What People Say
“Truly remarkable in that every dance is a sepia print in motion. Worth a journey to see them.” - Folk Icons website.
“Possibly the strangest experience I’ve ever had in my life.” - John Peel, BBC Radio 1 (November 2003).
“I fell in love at once with The Old Glory Molly Dancers from Suffolk; the men, lumbering about joylessly with their blacked faces, farmer’s hats and hobnail boots, the lord and ‘lady’ of the dances (both male), and the (female) band, black from head to foot except for their hands, and great wreaths of evergreen around their hats and hanging down their backs. There was something wonderfully unsettling and funereal about this group. And I was amused to see the frightened looks on children’s faces as they first passed where I stood.” - visitor to the Whittlesea Straw Bear festival, 2006.
“I agree with you about Old Glory. My husband said they really capture the essence of what Molly is all about, the darkness and not speaking. And they don’t perform at any other time of year. We make special trips to see them.” - Annie Dunn.
“Dance macabre: Suffolk troupe revives rural tradition of the menacing Mollies. Looking sinister is essential. Not for nothing are they called ‘Morris dancers with menace’.” - The Guardian
“Old Glory have been recommended to me as a ‘Must See’ side.” - Phil Sigournay
“They made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck and they were so solemn I couldn’t help crying” - Whittlesey shopkeeper (Straw Bear Festival, 2007)
“Daddy, I shall have nightmares!” - very young spectator at The Locks Inn, Geldeston (Winter Solstice, 2007)
“I think you’re the scariest thing ever.” - assistant in the tea shop at Snape Maltings (December 2007)
“You’re scary - and it’s not even Halloween” - Leiston Police (January 2008)
“Muscle and Menace” - overheard in the Middleton Bell (December 2008)
“So English it brought tears to my eyes” - visitor to the Whittlesea Straw Bear festival, 2009.
“About the best moll side in uk” - Peter Perry (2009)
“Having seen Old Glory a few times we were lucky to catch them at The Locks Inn, Geldeston at the Winter Solstice. A truly atmospheric event, heightened by the fact you had to risk breaking your neck down an icy 800 yard track to get there. The blazing torches illuminated approach that they made across the marshes culminating in crossing the Waveney over the footbridge from the Suffolk (all Norfolk people cross yourselves at this point) side was a marvellous piece of theatre.” - Steve Evans (December 2009)
“Very dark” - David Wilson Clarke (2009)
“Considering the difficult conditions underfoot, Old Glory put on a fantastic performance” - Gary Cornthwaite (Landlord of the Rumburgh Buck), Plough Monday, 2010
“You danced as though it really mattered” - Nick Walden, Whittlesey 2010
“Old Glory are the best dance side I've ever seen. Unique.” - camrakamera, 2010
“My friend and I saw you at Whittlesey and looked up some pictures of your other earlier events which looked wonderful. We are sad that we have many months ahead before the Molly Monster awakens again.” - Yvonne Dragun, January 2010
“It was an icy drive from near Canterbury - and home again - but oh so very worth it - made my Christmas!! What struck us a so superb was that it was all done absolutely 'straight' - from the haunting walk along the dark road to the tale and the dancing. I mean by that - no messing - no fooling - from all who took part and from the audience - just respect for the old ways and enjoyment.” - Viv and Paul Sinden, Cutty Wren, December 2010
“...celebrate on Boxing Day with a very ancient tradition called the Hunting of the Cutting Bread which is only recorded in Middlesea in Suffolk” - Paul Moody and Robin Turner, 2010 ‘The Search for the Perfect Pub; Looking for the Moon Under Water’ [perhaps the authors should have had a better tape recorder when they interviewed us!]
“Makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck!” - ‘morrisndoris’, January 2011
“They have been described as morris dancers with menace. You can forget jingling bells and white handkerchiefs. These guys look as if they could use a pitchfork or handle a draught horse if asked.” - Jonno, Plough Monday 2011
“There is no doubt that when the nights draw in, a spot of Old Glory Molly is called for. In daylight the show is interesting, after dark scareeeeeee.” - Steve Evans, January 2011
“Old Glory - you’re a real class act!” - visitor to the Whittlesea Straw Bear festival 2011
“Old Glory? Ah, you’re the good ones!” - Debbie, January 2011
“Thoroughly enjoyed Monday night with you in Rumburgh, travelled across from Leicester and it was well worth the journey. The journey was nothing compared to the effort you have all put in to make the dance, music and presentation of such a high standard. Congratulations on the splendid sum raised for charity too.” - Tim Smith, January 2012 (after Plough Monday)
“You are the best side. I love your dancing, it’s so macho, so butch, so strong” - visitor to the Whittlesea Straw Bear festival, 2012.
