May 2020         A NEWSLETTER            No. 161


What strange times we are living in, indeed. Life has changed so completely for everyone, and have been difficult for many for different reasons. We don’t know when we will get back to normal, and there has been much discussion over what the “new normal” will be like. We just don’t know.

First of all, our sympathies must go out to all who have lost a close relative or friend to the coronavirus. Sometimes others have survived a serious encounter with the virus, and it’s not just that they have been ill. Some may have been left with permanent effects, whether physical, such as pulmonary or kidney damage, or mental scarring from either suffering and surviving coronavirus, or mental illness and depression from seeing others suffer or from prolonged isolation. We don’t know enough to predict the future with any degree of certainty.

Then thanks to all who we know who have kept us going, from other dancers to people from our local community groups, our churches, our families and friends and neighbours. My personal thanks to some of you! Most of you will have come across the RSCDS’s weekly online newsletter with news, background information, facts, links to music and podcasts, and puzzles – look for “Dance Scottish at Home” on the website. We have no confirmed dates yet for dancing in our branch next term.

One date we do have is for a virtual AGM on Wednesday June 17th on Zoom at 2 p.m. Please make every effort to be there if you can. There is not a lot to discuss but we do have reports to make to members, the accounts have to be accepted, and new committee members have to be ratified. I believe that there is a legal requirement for us as trustees to hold an AGM under the Charities Act. For those who are not online (we will have contacted these people with a print copy of Broun’s Reel) reports will be made available after the event. In recent years attendance at the AGM has declined and an online Zoom meeting is worth trying.

Lynne and Dianne and I have enthused about the online classes on Wednesdays. These again are on Zoom. It has been reported fairly widely in the press that many older people who have never really tackled online communication are now really familiar with Zoom and hold regular family meetings on it, so there may be even more people with access to the AGM. As always, no one will pressgang you into taking part and you can just observe.

Thanks to Carol, Malcolm, Douglas and Dianne who have all tried to raise our spirits and our expectations of returning to dancing in this issue. This issue doesn’t contain any date lists or programmes as these are still very uncertain. It also seemed inappropriate to put obituaries in when this was not a full issue. Jennifer wrote to people earlier on in the pandemic to let them know about Brenda George’s death, and a full tribute to her will appear in the next Broun’s Reel. In the meantime, our condolences to her family. If anyone else has sad member news to pass on, please let me know – Jennifer or Helen can let others know, and I can make sure that there will be an obituary in the next edition. And it’s always good to hear good news too! We all need dollops of that at the moment.

Malcolm is writing a series of articles full of basic information that many of us take for granted. He is using the pen-name “GOG” – and Helen gets referred to as “POW”:

GOG – Grumpy Old Git

POW – Pernickety Old Woman

Now, I would never call them that!

My apologies for no print copy of Broun’s Reel at the moment due to distribution problems. And to finish – a reminder to those of us who’ve not yet renewed our membership yet: it would be a good idea!

 Joyce Cochrane  

The first in a planned series of articles written by GOG


One of the amazing things about Scottish Country Dancing is that no matter how complicated the dance, every moment of a dance is completely choreographed for all eight dancers throughout its performance. Everything is driven by the music, and each phrase of the music should be accompanied by an equivalent movement – what we call “phrasing”. Sometimes the music makes everything obvious, by splitting each eight-bar phrase into two four-bar sections. This fits movements such as “lead down the middle and up”. The fact that each bar of music equates to one step of skip change or a single pas de basque means that all the dancer has to do is count the steps instead worrying about “bars”. If the dance requires the dancers to take four bars to dance half a reel of three, then the dancer knows it takes four steps. Dancers should get into the habit of counting their own steps, so that they can do this even when standing still, imagining themselves dancing a travel or setting step. Why? Well as I said at the start, the dance is completely choreographed; even the stepping up or stepping down should occur at a particular time of the dance, and be performed in time with the music. If the dancers are leading down the middle and coming up to second place, then the 2nd couple should step up on bars 3&4 of the phrase, so that the dancing couple can see where they are dancing to, and arrange their steps accordingly. If the dancing couple is leading down the middle and up and casting off, all in the same eight bars, then the 2nd couple will step up on the last 2 bars of the phrase, otherwise the dancing couple has to travel further. We now have several strathspeys where the supporting couples dance in on the last bar (Neidpath Castle and Birks of Invermay are common examples). When this happens it is important not only to count so that the dancers move in together on the last bar, but also work out which foot they will use when they start the next formation (and use the opposite foot when they dance in!)

Do such details matter? Well I would say it not so much that they matter, but it does make even the simplest dances a lot more interesting.

Additional comment by POW “you omitted to say that one bar of strathspey is equivalent to one bar of strathspey travelling or setting step”

Malcolm Brown


May is a busy month for dancing for Ken and me. As well as all the regular events, there’s the popular Pickering dance, and the Duns weekend in the Borders which attracts about 200 dancers. Last but by no means least, there’s the friendliness and fun of the Morland week on the edge of the Lake District, when dancers from near and far congregate, many staying in campervans or caravans, to enjoy dancing to live music each evening.

