excerpt from 'My end is my beginning' pp. 23-25 (368 words)

excerpt from 'My end is my beginning' pp. 23-25 (368 words)

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My end is my beginning

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[The author describes how neighbouring farms were expected to contribute ‘empty tar or grease barrels, unwanted furniture or old beams', p. 23,  for the bonfire]


Cottardale always held its fifth of November bonfire at [the family farm] Dreibeck, on an acre of perfectly level ground, known as Borrogarth […] Failure to contribute meant that no member of such a family might attend the plot fire, or the following Saturday night supper and dance, the Dreibeck Ball, which concluded the celebrations. 


One year a special effort was made. [...] On the fifth Cottardale gathered tardily on Borrogarth, and not in full force in spite of the perfect evening. [...] Only half-a-dozen men had turned out but began ostentatiously to collect the material stored away. Barrel succeeded barrel, to be stacked in four columns by [neighbour] Jim Croft standing on a tall empty tub, which would later serve as a seat for various musicians. 


[My father] Bob Froggatt left Dreibeck at six o’clock, torch well ablaze, and as he stepped onto Borrogarth turf, the company began singing ‘The Song of the Torch’, which he had composed some years previously.  


The first part of the evening was usually allotted to the children, who danced round the fire or played games near by. My father, who like many of his Cottardale relations played the fiddle, clarinet, mouth organ or concertina, often played for these. After this everybody joined in some of the beautiful old country dances , Sir Roger de Coverley, Sir Cassian's Circle, Buttered Peas, Huntsman's Chorus or Meeting Six followed by two or three spirited Morris dances by the Cottardale youths, for which Jim Croft had the privilege of playing on his tin whistle, at which he was very expert. The quick moving stilted figures of the morris dancers looked strangely grotesque in the flickering light of the leaping flames […] The set and turn and the shepherd’s hay seemed more appropriate to such a setting than the more stilted ballroom dancing, although polkas and quadrilles, difficult on grass, invariably followed. Reels and clog dances were reserved for the Saturday revels, as these needed a wooden floor to bring out their quick staccato rhythmical tapping.

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excerpt from 'My end is my beginning' pp. 23-25 (368 words)


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