The Four Champions of Britain


For Christmas 1975, in search of different styles of play, Chas Marshall and John Burrell came across an Alex Helm booklet in Leeds Library in which they found the Four Champions of Britain play.  It was decided that the four saints of Britain be portrayed by four members of the team, but the rest of the world be played by one character, changing his identity after being beaten off, in a “Tommy Cooper” type routine.   The traditional parts of the text were knitted together with some of Jim Mayer’s writings and various team members’ contributions.    This was not entirely satisfactory and the following year, the play was further modified with the addition of a simple sword dance (tricky for a team that did not dance!) devised by Chas Marshall and done with flexible wooden swords, culminating in the “lock”.  The following black and white pictures were taken at the Seige of Carlisle, Bitts Park on Sunday 7th August, 1977


The first shows the four saints assembled (l – r) St George: Graham Bickerdike, St. Patrick: Chas Marshall, St. Andrew: Arthur Jackson, St. David: Stuart Rankin with Fool: John Burrell examining the corpse of The Rest of the World: Jim Mayer.  The second picture shows St. Patrick: Chas Marshall assisting the drunken Doctor: Dave Dearlove, on to the stage.


Finally we see Chas Marshall playing his concertina whilst the team perform a simple sword dance culminating in the Lock.



After the absence of the play for a couple of years, Stuart suggested some modifications to the script and with the rest of the team’s contributions a further version was launched in 1979.   This replaced the Fool with Britannia and the Doctor became Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, performed spectacularly by Henry Ayrton.  The Rest of the World kept coming back as America, France, Russia and Germany until finally being defeated by Britannia’s trident.


The first picture shows (l – r) Rest of the World (America in this case): John Burrell, St. Patrick: Graham Bickerdike, St. David: Stuart Rankin, Britannia: Dave Dearlove, St. Andrew: John Hutt, St George: Vince Doemling.  On the second picture, they are joined by Dr. Jekyll: Henry Ayrton who “didn’t have time to change….I’ll attend to it now!!!”  Taken at the Bandstand, Whitby Folk Festival, Wednesday 25th August, 1982.


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