BackMaggot Pie

Maggot Pie was the first book of new English Country Dances for maybe 80 years — certainly the first book containing new set dances since John Playford's day — and that was very controversial!  The dances were written by Marjorie Heffer and William Porter from Cambridge.  Marjorie Heffer belonged to the family who ran Heffer's Bookshop there and the book was published by W Heffer and Sons Limited in 1932 — only 8 years after Cecil Sharp's death.  Along with Arthur Heffer, they had previously worked together on the Apted collection, which contained their interpretations of 18th century dances, but this time they branched out into new territory.  They realised that although 18th century collections of English Country Dances would continue to be discovered, these are all “longways for as many as will”.  The earlier “set dances” — often with three figures starting “Up a double”, “Siding” and “Arming” — appeared only in John Playford's books, and since there was no prospect of discovering any more of these they wanted to write some new ones.  This was a revolutionary idea, particularly in Cambridge which stuck firmly to Cecil Sharp's dances and to a large extent still does, though I hope I've been instrumental in bringing The Round into the 21st century.  In those days “Folk” was the politically correct term, and when Sharp turned his attention from the traditional dances he had collected in the villages to the Playford dances he had found in the books, he still used this description.  In their defence, Heffer and Porter pointed out in the preface that the Playford dances were not traditional but composed, and they were following this example.  They talk about composing new dances fitted to existing tunes and then says “Of such tunes a great many exist in the old collections, and the majority of our dances are set to them, although in a few instances we have not scrupled to use new tunes”.  The piano edition of the tunes identifies some of the sources and I've found one or two others:

The Baffled Knightfrom Chappell's “Popular Music of the Olden Time”
The Northern LassThe A music is from Chappell, and also occurs in Walsh as “The Great Lord Frog”.  Presumably the B was newly written in 1932.
The Happy Clownfrom John Young's The Dancing Master, Volume 2, 3rd Edition, 1718
and Walsh's “Compleat Country Dancing Master”, 4th Edition, 1740
The French Ambassadorfrom John Young's “The Dancing Master”, 17th edition, 1721
The Gradely Lassfrom Fentum's “Country Dances for 1798” as “Moll o' the Wad”
The Mock Matchfrom Henry Playford's “The Dancing Master”, 9th Edition, 1698
The Wickering Wenchadapted from John Young's “The Dancing Master”, 16th edition, 1716: “Lord, What's Come to My Mother”
The Saucy Sailorfrom Fentum's “Country Dances for 1797”, “The Little Taffline”
Green Willowwell known as a variant of “All Round My Hat” from Chappell's “National English Airs”
Bonny Nellfrom “Apollo's Banquet” (Playford, about 1670)
The Jovial Beggarsfrom John Young's “The Dancing Master”, 17th edition, 1721
The Boys of WexfordTraditional Irish tune also known as “The Flight of the Earls”
Young Man's Fancyfrom Chappell, where it has the name “What if a Day, or a Month, or a Year” possibly composed by Campion
The Night Capfrom Chappell as “Near the Town of Taunton Dean”
The Doldrumfrom Fentum's “A Favourite Collection of Country Dances” 1797
The Red Bullfrom Henry Playford's “The Dancing Master”, 10th edition (a little modified)

I believe that the other tunes were composed by William Porter, as stated in the EFDS National Advisory Council minutes.

Douglas Kennedy, Director of the English Folk Dance Society, wrote a Foreword in which he admitted “certain qualms of official conscience”.  But he agreed that many of the old favourites are not Folk Dances either, and said that these dances “deserve the encouragement of every English Dancer, although they cannot be officially sponsored by the E.F.D.S.”

They are all set dances, though a few are actually progressive three couple dances with the same figure three times.  Heffer and Porter deliberately kept to the Playford idiom, and all of the moves can be found in Sharp's Playford interpretations (correct or not).  Jeremy Brown has queried the double star (or star promenade) in “The Doldrum”, and I admit I can't think of any genuine Playford dance which uses this figure.  He suggests that it might have come from some square dance forms, which were published in the journal in the late 1920s.  Sharp and Karpeles published The Country Dance Book part 5 in 1918 which describes the Running Set, and in the introduction Sharp says:

… we may with some assurance claim: — that it is the sole survival of a type of Country-dance which, in order of development, preceded the Playford dance; that it flourished in other parts of England and Scotland a long while after it had fallen into desuetude in the South; and that some time in the eighteenth century it was brought by emigrants from the Border counties to America where it has since been traditionally preserved.
In fact star promenade does not appear in the book, but perhaps Heffer and Porter thought that if it was a traditional square dance move it could have been danced in Playford's time.

In 2021 George Williams pointed out that there is a star promenade (though for two couples, not four) in “Lady Banbury's Hornpipe”.  You can see Sharp's version, Playford's original and a video of it being danced — the star promenade is at 1:22.  Sharp leaves out the introductory figure but the video (led by Cécile Laye) shows this.  Her timing is also different (and I would say more sensible).

