December 2017        A NEWSLETTER           No. 151


By the time you get to the end of this editorial, you may think, “Well, she’s said all that before”. The point this time is that this is what other people have said in conversations with me over the last six months. Very often these points were raised in the “Why do…?” or “Why don’t…?” format, sometimes rhetorically, but sometimes expecting an answer. Otherwise, no other thread connects the points!

The first conversation was based around five-couple sets. Not dances written for five couples, but dances where a fifth couple is added to the bottom of the set. Sometimes this can cause more grumbling than dancing a similar dance in just a three couple set, which can at times prove awkward at the re-start, even to the extent of falling apart. On this particular occasion, my partner grumbled that this was the second time that half that she’d been fifth couple – and both times hadn’t got to dance because fourth couple had forgotten about them and danced twice through as 1s. Matters were made more uncomfortable when someone pointed out that if we’d been faster onto the floor we wouldn’t have been fifth couple. An unusually unkind remark for a Scottish dancer, and my partner showed far more restraint than I – we had been first couple in our set when the whole set was asked to move into a different line. Me, I can grumble for England!

Some years back, it was becoming popular for the 4s in a 5 couple set  to stay in 2nd position after they had danced it in 1st position once, rather than slipping to the bottom. I wrote an editorial advocating that when in such a five-couple set, 4s should go to the bottom last time through, and it had some influence for a long time. However, the trend for 4s to stay in second place seems to be making a comeback, as someone else complained to me. It only needs one of the pair to hold fast in 2nd place – the partner either stays and dances, or drops to the bottom, and no one is certain who is dancing and in the end neither 5s, 4s nor 1s get to dance that last turn. But if 4s stay in 2nd place, it will mean that 1s dance 5 out of 8 times, 3s 4/8, 4s 6/8, 5s 5/8, and the poor 2s have just danced 3 times. If the 4s drop to the bottom after dancing from 1st place once, the 2s still only dance 4 times, but everyone else dances 5 times, which seems a more equitable arrangement.

Walk-throughs or talk-throughs? This is still a contentious issue. Walk-throughs are certainly a good way for beginners to revise/remember dances, and in fact can often take very little more time than a talk-through. Sometimes however almost everyone at a dance knows an easy dance backwards and walking it seems pointless – “Come on, let’s stop messing about and get on with it”, someone else said to me, getting restless. At the other extreme is the more difficult or less known dance; sometimes (though not that often) the MC has been known to walk the dance two or three times when someone doesn’t know it. And we’ve all seen the poor novice struggle desperately, their partner having gaily assured them that they can “get them through it” – and it’s turned out to be one of those dances when you hardly see your partner before the end!  

I rather liked the Leeds way of handling one difficult dance at the White Rose Festival a few years ago. “Why are there no instructions on the crib for MacDonald of Sleat?” Lynne (or was it Rachel) whispered. “Because if you know it, you don’t need instructions,” I replied, “and if you don’t know it, no amount of instructions will help!”

So should MacDonald of Sleat have been on a dance programme at all? You have to judge your programmes carefully as to where the dance will happen and who is likely to go there – and there are plenty of dancers at the White Rose festival who can make dances like MacDonald of Sleat look very polished. Programmes of easy and/or familiar dances are often welcome as we don’t have to revise for them and can do them without too much thought – and they are very beginner- or newcomer-friendly “But,” said another friend, “don’t you sometimes just want a dance with a real spark that will set the whole evening alight?” And yes, sometimes you do!

Joyce Cochrane


In a recent Broun’s Reel Joyce asked for accounts of dances. I wouldn’t say this is exactly an account but here are some observations.

The programme was lovely: I wish I hadn’t missed Back to the Fireside by turning up late (people really should be more sensitive about the time they telephone...). Everyone was impressively turned out and the women’s dresses all beautiful. The predominant colour, unsurprising among the men, was black, but on the women it was sometimes patterned or with tops in different colours so the scene was bright – and formal – enough.

