The Men of Wight handed over an Accordion bequeathed to them by head musician Mike Howley at their Christmas dance out in Newport on 17th December
When Mike Howley, one of the Men of Wight's best Morris Musicians, passed away in May 2013 he bequeathed his Scandalli Vibrante IV accordion to the side. Mike was previously head of Isle of Wight Cultural Services before retiring, as well as a founder member of the Men of Wight back in 1969. He had also composed a number of Morris Tunes to which the Men of Wight continue to dance.
Although we no longer have any musicians capable of playing the accordion for dancing, we've had contact with a fellow Morris Musician, Chris Toyne, who plays for Wyvern Jubilee Morris in Yeovil. Chris had also previously worked with another Men of Wight musician at Westland helicopters in Yeovil, and having made several Morris-related visits to the Island over the years is well known to the Men of Wight.
Steve Baker met up with Chris at Camp Bestival, Lulworth Castle in the Summer of 2016, when Chris was playing there with Wyvern and Chris expressed an interest in Mike's accordion. The Men of Wight agreed that Chris would be the perfect person to take custody of the accordion so that it would be in use playing for Morris dancing, rather than being stored away in somebody's spare room deteriorating. Chris offered to come over when the Men of Wight were out dancing in Newport for Christmas. Martin, our Squire, handed over the Accordion to Chris outside the Wheatsheaf Pub in St Thomas’s Square.
Chris then went on to play for all the dances that we performed that lunchtime. He said “This is a wonderful instrument! I remember Mike playing it and it is a privilege to play it for the Morris”
Chris is going to come back to the Island in February to attend our annual Feast, when we will make him an Honorary Member of the side. As well as officially recognising Chris' contribution, it will also keep the accordion effectively within the Men of Wight - something we believe Mike Howley would have appreciated.