May 2013      A NEWSLETTER           No. 133


“And we’re allowed to dance this one together!” said one of my near-beginners, excitedly, to his wife.  Now, no judgements about the martinet they have as a teacher, please – but can’t you tell this was Scottish Country dancing? If you want to go to a dance class in many other forms of dancing, you are either encouraged to go with a partner, or having your own partner is obligatory: no woman, no dance, as Bob Marley didn’t say.  My mother told stories of practising the waltz with a chair, although she seemed to be such a good ballroom dancer that I think the story was about someone else.

When I first began Scottish Dancing in Cottingham, there was one couple in the area who almost always only danced with each other. After 5 terms dancing at Leeds University, I was already aware that this was not the norm; all these years later it feels far more unusual. When Mrs. Stewart and Miss Milligan set up the Scottish Country Dance Society in 1923, they were very conscious of how many young men were no longer there as a result of so many deaths in the First World War. As it was told to me, they wanted to foster a spirit where women could dance quite freely in men’s positions, without feeling the need to have a permanent male partner.  Likewise, men were encouraged to dance with any lady in the room rather than to dance only with their wives.

Miss Milligan was always keen to stress that Scottish Country Dancing was not folk-dancing – she seems to have rather looked down on the latter, preferring ballroom manners, though she does underline that Scottish Country Dancing is classless, “belonging to every class of society and … danced in the ballroom and in the barn as part of the ordinary social life of the community”. No one entering a Scottish dance should remain a stranger, she felt; there should always be a spirit of friendliness present. That surely must preclude anyone arriving alone remaining partnerless!

In Thomas Hardy’s “Under the Greenwood Tree”, dancing is seen as one of the few “safe” ways for a young couple to meet and legitimately hold hands and touch each other: “then, more delightfully, promenade in a circle with her all to himself, his arm holding her waist more firmly each time”.I once wrote in an editorial that dancing is one of the few times when you can hold hands and flirt with someone else’s husband! (See Red House and The Highland Rambler for examples).

So, back to my near-beginner couple. [Yes, at times my style does resemble Laurence Sterne in Tristram Shandy.  It’s most fortunate I can only use 2 sides!]  This was the first occasion when I’d felt they danced well enough and the danced was reasonably straightforward enough for them to dance together: and did they enjoy it! Fortunately for me, they did realise why I’d separated them until that moment: both accepted that they needed another more experienced dancer to keep them right.

 Scottish Country dancing is not something to be taken up in retirement as something a pair can do together, like Salsa or Ballroom. Yes, you can dance together, but the pair of you won’t spend all evening together; you will be in the same room, but at first a beginner couple will rarely dance together.  The pair I was talking about now feel confident enough to ask others to dance, too!

Sometimes we’ve seen a retired couple, as described earlier, come along for a few weeks to try Scottish dancing out.  One of the unfortunate things is often that one of the pair takes to it like a duck to water, while the other feels out of place. I’d encourage them to persist, and not to worry when one can’t keep up with the other; above all, I’d caution them that dancing with each other might feel safe, but is probably the best method out of making a mess of things and feeling foolish. You’ve (usually) known your partner a long time – and now there’s a whole room full of other people to meet!

Joyce Cochrane


As you will have read in the last edition of Broun’s Reel, Malcolm Brown and Rita Eastwood have both decided to retire from the committee this year, with the message that it’s time for others to get on with the job! In recognition of their long years of service, a presentation was made to each of them at the AGM recently at Driffield, with the Chairman Chris Hare making a short speech to thank them.  I’m sure that all who couldn’t be there really appreciate all you have both done for us.


A sheep asleep or a baa’s rest?

A rare word of praise came my way one Friday night: ‘You were the only one who danced the eighth bar,’ said Malcolm, albeit sounding a little surprised. Since then I’ve been watching especially carefully (when I think of it) on Mondays and at dances, and indeed it is noticeable that that bar of music tends to get lost, in a little shuffle of the feet or a sort of ‘good; I can have a rest before the next formation’ expression.

