BOURNE River Morris Men have been celebrating their 50th anniversary. The team was formed in the late summer of 1967 after a visit by some members of the Wessex Traditional Folk Song Club to the Sidmouth Folk Festival where they saw morris and rapper dancing. Returning home to Bournemouth they began to practise with the emphasis on rapper.

Peter Dashwood, the English Folk Dance and Song Society area organiser at the time, persuaded the budding dance team to switch to morris dancing. He taught them a few dances and Cathy Upton provided the music but after a while due to Peter's other commitments, Francis Clayton, who lived in the Bournemouth area and had danced with the Wessex and White Horse Morris Men teams took over the teaching.

Francis was the team's original Squire or dance leader, and although he now lives in Tasmania, still keeps in touch and is well respected for his efforts in the infancy of the team.

In the November Peter suggested that their team should dance at the English Folk Dance and Song Society AGM which was being held in Bournemouth that year. They had no costume to wear but Peter told them to turn up and he would provide everything. They needed a name for the team and it was during a break from the day's proceedings that four of the team decided upon the name 'Bourne River', based upon the Bourne Stream that flows through the gardens in the town.

Among the kit that Peter provided was a set of decorated bowler hats belonging to the Chideock Morris Men who had disbanded in the early 1920s. This team had been formed by Miss Marjorie Mayne of Chideock who had stored the kit for all those years. She had been taught country dancing by Ceil Sharpe, who among others had collected much of their country dance and song heritage, especially the Morris in the early 1900s.

The team then settled on the kit of white shirts and trousers with black bowler hats decorated with flowers and red, blue and gold ribbons, which they still use today.

"We opted to have the Bournemouth colours of blue and gold for our baldricks, the cross-straps. The motif worn on the back was to be two fishes similar to those on the Christchurch coat of arms as the Bournemouth coat of arms was deemed too small and to maintain a link with the Twynham Morris Men of Christchurch, some of whose members moved over to Bourne River after they disbanded," said Geoff Knapman, Bagman of Bourne River Morris Men.

In 1968 Bourne River were invited down to Chideock to celebrate Miss Mayne's 90th birthday. The team danced at the Ceilidh held in her honour and subsequently danced at this event in Chideock every year until it was abandoned in 2013. When she died, the team attended the funeral as pall-bearers.

Bourne River Morris Men dance regularly in the Bournemouth, Poole and East Dorset area during the summer and can also be seen at various fetes and similar events up and down the country, including Bampton, Great Wishford, Rochester, Gorton in Greater Manchester, Chippenham, the Isle of Wight and of course locally at Wimborne to name just a few.They have often travelled abroad to perform including at Colditz Castle, France, Germany and Ireland.

They had very successful celebration events in July. They will return to the Fox and Hounds, Old Burseledon, the first pub where the team danced, on September 23. For more information contact Geoff Knapman on 01202 602221 or email