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The Gog Magog Molly

Max Cashback

The Gog Magog Molly were the 2003 attraction in the Gala Parade and in the Arena. Now, you may well be wondering what this is all about, and I can do no better than to refer you to their web site www.cam.ac.uk/societies/molly from which the following information is taken.

Molly dancing is a type of East Anglian ritual dance. Imagine Morris dancing, take away the sticks, hankies and bells, and add in lots of shouting, coloured facepaint and bright clothes, and you've got it. Oh, and the stepping's different; this is the movement of the dancers' bodies when performing a dance. Facepaint and bright clothes? Is that traditional? Well, not exactly, but it is the style chosen by Gog Magog Molly. Other sides have different outfits, e.g. Pig Dyke Molly dress in all black and white. The original Molly dancers wore their "special" clothes, which would have been corduroy trousers, shirts/jackets decorated with ribbons, women's dresses and often hats, and blacked up their faces -- the point being that they were then "different".

Molly dancing is associated with the annual Plough Monday tradition (the first Monday after Twelfth Night), during which young farmhands would drag a plough round the local villages, crying "a penny for the plough boys", and if no penny was forthcoming cut a furrow across the cheapskate's front lawn. As one would expect of such a "trick-or-treat" event, the Plough Monday procession usually took place after dark. However, during the daytime local Molly dancers would tour the region, dancing and collecting money/food/beer all day, then meet up in the evening for communal dancing.

The original Molly dances were simply the local social dances performed on the street in a somewhat rough and ready style. Modern dancers have developed the tradition by writing new and more interesting dances in the style of the original dances.

Gog Magog are one of the most recently formed Molly gangs; they formed in 1996 as a display side to perform at Cyril Papworth's 80th birthday party -- and carried on afterwards! They are based in (and around) Cambridge and have a relatively young membership with a high proportion of students.

Gog Magog Molly in action

The name comes from the Gog Magog Hills which lie to the south of Cambridge, and are just one of dozens of similarly named hills in the British Isles. There is a rich tradition of "Gog-Magog" stories in the UK and Ireland. One legend is that Gog and Magog were the last survivors of the race of giants who were the original inhabitants of the land of "Albion". They were defeated by the Cornish king Brutus, who gave his name to the British Isles.

South Cambridgeshire has its own tales of the "Gogmagog", a monster used to frighten small children, but whether the tales come from the hills' name or the hills were named for the tales, who can say?

Check their web site for more appearances in the region during the year ahead.

Copyright © 2003

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