“Quite the best molly on the planet. Truly unique.” - ‘TheMuttbunkey’, December 2012.
“I went for the first time to see the Old Glory Molly Men at Rumburgh 'Buck', Suffolk, on Plough Monday. I feel that after all these years I'm fairly hard to impress, but fortified by a pint or two of 'Rusty Bucket', there was a real sense of occasion as we waited under the stars for the procession. We heard the tramp of the hob-nailed boots first, then saw the flaming torches as the Lord and Lady of the Dance (both men, of course) led the dancers along the village street dragging the plough behind them. Then came the musicians, all female, carrying lanterns and dressed in greenery. All were 'blacked-up', a necessary precaution in days gone by, as Plough Monday was really an excuse to demand money with menaces, (if having a plough share dragged across your garden constitutes a menace) and the men ran the risk of being recognised by their employers. As befits a farm workers' tradition, the dancing was perhaps a bit more energetic and physical than some Morris sides, all greatly appreciated by a sizeable crowd. There was a break for the toast to the plough, and at the end, the ivy used during the winter dances was ceremoniously burnt as the centre-piece of a dance. The effect, especially as the procession emerged from the darkness, was surprisingly creepy, and I look forward to taking my grandchildren next year to show them that there's a world beyond their games machines and DVD's. Old Glory have an excellent website, with lots of background information on the Plough Monday tradition. “ - ‘Rusty Dobro’, January 2013.
“One of the best living history re-enactments in the country” - visitor to Whittlesea Straw Bear festival, 2013
“Absolutely spectacular” - another visitor to Whittlesea Straw Bear festival, 2013.
“This is really brilliant - I'd heard of the straw bear, but not Old Glory Molly." - Dr Ann Williams (one of the leading experts on late Anglo-Saxon and early Norman England)
“Scariest women in town” - Geograph. (photo by Richard Hunphrey)
“They just stood there looking really dangerous” - Richard Maslen, a spectator at the Samhain celebration, 2013
“They came over the marshes, 3 burning torches in the dark carried by men in black, black faces only the whites of their eyes visible as they neared the bridge. In silence they led us waiting to the rivers edge, where a boat appeared from the water, carrying a hedge of heads. The women, with hats festooned in ivy, its tendrils hanging down. They disembarked with their particular instruments. The only sound a beat of a drum, as they assembled outside the Locks Inn, to begin their Molly Dance, the dance of the Plough Boys, idle in this winter season, pressing us to given them a shilling for their dance, a deliberate slow skip in their hob nailed boots on wet concrete. Two dressed as the Lord and Lady led. No one smiled. Old Glory, winter solstice, the Locks, magic.” - Rachel Kellett, Winter Solstice 2013
"While everyone else danced their way into the town's Market Place with joyful enthusiasm, one group chose to march in stony silence, their sinister bearing sending a shiver through the spines of any onlookers. These are the men of Old Glory Molly Dancers. For the procession they are clothed in long black overcoats and have blacked up faces. Some of the men carry a stretcher or bier loaded with small toy bears. They are accompanied by similarly black-clad women with extraordinary headgear woven from copious amounts of ivy. These women carry small black cases. When it comes their turn to dance the men take off their overcoats to reveal an array of old waistcoats and cord trousers worn over hobnailed boots. They look unlikely dancers and indeed they perform an unlikely dance! With never a smile on their black countenances the men grasp each other and with ponderous, galumphing steps they proceed with their dance. The small cases carried by the women turn out to contain their musical instruments. What an extraordinary sight, and sound, they make. Three of the musicians with their instruments, one-row melodeons in the key of C, very like Cajun accordions, but with slightly different tuning and very different tunes. Their instruments also include whistles, drums and, believe it or not, a tea-chest bass. For some dances they post "sentries" at the corners of the sets. They stare out unflinchingly at the onlookers with never a word or a smile. The overall impression is of grumpy and cantankerous old men being forced to do a thing which they are determined not to enjoy - I find the whole show completely hilarious!" -
John Hagger "By Stargoose And Hanglands" (about the 2014 Straw Bear Festival)
“Now I’ve seen Old Glory Molly, I can die happy” - Canadian visitor at the Samhain celebration, 2014
“The Peaky Blinders of British folk dancing” - John Kerrison, January 2015 [‘Peaky Blinders’ was a BBC fictional drama series televised in 2013, based on historical records of a particularly aggressive and dangerous criminal gang based in Birmingham, England, in the late 19th century]
“The dancing was really good, but the music was wonderful!” - Spectator at the Cutty Wren ceremony, 2015
“Wow!” - Another spectator at the Cutty Wren ceremony, 2015, following a performance of The Quilt
"I'd heard you were good, but it was a complete revelation! Like a memory from a past life that I'd forgotten about. The theatre, and the way I was acknowledged with just a slight nod, was brilliant! And I totally get it! " - Spectator at The Oddfellows, 2 January 2016