I wonder where it goes to. Most people who enjoy Scottish country dancing have an impeccable sense of rhythm, they know that formations usually have eight bars, and they can count (at least to 8). Maybe it’s nothing to do with the dancers at all, and it’s the bar that actually gets lost ― a phantom bar that you can hear when you listen to the music but disappears before it gets to the feet. Like a bar of soap, it slips away from the grasp. And don’t blame the band!

Other bars don’t seem to get lost. More and more are opening in York, and very well used they seem to be. York’s other bars ― Micklegate, Bootham, Monk, Walmgate, Fishergate ― have been there a very long time indeed, and, barring accidents, there’s a good chance that they, along with Victoria, will remain forever. On the other hand, Yorkie bars and Kit Kats disappear pretty quickly, but in their case no doubt it’s a matter of fulfilling their purpose.

Being a relative novice, I don’t usually dare to comment on actual dancing, but I would like to make a plea for the eighth bar, not just for correctness and appearance, but if it’s danced it makes the dance flow so much more enjoyably for the whole set ― everything fits!

Veronica Wallace

Absolutely right, Veronica – I wish I could have stated it as well!  – Ed.


It all started with the Harrogate Ball and the dance Mrs. Stewart of Fasnacloich. We were unfamiliar with this dance, and so onto Maxicrib via Google, click on the Youtube videos on the right hand side and watch a lovely demonstration of the dance. This was filmed in 2012 at the Newcastle Festival by the mixed Edinburgh Firth team, and is a pleasure to watch. I am a visual learner and find videos the best way to learn. Onto the dance instruction page and look at the tips and then see an attractive picture of Fasnacloich which lies in Glen Creran. Next the obvious question is where exactly is Glen Creran? - so back to Google- North Argyll!

I have used Malcolm's videos to learn dances from the new books, and always check for dances, we are unfamiliar with, on the Internet. There are some excellent dances filmed at the Newcastle Festival and there is a chance to watch young dancers such as the International team dancing Fife Ness. Views from above are very helpful. The Earl of Mansfield filmed at the Edinburgh Branch Ball is interesting, as is the view from the AGM in Perth which you see on scrolling down. This clip conveys the enthusiasm with which the Earl of Mansfield is danced in Perth.

I find it fascinating to scroll down on the Youtube videos on Maxicrib , where one can see the variety of settings and the fun that different groups have dancing. Look up Lord Maclay's reel and watch the Dunedin group dancing outside in all their finery and then look at the Berlin Hopalots dancing in a University setting. I particularly enjoy some of the fun dances - look at Catch the Wind by the Baton Rouge group in Los Angeles where the lead lady waves a scarf as she dances. See the great enjoyment of the dancers at the RSCDS Cornwall weekend in Newquay as they  dance  Welcome to Dufftown.

Also you get the flavour of the variety of  countries where dancing is enjoyed. Have a look at Malcolm and Helen's class in Moscow where the Golden Gateway reel is being danced. Another interesting setting is Singapore where the St. Andrews Society is filmed beautifully dancing The Bees of Maggieknockater in a very elegant setting with the ladies wearing white dresses, sashes and white gloves. Again back on Maxicrib there is a very pleasant photo of the village of Maggieknockater. There are 7 videos of Culla Bay available with an excellent clip from St. Andrews Summer School filmed from above, and a lovely photo of Culla Bay on Benbecula. So plenty of material there!

Next I moved onto the RSCD website (no password needed)  and clicked onto Network and found 20 little videos. Here we can see fascinating videos including Helen Russell being interviewed about teaching at Summer School, and  George Meikle and David Cunningham discussing how musicians can make or break an evening and how to give that wee lift to impart energy to flagging dancers. Here we see a variety of clips including enthusiastic dancing by primary school children at a festival in Glasgow. You can get a flavour of Winter school and the setting at Blair Atholl castle, Summer school dancing and the Musicians'  Course at Summer school where we can spot Wendy Lyons on keyboard. These clips might just tempt you into attending one of these events. So when the weather is grey and cold, settle down at the computer and then don't forget to go dancing later!

