September 2013      A NEWSLETTER           No. 134


Back in June, I had a conversation with Lynne Brooks that started me off on the track to this editorial.  I wrote down all sorts of notes from our conversation, and even began Broun’s Reel that very evening with questions and a few notes under each question.  However, here we are at the beginning of September, and in spite of a lot of searching, I can find neither hand-written nor word-processed notes.  So, apologies to Lynne if I’ve missed out anything she prompted!

Lynne had come across a variety of questions being asked about our dances, and also had questions which she herself had asked in the past.  This editorial is based on those sorts of questions, and takes the form of a question and answer session. It aims to provide information for those who don’t have it, but also so that anyone can give a fairly well informed answer if asked a similar question.

Can I go to the dance even if I don’t have a partner?

Of course. We change partners frequently; it was very important to the RSCDS founders to encourage the welcoming of people on their own

I’ve only been dancing 6 months. Will I be able to do any of the dances?

At least ⅓ to ½ of the dances on a programme are usually accessible to all. “Cribs”, potted instructions for the dances, are available from the branch website (address at the end of the newsletter).

I’ve only been dancing 6 months. Will I be able to do all of the dances?

Very unlikely, unless you’ve put in a lot of revision with the cribs just mentioned and YouTube, and done them at class. But other people will also be giving the most difficult dances a miss, and there may also be a “walk-through” – particularly at dances where recorded music is used.

When are the dances held, and how often?

We usually hold a dance each month, excepting only July and August. You will always find details in Broun’s Reel, and on the website. If you have no access to the Internet, ask Joyce, Rosemary or your class teacher for a back copy of Broun’s Reel.

How do you find out what the programmes for the dances are?  How do you find out when the dances are?

Very like the answer to the previous question! The website is great. Again, if you’ve no Internet access, everything will be in Broun’s Reel. I usually try to publish the dates of all our branch dances in September, and

I’m unsure how to get to the venue. How do I find out?

The website is the easiest way. Click on the link for the venue and you will find a map.

I’m not confident about driving at night. How can I get there?

Most groups will share lifts, and someone will usually be quite happy to help out. Don’t be afraid to ask.

What if I go wrong in a dance?

As Malcolm is fond of saying, it’s only Scottish Dancing! It doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. (Besides, it’s only me gets black looks from him – I’m expected to know better!)

What if someone asks me to dance and I really don’t feel confident?

There is no shame in declining that dance and explaining that’s why; you can always suggest another dance on the programme which you would feel more confident with. At the same time, experienced dancers please take note, no one should try to argue you into doing something you’re really not happy with.  You can usually learn a lot from sitting watching!

If you’ve any questions you want to ask, please do, and I’ll print answers next time or try to get back to you sooner individually.  If you disagree with any of my suggested answers, please let me know.

Whoever has devised the programme has almost certainly spent a lot of time on it. The committee shares out the jobs like acting as MC and looking after the kitchen. For band dances, the secretary will usually have spent a lot of time ringing and emailing bands to book them. Rita spends a lot of time putting events listings, programmes and links to maps on the website. All they need to happen next is for you to turn up!

Joyce Cochrane


I actually finished the cryptic crossword the other night and then had nothing to do to put me to sleep, so I continued the crossword theme – and that kept me awake very well indeed and produced the following.


Bridge We take hands not deal them, and rarely dance with a dummy.

Crib Perhaps most of us have need of one.

Cricket Might be OK with 8 balls in an over.

Crosswords Never!

Follow my Leader Only when appropriate.

Grandmother’s Steps We grandmothers do try to do the correct ones.

Hangman It’s never that serious!

Hopscotch Hopping can be overdone, and as for ‘Scotch’...!

Pass the Parcel Not while dancing.

Poker  No straight faces and blank expression for us!

Sevens That’s just silly!

Shove Halfpenny Shove all of her if she goes the wrong way.

Skipping Well, if you must...

Snakes and Ladders Be kind to snakes and let them pass.

Snooker We take cues from our partners – and slip-stop’s better than chalk.

Solitaire No, you’re not on your own.

Squash Better to have a big ballroom.

Tennis Sets are not the same.

Twenty Questions Not enough.

But that’s quite enough of this nonsense...

Veronica Wallace, York


When Moscow branch decided to organise a Summer School in May 2013 they decided to hold it in Voronezh, where everything is a lot less expensive than Moscow.

But where exactly is this place? Well it is about an hours flight almost due south of Moscow, or as I discovered about 12 hours by overnight train! And to make everything more worthwhile, they included a teacher training course for Units 2 (the dancing test) and Unit 3 (the teaching test), and asked me to be the tutor.

The Scottish dance scene in Russia, despite comprising a large number of small groups spread out over very large distances, manages to keep people fairly well informed about what is going on – as a consequence we had 14 candidates on the course, not only people from Voronezh and Moscow, but also from St Petersburg, Yaroslavl, Perm and Cheboksary (you can always look them up on a map!). I had taught nearly all of the students at one time or another, but this time was a bit more stressful for all of us.

I spent the previous week in Nizhny Novgorod, staying in the house of a University lecturer – fortunately her subject was English! I had to “sing for my supper” by taking workshops during the weekends, and also by giving “live English practice” at the University during the week, all of which was great fun. We then travelled by train to Voronezh, where I had to get down to the real work. It is hard enough training dancers how to teach Scottish dancing when English is their native language, but when your knowledge of the language is limited it can be a real struggle – fortunately the lecturer was able to translate for me during the first week, and managed to return in time to help during the last couple of days. What made things even more of a challenged was that the stooges were also all Russian, many with a very limited knowledge of English, and this was when our lessons in “demonstrate, don’t talk” came into their own.

