Ivy Sands aged about eight years old.
Ivy Sands first began clog dancing at the age of four in about 1925 when she lived at Bedlington Station, Northumberland. This was at the instigation of the family doctor, who advised it as an aid to her health. She learnt all her steps from Charlie Hunter over a period of four years ending when she was eight. He charged her one shilling a lesson.
Charlie and his brother Norman had both been pupils of Dickie Farrell, who was perhaps the most famous of all Northumbrian dancers, having come second to George Mackintosh in the last World Championship Competition (this was held in London prior to World War One.) Dickie was responsible for training many local dancers and was judging competitions until 1949. He died in 1950 or 1951. The Hunters came from Barrington and Charlie taught a number of people in and around the Ashington area
Charlie died about 1960.
Ivy frequently danced at go-as-you-please local theatres. On one occasion at the age of five, she performed a duet under the billing of Mutt and Jeff, her partner, Tommy Makepeace, another of Charlie's pupils, was over six feet tall. In later years Ivy danced at charity concerts, her regular musician being a concertina played named Bower. Ivy had danced in three main competitions. In 1936 she had been placed 5th in the Northumberland and Durham Championships held at Durham, the winner being Joe Daley of Blaydon. During the war she was placed 3rd in a competition in Stanley organised by Harry Robinson (a clog teacher in the area.) Finally she was placed 2nd in one of Johnson Ellwood's competitions in the mid 1950s at Boldon Colliery.
During and after the war Ivy ran a dancing class and had taught several local people clog dancing.
At least one of her pupils entered the Four Northern Counties competitions held at Hexham in 1949. Ivy's clogs were of black leather with a slighly turned up toe and high heels - these have extra pieces of wood added to heighten them. Ivy said that many people did this to make kicking the heels together easier. Her clogs were bought in Castlegarth in Newcastle, a street where many clog makers used to work.
Ivy divided her steps into three categories, as taught her by Charlie Hunter. The 'Single Hornpipe' consists of six steps and a double shuffle. The 'Double Hornpipe' consists of eight steps and a double shuffle, and her exhibition steps of which there were about twelve. On this video below we see Ivy performing her Single Hornpipe. The film was made at Newbiggen in Northumberland on 2 May 1982.
Ivy made a distinction between dancing for competitions and dancing for shows. In competition the steps were to be performed on the spot, with the arms by the sides. In a concert performance on the other hand, she would move about rather more and dance in a much freer style
Her favourite tune was called 'Three Little Blackberries' (other dancers around the North East have also used this tune which seems to have been a popular tune in the 1930s), although she said that the tunes used for dancing could be either schottisches or hornpipes, the latter being more 'proper' and always used for competition.
This picture forms part of the Morris Ring Archive. Click on the link at the bottom of the page to find out more about this collection.