If we hadn’t clashed with two other, relatively local, dances the hall might have been fuller but as it was there were plenty of couples there and plenty of room to dance. The supper was plentiful and delicious. I couldn’t help noticing a tin labelled ‘Adult Biscuits’. It set me thinking: what are adult biscuits? How are they different from any other sort of biscuit? Do they grow from little baby biscuits to being adult? Perhaps they’re called cookies when they’re not adult; it seems a childish enough name. Are they giant gingerbread men? Are they dangerous, as in:

There was a young man from Nepal

When asked to a fancy-dress ball

Said, ‘OK, I’ll risk it,

I’ll go as a biscuit’.

Then a dog ate him up in the hall.*

And on the same subject (vaguely): what is a joint ball? Is it the same as a ball joint, hip or shoulder? I know a lot of us do have replacement hips but I’m not one of them so perhaps I shouldn’t have been there. The occasion could have been a hip hop, not a ball at all.

Veronica Wallace

*not my original: apologies to the copyright holder if there is one.


I received my copy of Broun’s Reel the other day, via Rosemary. Congratulations on surviving to 150. I have a copy of every one in files in my wardrobe. Michael and I were still very new dancers when number 1 came out, and we just kept it and every one thereafter. There are lots of happy memories on those pages – dances attended in many different places and years of enjoyable dancing. I miss it very much but my feet will not do what I want them to do and my balance is a bit rocky. When I can’t sleep, I go through dances in my head. Macdonald of Sleat – I never get beyond the first 40 bars!

Happy days indeed. Here’s to the new generation of dancers, and to Broun’s Reel no. 300!

Brenda George, Willerby


Eric Taylor (of “Joann and Eric” fame) from Thornton le Dale (formerly Kirkbymoorside) died in July.   He and Joann attended the Friday Class and the York SCD Club for many years after moving up from Croydon.   Eric was a member of the Branch committee for 3 years from 1990-1994 and was Chairman during 1992/3.   It was his idea to have the open air dancing in Burnby Hall Gardens, Pocklington. He was a very amiable and courteous man. Our condolences to Joann.

Jennifer Hignell, who was for many years a regular branch member and lived near York before moving up to the Edinburgh area to be near family, died in October. She had suffered from cancer for several years, but did not let this stop her from attending the Harrogate weekend. There will be a fuller tribute in the next edition of Broun’s Reel. Our condolences to her daughter and family. She will be sadly missed.

There is a brief tribute to Trevor Raynor in the Scottish Country Dancer. In the 60s and early 70s, Trevor danced with groups in Cottingham and Willerby before becoming the last “exciseman” on Skye and writing the dance “The Exciseman”.


As usual, the Hogmanay Dance (now run by the Branch) will take place in the Dunnington Reading Rooms, beginning at 8.00 pm on Sunday 31st and ending at 12.30 am approx. on New Year’s Day. Tickets are £5 for all, and you are asked to bring contributions to a Faith Supper: your ticket will show whether you should bring something sweet or something savoury. The programme has been chosen by Jennifer Robinson and will be danced to recorded music:


We are holding our now-customary Burns Dance followed by a Burns Supper in the Reading Rooms at Dunnington, on the afternoon of Saturday, 27th January, beginning at 2 pm. There will be a short interval. The dance will be followed by the supper and there will be the usual Address to the Haggis; the whole afternoon should end about 5 pm. The dance, including supper, will cost £6 RSCDS members/£8 non-members. The programme, to recorded music, has been devised by Lynne Brooks.


The last of our winter afternoon dances will be led at The Darby and Joan Hall in Finkle Street in Cottingham (the postcode for SATNAV users is HU16 4AZ) on Saturday 24th February, beginning at 2pm. Afternoon Tea is included, so no need to bring contributions to a faith supper. The price is £5 for RSCDS members and £6 for non-members – I think that’s real value for money!

The programme, to recorded music, has been drawn up by Chris Hare.

Copy date for next issue:     3rd February 2018