February 2014          A NEWSLETTER           No. 136


In the last edition, Malcolm appealed for articles and other contributions to a book to commemorate the Branch’s 40th anniversary next year – you will see it reprinted in this edition. It has set me thinking of my own involvement in dancing, of the things I’ve seen change, and of the things that have stayed the same.

I would have to say that almost all Scottish Country Dancers who I’ve met have been very welcoming, genuine and caring people, and that’s something that hasn’t changed! I once wrote an editorial about this – I’m not sure whether so much teamwork is needed that only nice people stay with SCD, or whether it’s an activity which brings out the niceness in people. Sociopathic and megalomaniac tendencies don’t really have a place at the average dance.

When I first started dancing, most of the people I met were older than me, and very few were around my age. Most people still are older than me, but there are a lot more of my own age cohort, and in occasional places, encouraging numbers of people younger than me. Not enough, of course! When I was in my 20s and 30s, Scottish dancing was seen as a rather off-beat interest, even distinctly odd (I still blame Andy Stewart and that song) – there is a much more tolerant reception these days, and many people seem glad that the traditions are still alive and kicking. So why is it so hard to get people to take the next step and actually join us?

Back in the day – the late 70s, to be precise – long skirts, often in Indian cottons, were commonplace when going out in the evening among students. Kilts, on the other hand, were very expensive, and not available second hand through charity shops and Broun’s Reel. Nevertheless, we did our best to honour the occasion! In the austerity of the Thatcher years, and not necessarily for financial reasons, we stopped wearing formal or informal long dresses at balls and dances (at least, the women did!) We would be casual and comfortable, we agreed. Young men with no kilts and no way of affording them felt odd at formal dances and were not admitted to Summer School; jeans were an absolute no-no. The wheel has come full circle now; many school leavers and students will have prom gowns hanging in their wardrobes, or at least available in those charity shops. So join us! Just to give your dress an outing! [Show this article to your daughters/grand-daughters and their friends, or that last bit doesn’t make sense!]

So many figures which are now commonplace were not dreamt of back then, either. Set and rotate, the tourbillon, the chain progression, set and link for three couples were all still to appear commonly in dances. For a while, dances became ever more complex: four bar phrases became de rigueur, with everyone moving in a different track all the time. I remember when Carlisle Castle and Sloane Square seemed difficult dances … although Sloane Square still seems difficult! Dances we do as routine now, like MacLeod’s Fancy, seemed so very complicated when they were first introduced. Meanwhile, old favoourites like Bonnie Anne, Schiehallion and MacDonald of Sleat, tests for the memory and the knees alike, are now rarely done and we find them strenuous.

In the 40 years of the branch’s existence, we have known and lost a good many people without whom the branch might not have thrived – too many to name, and too hurtful to omit someone from a list. The driving force from the start has been the Browns, and we really do owe such a lot to Malcolm and Helen. Malcolm may no longer be on the committee, but he has been responsible for much of the strength of dancing in the York area. We owe a big debt to all those who have served on the committee and made sure that we can still attend regular dances.

And finally, what you can do now – you could think about joining the committee – nominations ahead of the AGM in April, please; and you could get out your pen or sit at your computer and send Malcolm a contribution for the commemorative book!

Joyce Cochrane


One o’clock canon

is not a

Two couple dance

in a

Three couple set

Four times through.

Five fishermen’s reel

has no

Six hands round

nor can a

Seven couple set

do an

Eightsome reel.

Nine men’s morris

is no dance at all, and

Ten bar formations

are not for

Eleven coopers at


‘So what!’ you may say (after appreciating the beautiful poetry). But note the conclusion of a recent report from New York University, namely that ‘thinking negative’ can have positive results: preparing  for the worst that can happen at a forthcoming event means it won’t be so stressful if things go wrong because you’ll be ready for them. So next time you start to do the tourbillon instead of the tournée blame it on positive thinking and optimism – as well as on your partner and other members of the set, of course!

