A Further History of Little Egypt

Little Egypt: The artisitic side

In which we reveal more details of the Side's relationship with Celebrity and Steam

Being another transcription of an article that first appeared in "Mardles" magazine, this time 1997.

[Editor's note: what follows is an unedited and unaltered copy of a magazine article describing the early years of the Morris Men of Little Egypt. References to "now" or "last year" etc. therefore have to be read in that context. a
© Mrk Mikurenda, Steve Clarke 1997, 2018.


Little Egypt Morris Men, Oily Smuts, and Loyd Grossman at the Farmland Museum, Waterbeach, Cambridge

It was the result of a chance meeting last November outside The Hoops at Eversden, near Comberton in Cambridgeshire, that Little Egypt came to be there. We had just descended from various trailers, including an authentically-restored ploughman’s living wagon, each towed by one of three magnificent traction engines based in the nearby village of Harlton. This was our first Oily Smuts Tour when we donned our “Molly” [Horkey] gear of late nineteenth-century working-men’s clothing to team up with these leviathans of steam to dance at Harlton and Eversden. Infected by the good time we all appeared to be having and – we’d like to think – impressed by the rustic quality of our dancing, we were approached by a lady who said she was opening a new museum dedicated to the history of farming, and would we like to dance at its official opening? How could we refuse?


The Farmland Museum is the project of the Farmland Museum Trust and shares the site on Ely Road at Waterbeach, near Cambridge, with Denny abbey which is run by English Heritage.
The lady in question was the delightful Assistant Curator, Felicity Fallon, who explained that two “museums” sharing the same site is quite unusual. They had arranged quite a lot of different activities as samplers of what may be seen at the joint museum in the future, and the launch-day was well-attended.
Attractions included Little Egypt’s dancing display, and a demonstration by the March and District Veteran and Vintage Cyclists. The latter featured two vintage bicycle ridden by two or more veteran dancers – one more expert than the other, as it happened.


There were also examples of rare breeds, pole-lathe turning and various agricultural machinery.
Indeed, one of the older carts belonging to the museum was being worked on by professional conservator George Monger, a name which will be familiar to many folk activists in Suffolk.


The official opening was declared by TV presenter Loyd Grossman who is a self-confessed “museum junkie” and passionate about preserving our heritage.
As Chairman of the Campaign for Museums, the organisers were delighted to accept his offer to come to the opening, and he gave a brief, witty and to-the-point speech.
And here is secretly-filmed evidence:

The man himself

Unfortunately Mr Grossman declined Little Egypt’s invitation to join in the dancing of “Fanny Frail” – perhaps wisely – but wished us well.
However, we did manage to prevail upon eight female members of the audience, including the Assistant Curator herself, and manage to put on a fairly good show, to round off what had been a very enjoyable afternoon out.


More Oily Smuts


On Saturday 7 June [1997] Little Egypt Morris Men [The Morris Men of Little Egypt] got up steam again on a very hot and sticky day to tour the upper Stour Valley between Glemsford and Cavendish mounted on various traction engines, for their second Oily Smuts Tour.
We were joined in Cavendish by the Clare Middle School Morris Dancers and once again the combination of steam, music and dance made for a very enjoyable day, evocative of earlier times.
The sounds of whistles and the wheels of the engines on the road could be heard for miles and signalled our arrival. The highlight of the day was probably arriving at The Angel in Glemsford in a sudden torrential downpour of rain which flooded the road and sent the waiting throng of spectators scurrying for cover. The traction engine drivers and the Morris Men together finished the day splattered with smuts of oil and soot, hot and very tired, but in thoroughly good spirits.


  • "Mardles" and the Side's Origins: the History
  • A Morris Memoir John Aldous Speaks
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  • Little Egypt Over The Years
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