Goathland Plow Stots

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The Goathland Plow Stouts (German: Goathland Pflugochsen) are a long sword dance group from Goathland in North Yorkshire , England. The group originally existed since at least 1850. It probably goes back to the 18th century, due to an archive fire in 1817, the time before can no longer be proven. It was re-established in 1922 after a break of almost forty years and is particularly known for its dance on the Monday after Epiphany , which leads through all of Goathland. It is probably the oldest long sword dance group that still performs their traditional dances.

The dance goes back to older English traditions. The first Monday after Epiphany is the ritual end of Christmas in England. On this day, known as Plow Monday , farmers in numerous villages would pull their plows around the village to celebrate and prepare for the coming year of work. The day is also the traditional end of the long sword dance season, which culminates during Christmas.

In Goathland in the North York Moors , this custom was expanded to include the typical Yorkshire Long Sword Dance. Goathland was just one of many places where such dances took place. However, the tradition threatened to die out at the end of the 19th century. At times, Goathland was the last active group to celebrate Plow Monday, until they also temporarily stopped around 1880. Around 1900 they destroyed their records and instructions as being useless. However, the then President of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, Cecil Sharp, found enough long-time dancers during his field research in Goathland in 1913 so that he could reconstruct dance figures and accompanying music in detail. Sharp's visit aroused enough interest in the village in the tradition that a few years later the teacher Frank Dowson was able to revive the long sword dance group and use Sharp's materials.

A team of Goathland Plow Stouts moves around the village. Numerous people join this. They ask for alms at various houses and threaten to pull the plow through the respective garden otherwise. In the dance itself, it is important that one dancer holds the tip of his neighbor's sword while the dancers artfully circle each other and move through the village in various figures. They are accompanied by a fiddle and an accordion , and the group includes various traditional supporting characters such as Betty in Rags, the gentleman, the fool. The highlight of every dance is the lock , in which the dancers cross their swords over one of the accompanying figures, draw the circle around the figure ever closer and finally - just before they can actually inflict actual wounds on the victim - the swords with a dramatic gesture and faster again pull apart. Before the dance they sing a traditional song:

We're Gooadlan Pleeaf Stots com'd ageaan / All decked wi 'ribbons fair / Seea noo we'll do the best we can / An' the best can deea neea mair

Traditionally, the Long Sword Dancers moved through the neighboring towns on the following days, with a visit to the small town of Whitby being particularly important. The Reverend Young at the time describes a group of young men from the Goathland Plow Stouts who plowed through Whitby in 1817, performed their dances and went to the pubs in the evening. In view of the changing pace of life, however, the event no longer takes place on Mondays, but on the Saturday after Plow Monday. They have been looking after the Reading Room since 1970 . Originally a community room where educated citizens read newspapers and personal documents to poorer people, it now houses a small museum of the Goathland Plow Stouts.

The dancers wear gray trousers and sometimes pink or blue tunics. The trousers are reminiscent of the fighters in the Crimean War , while the tunics represent the colors of the Whigs and Tories .


  1. a b Northern Traditions: The Goathland Plow Stouts

Web links


  • Jeremy Hobson: Goathland Plow Stout in: ders .: Curious Country Customs David & Charles, 2007 ISBN 0715326589 , pp. 20-22
  • Geoffrey M. Ridden: The Goathland Plow Monday Customs in: Folk Music Journal, Vol. 2, No. 5 (1974), pp. 352-388