Firstly, we aren’t the first Maltby Sword Dance team. There is some evidence that we are, in fact the third incarnation of this custom in our immediate area.
1890s – Plough Stots introduced on a local farm by a labourer from Driffield, East Yorkshire. (Account in ‘Brother to the Ox’ by Fred Kitchen) - Neighbouring village, Tickhill is also recorded as having a team. An 30 year gap then…;
1924 – The Yorkshire Post records that a longsword team from Firbeck came second in a competition held in Doncaster. So a 50 year gap follows then…
1978 – Longsword dance introduced to lads at Maltby Comprehensive School by a teacher, Paul Davenport (coincidentally) from East Yorkshire. This team lasted until 1983. There followed a 21 year gap then…;
2002 – ‘The Generations Project’ also at the school, introduces Longsword to a group of Year 9 students who go into local junior schools to spread the word. We dance at the turning on of the Maltby Town Lights in December.
2003 – The team is invited to their first festival Moor & Coast at Whitby, then Holmfirth Folk Festival a week later. We perform at Kelham Island Christmas Market and again on our now traditional day in Maltby. We had a combined concert with, Crucible, Triskele Sword, Pecsaetan Morris and the South Riding ‘Chamber Orchestra’ to raise awareness and excitement! Ron and Jenny Day were invited to teach some rapper to broaden the team’s repertoire.
2004 – More bookings come in and, we send a rapper team to DERT in Bath for the first time. We also dance at Kelham Island at Christmas and of course at the Maltby Town Lights in December.
2005 – We send our team to DERT in Preston. The team win the Open Class, the Youth Trophy and are the overall winners and that year’s holders of the Steve Marris Trophy. The DERT team leave to form Sandbeck Sword. We have more festival bookings including the Kelham Island Christmas Market and once more at Moor & Coast.
2006 – Now, somewhat weakened by the loss of our five strongest dancers we enter a Longsword team in the first SDU Tournament at Kelham Island and do our traditional dance at Maltby’s crossroads in December. We have acquired a very dedicated and determined new member, Lucy Williams, a year 7 student.
2007– Little development but we have new members come and go and dance at a couple of school events. In December we dance at the Queen’s Hotel in the rain with no audience. But… a new team suddenly materialises thanks to Lucy Williams and they dance in a School Dance Festival to great acclaim.
2008 – The team are invited to demonstrate rapper at the Demon Barber’s Rapper Tournament held in Loughborough. We danced at the Centenary of Maltby Colliery. In December, in freezing rain we dance at the Town Lights ceremony once again.
2009 – After a succession of performances in school assemblies and a massive recruitment drive we have a strong team again thanks to the teaching of Ron & Jenny Day and the support of Paul Davenport. That year we danced at DERT in Newcastle after a three year absence. We were invited to what has become one of our favourite festivals at Beverley. We attended the JMO Day of Dance in Nottingham. Meanwhile, Lucy’s mum, Debbie Williams presents her closely guarded secret; the 6 and 7 year old longsword team, ‘The Nestlings’. The ‘Nestlings’ participated in the SDU longsword tournament at Handsworth. They were voted, Best Newcomers. We danced as competitors at the Demon Barbers Schools competition and came away Under 18 champions. In December we were honoured to be asked to join Grenoside Sword Dancers on their annual Boxing Day dance.
2010 – This was a very busy year. It was also our watershed year. The team left the new Maltby Academy and, thanks to a number of highly motivated parents and team members we became a community team with three groups of dancers. So, in brief…we appeared at Kelham Island at a corporate function, Demon Barbers Tournament at Wickersley, several village fetes, Wath May Day, Grenoside Gala Day, a wonderful SDU tournament at Grenoside, this was another year when we did not send a team to DERT.
