The Official Story Of Ned Cleggett
(and Keith the Camel, of course)
The Fezheads were founded in 1919 by Ned Cleggett (known as Blind Old Ned Cleggett) after the First World War where Ned suffered a wound in the Dardanelles.
Young Ned, (as he was at the time) born and bred in Kent was not exactly a pacifist, but the thought of fighting did not exactly inspire him, and he managed to attach himself to the veterinary support unit. It was here that he helped the vets with the treatment of the British Army horses. He found he had a natural ability in dealing with Animals and the expertise the British provided at that time led many local villagers to bring their own livestock for treatment; though this was of course unofficial it helped with the goodwill.
Ned particularly seemed to be popular as the animals would readily respond to him and he was particularly successful with Camels as they and Ned seemed to respect each other, where many of the British found them awkward and demanding.
Whilst not favouring any Camel in particular, Ned never forgot them and his fondness for them remained throughout his life, hence the involvement of a Camel in the Fezheads.
Known originally as simply The Fezheads , the group was made up of Ned’s friends and compatriots from the Army. Life was quite hard on their return from the war as unemployment was quite severe in Kent. They turned to roving entertainment as a means of earning a living.
They were of course aware of the English tradition of Morris dancing and of the belief that it originated as “Moorish” dancing. Ned believed that many of the traditional dances he saw in villages on his travels bore remarkable similarities though with a different “dialect”. He had the idea of taking the English style back to it’s roots by incorporating more of the style he had seen in foreign parts.
The side toured England and were immensely popular and toured Music Halls up and down the country. It was at this time that they were dubbed as “Borderville” being a corruption of the terms Border (Morris tradition) and Vaudeville (Music Hall tradition), the styles married well.
Ned retired from dancing in 1939 and lived out his remaining years in the small village of Camber.
The side however continued, despite a gap after the call up for the war, and started again with a vengeance in February 1946. Times however were changing and the emphasis moved away from the Halls and Theatres of early years to a more street based form of entertainment, in common with the more “traditional” Morris sides.
It was during the sixties when Morris dancing as a popular form of entertainment waned but there remained The Fezheads. They had a hard core of supporters based mainly in the Southeast who were determined that the side should not die and added the description both as an effort to widen the support and to let the side know that they were appreciated by people who were not necessarily in the dancing profession themselves.
The men you see before you now include some who have been Fezheads for twenty or more years.
The eighties proved to be something of a revival, which The Fezheads managed to capitalise on and in the early nineties became The Fabulous Fezheads. A sellout tour of Norway followed, under the name of “The Fjord Fiesta”, the proceeds of which enabled them to buy and partly renovate an old stately home in Kent near Camber (their spiritual home). This was renamed Fezhead Towers and provides a base for their many trips around England and beyond.
Fezhead Towers, Camber. Incidentally, the Norway tour proved such a success that the music krime department were at one stage approached by the Norwegian Musicians Union to offer advice on scoring at least some points in the Eurovision Song contest.
Whilst moving in to Fezhead Towers, some more of Blind Ned’s documents were discovered; Blind Ned’s Almanacs are proving to be a valuable insight into Blind Ned’s life, especially the later years. Many winter evenings in front of the large open fire are spent poring over the documents, which we hope may enable The Fabulous Fezheads to re-create even more Blind Ned acts. So watch this space…….