Rain was not enough to deter the morris men and plough boys on Balsham’s annual Plough Monday.
Bells jingled and fiddles struck up a merry tune on Monday, January 12, as the village’s plough boys made their way round Balsham’s houses and pubs raising funds for charity.
They were accompanied by the Cambridge Morris Men who danced in aid of the plough boys’ causes which, this year, included raising money for a community room in Balsham church, new kitchen equipment in the Mays Avenue Community Centre, the first Balsham guides’ summer activities and a replacement hut for the local scouts group.
“We’ve smashed our fundraising record,” said Jan Ellam, who organises the event.
“We’ve raised £2,444, as well as 18 Euros. Traditionally, Plough Monday was a way for the local plough men to make some money having been off work over Christmas and unable to plough because of the frozen earth.
“In 1972, a group of young men, including my husband, Roy Ellam, revived it.”
Nicky Addley used to live in Balsham but now lives in West Wratting.
“My husband is a plough man,” she said. “It’s very exclusive. You have to have lived in the village for a certain amount of time and you have to be invited to join. They can only have a certain number of people at one time.”
The plough men visited houses in West Wickham Road, Horseshoe Close, Wratting Road, Trinity Close and Woodhall Lane and visited pubs including the White Lion, the Black Bull and the Bell.
Traditionally, the plough men would have begged money, jobs or food and drink from the houses. If a home owner refused, they would plough up their garden in revenge.
Samantha Plumb lives in Balsham and allowed the plough men to use her home as the departure point for the night.
“They do a lot of fundraising, not just with this but with things like the Balsham Feast. It’s quite a social thing.
“We’re just happy to put a little bit back. They started here. We’re right at the end of the village, so it seemed like a natural place for them to start.”
Phillip Pitt, 29, is a member of the Cambridge Morris Men.
“I used to dance when I was a child, but I stopped for a while,” he said. “You will find a lot more young people starting morris dancing. When I started, there was hardly anybody doing it.”
Graham Cox is the Cambridge Morris Men’s bag man.
“Everyone was just wonferful,” he said. “There was so much hospitality and enthusiasm.
“It was scheduled to carry on until 10.30, but I think we finished up closer to 11pm.
“Because it was a special occasion, we had a lot of members who don’t normally dance with us there. We were able to do some more specialised dances.
“At the manor house, we were supposed to be dancing in the courtyard but, because it was raining, we were invited to dance in the ball room.
“We had to be careful of the chandelier and make sure not to hit it with our sticks or hankies. We were conscious of reigning it in a bit. Everyone had a great time.”