Ivor Allsop obituary

Other lives: Leading authority in the Yorkshire longsword folk-dance tradition

Our friend Ivor Allsop, who has died aged 82, was the leading authority in the Yorkshire longsword folk-dance tradition. The fruits of his researches were published as Longsword Dances from Traditional and Manuscript Sources in 1996: detailed dance notations, variations and evolutions over time, music and historical information all came from Ivor's accumulated knowledge. He was also a meticulous teacher of the style to the Barnsley Longsword Dancers. This experience led to invitations to teach sword dancing to other groups, at folk festivals and, on two occasions, at the Pinewoods folk dance camp in Massachusetts, where he altered the way the dance was perceived in the US.

The longsword dance, like the English morris and country dances, had been introduced to the US by Cecil Sharp in the early years of the 20th century, only a few years after their successful revival in England. Ivor's knowledge was based on Sharp's work as a folk-dance collector, but Ivor questioned previously accepted wisdom.

Ivor was born in Sheffield where he lived on the Longley estate. As a teenager, he was heavily involved in the Woodcraft Folk, and Ivor followed its co-operative philosophy throughout his life. His refusal to undertake national service resulted in a spell in prison. He trained as a teacher and met his wife Joyce at the Sheffield teachers' folk dance club. He soon had his first experience of Yorkshire longsword dancing when he was asked to join the Handsworth Traditional Sword Dancers from Sheffield. When Douglas Kennedy, the director of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, told the Handsworth dancers that they were dancing too fast, Ivor told him "We're young men – young men dance fast."

In 1978, Ivor was elected Squire of the Morris Ring, a national organisation for morris and sword teams. During his time in office, he was instrumental in encouraging the organisation to expand and properly catalogue its archive, especially photographs. Ivor himself accumulated the largest archive of material on longsword dancing in Britain. He was frequently sought out by sword dancers, including many dancers from the US, who were eager to delve through his archives and learn directly from the respected authority, who was only too pleased to help. His generosity was legendary and the Allsop household became used to hosting visits from dancers, although it was always said that his home-made wine was an acquired taste.

In 1995, Ivor was awarded the gold badge of the English Folk Dance and Song Society.

Joyce died in 2011. Ivor is survived by Philip, the son he and Joyce adopted.


Phil Heaton and Derek Schofield

The GuardianTramp

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