February 2019         A NEWSLETTER           No. 156


“You should never turn down someone who asks you to dance”, I remember my mother saying. She was a keen ballroom dancer, and this was to her the height of bad etiquette in the dancing world. (I’ve come across it elsewhere in the form of “a man who asks you to dance”, but I shall spare you the angry feminist response to that.) However, my mother did stop dancing in her mid-to-late 40s when we were small, without picking up all the injuries caused by trampolining and skiing and Highland that I’ve managed over the years, some of which have probably never entirely healed. Would she have said the same a decade or so later if faced with a knee injury and a dance with lots of pas-de-basque? I don’t know!

Is social ballroom dancing as strenuous as social Scottish Country dancing? Rita, that’s a question for you to answer! Strictly Come Dancing, or even amateur competitive ballroom dancing, is another matter. And how strenuous are strathspeys, anyway? We had a discussion about this in our last committee meeting. Were they actually quite strenuous involving stretching, balance and strength, or could/should you treat them as a cool-down and a chance to catch your breath? I’ve made my own feelings on strathspeys clear over the last few years, but I can understand people carrying injuries or with long-term hip or knee problems treating them that way. It has to be better than not dancing at all!

So when are you allowed to turn down someone who asks you for a dance? It’s a difficult question. I once turned 3 people down and had to agree to dance with the 4th, since otherwise 9 people could not dance. I was injured, and I didn’t dance it terribly well; and I felt I had to apologise to the first three people afterwards.  So what do you do if you have an injury or other problem which means that you can’t dance as much as you might like, or which means that certain dances are going to be really punishing?

The first possibility is not to go to the dance at all, at some cost to your social life – all those people you only get to see at dances! Listening to that music! Possibly also seriously lowering your spirits! A second choice is to disappear from the hall before the dance you want to sit out comes on, and only reappear when sets are made up. Yes, but you do miss out on the vibe which is (hopefully) going on in there. Option 3 is to sit there with your foot/leg up on a chair or your outdoor shoes on, and with your back to the dance floor. Someone has to be really obtuse to ask you to dance in those circumstances. Then there is option 3B – you sit half-turned away and don’t make eye-contact with anyone approaching. A bit unsubtle, and not always terribly polite. Finally, you can just explain that you are very sorry but you’re having to be very careful how much you dance so as not to aggravate an injury – but you’ll do another dance with them later. And some MCs can still make you feel so guilty that you will still get up and limp through the dance!

This of course is all well and good if the reason you don’t want to do the next dance is because of that injury, etc. What if it’s because you know the next dance is way beyond your capabilities and you know that you will mess it up badly for everyone else? Or what if it’s another 8x32 strathspey and you think it’s boring? [another? Unlikely at dances these days, but that’s just me having a moan.] [Or Lamb Skinnet, and you think that’s boring.] [It is. Me again.]

Someone suggested that instead of adopting any of the above strategies, there ought to be a row of chairs where people could sit who really did not want to be asked to do the next dance. If you were sitting in that row, no one would ask you to dance, and nor would the MC. Or there could be two rows, one as just described, and the other one for people who didn’t really want to dance the next dance, but would be prepared to in extremis. But then you wouldn’t be sitting with your friends…

It would be great to hear your ideas – please let me know! And I promise to be polite and reasonable if I absolutely have to turn you down …


Joyce Cochrane


As relative newcomers to Scottish Country Dancing we thought we would try to improve our dancing by attending the Harrogate Weekend School.   We are a couple who are each normally unable to distinguish left from right, up from down and not really knowing the  difference between a poussette and a petronella.  Having booked the weekend however, we realised that the event was not just about the tuition but involved significant  “proper” dances, on a sprung floor with live music – and with seasoned, expert, dancers!  It was going to be a daunting challenge for the pair of us!

In the event it was a fabulous weekend, The Cairn Hotel was a perfect venue, the rooms and food more than satisfactory.

Although we were, by a large margin, the most inexperienced dancers, we were able to actively participate in the morning lessons, the afternoon walk throughs and the evening dances.  Our fellow dancers were universally, welcoming, friendly, helpful and encouraging.  At no time at all did either of us feel intimidated.  We well understand why Harrogate draws participants from as far away as the south coast and even Ireland.  

Inspired and encouraged by the Harrogate weekend we have both signed up for the St Andrews Summer School in July this year.  We aim to return to Harrogate in 2020 – with the objective of being a tad more competent!

Pam and David Proctor, Pickering


This year membership forms are being sent to existing members electronically, in addition to the one included with Broun’s Reel, as not everyone gets Brown’s Reel; if necessary, download and print the membership form, then fill it in for yourself and send the form to Helen with a cheque. If you have not previously been a member, I urge you  to consider joining, please! Single adult membership is £23, joint adult membership is £37.


