May 2014 A NEWSLETTER No. 137
Many of you will know Gordon Campbell, and you will know that he is a man with a
passion for Scottish Country dancing, and a man of forthright opinions. Now, you
will have realised that I too have a passion for Scottish Country Dancing, and I
also have strong opinions. Not surprisingly, we don’t always agree! Just to reassure
our readers who fear an earth-
Gordon doesn’t particularly like music played by a fiddle and piano – I have a great enthusiasm for certain tracks by Terpsichore and Keith Smith/Muriel Johnstone. I love strathspeys in sad minor keys that turn my bones to jelly – Gordon doesn’t like dismal, wailing stuff. But it’s all a continuum, and there are places where we coincide and say “Oh! Wasn’t that brilliant!”
What Gordon thinks is really important is that you should listen to the music as you dance to it, and appreciate just how good it is. Gordon can recall bands from the past I’ve never heard of, and talks of some I have never heard live (like Jimmy Shand in the local village hall) and some I’ve never heard of, but he can also enthuse over a good modern band or set of tunes. Unlike me, he can tell the difference between good drumming and indifferent (or even bad) drumming. Well, maybe I could spot bad drumming… maybe.
Many years ago now, I was shocked when another dancer hadn’t noticed the music in
a set I was raving over. I just assumed that everyone could hear the tunes and that
they could get excited by really well-
Live music for us is just for special occasions; I envy those who have it regularly.
But if you always had a pianist, you could miss out on some of those great recordings
– Jim MacLeod, Jim Johnstone, Alasdair Fraser, Luke Brady and a host of others, past
and present. Gordon will sometimes come up to me and say “That was Jim MacLeod, wasn’t
it?” able to identify the band from their style of playing, or he’ll ask “Who was
that? What tune was that? That was a great band/tune/set.” Gordon may have grown
up when the full-
And even when we disagree about a certain recording of Seann Triubhas Willichan, Gordon’s not entirely wrong (although if you agree with him and not me, he may be entirely right, of course!) Strathspeys that are too slow and reels that are too fast can be very hard to dance too, especially if you’re older, and especially if you’re a beginner. Not just a failing of modern bands – Jimmy Shand is great to listen to, but such a fast tempo as he often plays at can make reels rather difficult!
I mentioned the “full” band sound that was once so popular – we had that with the West Telferton Band in Harrogate, and with Màrtainn Skene in March, both super bands. Nonetheless, I missed the subtleties of Andrew Knight’s excellent fiddle playing at Harrogate, and Màrtainn likewise can really play the piano. In the end it all comes down to personal taste!
I began by saying that Gordon and I sometimes disagreed. Looking back, I realise that we agree far more often that we disagree, and we usually agree on the things that are really important. And I’ve not even started on the music collected and preserved by Burns, or his poetry, of which Gordon is such an enthusiast. That will have to wait for another edition.
Jack and Jill and the Richmond Lass
They climbed the Snake Pass
After dancing class
And since then they haven’t been seen.
The owl and the pussycat boarded a brig
And crossed the Sound of Harris
They danced a jig
With a friendly pig
And ended exhausted in... St Petersburg...
...Linked with Mary, still contrary
And always in gardening gear
She danced Light and Airy
Like an overweight fairy
And said, ‘That’s me done for, I fear.’
Waltzing along in a slow strathspey
Stumbled Hilda’s nice sister Matilda
She was never OK
She got in the way
So Hilda eventually killed ’er.
St Kilda these days has nary a postie
To dance in his jig any more
P’raps he comes as a ghostie
In which case the most he
Can do is to pass through the floor.
Veronica Wallace, York
Our Branch walk and lunch will take place this year on Tuesday 3rd June. It is always
difficult to find a date – at one time those of us who worked (especially in education)
couldn’t come unless it was at half term, while half terms exclude all those people
on grandparent duty that week. So we avoided half-
We will meet at the Middleton Arms in North Grimston (on the B1248): the pub has
said we can leave cars in the car park at the back before we set off for our walk.
We should aim to set off walking at 10.00 a.m., so I’d advise arriving around 9.45.
The walk is a circuit of about 9 km or 6 miles, so should take about 2 – 2½ hours
with a rest half-
People arriving at the pub just for the lunch are always welcome; I think we should be eating at somewhere around 12.45 – 1.00. The pub is very happy to accommodate us and when I ate there with friends the food was excellent, with an emphasis on home cooking. The menu is subject to variation depending on what’s available but always includes: –
Steak & mushroom pie
Lasagne served with
Scampi new potatoes,
Haddock chips or salad.
Chicken curry and rice
They serve generous portions: anyone wanting a lighter meal could opt for sandwiches
or paninis, or for a starter and a sweet – starters when we were there included Soup
& roll, Paté, Deep-
Main courses start from £8.99, going up to £13.99 for the Sirloin.
The pub would like us to let them know of numbers and main courses a couple of days
in advance – can you let me know if you want to join us either on the walk or at
the lunch, with your lunch choice please? I need to know by mid-
The Charity dance this year will be held on Saturday 14th June in the Reading Rooms, Dunnington, with the chosen charity being the York branch of the PSP (Progressive Supranuclear Palsy) association. There will be a raffle on the night – groups are asked if they will donate one good prize each. The cost will be £5 for all; remember that everything raised on the night (rather than just profits) goes to the charity, and donations are welcome if you can’t attend. Michael Shepherd from the association will be presented with the cheque and will give a short talk at the interval – refreshments are in the form of a Faith Supper.
