The Red Petticoats ladies
clog dancing team started life in 1980. They were an offshoot from the
Cloggies (youngsters from Ilfracombe College brought together by teacher Fred
Ward to perform traditional North West clog dances) and were, in fact,
the parents of those youngsters who fancied having a go themselves.
Fred's guidance, they developed into a very proficient troupe who performed
in public during the summer.
The name "Ilfracombe Red Petticoats"
came from a story of courage and daring, dating back to the Napoleonic
Wars. The story tells the tale of Betsy Gammon who saved the town (and
the Country) from invasion by the French. The men-folk of Ilfracombe were
away at war when two French frigates sailed up the Bristol Channel and
moored off the coast of Ilfracombe. Betsy saw them and, fearing they would
land, summoned all the women by the banging of a drum to line up on the
hills right on the seafront. The women, at that time, wore red, flannel,
petticoats and on Betsy's signal draped their petticoats over their shoulders.
From their positions out at sea, the French thought there was a garrison
of redcoats in the town and so they weighed anchor and sailed to Wales
where they did land but were soon rounded up and imprisoned. That was
the last time that the United Kingdom was invaded. The name "Betsy
Gammon" has gone down in Ilfracombe folklore as the woman who saved
Today, the Red Petticoats continue to entertain and delight the people
of North Devon (and further afield) with their mixture of the traditional
North West Morris clog dances along with dances from other parts of the
country as well as some that have been choreographed by team members themselves.
The team (or "side") consists of a dozen regular dancers and
a band (a chance for the men to join in) of melodeons (squeeze-boxes),
an accordian, trombone and - of course - a drum. The dances have names
that come from the North West of England, such as Knutsworth, Clitheroe
and Poulton (le-Fyle) and are danced to familiar tunes such as the British
Grenadiers, Portsmouth and the Runaway Train. The side can be seen on
Thursday evenings throughout the summer at various venues including Ilfracombe,
Woolacombe, Morthoe, CombeMartin and Lynton. There is also the annual
Tour of Exmoor which is done in a day at a number of different places.
Each year, the side also joins in at the Sidmouth Folk Festival and spends
a lovely weekend at the Swanage Folk Festival. They have also danced at
the Royal Cornwall Show. At the local dances, a collection is taken and
postcards and badges are available and at the end of the season donations
are given to local charities.
It is great fun and keeps you fit. If you can spare some time on Thursday
evenings (to practice during the winter and perform during the summer)
why not give it a go? Don't worry if you think you can't dance, you can
be taught (and there probably is a dance for two left feet). Or perhaps
you fancy playing in the band? New members are always welcome.
have to do is see any team member or give the Squire a ring - call Jan
Ellis on 01271 342351
You will always be welcome.