If you are reading this you are already have some idea of what Scottish Dancing is all about, and you are probably aware that one of the places to do it is at the York Scottish Country Dance Club on a Monday night. You may not have realised that the club has been in existence for over 60 years, dancing in many varied locations around York. When Helen and I joined the club it met in the Merchant Tailors Hall, and we used to go there by car after first attending the Ladies Step and Highland dancing class in Marygate. This was in the days of cheap local authority evening classes, and we had started by signing up for two Scottish Dancing classes, one Intermediate on a Thursday and an Advanced class on a Wednesday. After a while we dropped the Intermediate class, but joined the Monday step class followed by Club instead.

After a few years we went to Durham for the Easter Weekend, where we were taught by an elderly but highly respected lady from Scotland called Miss Adams (she was probably younger than I am today). A few years later we decided to go up to St Andrews in Scotland to attend the Scottish Dancing Summer School; as this was obviously a “once in a lifetime” holiday we decided to apply to the Teacher Training class, and equally important, we had to join something called the “Royal Scottish Country Dance Society” before we could attend (the Society organised and ran the school). This was our first real introduction to the RSCDS.

Either fortunately or unfortunately (it all depends on your viewpoint) we decided to return the following year, and Helen returned a couple of years later, so then we had both received our Teaching Certificates. By this time we knew something more about the Society, for example that although it had its headquarters in Edinburgh, it actually consisted of many groups of dancers called “branches”. The nearest branch was in Leeds, but there were also branches in Teeside, Richmond and Sheffield. There were also many groups of dancers who were Affiliated to the Society, and the York club was and still is one of these. We were also aware of many other Scottish dancing groups in the area, from Scarborough and Bridlington in the north, down to Hull in the south, with Driffield in the centre. All of this was over 40 years ago, before email and the internet, but despite this Helen and I decided that we would create an umbrella branch, to serve all the groups in the area – and so was born the York and North Humberside branch.

All members of the branch are members of the Society (of the £23 branch membership fee we collect, £20 goes directly to the Society). The Society is both a charity like the National Trust, with the following objects:

(a) advance the education of the public in traditional Scottish country dancing and its music; and

(b) preserve and further the practice of traditional Scottish country dancing and its music;

and also a Company Limited by Guarantee, so it is subject to both Charity Law and Company Law.

The headquarters of the Society are in Edinburgh, in a building in Coates Crescent, with the post code EH3 7AF (sound familiar to anyone?). The Society has a number of full-time staff working in the offices. It also has a Management Board who are the directors of the company, who are all volunteers. There are three Management Committees (Youth Services, Membership Services and Education & Training), whose members are also unpaid volunteers, who produce the new books and CDs, organise special courses and training, and events such weekend schools.

The Society is a very international organisation, with branches in north America and Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Japan and Russia, as well as Europe. Branches vary in size from memberships of under twenty to branches such as New Zealand (it covers the entire country) with several hundred members. Helen and I have taken advantage of this by dancing all over the world, meeting up with other Society members – we all have the same love of Scottish dancing.

The Society organises three major events a year – Winter School is a week-long mixture of morning classes and evening dancing, with accommodation in the Atholl Palace hotel in Pitlochry. Summer School in July / August, is 4 weeks of classes and dancing in the town of St Andrews (people go for one or sometimes two weeks).  Finally, there is a Conference weekend in early November, where there are classes, dances with several hundred dancers, and the AGM. Spring Fling is a weekend of classes and evening dances aimed mainly at young people, and organised by them with support from the Society. This year it is being held in Paris!

There are a few special perks to being a member of the society, such as receiving special discounts on the books and CDs it produces and sells. Members receive a Magazine twice a year, describing some of the events that have taken place all over the world, as well as articles related to SCD.  However, the main benefit is in becoming a member of the organisation responsible for supporting Scottish dancing throughout the world, so that it will be available for future generations to enjoy.

We are just about to make available a new version of the Society website. On it you will find descriptions and videos of how to dance steps and formations, as well as a great deal of other information and application forms.

With this edition of the newsletter you will find a membership form – if you attend any of the branch classes then please give serious consideration to joining the Branch and Society. You would become a member of a worldwide organisation which while based on preserving the art form, is working hard at looking to the future.

Malcolm Brown, York


Alan Swearman has again volunteered to lead our Branch walk this year. As yet we do not have a fixed date for the walk, but a Tuesday or Thursday in June (excluding half-term) seems likely! As soon as we know the date, the area and the venue for our lunch, we will let the groups know. Watch this space!



The weekly summer Tuesday dance sessions at Stillington Village Hall became increasingly popular as the weeks went by, with almost three sets by the time we had our final, lively session at the end of August. Over the summer our dancers enjoyed 90 different dances of varied complexity,

and the only ones it was necessary to repeat were Forty and Counting, and Monica's Way, which were learned over a few weeks.

The Village Hall, which is only 10 miles North of York, is ideal for dancing, with a good floor and excellent facilities. Local residents have been intrigued by what is going on, and a few have opped in to watch the dancing. A couple even had a go at one dance, though we haven't as yet found any new recruits.
Since the summer we have been running a monthly dance session “with a difference” for more experienced dancers. For those of you who haven't yet heard about it, we have a core list of 25 dances, from which we pick 11 to dance on each of the mornings, so that some of the dances recur. The “difference” is that the dances, most of which are well known in our area, are recapped but not walked through.

