Boxing Day sword dance continues historic tradition

A BOXING Day tradition in Greatham dating back over 150 years is alive and well judging by the turnout for this year’s sword dance.

The folk dance attracted healthy crowds again numbering more than 100 when it was performed outside the Hospital of God on Friday.

Members of the Redcar Sword Dancers perform Greatham's traditional story in the village on Boxing Day

Members of the Redcar Sword Dancers perform Greatham's traditional story in the village on Boxing Day

People of all ages enjoyed the unique story that has been reenacted by members of the Redcar Sword Dancers for almost 50 years.

The dancers stood out in their uniform of red jackets decorated with ribbons.

The dance’s roots in Greatham are believed to go back more than 150 years.

The last team to perform it in the village on a regular basis was in the 1920s before being revived in the late 60s by the Redcar dancers.

The Greatham dance is a unique survival of an ancient custom that was once widespread across the north of England.

It mixes, sword dancing, singing and verse describing Greatham as “neither town nor city with little wooden churches with black puddings for bell-ropes and dogs and cats running round with knives and forks in their paws, shouting God save the Queen.”

Interwoven with the dance is the “beheading” of one of the characters.

He lies ‘dead’ on the ground before he is revived by the cures of a travelling quack doctor.

This year, he produced a bottle of Guinness to the amusement of the gathered crowd.

The crowd were then encouraged to show their appreciation to the group by tossing money into the dancing circle before the dancers retired to a local pub for a spot of refreshment.