December 2013 A NEWSLETTER No. 135
What a great night we had at Tadcaster! It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a dance so much, and only partly because it was the first dance I’ve got to since the White Rose Festival back in July.
One of the things I really enjoyed was the programme, drawn up by Iain Keegan. It
was really good to get such a mixture of dances popular years ago as well as recently
written ones, and I wasn’t the only one to say so. Perhaps because most of the dances
are or were once well-
And what a great floor there is at the Riley Smith Hall! It reminds me of the floor at the Younger Hall in St. Andrews: both are well sprung and I think take much less out of your knees and feet, so that you can dance more and dance better. The whole hall looks grand, too, its style and design adding to the sense of occasion. Dancers can’t fail to respond to the setting and respond in the way they dance. That sense of occasion was also reflected in the dancers’ dress; the men usually look so very smart in their kilts, but looked even better than usual in waistcoats, jackets and dress shirts. Many of the ladies were wearing long dresses, with lace and satin in evidence.
But the night was not totally perfect, although it could easily have been. Lately
some of us have notice a falling-
At Tadcaster, one could feel a hum of excitement from the numbers. Unfortunately, at times the buzz continued, or even grew, when the MC was trying to recap the dances. There was no problem with the wording of the recaps – it was just sometimes hard to hear for other people in your set talking, or the next set up. This is not a matter of etiquette in my book, but rather one of common courtesy! So yes, we can do much better.
One of the other great things about the Joint Ball was the music. Just how well did
Iain Thomson and his band play! (And this from someone who can be a bit over-
And finally, one of the great things about a dance like the Joint Ball is its sociability. I danced with some of the York people I don’t often get to see, but also with people from my own group, and with dancers from Harrogate and Leeds and other parts of West Yorkshire, some known, some strangers. I was able to have a brief chat with them at the end of the dance; when you reckon on the number of similar social interactions going on in the room, that’s a lot of dialogues and links made, and this social side adds to that great atmosphere again. Long may these joint balls continue!
The September issue of Broun’s Reel carried an article by Ian Hazell in which he
complained of Scottish country-
I have to say I do not recollect this more relaxed time. When I began dancing, a programme for a Saturday evening would usually consist of 20 or 21 dances and it was very common for people to dance every dance and to cry out for encores and extras. There was never time for talking to friends between dances: however desirable that might have been there was simply too much enthusiasm to get back on the floor and to enjoy the wonderful music. Dancing to live music was then the norm.
Between dances, you would be hastily refreshing your memory of the next dance using whatever crib you had. MCs would not normally talk through the dance and we never had callers. Talking to friends was something to be done before the band struck up the first number or at the interval.
The suggestion that more time for chat between dances might attract more young dancers – and don’t we all need them? – is an idea I find difficult to accept and I do not know if it has been tried. A counter proposition that I have heard is that to attract young dancers our programmes should include more “high energy” dances such as Bonnie Anne, The Duke of Perth and The Earl of Mansfield.
Spare a thought for the programme devisor who is faced with this advice and more. The first dance of the evening should be a simple jig. With little setting, it is easier for the dancers and for the band. First and second halves should finish on a high. The second half, after the interval, needs an energetic dance to call people back, or does it? There must be a proper mix of jigs, reels and strathspeys, of two couple dances (not too many) and of three couple dances. Include a variety of standard figures and, of course, include some old favourites and the current “top of the pops” as well as one or two more challenging dances,. These latter appeal to the enthusiasts who dance two or three times a week: dances that may be difficult but may be merely infrequently done.
It is impossible to meet all of these demands in any programme. In the Harrogate Saltire club we hold three events each year. One in the autumn is a “walk through” dance that is intended to be supportive of beginners or those who dance only occasionally. The ceilidh, on or near Burns night, has a caller and is very informal, intended for dancers and friends of dancers. Our ball is a more formal event at which we welcome dancers from far and wide. We will probably have 18 dances on the programme. These will have been taught at our Wednesday club evenings, to which all are welcome, but much of the programme will be familiar to any dancer who attends club evenings in Yorkshire so that, with the aid of cribs issued with the ticket, a brief reminder by the MC should allow any dancer to enjoy most of the dances and many dancers to enjoy all of them.
Ian Brown, Harrogate
HELLO AND THANK YOU
Hello Malcolm, hello Helen, hello whole York branch!
Lend me your ears to hear my great great thank you for all you did for me.
You let me visit Scotland that was too hard for me by myself. You showed me your world, carefully put me in and pointed my attention at 'teaching points' not just at common views.
You gave me a lot of information for my studying and teaching people, information to my understanding the world of dancing. I took from you many useful ideas and common humanity things.