George Williams has also created animations of all the Maggot Pie dances at: Pie

Maggot Pie (instructions and melody line)Maggot Pie (tunes only)I think they did an amazingly good job.  These days everyone's writing new dances, but they were the pioneers.  I do feel that in some cases they seemed to run out of ideas in the third figure, but in others the invention is consistently good — look at “Queen of Sheba” or “Cupid's Garden” which are superb.  They often have an internal logic, and they fit the music so well.

Maggot Pie is now supposedly published by EFDSS, though when I looked in 2017 they only had the book of tunes, ditto CDSS.  Don't get confused!  The image on the right shows the book of piano arrangements of the tunes.  The image on the left shows the book containing the instructions and the melody lines (no chord symbols), is landscape rather than portrait, and (certainly in its current version) has a plain cover.

The following background information is from Hugh Stewart, rummaging in the Cambridge library, Cambridge local paper obituary and EFDS branch minute books.

Arthur Heffer was just old enough to fight in the first world war, getting to France in 1918 in time to be seriously wounded and invalided home.  Having recovered he went to university at Queen's College, Oxford, and on graduation joined the family firm.  By 1930 he was running the Sidney Street bookshop; his brother Reuben ran the main Petty Cury store, and there was a printing works out on Hills Road.

Arthur was keen on folk dance, and was elected to the EFDS branch committee in 1922.  Reuben was less keen; he joined the committee in 1928 but then married another dancer and they both rather dropped out.  Apart from country dance Arthur was a leading light in Cambridge Morris dance circles. With Rolf Gardiner he founded and led the Travelling Morrice, which had a view of morris dancing at odds with Cecil Sharp's formalised conception.  [Read about the Travelling Morrice at (starting on page 7) or for more recent information]

Marjorie Barnett (generally known as Barney) was a few years older than Arthur (she was born in 1892) and trained at the Bedford College of Physical Education where she graduated as Head Student.  I believe she moved to London, and got involved with the English Folk Dance Society as a recognised teacher.

In 1924 she was contracted by the Cambridge branch to teach classes one day a week, and this arrangement continued, with Maud Karpeles (at the EFDS headquarters) pushing Cambridge to have her teach more days to save her travelling, and Cambridge not being sure how much demand there was.  She seems to have oscillated between one and three days a week for the next few years.

In 1929 Marjorie married Arthur (and by then seems to be labelled “Head Branch Teacher”) and in November 1930 they had a son, Douglas.

A Mrs Apted gave them an old book of dances she had found in an old cupboard she had bought, and in 1931 they published “The Apted Book of Country Dances”, which was their interpretation of these old dances.  They were assisted in this by William Porter, who was a Cambridge folkie, more into music than dance.  Of course they had their book printed by the Heffers printers up on Hills Road.  Douglas and Helen Kennedy had recently produced the “Country Dance Book — New Series”, so extending Cecil Sharp's repertoire was not uncharted territory.

Arthur caught pneumonia and died suddenly on 1st November 1931, and in 1932 Marjorie Heffer and William Porter published the “Maggot Pie” book “in memory of Arthur”; the book came out so soon after his death that he probably had a big hand in it anyway.  This was far more controversial in that it was a book of dances they had made up to go to old tunes that had originally been published with inferior dances.

Marjorie Heffer left Cambridge at the end of 1932 to return to London, and without her encouragement these “non-traditional” dances languished.  William Palmer, who started dancing in Cambridge in about 1930 and is famous for Palmer's Pocket Playford, vetoed using “these non-Playford” dances at the Round's annual Playford Ball, though he accepted Apted ones — “that's different” — even if they were not technically Playford.  However by 1980 he had mellowed enough to allow The Doldrum into the programme.

In 1938 Marjorie accepted a job with EFDSS to found a new branch in Cape Town; although she only intended it to be for a few years, the war and Douglas's schooling meant that she stayed in South Africa until 1949 (Pat Shaw wrote the dance Freda's Fancy for Freda Pash who was leaving England as her replacement), when she returned to London before eventually retiring to Dorset where she died in 1974.

I am fairly sure William Porter was the musician and not dance composer.  The Maggot Pie book gives the date for some tunes (that they took from Playford), but says nothing about others (that were probably composed by William Porter); the book of music notation (without any dance descriptions) gives an author credit to William Porter, and no credit to Heffers.

In 1937 the EFDSS held an evening of invented dances at Cecil Sharp House, so by then they were prepared to tolerate novel dances to some extent — for instance “Faithless Nancy Dawson” which Anna Bidder wrote around 1936.  Nic Broadbridge claims that she wrote it “for The Round”, but the Round Minute Book describing the June 7 1937 dance says,

Towards the end of the evening Anna Bidder (invited guest, chairman of the local EFDS branch) taught us a new dance — “a little thing of my own” — called Faithless Nancy Dawson, to the tune of “a-Roving.”  A pleasing dance, and fits its music well.

Antony Heywood's date of 1936 seems entirely plausible, but I have no evidence for it.

