If any of our members or blog follows are heading off to Whittlesea next weekend to see the wonderful Straw Bear Festival please do send us some photos of the event for the blog and archives. More information about the event and timings can be found at www.strawbear.org.uk
The history of the revival of the Jack in the Green in the 20th Century is extremely complicated as anyone who has read my article The Traditional Jack in the Green will know. Some revivals were linked directly with or inspired by others whilst many popped up completely unconnected. Every now and then I discover another little piece of the jigsaw puzzle. I was really surprised and delighted when Paul Woloschuk contacted me to let me know about the Green Man that his old Morris side used to have and to send me the wonderful pictures on this post.
Paul wrote “Rumford Morris Men from Essex used to have a Green Man (which we called Jack in the Green) back in the mid-1970s. Our Jack in the Green wore a boiler suit (dyed green) upon which were sewn dozens of cotton strips of differing shades of green cut into the shape of Oak leaves. The leaves were cut from sample material cadged from a Laura Ashley shop. So, the material was not only different shades, but was of various pattern (striped, paisley etc.) Jack also wore a pith helmet adorned with long strips of the same material hanging down and covering his face and extending down to his chest. Apparently, it was extremely warm to wear, and Jack often had to be refreshed with lots of ale to prevent wilting! Jack was the idea of one of our members. The bloke who appeared as Jack left the side after four or five years, and nobody carried on with the character.”
Trying to work out where this Jack fitted I asked Paul if they had any connections with Greenwood Morris or the Earls of Essex both of whom started Jacks in the 1970’s? Paul confirmed that “We had no historic connections with any local traditions or other sides. Jack was out with us from May Day throughout the summer. We didn’t know Greenwood Morris, but we often danced with the Earls of Essex (and I used to play regularly with the wonderful late Dave Roberts from the Earls both in ceilidh bands and at Folk Camps).
So it would seem that this is another example of those wonderful Jacks that sprang out of nowhere in the 1970s. I would love to hear from anyone who can fill in more detail on any of the Jacks or indeed make any corrections to my article.