Molly Dancing in Moston

Editors note: This piece was kindly written for Another Music by Carole Gausden

Nobody appears to know the origins of the Manchester version of Molly dancing. It seems clear that ‘our’ Molly dancing had no connection to the East Anglian custom where adult males dressed in female garb, performing to earn a few precious pennies when times were hard.

Some two hundred years ago, the word ‘Molly’ was a term used for an effeminate male. Molly houses were popular bawdy establishments where what we now refer to as -‘cross-dressing’ was a feature. Female dress was also used to conceal or disguise males not wishing to be identified, especially when they were engaged in sabotage or intimidation.

In America, the “Molly Malones” were notorious for their brutality but to us, Molly dancing was an innocent way of persuading grown-ups to part with a few coppers.

In my search for the origins of Molly dancing, I used to make a nuisance of myself at every local history class or event I attended. I pestered people to find out whether they had gone out Molly dancing, and what the money they collected was used for.

My researches led me to the conclusion that, wherever it originated, in Manchester, the practice was confined to the old township areas until the newly built council housing took it out to places like Moston. All the people I questioned had families who came from either Ancoats or Collyhurst, with a single mention of it in Chorlton on Medlock.

Adults took no part in organising children’s games or street activities in the 1950s. It was left up to the older girls who played together to instigate Molly dancing and the May Queen each year.May Day and Whitsun required the best dresses; perhaps the proceeds from Molly Dancing helped. Photo provided by Alan Hampson

In our bit of Moston, it was only the girls who took part, but my father assured me he had been an enthusiastic Molly dancer in Harpurhey in the 1920s. We moved to New Moston in 1956, and I was dismayed to discover Molly dancing was unknown to those who lived on the far side of the Broadhurst Fields divide.

April was Molly dancing time, and as far as I recall, we would go out about half a dozen times each year. Our patch was Honister Road, Bordale and Hesford Avenues with a bit of Brantwood Terrace. If we didn’t do too well, we might include Holmfield Avenue and some of Church Lane, providing no other group had done those streets first.

With rouged cheeks and dressed in frocks, hats and anything else our mothers would allow us to borrow, we set out. One of us knocked on a door with an open handbag thrust out in front of her. As soon as we heard footsteps approaching, we went into our routine.

Jigging about on the spot, we sang (to the tune of “London Bridge is falling down”):-

Molly dancers kicking up a row, kicking up a row, kicking up a row,

Molly dancers kicking up a row, my fair lady.

Cheese and bread, the old cow’s head, put it in a lantern,

With a bit for you and a bit for me and a bit for Molly dancers.

(Optional finale – Cross a molly, cross a molly dancers.)

Boys invariably blew their ill-gotten gains in the nearest sweet shop. But apart from one goody-two-shoes who said she gave it to the Red Cross, the money collected by girls was invested in preparations for their May Queen celebrations. I will keep ‘May Day’ until next time…

Age UK Manchester opens a new shop in Harpurhey

I’ve come to Age UK Manchester’s newly opened shop where I’ve arranged to meet Ros Morton, the Manager. Ros runs it alongside the Deputy Manager, Shelley, with the help of five volunteers.“Might be obvious, but talk me through the sort of items you sell and what you don’t.”

“We sell women’s, men’s and children’s clothing” she starts, “shoes, handbags, belts, toys, books, DVD’s, household items, ornaments,  bric-a-brac, jewellery (apart from worn ear-rings), furniture and electricals.”

Ros explained that not all items of furniture are suitable for resale because of Trading Standards rulings and drivers check Fire Hazard labels before collection. Some other items need fire labels too but all the details are on their website.

I’d assumed stock was received in plastic charity bags – the type that drop through your letter box; but that’s not quite the case.

“We’ve found the best way to get donations is by promoting the shop around the local area; letting people know we’re here by word of mouth and on social media. We’ve done a few events, handed leaflets out about Age UK Manchester, how to volunteer, how to donate and about our collection and delivery service.

Nearly all the stock sold in the shop is donated, mostly by people filling up the special bags (available at our shops), or by just dropping items off during shop opening hours.”I donate to charity shops and buy from them. For me, condition is really key.