2011 – If we thought 2010 was busy, this year was even more so! We were honoured to have a new patron, The Earl of Scarborough, who has been a keen supporter since then. Demon Barbers that year saw the Nestlings Rapper for the first time. Lord Scarbrough came with us and presented the prizes. Then we did DERT at Oxford with two teams! Once again we were invited to Wath May Weekend. We were once again asked to perform at Beverley Folk Festival as well as at Warwick in July! This was the year of the stripey sock! It was also the year of the adult team! We had two teams at the SDU Tournament and our Nestlings won the Best Youth Team Trophy! We had a great day with the adult team and the teenage team combining at Sandbach Day of Dance as well as at Otley Folk Festival. Once again we danced at Grenoside’s Annual Dance on Boxing Day.
2012 – This year began with a new idea. Reverting to the practice of our predecessors in the 19th century, we instigated a walking tour of Maltby on the Saturday nearest Plough Monday. Thanks to Liz Davenport we then had a Plough Supper with Norfolk Plough Puddings supplied by both Liz and Debbie Williams (not to mention loads of other goodies!) Of course the year isn’t over yet. So far we have danced at… DERT in London, (The Rapperlympics) where we once again won the Open Class; High Green Miners Remembrance; Wath Festival; the ‘Bright Furnace’ Traipse; Holmfirth, Middlewich and Sheffield folk Festivals; the JMO Day of Dance at Stratford upon Avon, and most recently the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the South Bank in London where our teenage team were invited to represent the sword dance element in a national celebration of Youth Dance…that was yesterday, as I write ………tomorrow? We’re dancing at Sprotborough with Yorkshire Chandelier! So…Lots more!
2013 – Came and went with the team once again competing in the National competitions. We came 3rd in the Championship Class at DERT in Burton upon Trent and 2nd in the Traditional Class at SDU in Ripon whilst our Junior team won the Junior Class to become, once again National Junior Longsword champions. We started the year with an even more successful Ploughfest traipse and the now traditional Plough Supper. We also popped up in a variety of places including the Sheffield Sessions Festival where we established a great friendship with Cinquefoil Rapper from Leicester. Later in the year we were the host team for the Doncaster Folk Festival Day of Dance.
We were also able to visit our Lucy who has gone to Lancaster University where we were able to help her to establish a new team, Lancaster University Rapper Sword Team. (LURST) . A busy year again. With several festivals to look forward to in 2014.
In 2014 we really started to feel the loss of members going to university. No teams for DERT or SDU Tournament – Time for change. We were not a school team, nor a girls team and certainly no longer a youth team! It was time to re-invent ourselves. Then… late in 2014 we were commisioned to provide the dances for a show called, ‘A Yorkshire Christmas’ by Hull History Troupe. This meant that we needed to add a set of ‘Stots Dances’ from East Yorkshire, to our repertoire - these dances are a close relative to the longsword and so we not only gained a new style of dance but also five new dancers and an additional costume - nice and warm on a cold winter night!
Late 2015 and things are really taking off! In our penultimate practice of the year we fielded three longsword teams two rapper sides and our Plough Bullocks numbered twelve! The team has really come of age being predominantly an adult team with members ranging from 12 through to 65. This year we won the 'Own Dance' and 'Junior ' categories in the SDU Tournament at Goathland during October.
In 2016 we gained and lost members but still managed to perform at a number of events and festivals. We came runners-up in the SDU tournament this year but that's ok, we've got some great dancers and awesome dances. We're looking forward to a new year full of adventures.
In 2017 we struggled for members but seem to be ticking along quite well. Our younger members built themselves a four person sword dance for the SDU Tournament at Goathland in October and won the EFDSS Cup for the fifth time! Our two main longsword dances, 'Maltby' and 'Firbeck' continue to evolve and we have two others in the pipeline together with some new insights into rapper dances.
2018 began as always with our 'Ploughfest' tour of Maltby. We gained several new members and lost a couple of others. Nevertheless the team continues to flourish and we now have five longsword dances, Sproughton, Penshaw, Maltby and Firbeck plus our newest dance, Braithwell. We also began learning Swalwell Rapper to complement our Newbiggin and Phoenix I. We had great times dancing at Doncaster Folk Festival and the new Newark Traditions Festival, both of which look like becoming part of our 'tradition'.