Spectacular festival marks Rushcart 40th anniversary

THE VILLAGES reverberated with the sound of clogs and jingling bells during a spectacular weekend of celebration…

For the Saddleworth Morris Men put on a breath-taking two-day show for their fortieth annual Rushcart Festival.

SADDLEWORTH MORRIS AT THE KING BILL GREENFIELD (1)
Saddleworth Morris Men at The King William IV Pub in Greenfield

Clad in their distinctive multi-coloured waistcoats, blue sashes and breeches, the Morris Men set off from Uppermill on Saturday to parade through Greenfield, Delph and Dobcross.

Centrepiece of the joyous cavalcade was a gaily-painted, two-tonne Rushcart, complete with ‘jockey’ Adam Walker on top of the 15ft high tower of hand-cut rushes.

They were backed by 26 guest Morris sides and supporters from across the UK, including Newcastle, Birmingham, London and Devon, who all contributed to the musical feast.

And then Sunday brought mixed emotions at the rush-bearing service at Saddleworth Parish Church as the team’s squire Richard Hankinson was retiring after 25 years of dedicated service.

Richard, 60, first joined the Morris Men the day after Rushcart in 1980 and now his son, Paul, 33, is an enthusiastic member.

ADAM WALKER JOCKEY ON THE SADDLEWORTH RUSHCART AGED 40 ON THE FORTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CART (1)
Jockey Adam Walker on top of the Rushcart

“I don’t actually leave my role as squire until next Easter and I certainly won’t be leaving the side,” Richard explained.

“But this is my last Rushcart and it’s been a very emotional weekend. I’ve been greeted with such warmth by folk in every village.”

Sunday afternoon was filled with dancing and a series of competitions held outside The Church Inn and The Cross Keys.

The group worst singer contest was won by Katie Pearce and Aylia Hewitt and worst solo singer by Kath Brooks while the gurning champion was Peter Ashworth.

Meanwhile,  a couple left more than a hundred guests at their wedding reception to revive an ancient tradition…

Minutes after their wedding ceremony, Vicky Kelly and Richard Sample drove off in a vintage car to meet Saddleworth Morris Men during their legendary Rushcart Festival.

Vicky, 33, wearing a full length wedding dress, scaled the 15-foot cart to receive a good luck kiss from the team’s jockey Adam Walker.
And the kind-hearted Morris Men gave them a colourful guard of honour through a canopy of raised sticks and they led the cart into Dobcross.

Tim Simpson photography  Rushcart 'bride' (1)
BRIDE: Vicky climbs the Rushcart (Photograph by Tim Simpson Photography)

Vicky, a nurse at The Royal Oldham Hospital, said: “Its something I’ll never forget. Everyone, particularly the Morris Men, was absolutely marvellous.

“We knew having the Rushcart at a wedding was as ancient local custom and seen as a good luck charm.

“As the timing of our wedding did not coincide with the Morris Men’s schedule, we decided to join them.”

Accompanied by her husband Richard, 37, an officer with  GMP, they shared congratulations and best wishes before heading back to Uppemill Civic Hall for their wedding breakfast.

Wedding photographer Tim Simpson added: “Vicky and Richard chose Rushcart day to get wed as they love this colourful tradition.

“Vicky had the honour of being allowed to climb the ladder to be received by the jockey who gave the blushing bride a kiss for good luck and a day they will never forget.”

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