EFDSS committee minutes record that Douglas Kennedy was personally arguing against any official approval for Maggot Pie when they debated whether to approve of the venture (“all dances must have been invented sometime” versus “what if someone invents rubbish and publishes it as 'English dance'?”), which makes his introduction more interesting.

I also have a snippet ot information from Antony Heywood:

Miss Ludman, thanked in the introduction as the pianist of the Cambridge Branch, was none other than Grace North who played the piano for the Round during all the years that I danced there (1956-1963).

And some information from Brad Foster (Executive & Artistic Director of Country Dance and Song Society from 1983 to 2011) on Marjorie's time in America and Australia.

CDSS's The Country Dancer volume 3 number 3/4, July 1943 has the following passage:

The second overseas Empire Branch of the E.F.D.S. has recently been founded in South Africa by Mrs. Heffer, who will be remembered as Marjorie Barnett by dancers in New York and Rochester.  Mrs. Heffer went to South Africa in 1938 with her young son, Douglas.

This is from The Country Dancer volume 12 number 3/4, Spring 1957, from an article titled “History of the Country Dance Society of American, Part Two”:

… But no one was able to give full time to New York work and in 1926 New York applied to England for a full-time organizer and teacher, and Marjorie Barnett came here in the Fall.  After a year in New York she went on to the newly formed Rochester Branch, organized by Melville Smith in connection with the Eastman School of Music.  New York again applied to England, and May Gadd was appointed.  Both she and Miss Barnett were members of Mr. Sharp's teaching and demonstrating staff.  After two years in Rochester, Miss Barnett returned to England to be married, went to South Africa to live and was active in organizing the dancing there.  She has now returned to England and is working with the Society there.

And this painful bit is from an interview with Phil Merrill in Country Dance and Song Volume 14, 1984:

[Melville] Smith was influential in getting [the Eastman School of Music] to have English dancing instead of this so-called physical education…  Melville got them to get Marjorie Barnett, who taught morris, sword and country dancing three times a week, as part of our schooling.  And that was my downfall…  [Marjorie] had had a ghastly time in New York [before moving to Rochester], because there were great battles going on.  I don't know what they were about, but there were some New Jersey people who resented an English person coming over and butting in.

I always wondered if Marjorie had been on staff at the Summer School when it moved to the Massachusetts Agricultural College (now UMass Amherst) in 1927; then I found proof in an article by Ed Wilfert (also from Amherst) in Country Dance and Song Volume 19, 1989:

In 1927 the Boston and New York branches coalesced their summer schools at the Massachusetts Agricultural College campus that had been used a decade previously and brought to the school a team of English instructors and musicians, headed by Douglas Kennedy and Maud Karpeles, and including May Gadd and Marjorie Barnett, who remained in the country as teachers the year 'round.

I gather from other stories I've heard that (a) May Gadd knew of (and occasionally taught dances from) Maggot Pie, and (b) would not sell it in the US.  I always assumed that was because it was heretical material because it was new compositions.  I can't say for sure, but it has been my sense that the book and its dances didn't become known much in the US until the mid-1970's and later.  I assume something similar was true in England — that the book and the dances didn't get wide exposure for quite a while.  But I'd also guess that you were quicker to eventually open up to it.  Does that sound about right?  Do you know when the dances started joining the repertoire over there?

I asked other people about this.

Hugh Stewart responded that the Falconers' first record (“Playford Style”) was released in 1984 and included Green Willow and The Doldrum.  Brian Stone's band Hoedown (later rebranded as Junction 24) produced a record called “The Electric Effect” in 1987 which includes a wonderful version of the start of Handel's “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba”.  Brian Jones had called the Maggot Pie dance “Queen of Sheba” with them — I think it was at the Berkshire Folk Festival — and of course they played the tune from the book, but later Brian Stone made the Handel arrangement, so probably Brian Jones was calling it around 1985.

Hugh also reports that when Wendy Crouch lived in Cambridge she ran a display group called Kings Penny that did various Maggot Pie dances (no doubt including “King's Penny”).  Paul Garner says he joined King's Penny around 1980, but he doesn't know for how long it had existed before that.  They performed at many local events, often outside, and at a few distant locations, e.g. Eastbourne Folk Festival.  He had no idea that the Maggot Pie dances were frowned upon locally.

In 1990 Wild Thyme recorded a double cassette of all the Maggot Pie dances, and I suspect it was only then that club callers and dancers really got to know many of them.

If anyone can give me further information I'll add it in here.

THE MAGGOT PIE DANCES   (with links to the tunes)
Two couples
The Saucy SailorBonny NellGreen Willow
Three couples longways
The French AmbassadorThe Merry AndrewThe Mumping Maid
The Wickering WenchThe Gradely LassThe Mock Match
Three couples circle
The Jovial BeggarsThe Boys of WexfordGossip Joan
Four couples longways
The Baffled KnightThe Queen of ShebaParthenia
The Northern LassThe King's PennyThe Happy Clown
Young Man's FancyThe DoldrumCupid's Garden
The Red BullThe WithywindThe Old Boot
The Night Cap