And of cause I can't forget your warmth and kindness.
You all were my teachers -
I danced easily at St. Andrews and easily passed my exams. It was a very nice work
for me -
But no one but you was the camertone [tuning fork?] which tuned me up for this work.
Thank you again and if I may be helpful for you -
Vladimir Garbuzov, Russia
I know someone who keeps chickens on the Isle of Harris. He says they’re his hentourage.
I told him he must be Cock of the North. On a recent holiday I danced The Sound of
Harris, thinking the title referred to that bit of sea between Harris and North Uist.
Not so, we were told, except indirectly; it is a dance of John Drewry’s, a 48-
John Drewry’s Silver Fern Reel was another of the holiday’s dances. It’s nearly as diabolical as his Where the Snowflake Reposes (a jig). Both dances are achievable first time through but there is total collapse thereafter – in fast time, anyway. We managed 8 times through the Silver Fern in strathspey time, which is why it’s not quite so diabolical as the Reposing Snowflake.
Talking of ‘interesting’ dances, I would say that our region has now mastered Father
Connelly’s Jig – another John Drewry dance, of course – and it’s about time we progressed
to Mrs Stuart Linnell. This is one of J Bayly’s few dances (the name is often misspelt
Bayley in programmes). It’s a lively 40-
The holiday I mentioned was one of a series that are a mixture of walking and dancing. Father C always appears on the last night’s dance programme. It’s been practised by the afternoon walkers that day, usually in wind and rain, in many interesting locations including the Malvern Hills, a park by the river in Matlock Bath and, most recently, on the grassland just below Beachy Head. Walking boots are no substitute for dancing shoes, but we do try to spread the word about the delights of Scottish country dancing, never mind entertaining the somewhat bemused onlookers – which I have to say were merely a few weatherproof herring gulls on the last occasion.
Veronica Wallace, York
AGM / CONFERENCE WEEKEND 2013 SUMMARY
The weekend began with the Friday evening dance; 512 dancers enjoyed the music from Susan MacFadyen’s Band, and the programme was devised by Croydon & District Branch.
The Saturday morning class, led by Maureen Haynes with Susan MacFadyen providing
the music, was much enjoyed by 143 dancers – possibly the biggest class we have had
in Bell Centre! Saturday morning also saw the finale of the “Dance Music for the
Future” competition, presided over by David Cunningham. Not all of the finalists
could be present, but their contributions were played. David, Muriel Johnstone and
George Meikle were the judges, and George announced that the winners were D.u.K..
They are based in Denmark, but were represented on the day by one of the band, Kevin
Lees, who is from north-
Congratulations to them!
Saturday Afternoon -
There were 200 delegates, representing 107 Branches.
Members were delighted that Dr Alastair MacFadyen was able to attend and chair the meeting. However, the Chairman, John Wilkinson, announced during the meeting that Dr MacFadyen would be standing down as President with effect from the end of the meeting; he paid tribute to Dr MacFadyen’s huge contribution to the RSCDS over many years.
Dr MacFadyen read a message from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who is pleased to continue as our Patron. Dr MacFadyen presented Scrolls of Honour to the following:
Keith Bark (Toronto)
Ruth Beattie (Glasgow)
Irene Bennett (Membership Services Committee)
Noeline O’Connor (New Zealand)
John Wilkinson also read out the Scroll of Honour citation for Ann Dix, but then sadly informed the meeting that Ann had passed away the previous day. Ann was our very first teacher at the Harrogate weekend.
At registration delegates received a copy of the third RSCDS Annual Review for 2013; the meeting received updates from the Committee Convenors and from the Secretary/Executive Officer.
Results of elections to management posts were as follows:
Management Board Elizabeth Harry, James Stott
Education & Training Committee Helen Brown, Angela Young
Membership Services Committee Maureen Daniel, Helen McGinley
Youth Services Committee Lindsey Ibbotson, Rachel Shankland
So the branch now has Helen Russell serving on the Management Board, and Helen Brown serving on the Education and Training committee.
Motions : Delegates approved the Management Board’s motion that the basic full annual subscription should be increased by £2, to £18.00, for the membership year July 2014 – June 2015.
The Ball on Saturday had 523 dancers, who enjoyed the music from Alastair Wood’s Band, and a programme devised by Winnipeg Branch. The Ball was preceded by a Civic Reception, generously provided by the Perth & Kinross Council. The Provost, Liz Grant, was delighted to welcome members to Perth.
On Sunday morning, there was a brief meeting of current and new members of the Management Board and Committees, addressed by the Chairman, John Wilkinson. The Sunday morning class, led by Janet Johnson with George Meikle providing the music, was enjoyed by 123 dancers.