“Of course customers want to buy clothes in good condition. We sort and check what we sell but we don’t waste anything. Damaged clothing is sent for recycling and we receive payment for it so it still brings in income. “

“Do you ever negotiate on a price for something?” I ask her.

“It’s important for the people who have been kind enough to donate their items that we set a fair price and not undervalue them. We’ve lots of experience and take into account the original cost, the condition and, to be fair to the buying customer, keep it affordable.

The money we make in this shop helps to fund activities and services we provide in Manchester, like the ones at the Crossacres Resource Centre in Wythenshawe, and our information and advice line in Manchester City Centre.”

I wander around the shop. There’s a nice, positive feel about the place. It’s well organised, easy to find what you’re looking for and the displays are inspired.

Ros has experience as a community worker as well as charity shop manager and loves both aspects.

“For me this isn’t just a shop. People come in, have a look around and buy things at a reasonable price but it’s a friendly place, we have regular customers who drop in for a chat. Sometimes they make a purchase and sometimes they don’t. If they leave feeling good then that’s fine.

We’ve got lots of space and we’re looking into getting the most out of it. Not just how to generate more income but how we can contribute to the community.”It’s getting busy so I take my leave and thank Ros for her time.

The idea of perfectly good clothing ending up in the dustbin or cluttering up cupboards is bonkers. Passing them on to a charity shop’s got to be better, so have a clear out. If you fancy treating yourself this one’s well worth a visit.

The Harpurhey shop is located opposite B&M, just click here for details, including opening times and volunteering opportunities.

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Spring into… Boggart Hole Clough

It wasn’t part of the plan. I was only in the Clough to take few photos and the next thing is I’m fly fishing. Well, learning how to cast. It’s a start!Me and a very patient Danny Williams

The week before I was at the clough for an event attended by Diane Modahl, Olympic runner and winner of a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. I’m a cautious fairweather walker so I started gently on the 2K, then, accidentally, joined the 5K group and I ended up doing a random distance somewhere in the middle. I’m claiming it as a 5K anyway.The sun was out, it was a smashing turn-out with all ages from tots to totterers (aka me) and everything in-between. Runners, joggers, amblers and dog walkers were all welcome.

North Manchester Fitness, who organised the event, meet every Saturday. You can run with Donna, walk with Lorraine or just chat in the cafe. If you’re an early bird, Jason does a sprint session at 7:45am. I’ve never met Jason as I’m never early and don’t ‘sprint’ on principle but I’m sure he’s dashing(?).

Oh yes, back to the fishing. On 30th March the King William IV Angling Society hosted their annual event called ‘Spring into Fishing’. It sort of launches their junior season starting in April.I can do no better than share this information from their website:

King William IV Angling Society as a club hold special events in association with The Angling Trust. We also provide free junior coaching sessions every Saturday mornings from 9:30am-12pm April to the end of September all events are held at Boggart Hole Clough.

Once again the weather was kind. Individuals and families signed in and fishing coaches were on hand to help set up participants along bank and show them what to do.Danny Williams (Angling Trust Development Officer) and Duncan Mottershead (King William IV Angling) set up some fishing rods

The enthusiasm of everyone was contagious so when Danny suggested I give it try, I swapped my camera for a fishing rod in a flash. Bearing in mind my knowledge is limited to watching ‘Mortimer and Whitehouse Gone Fishing’ on the TV, I did my best. It was great fun and I loved it.

What’s better than sitting peacefully on a sunny day listening to water slapping gently to a background of bird-song and the hushed discussions of fellow anglers?A ripple in the water gives way to excitement as a fish is caught, photographed and then released back into the lake

I’d left my husband in the café but he emerged to take the pictures I was supposed to take. His ears pricked up. “Did I hear someone mention sea-fishing? Brilliant! When are they going?”

I think he’s planning something.

For details of all of North Manchester Fitness activities and events check out their website.

To read more about the fishing event at Boggart Hole Clough and the coaches read Danny Williams’ account here.

Information about King William IV Angling Society is on their Facebook page and there’s lots of information on the Get Fishing website too.A happy angler…