Bathampton Morris Men

Squire: Ken Cobb

David Eales

David Eales 1919 — 2003

Squire of Bathampton 1966—1969
Foreman of Bathampton 1967—1994


David Eales

David Eales died on Thursday, March 20th 2003 at the age of 83.

David joined Bathampton in 1961 from Whitchurch Morris Men, where he had previously been Squire. He was Squire of Bathampton from 1966-1969, Keeper of the Log from 1983-1994 and the spirit of the Red 'Oss from 1969-1989. He also wrote our handbook "The Bathampton Way", which was published in 1994. He will probably, however, be best remembered as the indefatigatable Foreman of the side from 1967-1994.

Here are some quotes from "The Bathampton Way":

"The Foreman is selected ... to provide for continuity in the side's dancing. During winter practice he will ensure that the Morris Traditions are clearly defined, that newcomers fit into the side and that novices feel the spirit of the dance. Past foremen have been well drilled in the five volumes of the Morris Book by Cecil Sharp and now should understand the aide memoir Morris Ring Handbook by Lionel Bacon. With this basic background our approach to Morris can be neither too rigid nor too fluid so that our style can continue to serve to whatever are its surroundings."

"The Wyf of Bath found company and entertainment along the Pilgrim Way from the 'Tabard Inn'. She will still find good fellowship and tales to be told following the Bathampton Way from the 'George'."

"This then is the Foreman's Tale intended to give an understanding of our Traditions and the Heritage to be carried forward. Change is inevitable, adaptation ensures survival"

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Nick Eales' Tribute at David's funeral

My father was born on 11th August 1919 at Polegate, Sussex to Percy and Eleanor. His father was in the Welsh Regiment, and so the early years were spent in married quarters at Colchester and elsewhere. His brother Michael was born in 1924.

Two years later, when his father retired from the army, the family moved to West Kington, a small village north of Bath where his mother was head of the local school. Later she became head of Winsley school. David won a scholarship to Dauntsey’s public school at West Lavington. On leaving school, he studied for 2 years at the Bristol College of Architecture. With the prospect of war, he joined the TA in 1938. After 2 years at Chester training camp, he was moved to Stanmore. He met my mother Joyce at the dances held in Wembley Town Hall and they were engaged in January 1942. Unfortunately he was then posted to Nigeria for 2 years, and they had to wait until February 1944 to get married. Later he took part in the invasion through Holland, and in the army of occupation. David returned to his studies at the Architectural Association in London and together with Joyce, found an interest in English folk dancing.

In 1950, with my sister and I in tow, the family moved to Whitchurch, near Aylesbury, where he took up a post with Buckinghamshire County architects. Martin, my brother joined us 4 years later.

I remember my father building amazing toys for our Christmas, including a doll’s house, which was a replica of the house we lived in, and a fort, both of which have since been used to entertain the 6 grandchildren. In 1956 the family moved to Hereford, and six years later to Bradford on Avon.

As a professional architect, my father was responsible for a number of schools and libraries. But he was also fascinated by early architecture, and family holidays usually included tours to castles and churches. He was always busy. Even when he retired, he designed and built himself a study, and helped to design extensions and improvements for our houses.

Once an architect, always an architect! He is probably thinking up new designs now.

David continued his interest in English folk music. He enjoyed teaching folk dancing, sword and Morris, and was honoured to dance at the Albert Hall.

Family camping holidays both in the UK and abroad were planned and researched to meticulous detail. Father’s experience as a Captain in the Royal Engineers was invaluable. There were camping holidays to Europe in the 60’s when the car was loaded with family rations for 3 weeks.

He was a keen gardener and planned the vegetable plot with precise detail and crop rotation, while mother was in charge of the flowers. Their garden was open to the public last year and they received many compliments.

We will remember him as an intelligent man, with a very sharp mind, and a tremendous sense of humour. He was a caring loving man, who adored Joyce his wife. He was a fantastic father to his three children, and a wonderful Grandfather to his six grandchildren; he was always available to provide support and encouragement.

