Frederick George Gardner

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Frederick George Gardner (1830 - 1927) was born in Marylebone, London. By 1851 he had moved to Oxfordshire and was lodging in North Leigh with John Webb and his family, including his son George who was 5 years older. They worked as agricultural labourers, whilst John's eldest daughter was involved in one of the big domestic industries of the area, glove making. It was in 1851 that Fred Gardner went to the septennial "great meeting at a Lamb Ale at Woodstock" - as he described it to Cecil Sharp (see below). After marrying his wife Mary, he set up shop in Corn Street, Witney as a baker. The couple had 6 children there but, after the early death of his wife at the age of 45 (in early 1880), his two youngest children, Alfred and Florece Ann stayed at home and helped with the business until his death in February 1927 at the ripe old age of 97 years.

He was visited by Cecil Sharp on 4th April 1912 and Gardner gave him several morris dance tunes - presumably those used by the North Leigh Set:

2765 - Mrs Kaysey (Morris Tune)
2766 - Boys of the Bunch (Morris Air)
2767 - The Black Joke http://www.vwml.org/record/CJS2/10/2767

There is no indication as to whether Gardner played an instrument, it may be that, as with Harry Taylor at Longborough, Sharp noted down the tunes from Gardner's whistling. He was, however, a dancer and well remembered by one of his contemporaries in the North Leight set, William Partlett, who had lived 6 doors away from Gardner. He was "as lissome as a cat, an out and out dancer, like on wires". Sharp noted the following: "Fred Gardner (80) an old man now living at a Baker's shop in Corn Street, Witney. He gave me several tunes (see tune book) and items of information. They dance with sticks and handkerchiefs. Sometimes they used cocoa nuts in clapping dances. They sawed a cocoa nut in half, scooped out the kernel, and then made 2 holes in each half connected with a ribbon. The hand was passed through theis ribbon as under the strap of a concertina and the half nut held in the palm, concave outwards. They struck each others hands as well as their own together. Mrs Kaysey a tune to which this cocoa nut dance was danced. He remembered a great meeting at a Lamb Ale at Woodstock wh. was only held once every 7 years. There were 20 morris teams. First they all danced before the Duke, and then repaired to a barn where they competed "Nor Ly" (i.e. North Leigh) of course winning. "The Old Woman Tossed Up" often called "Thread Needle". He indicated a movement rather like the ribbon dance in which partners joined their handkfs together. This performed as as Morris dance
Galley known as hook-leg
Back-to-back as Gipsy
Half-hands not half-gip.
They had several stick dances. In one of them the taps at 4th & 8th bars was done as in "Bobbing Joe" the Field Town dance over the head.". Often they would suddenly stand still in a dance and sing the tune with its words then do half rounds, whole rounds, whole Hey & [ kipper?] out & finish off." Fred Gardner (90) an old m. [morris] man now living at a baker's shop in Corn Street Witney. He saw me several times (see time back) and items of information.

North Leigh Morris


They danced with sticks & handchiefs. Sometimes they used cocoa nuts in clapping dances. They sawed a cocoa nut in half, scooped out the kernel, and then made a hole in each half connected with a ribbon. The hand was passed through this ribbon as under the strap of a concertina and the half nut held in the palm concave outwards. They struck each others hands as well as their own together. Mrs Kaysey a tune to wh. [which[ this cocoa nut dance was danced. He remembered a great meeting at a Lamb Ale at Woodstock wh. was only hed once every 7 years. There were 20 morris teams. First they all danced before the Duke, and then repaired to a barn wher they competed "Nor Ly" (ie North Leigh) of course winning.

"The Old Woman tossed up" often called "Thread Needle". He indicated a movement rather like the [?] dance in which partners joined their hands up together. This.... [This] performed as a morris dance.
Galley known as a half-leg
Back-to-back as Gipsy
Half-hands not half-gip.
They had several stick dances. In one of them the taps at 4! & 8! bars was done as in "Bobby & Joan".
Often they would suddenly stand still in a dance and sing the tune with its words, they do half rounds, whole hey & [?] out & finish off.


Paul Burgess



References

(1) Wortley MSS., interview with Elizabeth Watkins, 1 September 1957, cited in a letter from Wortley, dated 12 November 1974, in the Forest of Dean Morris Men collection.
(2) Sharp MSS., 'Folk Dance Notes' 1, ff.86-87, interview with Fred Gardner, Stratford-on-Avon, 27 August 1909.
(3) Sharp MSS., field notebook (words) 4 (14 August - 3 September 1909), interview with Henry Allen, Stratford-on-Avon, Warwickshire, 27 August 1909.
(4) Cecil Sharp Manuscript Collection at Clare College. Full English: http://www.vwml.org/record/CJS2/11/2/126