Tributes paid to Scarborough folk dancing enthusiast Cyril Swales who has died aged 91

A man who was instrumental in promoting and getting people interested in traditional dancing has passed away aged 91.

Thursday, 16th January 2020, 4:02 pm
Updated Thursday, 16th January 2020, 4:40 pm
Cyril Swales MBE has passed away aged 91.

Cyril Swales MBE, a former officer at Scarborough Borough Council, will be remembered across Scarborough, Whitby and the surrounding villages for his love of folk dancing.

As his family recalled, Cyril first came into contact with it as a sea scout when he started playing the mouth organ for Joe Brown’s sword dance team in his hometown of Whitby at the age of 14.

A few years later, he was made secretary of the Whitby Folk Dance group as part of which he revived the town’s annual folk festival, turning it into a competitive, well-attended event. In 1961 he and his wife Sheila, 82, whom he’d met through scouting and guiding in Goathland and married in 1958, moved to Scarborough with their daughters Maureen and Ann.

Here, the couple went on to have two more children, David and Paul.

“That’s when dad gave up scouting because he wanted to spend time with his family, which is what he loved doing,” said Maureen. “He continued the dancing but gave up the scouting.”

Shortly after his move, Cyril took over the Scarborough Folk Dance group which celebrated its centenary in 2011. He also had a morris dance team and a sword dance team, held evening country dance classes in Filey, Rillington, Cloughton and Scarborough, formed his own band named the Pied Piper and started the White Rose Garland Dancers with his wife in 1979.

“We’ve lived life to the full, we really have,” said Sheila.

“Dancing has been our life, we both loved it and we’ve given enjoyment and pleasure to an awful lot of people.”

In 2003, Cyril received an MBE for services to folk dancing and travelled to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen. Prior to that, the couple had also met Princess Margaret, the Queen’s sister, at Cecil Sharp House, the English Folk Dance and Song Society’s headquarters in London.

Although folk dancing took up most of his energy, Cyril never failed to spend quality time with his family, always arranging holidays and gatherings with his four children, nine grandchildren and great-grandchild.

His Catholic faith also played a big part. He was Eucharist Minister for 31 years at St George’s and St Peter’s church, giving out communion to help the priest and visiting the sick.

His wife and children remember him as an “honest, caring and very humble” man who “never looked for praise” and “never realised how much he was appreciated”.

To honour his legacy, Sheila and Maureen have decided to continue running folk dance classes on Monday afternoon and Tuesday evening at St Edward’s Church Hall, Avenue Victoria and garland dancing on Monday evening at Seamer Memorial Hall.

Cyril’s funeral will be held at St George’s Church on Monday January 20 at 11.30am.