Veronica Wallace, York


In an earlier Broun's Reel, Joyce mentioned looking at Scottish country dances on YouTube. I must say that since I discovered some while ago that it's possible to do this, my preparation for dance events has been transformed. No longer do I have to rely upon crib sheets which can sometimes look like a complicated knitting pattern written in a foreign language, to the uninitiated anyway. As for the little green book, I never could make head nor tail of it, with what looks like a complex code for some secret society.

The number of video clips available has increased dramatically over the past few years. Admittedly the quality of both the filming, and the actual dancing, can sometimes leave a lot to be desired, but most of it is excellent, and it's also interesting to watch dances being performed in various far flung corners of the globe. Those of particularly good quality (of film, and of dancing) are any from the Summer School, or from the Newcastle Festivals or Competitions, all of which are quite awe-inspiring. Something to aspire to in our own dancing perhaps!!? Some of the video clips aren't demonstrated by real live dancers, but by little figures which would look more at home on a children's board game. Their antics are accompanied by an American commentary, and are surprisingly easy to follow. (Look for the Danciemaetion clip of a particular dance if you want to see what I mean).

For those who haven't discovered how to access the dances online, the following step by step instructions may be helpful:

Log on to one of the following two websites, where you will see a list of all the videos starting either A to K, or L to Z. Select your dance from the list by clicking on the dance's title, and hey presto, this will bring up a selection of different demonstrations of the dance. It's then a matter of scrolling down through the various clips, choosing which one you want to watch, and pressing the play arrow (being patient if it's slow to start).

Watching dances on the internet doesn't mean I don't still go wrong at times (and those who know me may have observed), nor that I can totally avoid the occasional severe memory lapse (ditto), but it does mean I start the evening with a lot more confidence, and at least a working knowledge of the dances on the programme.

Happy viewing!

Carol Hazell, York

RSCDS York & North Humberside Branch

Basic Teaching Skills Course

Where:  Dunnington Reading Room, YO19 5PW

When:  Sunday, 2 March 2014

Cost:  £10

Tutor:  Malcolm Brown

Timetable: Registration & Coffee: 10.00

  Morning Class  10.30 – 12.30

 Lunch    12.30 -    1.15

 Discussion Groups   1.15 -    2.00

 Afternoon Class    2.00 -    5.00

Please bring a packed lunch – tea & coffee will be available. There will also be a break during the afternoon for tea or coffee.


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.


The Branch’s Annual Dance will take place at Stockton on the Forest on Saturday 22nd March, beginning at 7.30. Music is from Màrtainn Skene (a young man from Fort William who has played at Summer School) and his band.; You are asked to bring contributions to a Faith Supper; as usual, disposable plates are preferred! Because catering takes the form of a Faith Supper, we have been able to keep the price at £12 for RSCDS members and £14 for non-members.

The programme has been drawn up by Helen Brown.


Our Branch Dance in April will be held in a new venue for us, the Community Hall in Station Road, Market Weighton – YO43 3AY for Satnav users. The AGM, as usual, should be fairly short and will be held during the interval. The price is £4 for RSCDS members and £5 for non-members, and you are asked to bring contributions to a faith supper – as ever, preferably on a disposable plate. The programme, chosen by Joyce, will be danced to recorded music.


This year three members of the Branch Committee will finish their three year term at the A.G.M. – please do consider volunteering!

This is also the point at which anyone wishing to put any motions etc. forward to the committee should do so.


The Branch Dance in Pickering, in the Memorial Hall overlooking the Beck, will be held on Saturday 10th May, beginning at 7.30. The dance is to live music from Robert Whitehead, and tickets are £6; you are asked to bring contributions to a faith supper as usual. PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS A TICKET ONLY EVENT – tickets are limited to 60.

The programme has been drawn up by Sheila Barnes and Jennifer Robinson with the Ryedale group, who are also looking after the kitchen.



Saturday 31st May

Mercure Kings Hotel, Priestgate

George Meikle and the Lothian Band


including light refreshment and celebratory cake

Counting from the top


Watching on Line

Branch Memorial Edition