Margaret Highet   York


(The Background and the Dance)

If you go to the Leicester Branch website you can find the full story (, but basically the tune came first, and then John Drewry wrote the dance to fit the tune. The tune was written by James Scott Skinner for a girl in Aberdeen, (Bon Accord being the motto of the city).

You can download and listen to Scott Skinner playing the tune from the Aberdeen University website, – a little faster than we are used to!

The dance appeared in John Drewry’s “Bon Accord Book”, published in 1968, which also contains the dances Bratach Bana, Silver Tassie, Mrs MacPherson of Inveran and The Peat Fire Flame.

At that time John used to test his dances before publishing them, and his instructions are always very detailed – in my opinion this can cause problems, especially with this particular dance. At that time dancers were brought up to believe that “leading” was always done by couples taking right hand in right (as in lead down the middle and up). But when this proved to be a problem, dancers used to “lead down with nearer hands” (as in Maxwell’s Rant, where there is a recording of Miss Milligan instructing the dancers to take nearer hands).

It is my belief that when the dance was tested the dancers changed his original intention into something which in my opinion spoils the dance, and which makes it a lot harder for dancers to phrase. Bars 17-24 of the dance are described in his book as “crossing reels of four across the dance”, which formation had been named as “double reels of four” in Angus MacLeod, published in 1969.

The essential character of the formation is a reel of four in one direction being danced at the same time as a reel of four being danced at right angles. In each reel of four the dancers pass right shoulder at the ends, and so would normally pass left shoulder in the middle. Because all four people are simultaneously pass left shoulder, this is modified into becoming “half left hands across”.

The instructions say that at the end of the figure the ladies finish with a new man, so that they can promenade round the set in allemande hold taking 5 steps. I believe that this was what John’s test dancers did, but I think that we should ignore this instruction, and finish the reel of four as it started, next to partner, with the ladies on the left of the men, all facing their corner.

The phrasing for the next 8 bars becomes fairly simple,

1 bar, dance towards corner and turn into allemande hold facing anticlockwise, (on the diagonal)

4 bars promenade halfway round the set (to the opposite diagonal)

1 bar, turn the ladies under their arms and face (as in an allemande)

2 bars to cast  pulling back Right Shoulder to original places.

I hope this helps.

Malcolm Brown (April 2013)


Part 2!

A couple of years ago I tried to teach “The Bonnie Lass of Bonnie Accord”, but, my memory failing me at the crucial points, it was a complete shambles, as well as a salutary lesson in preparing properly!  That night, Brenda George, unable to sleep, was going over the dance in her head, sorted out the main problems, and wrote it all down for me.

These instructions won’t teach you the dance from scratch, but are absolutely excellent for those (like me) who used to be able to do it but now need a little help with the tricky bits! So here are Brenda’s thoughts:

During the 8 bars introduction identify:

1. Your partner

2. Your position

3. The person you will allemande with, i.e., the one not your partner, corner or person opposite – next but one on L’s left, next but one on M’s right.

4. Your number

17 – 24: Crossing reels: basically you’re dancing in a straight line from one side of the set to the other, and back; left hands across in the middle are needed to help do this so that there are no collisions; you need to count the bars all the time – 4 to the other side, 4 back to your own side and your partner.

Bar 24: At the end of the crossing reels, the ladies curve ½ a place clockwise to meet their new partner.

25 – 32: Dance in allemande hold around the set; on bar 6 of the figure, face each other, drop arms, pull right shoulder back, and cast to face original partner in original place ready for Grand Chain.

Brenda’s right about the initial memorization – the biggest problems come when people insist on dancing with their own partners in the allemande, refuse to dance back to face their own partner; forget where their own position is; forget who their own partner is; and all of the above if it’s a bad night!


The officers and committee for the branch this year are as follows:

Chairman -       Chris Hare

Secretary -       Helen Brown

Treasurer -       Nigel Bell

Minute Secretary-  Lynne Brooks

Also:       Joyce Cochrane

      Iain Keegan

      Ken Wallace

      Norma Wheeler


Our branch walk this year will take place on Tuesday 4th June, with a shorter and longer route as usual; the circuit goes as far as Londesborough, and we finish with a pub lunch at the Goodmanham Arms.

