sense of the word.”xxxii

Sharp’s comments at the meeting were a very open attack on the activities of Mary Neal and her dancers. Neal had reviewed the December 1, 1911 dance lecture-demonstration for The Observer newspaper, in which she stated that the dancing was “beautiful, graceful and charming, so much so that I do not feel able to criticise it, for it falls into the category of the art and not the folk dance . . .that they are not folk dancers I do know, for beautiful and graceful as their dancing is, it is far removed from what I saw at Bampton at Whitsuntide.”xxxiii

Examples of the style of dancing referred to by Neal can be seen in the six Kinora reels that were rediscovered in the 1980s.xxxiv They show Cecil Sharp, George Butterworth and Maud and Helen Karpeles dancing morris dances and one country dance, probably in 1912. As Heaney wrote, two of the films are “eye-openers for anyone familiar with Bampton as danced, and usually as taught, today.” [For the founding of the English Folk Dance Society, see also Schofield 1986 and Schofield 2011 Earliest Days. ]

These films from 1912 feature sisters Maud and Helen Karpeles, Cecil Sharp and composer George Butterworth dancing Hey Boys, Up Go We at about minute 3:20.

In February 1912, Sharp’s men’s morris side made its first appearance. The dancers included George Wilkinson, Perceval Lucas, George Butterworth and Reginald Tiddy–all of whom were to die in the Battle of the Somme in the First World War–plus Claud Wright, James Paterson and Douglas Kennedy.xxxv

efds demonstration team
English Folk Dance Society Demonstration Team, Kelmscott, June 1912. Left to right: Douglas Kennedy, George Butterworth, James Paterson, Perceval Lucas, Claud Wright and George Wilkinson. Butterworth, Lucas and Wilkinson all died in the First World War. Photograph courtesy and copyright English Folk Dance and Song Society. Not to be copied without permission.

Although the EFDS was based in London, it was intended to be a national organisation. Within a year, there were county or town branches in all regions of England. Sharp’s experiences with the morris dances as well as with the Board of Education and the Folk Song Society with song had convinced him that he needed to control what was being taught and performed, as well as how. Neal remained active, although by 1914 the balance had shifted dramatically in favour of Sharp and the EFDS.xxxvi During the First World War, Neal worked for the war effort and afterwards became a magistrate in Sussex; after MacIlwaine’s death, she adopted his son. Until the 1970s, her role in the founding of the folk dance and song movement was ignored or even disparaged by the folk movement. [The change in attitude towards Neal came as a result of the women’s morris movement in England, as well as the writings of Roy Judge and Roy Dommett and the encouragement of the former Library Director of the EFDSS, Malcolm Taylor. See Schofield Morris Wars 2013. Mary’s great-great-niece, Lucy Neal, deposited Mary Neal’s autobiography and other papers belonging to Mary Neal, plus the results of her own researches, in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Lucy Neal is the current vice-chairman of the board of trustees of the EFDSS.]

In February 1914, Sharp arranged the music and dances for a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Harley Granville Barker. At the end of that year, and after the start of the First World War, Granville Barker asked Sharp to help with the play’s New York production. With most of Sharp’s folk dance and song activities suspended because of the war, and with little prospect of making a living in Britain, he accepted the invitation, hoping to also obtain some lecturing opportunities in America. And so, in December 1914, he set sail for the USA.


  • i Fox Strangways 27.
  • ii Schofield 2004.
  • iii Bearman 1999.
  • iv Fox Strangways 58-63, Gammon 15-17, Boyes 66-7.
  • v Gammon 11-16.
  • vi Sharp 1907, 135.
  • vii Judge 1989, 551.
  • viii Judge 1989, 552.
  • ix Burgess 2002.
  • x Sharp and MacIlwaine 1907, 15.
  • xi Sharp and MacIlwaine 1912, 10-11.
  • xii Kidson and Neal, 170.
  • xiii Neal 1910.
  • xiv John 2009.
  • xv Judge 1983, 545.
  • xvi Karpeles 1967, 75-6; Judge 1989, 557, 560.
  • xvii Neal 2014, 160-61; Krause.
  • xviii Cawte 2003.
  • xix Sharp, Country Dance 1909, 7-8, 10.
  • xx Sharp Country Dance 1909, 25.
  • xxi Kennedy 1955, 158.
  • xxii Sharp Country Dance 1909, 12-13.
  • xxiii Sharp Country Dance 1911, 8.
  • xxiv Schofield Goathland 2013.
  • xxv Sharp Country Dance 1911, 26.
  • xxvi Keller and Shimer, x.
  • xxvii Sharp 1911, 20, 28-31.
  • xxviii Judge 1989, 567.
  • xxix Ibid., 567.
  • xxx Kennedy 1924.
  • xxxi Morning Post 1911.
  • xxxii Morning Post 1911; Schofield 1986.
  • xxxiii Neal 1911.
  • xxxiv Heaney 1983.
  • xxxv Kennedy 1925.
  • xxxvi Judge 1989, 572-74