As relatively new dancers ourselves, we are not of the vintage where dances tended to be done without even a recap, and although that still happens at some events we go to, both recapping and walking through dances is increasingly becoming the norm. We have found that those dancers who come really enjoy the challenge, and that it gives a sense of achievement and increased confidence. The atmosphere is friendly and informal, so nobody disapproves if someone goes wrong, which of course we all do at times.

There is also no pressure to dance a particular dance if someone would prefer not to. Cribs are provided in plenty of time so that people can do their homework. We have a loyal band of followers, but would be glad of more dancers, and you would be made very welcome. The sessions are always on a Thursday morning from 10-12, and cost £3 including


The remaining sessions this term are on February 14, March 21 and April 25. For programmes and cribs, please see the Branch website

( , or contact us.

Ken Wallace and Carol Hazell

07733 004074 OR 07973 966861

Cost per session, including tea or coffee, is £3 per person.

Stillington Village Hall,

The Green,

Stillington, YO61 1JX.

We hope you'll be able to join us. We’d also be grateful if you could tell your dancing friends about the sessions.

Ken Wallace and Carol Hazell

For further information, contact Carol (07973 966861) or Ken (07733 004074) or email

PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL SESSIONS ARE NOW ON A THURSDAY MORNING, as the Hall is no longer available on a Wednesday.

Thursday 25 April 10 am - 12 noon

1. EH3 7AF

2. Trip to Timber Ridge

3. Gang the Same Gate

4. The Aviator

5. Bratach Bana

6. The Minister on the Loch


7. Jim's Habadashery

8. The Countess of Dunmore’s Reel

9. City of Belfast

10. The First Rain of Spring

11. Mairi's Wedding


Tony Baker from the Cottingham group has decided that he will have to give up dancing, and has some very good quality items which he does not want to see go to waste. Tony in full dress is extremely smartly turned out, and the condition of these items is very good. Tony is asking for a donation for these items, which he will put together for a charity of his choice.

2 sets of Flashes with garters

Spare laces

Wide black leather belt with buckle engraved RSCDS

Plain black leather sporran

Evening dress fur sporran, excellent quality & condition

Boxed sgian dhu, excellent quality, set with cairngorm (?)

Sgian dhu with wooden handle

Cream patterned hose socks

Pair of size 9 gillies, hardly worn

I am hoping to get to the last part of the Cottingham tea dance and will bring these with me; I will also bring them to the Annual Dance. Or contact me on 01482 871790 or via email – ed.


Congratulations to Ann Baker, formerly of the Cottingham and Willerby groups, who was recently admitted to the Methodist Circuit as Methodist Lay Preacher. The admission service was very well attended and this was a real achievement for Ann. Well done!


Do notice that this is now available online (link on Brach website) at: .


Our annual dance will be held on Saturday 23rd March at Stockton on the Forest Village Hall, beginning at 7.30 pm. You are asked to bring contributions to a faith supper – as usual, disposable plates are preferred. If food doesn’t need reheating it releases someone from the kitchen to be able to dance.

We will be dancing to the music of the excellent West Telferton Band, led by the amazing Andrew Knight on fiddle. The price is £12 for RSCDS members and £14 for non-members.

The programme has been drawn up by Helen Brown.


Our April Dance will be held on Saturday 13th April in the Community Hall in Station Road, Market Weighton, (YO43 3AX for Satnav users). This has now become our usual venue for the AGM Dance, and is the most central location we can find – not too far from anywhere! The AGM is held during the interval and is normally quite short. Don’t be afraid to attend - no one will pressure you into anything. We would be very still be very happy to have new volunteers on the committee! Any motions to the committee should be submitted in advance, as should nominations.

The dance will begin at 7.30 pm. The price is £5 for RSCDS members and £6 for non-members. You are asked to bring contributions to a faith supper, preferably as ever on a disposable plate. The programme, slightly shorter to allow time for the AGM, has been chosen by George Edwards, and will be danced to recorded music:


Our Branch Dance on 11th May will be held in the Memorial Hall, Pickering, beginning at 7.30 p.m. As usual at Pickering, we will dance to live music, provided again this year by Robert Whitehead. You are asked to bring contributions to a Faith Supper, preferably on disposable plates. This is always a super dance in a super setting. Tickets are £8 for members and £10 for non-members. (Where else can you have a night out for under £10?) The programme has been chosen by Sheila and Jennifer.

Copy date for next issue:     20th April 2019

Harrogate Weekend review

R.S.C.D.S membership

Dancing in Stillington

Men’s dance clothes sale

Burns dance review


34 people attended the Branch Burns Dance and Supper, both of which were enjoyed by all. There were very positive comments on the Jim and Les Duo.

Kevin Francksen was the chef and was highly praised for his haggis, tatties and neeps. The haggis was sourced by Angie Francksen. Thanks to both Kevin and Angie for their hard work.

George Edwards addressed the haggis, which was piped in by his grandson.

Thanks to Lynne Brooks for the photo.