And last but not least, Sunday morning also saw a Youth Forum, led by Youth Services Committee Convenor Roy Bain.
Malcolm Brown, York
Some people will be aware that not only did I go to Russia to train Teacher candidates, but I also went on a train journey from Samara to Novosibirsk.
Setting out for Novosibirsk by train
This was with a group of 19th century dancers who were having workshops in the various cities we visited on the way – they had their own teachers for their dances, and I taught workshops in Scottish. We had three balls, and for the balls everyone got dressed up – many of the men in uniform, and the girls in crinolines. The effect was amazing, and you can see some of the dancing in the daily diaries of the trip that the group produced which are on YouTube, starting at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkgydrZUNQk.
You can also see my videos of the balls at
If you look closely at the video they produced of the Novosibirsk ball (day 8) you
will see they even had a master-
Dancers at the Novosibirsk Ball
Looking at these costumes reminded me of the balls we used to hold in the York Assembly Rooms about 40 years ago, when all the girls used to wear new ball gowns, and take the afternoon off to have their hair done. This was in the days when the men wore doublets with lace cuffs and jabots.
We have obviously become a lot more relaxed about what we wear for a Scottish ball, and this seems to have crept in to what to wear for class and club evenings. How many men bother to wear a kilt, and how many trousers are worn by the opposite sex? Does this matter? Ever since I obtained my first kilt I have worn them for Scottish dance events of any sort – on the rare occasion when I have been forced to dance in trousers I found it very restricting, so why people would choose to wear them for dancing I find hard to understand. Does this mean I object to women wearing trousers to dance in – well I think the dance starts and ends with the women curtseying, and to do this in trousers I think looks odd.
Are such things really important? Well look at the Russian balls and see what we have missed in terms of dressing up!
Malcolm Brown, November 2013
St. Andrews Shoemakers (the successor to James Senior of St. Andrews) now produce most of their shoes abroad, but Thistle Shoes, based in Glenrothes, still produce their dance shoes in Scotland.
Many people, both members and others, regularly write to Coates Crescent asking for
information about various dances or music. In those cases where the answer is not
readily available, the question generally finds its way to the Archivist’s in-
The basic facts are well known. In 1940, the 51st Highland Division, under the overall
command of the French General Staff was ordered to fight a rearguard action. The
Division retreated in good order but was eventually overwhelmed by superior German
armoured forces and formally surrendered to General Rommel at St Valery-
The Division was disarmed and the men marched off to five years of imprisonment. For security reasons, the distinctive red on blue shoulder patch of the 51st Division had been replaced by the Saltire, the white on blue cross of St Andrew. One of the young officers, J E M (Jimmy) Atkinson, occupied his mind during the march across Europe by devising a dance movement to represent the new shoulder patch. Lieutenant Atkinson was not an experienced country dancer and although he worked out the formation he wanted – a variation on the opening of Scottish Reform – he could not come up with a satisfactory way of getting 1st couple to be facing their corners. Lt. Atkinson finally finished up at the PoW camp at Laufen near Salzburg. In that camp, another young officer, P J (Peter) Oliver started a Highland Dance Club, and subsequently a Reel Club, that met three times a week but they could not remember too many of the dances so they were forced to devise a few of their own. Jimmy mentioned his idea to Peter and it was agreed that the dance should finish with a circle as in Hamilton House but they still did not have a satisfactory start to the dance. Fate took a hand when it was discovered that one of the senior officers in the camp, Lt. Col T Harris Hunter had been Chairman of the Perth Branch of the then SCDS, “the ultimate authority” as one journalistic flight of fancy would have it. Col Hunter suggested the first eight bars of Lady Susan Stewart’s Reel as a model. Instructions for the new dance were eventually allowed through by the German censors (and thereby hangs another tale or three). The dance finally reached Col. Hunter’s wife who, as he put it in a letter in 1950, “took it down to her little class in Perth”. Mrs Hunter had the instructions duplicated and sold copies in aid of the Red Cross and to send supplies to the prisoners. Over £150 was raised, of which £60 went towards sending gramophones to the prisoners.