Works Cited

  • Allsop, Ivor. Longsword Dances from Traditional and Manuscript Sources. Ed. Anthony G. Barrand. Brattleboro: Northern Harmony, 1996.
  • Anderson, Hugh. “Virtue in a Wilderness: Cecil Sharp’s Australian Sojourn, 1882-1892.” Folk Music Journal 6.5 (1994): 617-52.
  • Baring-Gould, Sabine and Cecil J. Sharp. English Folk-Songs for Schools. London: J. Curwen, 1905.
  • Bearman, Christopher James. “Kate Lee and the Foundation of the Folk-Song Society.” Folk Music Journal 7.5 (1999): 627-43.
  • Bearman, Christopher James. “Who Were the Folk? The Demography of Cecil Sharp’s Somerset Folk Singers.” Historical Journal 43.3 (2000); 751-75.
  • Bearman, Christopher James. “The English Folk Music Movement 1898-1914.” Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Hull, 2001.
  • Bearman, Christopher James. “Cecil Sharp in Somerset: Some Reflections on the Work of David Harker.” Folklore 113.1 (April 2002): 11-34.
  • Board of Education. Suggestions for the Consideration of Teachers and Others concerned in the work of Public Elementary Schools. London: HMSO,1905.
  • Board of Education. Syllabus of Physical Exercises for Public Elementary Schools. London: HMSO, 1909.
  • Boyes, Georgina. The Imagined Village: Culture, Ideology and the English Folk Revival. Manchester & New York: Manchester University Press, 1993.
  • Broadwood, Lucy and J.A. Fuller Maitland. English County Songs. London: Cramer, 1893.
  • Burgess, Paul. “The Mystery of the Whistling Sewermen: How Cecil Sharp Discovered Gloucestershire Morris Dancing.” Folk Music Journal 8.2 (2002): 178-94.
  • Cawte, E.C. “The History of the Rapper Dance.” Folk Music Journal 4.2 (1981): 79-116.
  • Cawte, E.C. “Watching Cecil Sharp at Work: A Study of his Records of Sword Dances Using his Field Notebooks.” Folk Music Journal 8.3 (2003): 282-313.
  • Cox, Gordon. A History of Music Education in England, 1872-1928. Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1903.
  • Davenport, Paul D. Under the Rose: Yorkshire’s Traditional Seasonal Dances. Hallamshire Traditions, 2015.
  • Dommett, Roy. “How Did You Think It Was?” Morris Matters 3.3 (Summer 1980): 4-9. This was reprinted as “How Did You Think It Was? The Political Background to the Folk Revival, 1903-1912.” Country Dance and Song 11/12 (1981): 47-52. Fox Strangways, A.H. Cecil Sharp. Oxford: OUP, 1933.
  • Gammon, Vic. “Introduction: Cecil Sharp and English folk music.” Still Growing: English Traditional Songs and Singers from the Cecil Sharp Collection. Eds. Steve Roud, Eddie Upton and Malcolm Taylor. London: EFDSS in association with Folk South West, 2003. 2-22.
  • Grant, Bob. “When Punch Met Merry.” Folk Music Journal 7.5 (1999): 644-55.
  • Harker, David. “Cecil Sharp in Somerset: Some Conclusions.” Folk Music Journal 2.3 (1972): 220-40.
  • Harker, Dave. Fakesong: The Manufacture of British “Folksong” 1700 to the Present Day. Milton Keynes, Philadelphia: Open University Press, 1985.
  • Heaney, Mike. “Films from the Past.” English Dance & Song 45.3 (Autumn/Winter 1983): 20-21.
  • Heaton, Phil. Rapper: The Miners’ Sword Dance of North-East England. London: EFDSS, 2012.
  • John, Angela V. Evelyn Sharp: Rebel Woman, 1869-1955. Manchester University Press, 2009.
  • Judge, Roy. “D’Arcy Ferris and the Bidford Morris.” Folk Music Journal 4.5 (1984): 443-80.
  • Judge, Roy. “Mary Neal and the Esperance Morris.” Folk Music Journal 5.5 (1989): 545-91.
  • Judge, Roy. “Cecil Sharp and the Morris 1906-1909.” Folk Music Journal 8.2 (2002): 195-228.
  • Karpeles, Maud. Cecil Sharp: His Life and Work. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967.
  • Karpeles, Maud. Cecil Sharp’s Collection of English Folk Songs. London: OUP, 1974.