The programme for this dance has been designed to be accessible to beginners and less experienced dancers, and all the dances can be walked through. I hope that more experienced dancers will also find it a good programme to dance! The programme will be danced to recorded music, and has been chosen by Joyce:
There were no new members on the committee this year, so existing members were elected unopposed. The officers and members of the committee for the next year are as follows:
Minute Secretary -
Day School org. Ken Wallace
As some of you may know, the RSCDS has a new website which is a bit easier for members to negotiate. However you will need access to a computer for the website www.rscds.org, a password and an email address or membership number. If you have given your email address to HQ at sometime, you will have received an email about this a few weeks ago, if not don’t worry. I try not to give out your email addresses unless I have your permission as some are quite protective about them. Please let me know if you are happy for me to add it to your details on the RSCDS website, this does not mean that it will be available for all and sundry to see.
You will notice that I mentioned email address or membership number. Unlike in the past where you had a card with a different membership number on each year, with this website you have been allocated a new number which will last you forever (or thereabouts). I have the list of numbers which will be printed and distributed on your individual Branch membership card in the very near future. If you would like to have your membership number before then, please ask me. With this number you should be able to access the Society shop on the website and get a 10% discount.
Our membership is dropping rapidly, which is not surprising considering the average age of the members, so if you haven’t renewed your subscription yet, we would be delighted to receive it!
Helen Brown, Secretary
At the AGM, Lynne Brooks presented a paper requesting discussion of a live dance in the southern part of our Branch. All of our dances with live music take place in the north of the area – Stockton on Forest, Tadcaster, and Pickering – meaning that if dancers from the south of the area want to dance to live music, they have to travel some distance, while all of the venues are not too far from York. Lynne thought that this was hard on dancers from the southern end, especially Willerby and Hessle, and asked that the Branch consider a dance to live music in the south.
Some discussion followed at the AGM, and it was resolved that there would be a trial of a dance to live music for two years. Dancers from Leeds, Northallerton and Darlington support dances in the York area, sometimes in numbers, but it seems unlikely that they would travel as far as North Ferriby or Swanland. This would mean that a dance to live music in the south would potentially run at a loss – but as Malcolm Brown pointed out at the AGM, our finances are good enough to subsidise the dance as needed for at least a couple of years, and this was the overwhelming view of the meeting.
At the follow-
What Lynne also wanted to point out was that for this dance to be successful, it would need a lot of support. Voting in favour of there being such a dance is one thing: turning out to it is another! Therefore, people from the York area who do not usually venture south would need to be there, as would people from the Hessle/Cottingham/Willerby areas who rarely go to dances. Organising the dance will depend on the committee; but the success of the dance will depend on you, the dancers.
The White Rose Festival (run by Leeds RSCDS) takes place this year on Saturday 12th July at Gateways School, Harewood, (LS17 9LE for Satnav users). From the Leeds branch website:
“Saturday Afternoon, 12th July, 1.45 -
Please note that arrangements can be made this year for individual dancers or small groups.
Saturday Evening, 12th July, 19.00 -
Tickets will cost £13, £5 for those in full time education and £4 for juniors under 11.”
Following this link will take you to the programme for the evening dance:
York and North Humberside Branch does not have a team again dancing at the festival, but anyone interested may be able to dance with the York SCD Club team, which is being coached by Helen Brown. Do talk to Helen or Angie if you are interested.
If you wish a ticket for the evening dance, Helen Brown will send off a mass order on behalf of the Branch and the Club. I’d advise that you didn’t leave it too late to contact her!
DARLINGTON SCOTTISH COUNTRY DANCE GROUP
60th ANNIVERSARY DANCE
Saturday 31st May – Mercure Kings Hotel, Priestgate
George Meikle and the Lothian Band: £12
For many years, Bill was a stalwart of the Branch. He lived in Scarborough with his wife, Maureen, and their three children. He was from Glasgow and learned to dance there. When they moved to Scarborough, he and Maureen attended the Scarborough Caledonian Society Class which used to have a big dance every year with well known bands.
When the York and North Humberside Branch started, Bill was one of the early volunteers to take and pass the Teacher’s Certificate course and eventually took over the teaching of the above class. He also taught at the various classes which were held at Wetwang in the 1970s and 80s. He was a great supporter of dances in the area, travelling with a car full of dancers quite some distances from Scarborough. He was part of the team from the Scarborough class which regularly attended the Leeds Festival at Beckett Part in Leeds.
Bill was a member of the Branch committee from 1981 to 1984 and was Chairman in his final year.
Bill and Maureen were part of the group of dancers in the area who went to dance in a Folk Festival in Rodez, France, in 1980. It was a very interesting trip which helped to forge long lasting friendships which happens when a group of dancers get together and I include Bill and Maureen in that category from that trip.
Bill also played golf, was interested in Scottish folk music, and was a keen member of the RSPB. He was awarded the OBE.
Bill died in Ghyll Royd Nursing Home in Guiseley, Leeds, on 4th April 2014 aged 91.
I would like to thank Anne Dawson and Pat Heseltine from Scarborough for giving me additional information regarding Bill.
Helen Brown, York