Ormskirk Market Day

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News update

 

Next meeting...

Wednesday 24th July 2024

Inns and Beerhouses of Ormskirk

Dot Broady-Hawkes
 

Guide Hut, Moorgate, Ormskirk (Opposite Hesford's) L39 4RU

Doors open 7pm, AGM starts 7.30pm

Refreshments available, all welcome

 Next Ormskirk Library Family History Helpdesk

Monday 5th Agust 2024

10.30 a.m.- 11.30 a.m.

See "Events" and "Meetings" pages for details of upcoming events.

Rose Queens and Morris Dancers

Ormskirk Morris Dancers

Tower Troupe

Founded in 1949 by Robert Hesketh.

With thanks to ODFHS member Sylvia Shacklady (nee Rawsthorne) for the following photographs and reports.

Sylvia remembers travelling by bus to many locations in the North West to take part in Morris Dancing competitions; the Tower Troupe were very successful and won many cups and trophies.  They practiced at the Moorgate Guide Hut in Ormskirk on a Thursday evening.  Mrs. Hesketh, the wife of founder Robert Hesketh (known as Bobby), would stand on a raised stage with a wind up gramophone to play  marching tunes.  Mr. and Mrs. Hesketh also made the costumes for the dancers.

This newspaper report from 1953 tells the story behind the founding of the Tower Troupe.

"Five years ago a small group of girls from the Tower Hill Estate, Ormskirk, formed a Morris Dancing troupe in an effort to bring back this attractive recreation and entertainment to the town.

Known as the Tower troupe, the children naturally commenced their activities in a minor way, and it was a hard struggle at first to make their presence felt in the Morris dancing world.  But they persevered and today are Ormskirk's premier troupe and one of the most prominent and successful in the North of England.

Most of the credit for these successes is due to Mr. R. Hesketh of Thompson-avenue, Ormskirk, who is chairman, treasurer and trainer combined.

His services were remembered when the troupe held a presentation dance at Ormskirk Institute on Saturday night.  Dorothy Brady, leader of the seniors, presented a gift to Mr. Hesketh in appreciation of his efforts."

 

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1953 - Ormskirk Tower Troupe at a presentation dance held at the Ormskirk Insitute. 

Centre row is Councillor R.H. Taylor (Chairman of the Ormskirk Council) who attended.

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 1. Ellen Jump, 2. Sylvia Rawsthorne, 3. Robert Hesketh, 4. Joan Carter, 5. Jean Rothwell, 6. Shirley Orrell, 7. Dorothy Brady (leader), 8. Councillor R.H. Taylor, 9. Christine Rawsthorne, 10. June Hichens, 11. Marion Moss, 12. Dorothy Pilling, 13. Jennifer Gaskell 

We have not been able to identify everyone on this photo, please let us know if you can help with names.

 

This photograph from 1950 shows Sylvia and her older sister Christine with some of their many trophies. 

The girls had to wear very white plimsolls to show off the red laces and shining bells. 

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Sylvia attended Ormskirk Grammar School between 1953 and 1958 and remembers enjoying school trips and taking part in school plays.  In 1955 she wrote an article for the Ormskirk Grammar School Magazine (Vol. 27 (2) July 1955) about Morris Dancing.

For five years my sister and I have been members of the Tower Troupe Morris Dancers of Ormskirk, so called because of the many  Towers around Ormskirk.  We have a Junior and Senior Troupe, with 32 girls between the ages of 8 and 17.  During the winter months we have a weekly practice, and also an out-of-doors practice in the competitive season.  This begins in early May, when we usually visit the Knutsford May Festival, a traditional Gala day.  The procession of Bands, Troupes and horse-drawn Tableaux winds through the old world village streets, and we try to catch the eye of the T.V. Camera man who may be there.