One of the most frequently questions asked is why it was changed from a dance for a five couple set to one for four couples when the Society published it. There is no doubt that this happened: the 1950 letter referred to above from Col. Hunter to ‘Jimmy’ Atkinson notes that the Society “took upon themselves to alter the formation to cast off two instead of three”. He goes on, “we in Perth stick to the original of a five set and cast off three”. However, in a letter of 17 June 1942, Miss Milligan included the instructions for the dance in a letter to Miss Mackenzie in Stirling: this already showed the change to “set and cast off down behind 2nd and 3rd couple”. One previous researcher put into words what many suspect, that the person behind the change was “perhaps Miss Milligan, knowing her ways of tidying and unifying things”. It is, of course, equally legitimate to ask a different question. Given that Lady Susan Stewart’s Reel is a standard, three couple dance in a four couple set and the first eight bars are ‘busy’ [1st couple set, cast off two places, meet below 3rd couple, lead up to the top and cast off to corners] why was it a five couple dance in the first place?
Another question is why the Society decided to go against established practice and publish a newly devised dance. There is a tradition that Queen Elizabeth, subsequently the Queen Mother, was responsible for this when she saw a demonstration of the dance and allegedly said to Miss Milligan something along the lines of: “the dance will be in your next book, of course”. Regrettably, there is not a single shred of evidence to support this theory and previous researchers have been unable to pinpoint any occasion when it might have occurred. Indeed, according to one document in the Archive, the Queen Mother was specifically asked about the story in 1980 and replied that she had no recollection of any involvement whatsoever.
Then there is the name of the dance. The original handwritten instructions are headed
simply 51 Division. A tune for the dance (below) is headed The Highland Division
– 51st Divisional Dance St Valery Reel, hardly the snappiest of titles. The first
public performance of the dance was at Halloween 1941 in a PoW camp in Warburg in
Westphalia before Major-
As for the tune! Various articles on the dance over the years refer to an original tune that was lost. There is a candidate for this. In a letter to the Scotsman in January 1991, Peter Carmichael recounts being given St Valery’s Day to play for a performance of the dance by the Dunblane Townswomen’s Guild in 1947. This tune is a jig and in a subsequent letter was identified by Derek McLeod of Edinburgh as being identical with John Bain’s Sister’s Wedding in Kerr’s Third Collection. The other tune, often referred to as lost, was written by Dugald Stewart in Oflag VII: a copy of this was given to the Society in 1980 by Mike Young who unearthed it while researching the history of Col. Hunter’s Regiment. The lengthy title of this tune is given above and, it too, is a 6/8 tune. In the letter to Miss Mackenzie, Miss Milligan notes that the dance “was written to the tune The Drunken Piper but I haven’t got it and use the alternative tune for Scottish Reform in Mrs Shand’s Book” – another jig. In the standard pipe settings used by the British Army, however, The Drunken Piper is played as a 2/4 March, which would generally translate into a reel in dance terms. The only other link to a reel tune is that it was known that, in the absence of the ‘lost’ tune, it was being danced in the camps to My Love She’s but a Lassie yet. For the recording of St Valery’s Reel referred to above, Jimmy Shand chose The Victoria Hornpipe as the lead tune although he might have been expected to have access to the ‘original’. ‘Jimmy’ Atkinson was convinced that it was Mrs Hunter who was responsible for matching the tune to the dance. Indeed, he considered the dance a collective effort, writing: “I composed it, Oliver produced it, and Col. Hunter, together with Mrs Hunter, presented it … without one of us the dance would not have come about”.
The questions and the speculation continue to this day. The correspondence in the
Scotsman referred to above started with an article in that newspaper about the liberties
being taken with the dance by the Reelers with the introduction of the so-
Jim Healy, RSCDS Honorary Archivist
[Jim is also Chairman Elect of the RSCDS]
BURNS AFTERNOON DANCE, DUNNINGTON, 18TH JANUARY
In January the Branch is holding another afternoon dance on Saturday 18th January, at the Reading Rooms in Dunnington, and will begin at 2 p.m. After the success of last year, we are again following the dance with a Burns’ Supper of haggis, neeps and tatties (I’m told that the vegetarian haggis last year was particularly good, though I’ll be having the meat one!), and the whole afternoon is expected to finish at about 5 p.m. There will be a short interval between the two halves. The cost for the afternoon will be £5 to all comers, to include both dance and supper.
The programme has been drawn up by Ken Wallace and Norma Wheeler, and will be danced to recorded music.
A few of these dances are less familiar, but I’m sure Rita will be able to come up with the instructions for the usual crib on the branch website!
HARROGATE WEEKEND 31st January – 2nd February 2014:
There are still three twin rooms available – please contact Helen Brown for more information if you’re interested.
BRANCH DANCE, NORTH FERRIBY, 22nd FEBRUARY
Our Branch dance in February will be held at All Saints’ Church Hall in North Ferriby
on Saturday 22nd February, beginning at 7.30 p.m. As usual for an evening dance
which is to recorded music, you are asked to bring contributions to a Faith Supper;
as ever, disposable plates are preferred. The price is the usual for normal branch
dances to recorded music, i.e. £4 for RSCDS members and £5 for non-
The programme has been drawn up by Chris Hare and Lynne Brooks.