David was a private man, sometimes a man of few words. He would never boast of his achievements, yet to all of us, his life has made a difference. Perhaps his main quality was love for his family, and this is probably the best way to remember him. A man who rarely complained, and was always ready to see the best in others.

Nicholas Eales

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John Helsdon's Tribute at David's funeral

I am honoured to say a few words on this occasion.

Following demob in 1946, David attended Cecil Sharp House morris classes. He then joined Whitchurch Morris, near Aylesbury, started a side of novices ate Hereford and, following a short period with Westbury, he joined Bathampton in 1961.

He was elected Squire at our first "Morris Ale" on 10th November 1966 at the King's Arms in Bath - and he was Bold George in the 1966 Mummers' Play.

The English Folk Dance Society organised a National Folk Week of song and dance in April 1967 and David organised a ceilidh at Bradford-on-Avon. This was followed the next month by a morris tour to Upton-on-Severn, where their "Stick Dance" was performed to a very sparse audience; then on to Ledbury and Hereford.

David and our previous Squire, Dave Duncan, attended as our representatives at Halsway Manor for a "deeper look into morris" - at least that's what they told us!

1967 mumming again found David as St. George and in 1968, on our next "Welsh" tour, he was the Fool, and in that year's mumming David was Sweet Bet, the mother of the other characters.

In 1969 Bathampton learned that they had been elected to association in the Morris Ring, so in March David retired as Squire in order that Dave Duncan should be Squire for the year of our induction. As the latter had been our instructor, the roles were reversed and David took over the mantle of club Foreman. A perhaps unrewarding task!

As the present members of Bathampton Morris know, we have gone from strength to strength, but in times gone by our practise sessions often lacked a musician, and David rose to the occasion - he provided a tape recorder. He was a taskmaster in the mould of our founder, Mrs. Oakey, and woe betide the dancer who missed the timing of the jumps in "Leapfrog": He would be there with a big stick.

David handed Foremanship to Chris Wildridge in 1994, but I should have mentioned that he was the Red Horse for 20 years. He was a gentle man, of a quiet nature, but there was never such a horse: an inspiration to all other morris horses.

Some years ago Martin danced with Bathampton. Martin had a cottage at Llanvihangel Crucorney and an annual Welsh Tour was started, based there. Subsequently the base was moved to Grosmont, and in the last couple of years a morris side - Foxwhelp - has been formed in Grosmont. It can surely be claimed that the Eales message is well spread.

Finally, I would just like to mention that David was the instigator and author of the book "The Bathampton Way" in 1994. Knowing him, there is no picture of him included – but a nice picture of the Red Horse is on page 42.

Thank you, David.

John Helsdon
Fool of Bathampton

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Chris Wildridge's Obituary for Morris Ring publications

David Eales, Foreman of Bathampton Morris Men died on March 20, 2003.

I first met David Eales in October 1974 as a new and very nervous probationer of Bathampton Morris Men at their then practice venue at Newtown School in Bradford on Avon. In later years he became my mentor, friend and in a very important way, benefactor. In the early 1990’s he began a process of training his successor and I was his choice as the person to follow in his footsteps. Fortunately the rest of the side agreed with him.

David John Eales was born on 11th August 1919 at Polegate in Sussex. His father was in the Welsh Regiment. Shortly afterwards the family moved to West Kington, a small village north of Bath, where his mother became headmistress of the local school. Later she became headmistress of Winsley School, the village where the side now practises. David won a scholarship to Dauntsey’s School in Wiltshire and then continued his studies at the Bristol College of Architecture.

In 1938 he joined the Territorial Army and in 1940 he met his future wife, Joyce, at a dance in Wembley Town Hall. His army service took him to Nigeria for two years, and on his return he and Joyce were married in 1944. David was involved in the invasion of Europe and was part of the Army of Occupation until his demobilisation in 1946. He returned to his studies, this time at the Architectural Association in London.

