TRIBUTES have been paid to folk musician and co-founder of the Kirtlington Morris group Len Berry, who has died aged 82.

Mr Berry, right, worked in the motor industry, including the former Morris Motors exhaust factory in Eynsham.

He most recently lived in Chirk, North Wales, and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2010. He died from pneumonia in Wrexham Hospital on Christmas Day.

Born in Camberwell, London, Mr Berry and his wife Barbara, nee Franklin from Long Hanborough, made the move north to Kirtlington in the early 1950s.

The couple, who had two sons Peter and Bob, became known on the county folk scene as part of the group Portway Pedlars.

Both sang, with Mrs Berry on the accordion, and they also ran folk sessions in the village hall.

In 1979 Mr Berry put Kirtlington on the map with the launch of Kirtlington Lamb Ale, the summer festival in morris dancers’ diaries which attracts hundreds from across the UK.

After a chat with former Kirtlington resident Paul Davenport, who then lived in Doncaster, Mr Berry agreed to set up Kirtlington Morris group. Mr Davenport, who ran Green Oak Morris, had researched the long lost Kirtlington tradition and was keen to revive it.

Thanks to his role as Scout leader Mr Berry assembled a group and Kirtlington Morris was formed, while Mrs Berry composed or adapted the tunes.

With the help of the couple’s friend, the singer Tim Radford, who was a member of Adderbury Morris, three sides – Kirtlington, Adderbury and Green Oak – performed at the first Kirtlington Lamb Ale in 1979.

Nigel Holt, of Kirtlington Morris, said: “The fledgling Kirtlington side, driven by Len, was coached by Tim, using Paul’s notes.”

Before long Mr Berry was squire of the Kirtlington group — the group’s figurehead and dance leader.

Mr Holt, the current squire, said: “Len did this well, a larger-than-life character with whiskers and top hat decorated with flowers, fur and feathers.

“In 1980, Kirtlington Morris Men performed five dances in the new tradition at Lamb Ale, and the local side was reborn.”

Len was squire until the 1990s when the couple retired to Wales to run a guesthouse.

A song I Wandered By The Brookside, written by Mrs Berry in the 1970s became a posthumous hit for Eva Cassidy, and thanks to royalties the pair stopped working.

A full complement of Kirtlington Morris performed at Mr Berry’s funeral last month.

Villagers hope to stage a memorial concert later this year.