ADVANCE NOTICE – ANNUAL DANCE
The Branch’s Annual Dance will take place at Stockton on the Forest on Saturday 22nd March. Music is from Màrtainn Skene and his band – an exciting young talent.
Basic Teaching Skills Course
Where: Dunnington Reading Room, YO19 5PW
When: Sunday, 2 March 2014
Tutor: Malcolm Brown
Timetable: Registration & Coffee: 10.00
Morning Class 10.30 – 12.30
Lunch 12.30 -
Discussion Groups 1.15 -
Afternoon Class 2.00 -
Please bring a packed lunch – tea & coffee will be available. There will also be a break during the afternoon for tea or coffee.
THE BRANCH MEMORIAL EDITION
A REMINDER that Malcolm wanted to produce a book to mark the Branch’s 40th anniversary in 2015, and asked for contributions. He put a list of possible topics in the last Broun’s Reel – from Ceilidhs and Cober Hill to Wetwang and the White Rose Festival, and all points between. Contributions should be about 300 words, but you don’t HAVE to stick to that limit! Malcolm would love to receive contributions.
WHY I STARTED DANCING AND WHAT I GET OUT OF IT
Many years ago, when Helen was the editor of Broun’s Reel, she ran an occasional series with the above title. I wondered if there was more mileage in this, since there have been many changes of personnel/members in the branch, and most people no longer know everyone else’s stories. I would love to receive contributions under that title!
KILTS Free to Good Home
1. LINDSAY (Red)
2. ANCIENT SUTHERLAND (Green)
£25 Man’s kilt Waist 31” Length 22”
(basically red with overlay 4” squares of yellow check)
(McEwans of Perth)
£5 each Sporrans (2)
2 pairs men’s ghillies
1 pair Stockings (white)
Anyone interested in any of the above items please contact:
Rosemary Robins (01482 658254)
My apologies for the late appearance of this obituary – first because I heard very late of Trevor’s death, and secondly because unfortunately it was omitted from the last edition of Broun’s Reel. My thanks to Pat.
After being uninspired when teaching English country dancing to primary school children, Trevor spotted that a Scottish country dancing class was held at Eastfield evening school in Hull. He said that if we went for a term to learn how to do it he could teach livelier dances at school. “Learn it in a term” – now that was optimism.
However, we stayed with it and Barry Kensett eventually got us on the right lines, and Mrs. Norman gave us timing at the piano. From that beginning a whole new social life began.
Initially came the nervous excitement of the School Open Day when the class did a
Eventually Barry Kensett retired from teaching the Eastfield class and he suggested
Trevor took it over. From this other classes followed. The farthest flung was at
Barham School in East Hull for a time. Teaching S.C.D at Newland High evening school
lasted much longer. Valerie Brown was the pianist there. The musicians who play for
such classes are so valuable. They stop, and start, mid-
My chronological memory is weak, but somewhere along the way Trevor and I joined the Reel Club in the upper room in Cottingham Civic Hall. This was dancing to "proper" music. If you went wrong the record went on without you. Doug and Una Beswick had taken on the running of the Reel Club and this was not a class but a social night. When eventually Doug was unable to carry on Trevor stepped in and arranged the Reel Club programmes.
Next came the really big development: the Branch was formed. We went to the first meeting and Trevor joined the committee. Boundaries widened and Balls were held in exotic places like Malton and Scarborough and the village hall in Dunswell. We'd take the 'eats' there in the afternoon ready for the evening (not a faith supper night!) and the place would be freezing cold.
Then borders were really crossed when Malcolm and Helen put together a party to dance
in an International Dance Festival at Rodez in southern France. Trevor was in the
main team and I a sort of reserve. For Trevor and myself it was a one-
Because my knees complained so much I had to stop dancing but Trevor danced on, and taught a class in Kirk Ella primary school. Eventually he too found the pace too much.
Just a word to anyone finding the prospect of moving away from participating on the dance floor daunting, there can be something beyond it. We got involved in Art, winding up on the committee of an Art Group, and meeting another circle of nice people. But when the music plays be warned, you'll say to yourself "I used to do that one" and just for a while will wish yourself back, stepping gaily, heel and toe...
[Long term member of the R.S.C.D.S. No.2622 -
Details of some items of Highland dress from the Tillotsons, available for a small cost, are printed earlier – contact Rosemary and not Pat, please.