Together with Joyce, David found an interest in English folk dancing and he, at least, attended Morris classes at Cecil Sharp House. Work and family commitments took David to Whitchurch near Aylesbury to work for Buckinghamshire County Council in 1950 where he joined Whitchurch Morris Men. It was here that he met Lionel Bacon at a time when he was working on what later became the Black Book. One of my earliest memories of David was him consulting an oblong, purple card-covered volume with type-written sheets covered in purple ink, one of the few copies of the first edition of the Black Book. David moved to Hereford where he started a Morris side and then, following an appointment to Wiltshire County Council, to Bradford on Avon where he lived until his death.

After a short period dancing with White Horse Morris Men, David joined Bathampton in 1961. Bathampton at that time was an institution independent of the Ring and had relatively little contact with other sides. Its history, growing out of a school side founded by Mrs Oakey, the headmistress of Bathampton School, did not fit with the structures found in many sides at that time. David almost certainly brought with him a broader understanding of the tradition which showed itself in his abilities to both teach and perform folk, sword and Morris dancing. The side adapted itself to Ring structures during this period. So it was that in 1966 he was elected the second Squire of the side, a position he held until 1969 when he stepped down in favour of the then Foreman, Dave Duncan, for entry to the Ring.

From then, until 1994, twenty five years, as Foreman he guided the many generations of new dancers in the Side. Twenty eight years have passed since I first ventured, somewhat apprehensively into the practice room in Bradford on Avon. Time blurs the edges of memory and I cannot say that I can recall the detail of the evening but for two things. David’s dominating presence as an instructor, and his reluctance to end the session until twenty eight minutes past ten, with last orders called at 10.30 in the Mason’s Arms, two hundred yards away.

David’s great gift was as a teacher. A man thoroughly grounded in the written tradition from Sharp’s books onward and in the practical aspects of the dance from his experiences at Cecil Sharp House and at Whitchurch. Bathampton was, and is, different to many revival sides. Since its inception in the mid 1930’s it has only had four teachers. Mrs Oakey, Dave Duncan, trained by her, David Eales and the current Foreman, trained by David. A style of dancing had developed in the thirty years before David took up the reins. David taught a style of dance he observed the then dancers dancing, not necessarily exactly what the Book said, or what he himself danced. That is, he taught what had evolved from the teaching of Mrs Oakey and her apt pupil, Dave Duncan. What he insisted upon, was that the different traditions that were danced by the Side, remained distinct and distinctive.

Every side has its good times and bad. For a time in the late 1970’s, early 1980’s we could not be sure of a musician for practice nights. David’s solution was to record the tunes for the dances he wished to teach and practices would proceed with all the complications of trying to dance to a musician who wasn’t there and could not adapt to the mistakes of the dancers. His patience and persistence were key factors in retaining the dancer’s interest and in ensuring the survival of the side. He and a few other key members made sure that Bathampton flourishes today. David deeply desired that we should dance to the tune of Lord of the Dance. This did not find favour with the Side which resisted his efforts in a way that only stubborn people can. His solution was subtle. He wrote a dance to the tune Maid of the Mill which he did in the Fieldtown style. The side took to it with enthusiasm. We practised and succeeded in performing the dance to his satisfaction. His riposte to our stubbornness was to finally instruct the dancers to dance Maid of the Mill to the tune of Lord of the Dance. It works.

In his address at David’s funeral, John Helsdon noted that although David was the author of the booklet, ‘The Bathampton Way’ there is no picture of him to be seen. There is a photograph of the ‘Red Horse’, a role David fulfilled for twenty years. David was, to quote his son Nicholas, the same day, ‘A private man, sometimes a man of few words. He would never boast of his own achievements, yet, to us all, his life has made a difference.’ The side were asked by the family to dance at David’s funeral. We were privileged to do so.

His family honour him in their way, as is proper. Yet we in Bathampton Morris are a living tribute to a shy, private man, whose ambition was to sustain the Morris. David leaves behind two enduring signs of his skills. Some fine buildings and a thriving Morris side. What more could a man ask?

Chris Wildridge
Foreman of Bathampton

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