"My family and I had never been to the Straw bear festival. I loved it and your team held top place for precision, mystery and drama! Great stuff!" - Spectator at the Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival, 2016
“Tackety booty stomping good. Glorious Old Glory” - David Bartlett, January 2016
“The commitment and dedication, not to mention stamina! of this troupe can only be admired and marvelled at. The dancers are amazing and are backed by a very capable group of musicians who, swathed in ivy, add to the theatre. Alas I am not a performer, but if I were I know which troupe I would call on first. Old Glory ! I urge you to seek them out, you will not be disappointed.” - Nigel Canham, December 2016
“You’re the best dancers I’ve ever seen” - Lara (aged 7), on Christmas Eve 2016
“Quintessentially Suffolk” - spectator at our Wassail, January 2017, seeing us for the first time
“Fantastic, it evoked feelings in me that I don't experience in everyday life, Scary, but in a good way. Everybody should experience it.” - Another spectator at our Wassail, January 2017
“In the dark of a December night, on Boxing Day, an old tradition is again awake. Stretching back across the centuries to the far off days when Britain danced to the beat of a different drum, a Celtic drum in the Iron Age, footsteps can be heard. Slow, heavy footsteps as a group of men, all hob-nailed boots and black faces, and their attendant musicians, women who seem born of a hedgerow, their hats draped in garlands of Ivy, open a window into the past. They process like so many Golems, their each step seeming to tear itself from the clutch of the Suffolk clay, carrying before them a carved Wren in a bed of ivy and ribbons. If menhirs could move and dance this is how they would do it. Blazing torches light their way until they gather in the village of Middleton. Music strikes up, tunes from days past, whose long forgotten composers lie slumbering in the cold ground. A bygone era, when the ploughboys from an analogue time of heavy horses danced for pennies to feed their families, comes to life for an hour as the men begin to dance in their measured, ponderous way. Silent and unemotional they dance on, the nails in their boots throwing up sparks into the cold night air. Finally they sing a song of Wren hunting and a final dance around the Wren takes place. The dark closes in again as the torches are extinguished and Old Glory melt away to drink ale and tell stories of that one day in the year, when the King of the Birds was hunted. Somewhere close by a Wren, roosting in the heart of an Ivy locked in an embrace with an Oak, which had been awoken by the dance, closes its eye and returns to its slumbers.” - John Kerrison, December 2017
“Brilliant! I love the music and the dance...not quite as menacing as when you dance in the dark but I loved it!” - Sue Langley, at Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival 2019
“Brilliant as always. They really do have the Power of the Morris. Saw them in Suffolk on Plough Monday a few weeks ago. Well worth the journey from Sussex.” - Carole Walden, at Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival 2019
“Old Glory in my opinion are also an outstanding living history act bringing the Fenland Plough gangs of the late C19 to vivid life. I'd love to see them drag a fool-plough round the bars and food places at Detling and represent their tradition.” - Kevin Corcoran, at Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival 2019
“Brilliant” - David Bartlett, at Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival 2019
“These are my favorites by miles - love everything about them and going to see the Cutty Wren is on my bucket list - Brilliant” - Terri Lake, at Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival 2019
“You bring the late C19 Plough gangs starkly to life and provide a valuable "missing link" between history and progressive reinterpretation of Plough-tide traditions.” - Kevin Corcoran, at Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival 2019
“Flaming torches and full folk horror processional business.” - From the Metro-Lib-Elite desk of Stewart Lee 2019
“We came along and had a entertaining evening, and we also enjoyed the pub session afterwards. It's one of those things that makes life special - so thanks to all your participants also.” - Nick Warns, after the Cutty Wren Ceremony on St. Stephen’s Day 2019
“The best thing I’ve ever seen” - a first-time spectator at the Plough Monday celebration 2022
“Just up the road from Books & Print Old Glory stomped and danced outside the Triangle Tavern to a thumping drum and melodic accordion. Oil-drum braziers supplied a suitably flickering light to this, frankly, odd form of folk dancing. Two characters vaguely represent the aristocracy, one of whom is a 'molly', an old word that refers to a man dressed in women’s clothing. To me, the dancing looked like a cross between group baroque and rave line-dancing. There was a good crowd watching and clapping, and the pub was full. Just like old times.” - ‘Lowestoft Old and Now’ January 2022
“Thank you for your contribution to Straw Bear this year. You certainly add to the whole atmosphere of the event.” - Brian Kell, Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival, January 2023