Far back in the mists of time (somewhere around April, 2001) a young voyager named Sue came on a terrifying and long journey to the City of Sheffield, a place that, so she had heard, was a Morris mecca where the branches of trees grew as ready made Border sticks with leaves of Comasked boggarttswold hankies. Sue was searching for a Border side known as the Wicked Stix who were said to inhabit the city, dispensing delight and wonderment to all who saw them. But on her arrival, Sue discovered that Sheffield was not the shining beacon of folk dance she had been led to believe – Wicked Stix had been disbanded, its members dispersed, withdrawing into unknown and mysterious places. All the light had gone from the city, leaving a dank and putrid swamp. Sue wept for weeks, but she had a determined heart and set about finding the former members of Wicked Stix, with the aim of creating a new, more powerful side which would bring Border glory to the city once more.

Fortune shone on Sue, for her quest was true and she soon found three of the elders (elders meaning wise and full of knowledge, not old … please, stop hitting me … aaargh!) in a Boggart with stickhostelry that went by the name of the Gardner’s. But the elders, Val, Gill and David, were soaked in booze with barely a glimmer of their former powers to be seen. Desperation taking a hold, Sue thought to herself, ‘What can I do? For if these three elders have descended so far into drunkeness, perhaps my quest will fail.’

Sue was about to give up, supposing that she would leave this rude and misshapen version of Sheffield behind forever. She stepped out of the Gardner’s and began walking down the road, but stopping after just a few steps, she realised she could not leave. Entering the hostelry once more, she strode up to the elders and began an incantation (some would call it a nag) that reminded the trinity of their glorious past. One by one, the light of hope came back into their eyes. They would perform Border again, but not as Wicked Stix. A new side would be formed, but first Sue must complete a new quest.

The elders had forseen the future and other people would need to be brought into this new side, a side which would outshine all that had gone before. In her premonition Gill had a vision of a new female member and a strange being known as a Rhino. ‘These,’ she said, ‘will be found among Freaks.’

stick-thumping boggartHer name will be Mary,’ said Val, for she was the Keeper of the Names and knew of many people far and wide … in the folk scene … in Sheffield … and surrounding districts.

‘I too have had a vision,’ said David. ‘I see a woman and a man. They will also be members of this new side and they will lead you to two other members.’

‘He will be Alec and she is Sarah,’ proclaimed Val.

‘The side must be ten strong, otherwise it will not succeed,’ said Gill, smiling. The others nodded in agreement. ‘We four and these six others will form the new side. But what will it be called?’

‘It will be called,’ Val paused. A deep rumble of thunder shook the tavern to its very foundations and blue lightning sparked through the windows. Some unkindly said it was the result of the pub’s catering, but Val took it as a sign. ‘It will be called … Boggart’s Breakfast. Now then, whose turn is it for the next round?’

So, after several ales, a packet of salted nuts and a visit to the loo, Sue set off on the new quest searching first for Mary and the Rhino. As the soothsayers had soothsaid Mary and the Rhino were found among Freaks, happmean boggarty souls who also enjoyed the dance, practising in the rugged Peaks. With these in tow, Sue set off to find Alec and Sarah, but did not know where to look. Thirst was raging in the travellers’ throats as it had been a full three sentences since they had last had a beverage, so they stopped off at a tower owned by a very Fat Cat, hoping to find alcohol inside. To their surprise Alec and Sarah were discovered within, sitting by the fire, and after their purpose was explained, the duo agreed readily to join Sue, Mary, Gill, Val, Alec and the Rhino. They had been having troubling dreams too. ‘I saw a tall man, almost as high as the clouds,’ Alec admitted.

‘And I,’ said Sarah, ‘Have seen a woman from far, far away.’

‘We must send for the elder trinity,’ Mary advised. ‘They will come here and Val will be able to name them.’

They all agreed and supped heartily from their tankards, then bought a packet of salt and vinegar crisps, another few pints and some pork scratchings, which Mary had, and some scampi fries which nobody ate.

boggart handstandSoon, the members of what was to become Boggart’s Breakfast were together at the tower of the Fat Cat. But there were still two missing. Who would they be?

‘The tall man of whom you speak is called Elmo,’ said Val, gesturing for more draught. ‘The woman will be his wife. She is Grace. She is from a far away land called … Ver-mont. It’s like the Peak District, but a bit bigger.’

‘If only we knew when they would arrive,’ wondered Mary aloud, kind of appropriately as it happens if you take a look at the next sentence.

Just as she said it the door swung open. Leaning low to avoid hitting his head on the lintel, the man called Elmo stepped into the room. By his side was Grace.

‘We have travelled far,’ said Grace. ‘And we are weary. Could you offer us poor travellers hospitality?’

They pulled chairs up to the table and brought fresh ale, some little cheesy biscuit things, one glass of orange and mango, a bottle of red wine with two glasses and a pickled egg, which nobody ate.

boggart capturing a ladybirdSue looked at the strangers. ‘Tell us. Why did you come here?”

We have had troubling dreams,’ said Elmo. Sarah and Alec glanced at one another.
‘Visions of blue-faced people, wielding stout sticks, have been flying through our minds,’ added Grace. ‘They were beckoning us to join them.’

The ten rose to their feet. For a long time, nobody spoke.

Val broke the silence. ‘And you have found them.’

With those words, the faces of the gathered Boggarts turned blue and they danced and played throughout the night. Some unkindly said that this was a result of the pub’s catering, but in any case Boggart’s Breakfast was born in that very room on that very night. Since then, some have moved on to other quests, such as taming giants and teaching them to dance or becoming life drawing models for Albrecht Durer (it’s an art joke, folks). Some still remain, passing down arcane knowledge to new members of the side and Sheffield is no longer a swamp. Once again, it is South Yorkshire’s folk dancing crown, bejewelled by brilliant, bawdy Boggarts.

boggart rat-catcherSo to recap, the decision to form the side was made upstairs at the Fat Cat in April, 2001.