The longer route sets out from the (free) public car park at Goodmanham (GR 888430) at 9.15 a.m. Those wanting to use the shorter route will join us at the layby on the A614 at Towthorpe Corner (GR 879439) (2 miles NE of Shiptonthorpe) about 30 minutes later, to walk to Londesborough. We should return to Towthorpe corner at approximately 12.00 and to Goodmanham at 12.30; this will allow us a little time to look at Londesborough.  The long route is 9 Km or under 6 miles, the short route about 5 km.

We have booked the pub lunch at the Goodmanham Arms at 1.00 p.m.  The menu is changes frequently but they will let us have it a few days in advance to order; meals range from around £10 for a steak down through a vegetarian option, light bites, soup, sandwiches and salads; portions when Jean and I ate there were pretty substantial.  Please let Jean or Joyce know if you want to join us for the shorter or longer walk and/or the lunch; our contact details are: Jean (01482 649161) or Joyce (01482 871790). We both have

answerphones if you want to leave a message.  


The Charity Dance this year will be held at St Luke’s Church Hall, Chestnut Avenue, Willerby, near Hull; the dance will begin at 7.30 p.m. This year the charity is Hearing Dogs for the Deaf, and it is hoped that a representative from the charity will be able to attend – with dog! Admission is £5 for all; if you are unable to attend, a donation would be very welcome. There will be raffle tickets available on the night, and each group is asked to contribute one good prize. Usual contributions to a faith supper, please. Remember that all money raised on the night goes to the charity, not just profits!  

The programme has been drawn up by Ken Wallace, and will be danced to recorded music:


May was well known on the dance floor. Along with her late husband Ian she danced regularly with the Leeds branch and Club and also in Scarborough. More recently she had become increasingly involved with the Ryedale group based in Pickering and attended dances in York.

May was born on 21st December 1950 in Renton, Scotland and started dancing at school as did most Scottish children. May worked in the Civil Service in the Customs and Excise Department but it was when her father was posted to Bahrain that she met her husband Ian.  They were married in Scotland in 1972.

 Ian was in Army Intelligence and during his career they travelled to many parts of the world including the Bahamas, Cyprus and Hong Kong. It was whilst they were in Hong Kong that they took up Scottish Country Dancing as a couple.

They moved to Scarborough over 30 years ago after Ian left the army and joined GCHQ in Worcester before being posted to Irton Moor.  May worked part time in the administration department of the local Health Authority.

 Scottish dancing played an important part in May’s life for many years, and as a couple they would go on dancing holidays organised by the Leeds Branch.

They both became involved with the Scarborough and Pickering clubs and in recent years May had continued to help take evenings at Pickering and be part of their White Rose team. May enjoyed walking in the countryside with friends and her dog Ailsa. She was a keen bird watcher and would enjoy visiting Bempton Cliffs with her binoculars.  Back home May was a member of her local Ladies  Club and enjoyed  keeping fit  by attending Aqua fit, Keep Fit, and Zumba classes.

May was a quiet, unassuming person; a beautiful neat dancer who always had a smile for everyone and who will be sorely missed by all her fellow dancers.

Sheila Barnes and her friends in the Pickering Class

Moira Wood has written the following dance in memory of May.

We have danced it to the Huncote Jig from the Silver Collection played by David Cunningham.

Dance for May  3x32 Jig                                    3 couple set                

1 - 4 1s turn RH cast one place

5 - 8 1s turn  LH 1 ¼ times

9 - 12 1M  RH across with 3’s while 1L RH across with 2s ( 2s and 3s finish facing out )

13 – 16 1s ½ L Sh reel of three on own side ( M up, L down )

17 – 20 1M  LH across with 3s while 1L LH across with 2s ( 2s and 3s finish facing out )

21 – 24 1s ½ R Sh reel of three on own side ( L up, M down )

25 – 30 1s and 3s  ¾ R and L

31 – 32  2s,3s,1s set

Jean on the way to Londesborough

The Eighth Bar

Video Clips

Bonnie Lass


Walk plan

May Johnson