DESPITE adverse weather and the coronavirus, the redoubtable Saddleworth Morris Men maintained an historic tradition at the weekend.

Normally the colouful side would have toured local villages. towing a heavyweight cart topped with a 13-ft high conical tower made from freshly cut moorland rushes.

And, as a highlight of the Rushcart festivities, morris teams from across the UK would have assembled at St Chad's parish church in Uppermill for a service followed by dancing and a gurning contest.

However Ron Yates and Tim Edge, morris men stalwarts, kept the tradition alive by delivering rushes to the church and taking bunches to key points across the community.

Peter Ashworth, who founded Saddleworth morris men 46 years ago, said: “The Rushcart date is decided by the Longwood Thump - the first annual holiday of the first harvest of the grain to make bread.

“It’s an ancient custom dating back to pre-industrial times. It’s always the second Saturday after the ‘glorious twelfth’of August.

“David Biggs, the team’s current squire, got up at 5am to place rushes at each venue on the route they usually take on the Saturday.

“Ron and Tim decided to take rushes to the church in Saddleworth Morris kit to keep the continuity after 46 years of Rushcart. Villagers really appreciated the gesture.”

Ron has attended every year after being invited by Peter, the original squire, in 1974 and Tim has been a member for many years.”

Earlier, Richard Hankinson, the side’s former squire, unveiled the new cover rushcart at Saddleworth Museum, where it takes pride of place in a tableau.

The cover features much-loved former local police constable Martin (Warby) Warburton and Rev Duncan Rhodes from Diggle.

Mr Hankinson said: “Martin was the policeman on duty for the first 25 or so rushcarts and a huge local character. Duncan Rhodes presided over the Rushcart service numerous times and was a strong supporter. He was also my cousin and godfather.” Both men tragically died in 2019.

The cover also pays tribute to key workers, marathon fundraiser Captain Sir Tom Moore and the VJ Day 75th anniversary.