The Holt Morris 25th anniversary side

The Bradford-on-Avon contingent’s first sight of the Melksham Community Minibus was when it panted up to the Library bus stop. It was already full, so in order to accommodate Trevor and Bertie’s stack of bags (sufficient for a return hike around the SW coastal path), all of Martin’s experience of Japanese train-stuffing was required. Finally we obtained a satisfactory tight pack of occupants and baggage and could set off. The journey to Lyme Regis took about 11 hours because of an unexpected diversion and the minibus’s inability to go uphill, necessitating a route consisting only of flat or downhill stretches.Holt Morris disembark from a minibus after arriving in Lyme Regis

Our first dance spot was on the front at Lyme. The crowds were ecstatic and threw money at us. Not so ecstatic was the official who queried the seals on Peter’s performance permit from the Council. He grudgingly agreed not to imprison Peter, so long as there was no repeat offence, and we beat a hasty retreat to the minibus. A hasty retreat from Lyme could not be achieved as the bus was unable to manage the hill out of town. But a handy police car stopped the traffic and enabled our gallant driver to take a long blind run at the corner and gain the main road by sheer momentum.

Eventually we arrived at Beer, accompanied by a stench of vaporized clutch and brake linings. Everyone got out halfway up the hill to the YHA to enable Martin to take a run at the last bit. The YHA was a very pretty place. Its rooms were perfectly adequate so long as men agreed to stand up one at a time, and not to attempt to turn round. The breakfast and packed lunch were also appreciated by all. Fortunately I never snore, so my roommates were all happy, although there were some grotesque accounts of snoring from the other rooms. On the first evening we dined in the Indian restaurant where the service was glacially slow, but the food was very good. There was a full moon that evening and everyone was impressed by the beauty of the beach, with its vertical chalk cliffs and picturesque little fishing boats pulled onto the shingle.Moonlit fishing boats in Beer harbour

Saturday was the real day of dancing. We drove to Sidmouth, which only took about 4 hours across busy single track roads. In the morning three intrepid men: Steve, Mark and Patrick, bravely entered the arctic seas despite only having one towel between them. Steve made a serious attempt to reach France but was called back in time for the dancing. We then did two spots on the sea front. These went very well except for "Hammersmith Hop", where a novel interpretation by Patrick caused some consternation. Holt Morris dancing on Sidmouth sea frontWhen not dancing we retired to the "Marine Arms" where we watched England making a record 10th wicket stand of 198 against India at Trent Bridge.

Then we once again trusted our souls to the minibus and drove for 17 hours to reach Branscombe. The length of this journey was due to a hedge trimmer in front of us, proceeding at 1 mph along the interminable single track lanes.Stuck behind a hedge trimmer en route to BranscombeOutside the Mason’s Arms in Branscombe, Patrick terrified the local motorists by attempting to close the road. They must have thought he was a member of a Bosnian militia group demanding ransom or death at the road block, and were obviously relieved to be allowed to leave after a few moments of extreme fear.

So far the applause had kept the sun shining. By Branscombe the Old Sailor was predicting imminent rain, but the good spirits of the audience kept it at bay (although there was rain in Wiltshire the next morning). On Saturday evening we dined in the Dolphin Hotel in Beer. Following the Mexican tradition, everyone made a short speech. These were mostly very sycophantic and best forgotten. Then the food arrived. Most people had healthy fish, but your humble author received several portions of ribs and was obliged to take much of it home for the cat, which was gratefully received the next day.

Then we retired to the bar to enjoy some vigorous melodeon playing and songs from Chris, Patrick, Jonathan and Pete, some with the famous 1960s backing group. This scared away all the real people from the bar leaving us with plenty of space. After consuming very modest amounts of ale the men trickled back to bed.Chris Tunnicliffe singing at the Dolphin Hotel, Beer

On Sunday we arose bright and early, ate our YHA breakfasts, clutched our YHA packed lunches, and got back onto the minibus. Some of the more cowardly men were convinced that the minibus was about to explode and cadged lifts from the car drivers. This reduction in weight meant that the bus could actually manage some modest uphill gradients on the way home and made good time. We arrived home at mid-day, with plenty of time for showers, sleep and Alka-Seltzer before the World Cup final in the evening.

See also: The 25th anniversary gallery



This being our 25th. anniversary year, we are all getting excited about the more self-gratificatory elements of our programme, our indulgent weekend away centred on Beer in Devon in July (the pun, it hardly needs be said, has no significance whatever) and our slightly more open-armed, inclusive celebration in Holt in September, whilst working hard to get ourselves conditioned for the season ahead starting at "The Longs Arms" dance-out at Steeple Ashton. We shall, of course, be sporting our new bags, generously provided by our sponsors, Box Steam Brewery. We appreciate and welcome the fact that the capacity of the bags allows for the accommodation of both our kit and considerable volumes of their esteemed products.

( Our association with "Box Steam" has reached a conclusion by mutual agreement. Other brewers’ products will, no doubt, bulk out the spaces left in our individual, preferred, kit-carrying vessels hereafter Ed. Jan. 2016.)

We look forward to seeing a goodly number of you, your friends and relatives, on our travels throughout 2014.



Members of the side behind the bar at the box steam brewery.

In the last six weeks we have been involved in various engagements. The first of these was collecting donations for Children in Need, for what we think was the 15th year in succession. This year the amount raised was £450.00 and brings our total over the last decade and a half to between £5000 and £6000. This has only been possible with the generosity of the people of Bradford-on-Avon and in particular the landlords and landladies who allow us to ‘Bother’ their customers. This year we were given free drinks in two establishments and free food in another, plus very generous additions to the collecting bucket by all. Surprisingly and gratifyingly we were also compelled to dance in every pub we frequented.

This was followed by two trips to Box Steam Brewery. The first a ‘Brewery visit’, where we enjoyed not only ample samples of their fine ales but also a very interesting talk by Rachel and Reuben about the history of the brewery and indeed what makes their beers so good. The fact that perfect brewing occurs at a temperature of 72.9 degrees Fahrenheit is one that should never be forgotten. Is that one of the tricks of their trade? Have I just given away one of their secrets? The second outing to the Midlands was at the behest of BSB, to help provide entertainment for their Christmas event. This was a very enjoyable evening of singing and dancing by Holt Sings and Holt Morris respectively combined with ‘Shopping’ opportunities and fine food and refreshments. It is good to see the continued involvement and interest that the team at BSB have in the village of Holt.

Finally we appeared as the first act in a folk evening arranged by John Alderslade at the Arc Theatre in Trowbridge. All funds raised were being donated to Dorothy House to support the fantastic work they do there. John Alderslade has kindly asked Holt Morris to appear yet again at the Village Pump Festival in July next year for which we are very grateful. The connection between this evening and the history of the Village Pump was not lost on anyone.

Stephen Tucker – Squire of Holt Morris for 2013