A MORRIS dancer whose chance encounter with the godfather of British folk music triggered the revival of the tradition across the country has been honoured.

The descendents of William Kimber were among 200 people who gathered in St Anne’s Road, Headington, for the unveiling of a blue plaque on the home he built for his family in 1905.

On Boxing Day 1899, Kimber and the Headington Quarry Morris Dancers were out performing to earn some extra money.

Folk song collector Cecil Sharp was staying at Sandfield Cottage in the village, and when 27-year-old Kimber arrived with his concertina and dancers, Sharp asked him to return the next day so he could write down the tunes.

The meeting helped inspire Sharp’s lifetime of work, recording dances, folk tunes and songs, and introducing them to the wider public.

It prompted a huge revival in morris and folk dancing, which had been in decline, and Kimber dedicated the rest of his life to promoting traditional dances.

On Saturday, Kimber’s great-grandson Chris Kimber-Nickelson, 36, from York Road, Headington, marked the unveiling of the plaque with a solo morris dance, accompanied by his ancestor’s famous concertina.

The chartered surveyor said: “It is nice that he is being recognised with a blue plaque, because it is important to remember these things.

“Our dances are important local traditions, and it is good they are kept going. I am proud of the family connection.”

And Kimber’s granddaughter Julie Kimber-Nickelson, 72, said: “He was a stern man, and not the type of grandfather who would bounce you on his knee, but once he knew I could play piano it changed completely.

“He said he could not read music, and asked me to read it for him.

Hearing the concertina played is quite hard, because I have heard it so many times over the years.”

She said the family always danced regularly, in a tradition passed down through the generations.

English Folk Dance and Song Society chief executive Katy Spicer said: “Kimber is a hugely important figure.

“The chance meeting in 1899 was the first time Cecil Sharp had come across traditional dancing, even though he had already started collecting songs.

“Kimber spoke to Sharp, explained the dances and the tradition, and they became friends right up until Sharp’s death.”

She said that without Kimber, many dancing styles, including ceilidh dancing, could have been lost for good.

The house’s owners, doctors Alistair and Parveen Reid, said they were honoured to have the plaque unveiled.

Dr Reid said: “We have been here four years, and only found out about this a year ago . It was a bolt from the blue.

“It is fantastic to have a bit of local history associated with the place, and quite an honour to have everyone at our house.”