Many moons ago I lived on a traveller site in South Yorkshire and made some fantastic friends there. Sadly some of those friends are no longer with us. One of those was the absolutely lovely Matty Dread. Matty introduced me to some fantastic music and had some fantastic stories. This is one of my favourite stories and I hope that I’m remembering it correctly.
Stanton Moor is in the Peak District of the English midlands and sits above the towns of Matlock and Bakewell. The moor is littered with gorse and megaliths including the famous Nine Ladies stone circle. The moor was also home to a long running environmental protest which, after ten years, succeeded in stopping the reopening of a sandstone quarry which threatened the stone circle.
Since the 1970s, and before, the megalithic monuments that push their way through the British soil have had an important relationship to the various counter cultures of the land. This is, obviously, best seen with the solstice festivities at Stonehenge and the violent reaction of the state to the threat they perceived in them.
As well as the big annual gathering, and later protests, around Stonehenge many people would head to some of the smaller ancient sites to celebrate the various solstices. Whilst the larger events in Wiltshire would pop up on the news the smaller celebrations at places like Callanish on Lewis or the Nine Ladies on Stanton Moore would generally pass by peacefully.
It was 2002/3 when I was living with Matty and he had been living on the road since the late 80s/early90s. This story took place in the early 90s on Stanton Moore, also known as the Moor of the Dead.
It was summer solstice and a small group of travellers had parked up on the moor around the stone circle. Dawn was approaching and people were sitting around fires, drinking beer and generally partying in the dawn.
As the sun of the longest day rose above the green of the moor people noticed on the horizon a red flag heading their way. As the flag came into view they saw that in its centre was a white circle containing that most nefarious of symbols. The Hakenkreuz. And, marching behind this out of place object on the English moors, was a small group of a dozen or so Nazis in full brownshirt regalia.
Seemingly oblivious to what lay before them the crooked cosplayers marched on towards the stones and the travellers.
At this point many people are looking confusedly at their beers wondering if Carlsberg had slipped something special into their Special Brew especially for the celebrations. As they realised that no, Carlsberg hadn’t been unusually generous for the festive season many people began to pick up logs, wood splitting axes, and other improvised weaponry and prepared for a frank exchange of views.
When the anachronistic battalion were no more than a few dozen meters away from a sound thrashing they stopped and, with that well known efficiency, turned as a unit and, somewhat hurriedly marched back off across the moor on their way to the dustbin of history. Leaving the solstice celebrants with a wonderfully weird story to tell.
This story was brought to mind during an exchange on Twitter with some numpty who seems to think that folklore and the the concept of ‘folk’ is somehow an domain exclusively of the right wing. A position that really befuddles me as the history of ‘folk’ of every land is pretty much the same. The wealthy and powerful stole the land, forced us to work for them, and so the stories we tell are often peppered with tales of subversion and resistance. From ballads of Robin Hood to the dreams of Cockaigne resistance to power threads its way through our folklore.
Our folklore is the tales of Wat Tyler, Ned Ludd, the Daughters of Rebecca. Of sabotage, evasion, and worlds turned upside down.
So the far right may lay claim to history, tradition, and ‘folk’ they are perverting it to the ends of the ruling class. Tugging forelocks and draping their thin veneer of red, white, and blue over something so much deeper, and so much older, than they can imagine.