For the last two years Ken and I have been extra busy at this time of year, devising programmes for the eight or nine weekly Summer Tuesday dance sessions we’ve been running at Stillington Village Hall. Last year this really took off, and we ended up with more than 40 dancers for the evening in memory of Michael East, and for our grand finale when Leonard Brown played for us.

This year my calendar still shows all that we would have been doing (I haven’t the heart to delete such poignant reminders), so I don’t know why I’m surprised that such a huge vacuum has opened up now that we can no longer dance. Physically, socially and mentally the absence of dancing leaves a huge gap in our lives, and I know I’m not alone in feeling that sense of loss.

However, our shoes may be stored away in the cupboard under the stairs, but we’re still keeping ourselves dance ready for the time when, eventually, we can all get together again on the dance floor.

For a start we take some solace in joining in with the weekly RSCDS class which is “attended” online by more than 1,000 dancers from all around the world. It takes place at 7 pm each Wednesday, and once you’ve downloaded the Zoom app, it’s simply a case of joining the class through a link in the RSCDS Newsletter (see below). For those who are wondering, nobody can see you, and the only person you can see is the teacher for the week. One thing you can do, though, is to see the names and comments of those who choose to type a message from whichever part of the globe they are joining in.

We’re also trying to keep fit, not only by walking the dog, but by doing 10 minutes of exercise each morning, followed by the sorts of stretches which will be familiar to all dancers. Joe Wicks, who has shot to fame with his live online exercise classes, also has two ten minute videos which are aimed specifically at “seniors” – not a term which endears me to it, but needs must.

You can access his introductory video on

There’s also a slightly more challenging one at

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, there are ways to keep in touch with the world of SCD even during lockdown (provided, of course, you have access to the internet).

The RSCDS is doing a sterling job with their weekly emailed Newsletter, Dance Scottish at Home, which includes music, information about the origin of dances, quizzes, even an online jigsaw. The Newsletter is available to all dancers, and not just RSCDS members (send them an email at and ask to be added to their mailing list). Through Tunes in the Hoose on Facebook we can listen to and watch individual musicians, and sometimes as many as 40 will be playing a tune together from their separate homes. A very moving experience to see and hear them all.

At the moment Stillington Hall remains booked for SCD on Tuesday evenings through July and August, and Ian Slater is lined up for our final session on 1 September. It seems highly unlikely that we will be able to dance again by then but if by any chance we can, we’ll be ready and waiting to welcome you all. I almost said “with open arms”, but that probably wouldn’t be allowed!

If it looks like the Summer Tuesdays can go ahead, information will be available on Branch and Club websites.

Carol Hazell  ( )

The second in a planned series of articles written by GOG


Before starting even the simplest dance, the dancers are divided up into small groups of three or four couples, called “sets”, (occasionally 5 couples). This division is performed by the couples lining up and somebody counting down from the top. I have known this counting happen in a variety of different ways – in very large dances sometimes special stewards are appointed and they do the counting. More commonly this is the task of the first couple. In the past whoever did the counting would often go down the back of the men’s line and tell the men which couple they were, leaving it up to the men to inform their partner. The ladies not surprisingly were not very happy with this system, and it gradually switched to the person doing the counting going down the middle of the set. Normally this was the first man, but sometimes it is the first couple – (sometimes with 1st woman counting down the men’s side, while her partner counts down the ladies’ line – very sociable, but not very quick).

Although dance etiquette says that couples joining the lines should do so from the bottom, with people sitting or standing on the sides of the room it is often the couples standing near the top of the room who become responsible for the counting. Unfortunately, the full implications of this responsibility are rarely realised. As both the men and the ladies have a desire to know which couple they are in the set, they should not just tell the men. As they actually all need to have partners, this should be checked to avoid a mis-count (when one man is sitting down to re-tie his shoe laces, as one of the ladies who is not his partner is away talking to somebody in a different line).

Perhaps the most important thing is to do the counting without stopping to have a chat with somebody on the way down the line. If one line has a bottom set with 3 couples and the other line has a bottom set with 5 couples, then a quick adjustment means that both sets have 4 couples. However, if the person going down the “5 couple” line takes their time to perform the count, then by the time the bottom couple realise they are extra, the other line has persuaded somebody else to make up the numbers in their set. While this may not be a problem for the person doing the counting (they always have 4 couples in their set), it can be a source of irritation the “5th couple”, especially when the etiquette of making up the lines from the bottom is ignored. Perhaps in such circumstances the four couple set should be at the bottom of the room, and the top set should be made into a five!

Malcolm Brown  


Reflecting on the swirl of information in the past weeks and at the same time looking through the list of dances encountered since we started six years ago (447 to be precise) has produced some odd combinations and distortions.  But maybe it’s just the alcohol, the gin, the Sloe Commotion turning me into a Drunken Sailor.

(And if anyone wonders who started the following nonsense, It Wisnae Me…)

Rewind.  I should really start with

Deer Friends,

Feeling at a loose end and going about like a Wandering Wallaby, we have tried to stay Young at Heart despite the long lockdown of so many days, which number at least Malcolm’s Forty and Counting.  Recognising that the rules are Fair Enough, we looked for ways to survive and maintain morale.  

