Chanctonbury Ring Morris Men

Jim Hoare 1925-2021

With great sadness, we have to announce the passing of our last active founding member, Jim Hoare - Fiddle Player extraordinaire and Folk Music Champion.

With the passing of Jim Hoare on November 22, Sussex has lost an influential folk musician.

In the late 1940s, along with Paul Plumb, Jim was central to the formation of the Shoreham Folk Dance Club. Both newcomers to folk dance, they leaned heavily on other local experts and stayed ‘one-step-ahead’ of other club members and the club flourished. By 1952 the club had formed a dance demonstration team which included a Morris team. Jim had learnt to play the violin earlier in life, but his new connection with folk dancing gave him a new purpose and he took up the instrument more seriously.

In August 1953, the Shoreham Country Dance Club and the Morris Group went to the Europaische Trachtenwoche [European Endeavour Week], held at Neustadt, Holstein, Germany. Here the club met folk dancers from all over Europe, and gave demonstrations of English folk dances. It was, here along with fellow fiddle player Michael Nutt, Jim became aware of the power of dance and dance-music.

Returning from Neustadt and with the success of the Morris, Jim, Geoff Biggs and other Shoreham dancers formed the Chanctonbury Ring Morris Men in September 1953. Jim and Michael, along with Arthur Edwards were the main musicians. Jim was the first Bagman, and succeeded Geoff Biggs as Squire two years later. Jim was proud to feature in the photograph published in The Times in May 1954 of Chanctonbury Ring dancing at the Shepherd and Dog, Fulking.

Jim, heavily influenced by the local EFDSS organisers Elsie Whiteman and Kathleen Church-Bliss further developed his folk dance playing involvement and either led or was part of numerous bands, including The Downsfolk and the Sussex Bonny Men. His wife Frances played the piano/keyboard in many of the bands. Jim and Frances was an interesting combination: Jim largely self-taught while Frances a trained pianist and music teacher.

Jim and Frances joined up with local dance researcher Dick Reed. Here the emphasis was on English Country Dances from 1650-1820, known generally as The Playford Dances. As a trio, sometimes augmented by others such as Chris Jewell or John Wickens they would travel throughout the South-East of England teaching these dances, sometimes traveling further afield with weeklong residential courses at Halsway Manor and at folk festivals.

Jim remained a central part of the Chanctonbury Ring Morris Man and regularly turned out well into his 90s. Always concerned with the standard of dance and that music was played at a suitable and appropriate speed. Like many sides, Chanctonbury has the everlasting problem with stick clashing; it just speeds up! Jim would always tap his foot when playing, and when I was Captain of the side, the instruction would be, hit your stick at the same time Jim’s toe hits the ground, then you’ll be in time.

When Jim was playing, whether for morris or folk dancing. You knew exactly what you would get: good music and played at an appropriate speed.

Jim spent most of his life in Shoreham-by-Sea. He worked as an engineer for Ricardos. He was a keen dinghy sailor, and sailed a Wayfarer. In retirement Jim worked as a volunteer for The Sussex Downsmen, where he would walk and report on the state of footpaths to West Sussex County Council. He later volunteered at the Shoreham Marlipins Museum where his local history of Shoreham was used.

Sadly Frances died in 2018. Jim is survived by son Jim and daughter Sarah, and three grandchildren, Richard, Josie and Amy, to whom we extend our heartfelt condolences.