From then until the end of September we travel about 1,000 miles, in our private double-decker 'bus to Carnivals and Shows all over Lancashire, Cheshire and sometimes Shropshire and Wales.  Of course, we support the local events, and the Liverpool Show, held in July at Wavertree, has a very keen competition.  The famous Edge Hill Brass Band provides music for the dancing, and we have won several prizes there.  Sometimes we are not as fortunate as this:  at Haigh Show there was a band of Scotch Pipers, at Norris Green a Seaman's Concertina Band, while at Coppull, when it began to rain, the local band refused to play, and we were left dancing to the singing of the troupe supporters.

There are at least 150 Morris Dancing Troupes in existence, and as each troupe has its own supporters, you will realise that there is quite a large following of this pastime.  The spectator can easily distinguish the troupes by the uniform, for no two teams dress exactly alike.  Our troupe wears red skirts and ecru blouses, with small caps, and our plimsolls must be sparkling white, to show off the red laces and shining bells. 

The first prize money is sometimes £25 with a Silver Challenge Cup, and medals are usually awarded to the best Troupe Leader.  My own troupe has about 40 medals.  If you are lucky, your troupe may be asked to give an exhibition at a dance for the delegates in the Floral Hall.  Many troupes have helped to raise money for deserving charities in this way. 

Sylvia Rawsthorne, 2E   

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 This photograph was taken in 1950 during a parade in Ormskirk town centre, the Tower Troupe are turning into St. Helen's Road from Beaconsfield Corner.  The mascot at the front is Jennifer Gaskell, followed by Dorothy Brady, the Leader (white dress and jacket).  Behind Dorothy the girls in order are; 1.Shirley Orrell, 2. unknown, 3. unknown, 4. Jean Berkley, 5. Helen Hesketh, 6. unknown, 7. Ada Adams, 8. unknown, 9. Jean Rothwell, 10. Christine Rawsthorne, 11. Barbara Taylor, 12. Shirley Davies, 13. Dorothy Kerr, 14. unknown, 15. Renee White, 16. Desna Wright, 17. unknown.

 

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  Tower Troupe, Leyland, 1951

 

 

The following photographs are from Ormskirk Carnival, 2nd June 1951

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TowerTroupe_Sylvia_Rawsthorne_Ormskirk_1951.jpg  Sylvia Rawsthorne at Ormskirk Carnival 2nd June 1951

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Sylvia and Christine Rawsthorne, Ormskirk Carnival June 1951

 

Pontville School Sports and Gala 26th June 1952

In June 1952 Tower Troupe performed locally at the Pontville School Sports and Gala, Black Moss Lane, Ormskirk. This annual event was often opened by big names of the time, for example Val Doonican (1966) and Scottish singing star Andy Stewart (1967).  Sylvia's collection captures one of these famous faces, when American singer, comedian and actress, Sophie Tucker, opened the 1952 Gala.

In a newspaper report of the time the Tower Troupe were mentioned alongside Miss Tucker;

Miss Tucker had to leave early to fulfil her engagements in Liverpool, but she remained to see the boys of the school march smartly onto the sports field carrying their house banners, and the Ormskirk Tower Troupe of Morris Dancers (seniors and juniors), and as they passed the platform, she exclaimed "what lovely boys and girls!".

During the afternoon there was displays of figure marching, by the boys, who gave a very entertaining gymnastic display under the direction of their games master Mr. Gannon.

There were also displays of Morris dancing by the Ormskirk Tower Troupe, who have had a very successful season so far, and they were given a great ovation, they gave a very spirited display and the Tower Junior Troupe delighted the audience.

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"I shall never see 50 again" was the amusing remark of Miss Sophie Tucker when she opened the Pontville Sports and Gala.  Father Mark Ackers enjoys the joke.

 

The  Tower Troupe also performed at the Pontville Sports and Gala of 11th July 1953 which was opened by Max Wall.  The Troupe are shown in action in the photograph below, but unfortunately no sign of Max Wall.

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Ormskirk Church
Ormskirk Parish
Church

Ormskirk railwaymen 1908
Ormskirk Station
1908

Scarisbrick Hall 1815
Scarisbrick Hall
1815

Skelmersdale Station
Skelmersdale
Station

Moor Street market
Moor Street
Market