Obviously, shopping was out of the question, so I was glad to avoid City Fights and being an Iceland Scrambler, or getting involved with the Morrison’s Measures to keep Old and Dangerous customers from behaving like an Elephant’s Stampede or Cream Catchers flying around like Wild Geese grabbing what they can and Crossing the Lines to get to the Checkout Court stocked up with a Currie Mountain and leaving the Braes of Bredalbane as Breads of Empty Lanes.  Instead, we have survived the early stages by simple stuff, being Dandelion Pickers for salads from our Walled Garden or being delighted to find a Cranberry Tart hidden at the back of the freezer.

We are planning to cultivate further agricultural possibilities but are still waiting for the First Rain of Spring and eagerly anticipating Da Rain Dancin’.

(As if all that isn’t bad enough, we’ve still to finalise Brexit – the Moment of Truth, a Bonnie Mess of Non Accord which will turn us all into Dundee Wailers.)

In the meantime, how to maintain some physical fitness?  I take Joyce’s advice by Dancing in the Kitchen.  I can recommend it,  it’s basically Easy Peasy but  you must be cautious:  at the age that applies to most of us, you could end up Aching Gracefully, and if you can’t maintain your Equilibrium, you risk some Falls, however Feugh.  Or phew!

Still, we mustn’t lose Hope (Valley) that there will be a Happy Return when we’re Round and Roundabout again, maybe managing to meet on Midsummer Common or spending Autumn in Appin, possibly even going on a Trip to Bavaria.  Alas, a Flight to Melbourne seems a distant prospect until the Aviator is working again.

So, until our next Happy Meeting, possibly at a Friday Class, we trust you will maintain your Dancing Spirit and Joie de Vivre and remember that what matters most, apart from families, is Friendships.  

Stay safe

Douglas Jamieson.


Douglas's recent email got me going, so I'm going to attempt to reply in a similar way using Scottish Country Dance names! Please excuse my mawkish sentimentality!

Dear Douglas, George, and Everyone,

I thought it was time for me to reply to one of your very welcome emails George, I always look forward to hearing some of your reflections and stories about your life. I thought I’d also reply to Douglas’s letter.

After checking out 'Tandem to Anvil' on u-tube I imagined it would have many of us a bit flummoxed to begin with together with plenty of laughter! I believe I have danced MacDonald of the Isles before, or perhaps I'm confusing it with something similar, which is easy to do (for me anyway!).

Douglas's recent email got me going, so I'm going to attempt to reply in a similar way using Scottish Country Dance names! Please excuse my mawkish sentimentality!

'Deer Friends', firstly I would like to say 'Thanks for all the Dancing' and hope to 'Be Seeing You' again soon and that 'All Shall be Well' by then. I wonder if it will be a 'Summer Meeting' of 'Midsummer Madness', 'First of September' or nearer to the 'Ninteenth of December' for our 'Happy Meeting' of 'Merry Dancers'; whenever that may be I can guarantee you will see 'Dianne's Smile'. I don't know about you but 'Kabin Fever' has me behaving like a 'Recumbant Stone' and eating too many 'Chopped Nuts and Chocolate Swirls', it's 'About Time' I got 'Back on Track' otherwise I'll be 'Floundering Around' and dancing like an 'Elephant's Stampede' when I 'See You Again'. I do 'Fidget' and have 'Itchy Feet' and will 'Jump for Joy' while hoping that I 'Forget me Knot' everything I've learnt by the time the 'Committee Meeting' agrees it's 'About Time' to 'Dare to Dance' again. This 'Dark Mile' that we have all had to walk with much 'Easy Does It' is 'Fair Enough' but I do hope the politicians will 'Figure it Out' soon so that we can all let out a 'Circle of Cheer' and get back to 'Dancing for Pleasure', dancing 'Hand in Hand' expressing that 'Happiness is Scottish Country Dancing'; until we meet again (that would be a good dance name!) I hope we can all remain 'Young at Heart' and I look forward to sharing 'Magic Moments' together again.

So - 'Rest and be Thankful', 'Go with the Flow' -  'Many Thanks',

Dianne xx

Phew! I admit, I'm not familiar with many of these dances myself. Seriously though, I hope you are all staying well and planning to return to dancing as soon as we're able to which probably won't be before the end of the year unfortunately. I'm enjoying daily walks and mainly reading, catching up with friends via WhatsApp messages/calls and my new pursuit of online jig saws! I can't wait to resume SCD again and miss dancing with you all,

Take good care of yourselves,

Dianne Ashton


Editor:  Joyce Cochrane, 22 Newton Drive, Beverley,

  HU17 8NX.    (01482 - 871790)


Production: Rosemary Robins

Secretary: Helen Brown  01904 - 488084

York & North Humberside branch website:

Contact:  Rita Eastwood   (01904 - 413020) or

Copy date for next issue:     1st September 2020

SCD What Counts Part 1

Lockdown Dancing or not?

Not a Crib but a Letter

And a Reply

SCD What Counts Part 2