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-shattering split in the SCD community in the southern part of the Branch, Gordon has agreed to me writing this – don’t worry!

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-played sets. As Gordon points out, the rhythm – the beat if you prefer – is vitally important in Scottish dance music, emphasising the start of the bar, giving you a measure to keep in time to, telling you where you are in a figure. “How can you not hear it?” he said to me once; maybe, because you aren’t really listening to it.

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-on sound of a five-piece band with two accordions was the norm, but he hasn’t stayed in the past, and can appreciate good modern bands and tunes. So long as it’s not a piano and fiddle playing slow and dreary strathspeys…

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.

Joyce Cochrane   


Jack and Jill and the Richmond Lass

Hill-walkers, all of them keen,

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-term, and we hope also those early summer holidays. It also had to be Tuesday or Thursday because those are the days I’m free!

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-way. It is neither particularly flat not particularly hilly, and should be quite varied.

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-fried Mushrooms, and Baked Brie.

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-day Sunday 1st June.  You can leave an answerphone message on 01482  871790, or email me (address on the back page). Hope as many as can will join us!

Joyce Cochrane  


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:

Chairman -        Joyce Cochrane

 Secretary -        Helen Brown

Treasurer -        Nigel Bell

Minute Secretary -   Lynne Brooks

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, 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-up branch committee meeting, the idea was further discussed, and it seemed that a solo musician would be easier to finance than a full band; we have therefore decided to go down this road for next season if possible. What has not yet been decided is when the dance would take place; possible dates mentioned were the December Sunday afternoon dance and the dance in June, currently the Charity Dance, among others. So watch this space!

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.

Joyce Cochrane


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 - 5.00: There will be massed open air dancing for adult and junior teams, opportunities for demonstrations of pre-selected dances and ladies’ and men’s Highland displays. Dancing will be to Luke Brady and his Scottish Dance Band with piping from Alan Harrison. Ian Slater will also play if the event is held indoors because of wet weather.

Please note that arrangements can be made this year for individual dancers or small groups.

Saturday Evening, 12th July, 19.00 - 22.30 : There will be a social dance to Luke Brady and his band in the sports hall at Gateways School. Admission will be by ticket only, since the numbers that can be accommodated are limited.

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!




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

A Lament

Branch Walk




Live Music
in South

White Rose

 Bill Bishop