  • Keller, Kate Van Winkle and Genevieve Shimer. The Playford Ball: 103 Early English Country Dances: As Interpreted by Cecil Sharp and His Followers. London: Dance Books, 1990.
  • Kennedy, Helen. “Early Days.” EFDS News 7 (May 1924): 172-77.
  • Kennedy, Helen. “Early Days (continued).” EFDS News 9 (May 1925): 277-83.
  • Kennedy, Helen. “Fifty Years Ago.” English Dance and Song XIX.5 (April/May 1955): 158-59.
  • Kidson, Frank and Mary Neal. English Folk-Song and Dance. Cambridge: University Press, 1915.
  • Krause, Rhett. “Morris Dancing and America Prior to 1913.” Country Dance and Song 21 (1991): 1-18.
  • Martz, Linda, “Mary Neal and Emmeline Pethick: from mission to activism.” Women’s History Review 23.4 (2014): 620-41.
  • Metherell, Chris. Rapper: History of the Miners’ Sword Dance of North-East England. Garland Films, GAR027. DVD and DVD-ROM.
  • Neal, Mary. “The Revival of English Folk-Music.” Vanity Fair 14 April 1910, 462. Copy in Press Cuttings Book, volume 5, in Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, London.
  • Neal, Mary. “The National Revival of the Folk Dance. No. III – Present Day Interpreters of the Folk Dance.” The Observer 3 December 1911. Copy in Press Cuttings Book, volume 6, in Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, London.
  • Neal, Mary. As A Tale That Is Told: The Autobiography of a Victorian Woman. 2014.
  • “Old English Dances.” Morning Post, 21 April 1910. Copy in Press Cuttings Book, volume 5, in Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, London.
  • “Revival of the Folk Dance: An Artistic Movement.” Morning Post, 7 December 1911. Copy in Press Cuttings Book, volume 6, in Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, London.
  • Schofield, Derek. “‘Revival of the Folk Dance: An Artistic Movement’: The Background to the Founding of The English Folk Dance Society in 1911.” Folk Music Journal 5.2 (1986): 215-19.
  • Schofield, Derek. Booklet accompanying the CD Absolutely Classic: The Music of William Kimber. CD03. London: EFDSS, 1999. The CD was reissued on the Talking Elephant Music label in 2010, TECD161, but without the substantial booklet.
  • Schofield, Derek. “Sowing the Seeds: Cecil Sharp and Charles Marson in Somerset in 1903.” Folk Music Journal 8.4 (2004): 484-512.
  • Schofield, Derek. “The Everyday Dance of the Country Folk.” English Dance & Song 73.1 (Spring 2011): 12-13.
  • Schofield, Derek. “Earliest days.” English Dance & Song 73.4 (Winter 2011): 10-11.
  • Schofield, Derek. “The Morris Wars.” fRoots 357 (March 2013): 36-7.
  • Schofield, Derek. “Sharp visits Goathland again, in search of country dances.” English Dance & Song 75.2 (Summer 2013): 27-8.
  • Sharp, Cecil J. A Book of British Song for Home and School. London: John Murray, 1902.
  • Sharp, Cecil J. Folk Songs from Somerset. 5 vols. Taunton & London: Barnicott & Pearce, 1904-09.
  • Sharp, Cecil J. English Folk-Song: Some Conclusions. London: Simpkin, Novello; Taunton: Barnicott & Pearce, 1907.
  • Sharp, Cecil J. and Herbert C. MacIlwaine. The Morris Book, Part 1. First edition. London: Novello, 1907.
  • Sharp, Cecil J. and Herbert C. MacIlwaine. The Morris Book, Part 2. First edition. London: Novello, 1909.
  • Sharp, Cecil J. The Country Dance Book, Part I. London: Novello, 1909.
  • Sharp, Cecil J. The Country Dance Book, Part II. London: Novello, 1911.
  • Sharp, Cecil J. The Sword Dances of Northern England. Parts I, II and III. London: Novello, 1911, 1912, 1913.
  • Sharp, Cecil J and Herbert C.MacIlwaine. The Morris Book, Part 1. Second edition. London: Novello, 1912.
  • Sutcliffe, David. The Keys of Heaven: The Life of Revd Charles Marson, Socialist Priest and Folk Song Collector. Nottingham: Cockasnook Books, 2010.
  • Walkowitz, Daniel J. City Folk: English Country Dance and the Politics of the Folk in Modern America. New York University Press, 2010.