Commencing in 1953 Johnson Ellwood created a series of clog dance competitions at which his pupils and others competed. These were initially organised by a Mr Telfer and were called the Four Northern Counties Championships, intended to cover Northumberland, Durham, Cumberland and Westmorland. It seems that Johnson’s view was that they would be better than the Northumberland and Durham Championships as they covered four counties instead of two!
The competitions continue to the present day (2013). In the event very few individuals from outwith his classes ever competed or indeed compete today.
These were generally organised into a number of classes, depending upon the age of the dancers, concluding with an “Open” adult competition. Initially there were five classes: under 10 years, 10-12, 12-15, 15-18 and the over 18 adult class. In later years the number of classes has expanded to include pedestal and group competitions. The number of classes and the often large number of competitors meant that the competitions regularly last a complete day and in the early years for two days. There were ideally five judges, one each for beats, execution, carriage, timing and originality.
Although specific information as to dates is lacking, it is known that a number of older dancers judged the competitions in the early years. These included George Fenton, George Lipscombe and Bill Lindsay.
The following lists the events about which we have information:
1953 exact date unknown. Held in Gateshead. Open championship won by Mary Jamieson.
1954 exact date unknown. Held in Durham. Open championship won by Mary Jamieson.
1955 exact date unknown. Held at Boldon Colliery, Co. Durham. Open championship won by Mary Jamieson.
1956 exact date unknown. Held in Newcastle.
c1960 exact date unknown. Held at Boldon Colliery, Co. Durham. Apart from children’s competitions there was an adult competition with three entrants. The winner was Mary Jamieson who beat Ivy Sands into 2nd place by 1/2 a point. An elderly unknown man was placed 3rd.
1961 exact date unknown. Junior (u16) championship won by Hylton Pomeroy.
1962 exact date unknown. Junior (u16) championship won by Hylton Pomeroy.
1960s – exact date unknown. Held at a church hall on Westgate Road, Newcastle. Judges included Ivy Sands (judging mis-beats), Alan Brown (then squire of the Monkseaton Morris Men), and an unknown drummer. Won by an unknown dancer, Mary Jamieson’s (nee Ellwood) daughter being placed 2nd.
The competitions appear to have ceased at some stage after 1960, but were revived in 1976. For that competition, for which no belt was awarded, the contest was called the Northern Counties Clog Contest.
1976 – exact date unknown. Held in Durham. Contest won by Peter Brown with Sue Jenkinson in second place. Sam Bell was one of the judges.
Subsequent to this revival the competition became known as the Northern Counties Clog Championship.