The course and school were arranged to include the two national holidays – May 1 (May Day) and May 9 (VE Day, which is very important in Russia) – and we actually started the teacher training on May 1, a case of no holidays for the candidates!

We were joined by the other dancers on the Sunday, and we all got together for a dance on the Sunday night – with the candidates taking it in turns to recap the dances! We were also joined at this point by Andrew Nolan who was going to play for the exams, and who was going to teach during the week while I was tutoring – and play for us when he wasn’t teaching; talk about getting your pound of flesh!

The two examiners had to travel from Edinburgh, and they managed to take only a day for both the journey there and the return trip – they were very long days! They had one day to recover from the journey before we started the dancing test on the Friday morning, which took over three hours – every candidate had to dance three dances as first couple, as well as dancing the travelling and setting steps. We were lucky to have two other Russians to make up the numbers to sixteen, so that we had two complete sets (one of the extra dancers was Vladimir, who we assisted in attending St Andrews to take the tests this summer).  Everyone then went off to prepare for their exams the following day, while I spent the afternoon teaching the dancers who were attending the school. With fourteen candidates we had to take more than a day for the teaching (Unit 3) exams, with four people having to wait until the following day. Not that this was allowed to interfere with the fun, as 13 of the candidates attended the grand ball on the Saturday night.

I was very impressed with the way the candidates all helped each other and worked as a group – perhaps the best example of this was at the dance we held on the Wednesday night when they showed a combination Russian / Scottish dance performed to Russian music – (you can see this at

- let me know if you cannot get it to work.) [NB an easier way to follow this link is to look up this article online on the Branch website.]

My trip finished with an overnight train to Moscow, followed by flights back to Manchester, to arrive home just in time to say I was there on my wedding anniversary (I think Helen has forgiven me!) – with 13 of the 14 candidates passing their exams I think the trip can be judged a success.    

(PS – I made another very different trip to Russia at the end of June, but you can find out about this in my article in The Scottish Dancer)

Malcolm Brown


One of the dictionary definitions of the noun Dance is:

"A social gathering at which people dance"

What is going wrong with dances to make them often less than sociable, and more of an endurance test of stamina and memory?

I think the simple reason is dance programmes with too many dances in them. A prime example was the Harrogate spring ball at the Grammar School in Harrogate. This had the makings of a good evening with an excellent, elaborate  2 course supper with a little fruit of the vine to wash it down and oil the conversation, but in my opinion it was spoilt by too many dances for the time available, meaning that the various MCs/Callers had to rush through the dance explanations and even then there was little time between dances for chat or to consult the dance notations. There were many old friends at that ball whom I did not get time to even say hello to. 

The old expression 'less is more' would have been very appropriate: fewer dances would have made a much more relaxed and sociable event. Would it really matter if the whole programme of dances had not been completed, and the evening drifted along at a more relaxed pace?

Dancing has historically been a social event, the dancing giving a purpose and punctuation to the gathering, and a catalyst to social intercourse. What I see in Scottish Country Dancing today is the performance of a learnt discipline where the social element has become totally subservient to the exercise of dancing. There seems to be some sort of competition afoot as to which M.C. can fit the most dances into an evening.

Why has it got to this state? 

And we wonder why there are few young people wanting to get involved? 

Ian C.Hazell, Alne, York


In the last edition I mentioned that we wanted to produce a book to mark the Branch’s 40th anniversary in 2015, and I asked for contributions.  Not surprisingly nothing has been received so far, so I thought I would give people a little nudge – below is a list of 23 different topics which covers many of the things which could be written about. I think we are looking for articles of about 300 words in length (I had to do this recently, and found I had to omit most of what I wanted to say, so if you have more to say do not feel limited!)

Why not think back to some of the things on the list, put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard), and let me have something by the end of the year?

1. Day School Memories

2. Weekend School Memories

3. Display Memories

4. Leeds Festival / White Rose

5. Stockport Festival

6. Balls

7. Ceilidhs

8. Cober Hill

9. Teacher Training Classes - Exams

10. Dinners

11. Branch Walks

12. Burnby Hall Gardens

13. Charity Dances

14. White Heather Show

15. Equipment

16. Children Classes

17. Branch Characters (Flowers of the Forest)

18. Branch Awards

19. Catering

20. Publicity

21. Dancing Overseas

22. Visiting Teachers

23. Wetwang Classes

Malcolm Brown, York


The charity dance this year was held on Saturday, 8th June at Willerby. This year our chosen charity was Hearing Dogs for the Deaf, and between entrance money, donations and the raffle, a total of £326 was raised for the charity. Chris, as Chairman, presented a cheque to Hearing Dogs for the Deaf to Jason, who was one of the first children in the country to have a Hearing Dog back in 2008.

Jason’s parents Martin and Michelle Bell gave a short talk about Hearing Dogs for the Deaf and about how Violet had changed Jason’s life. It was great to have some time with them

Chris, Jason and Violet


It was a lovely June morning when we started our walk from the village of Goodmanham, just north of Market Weighton. Goodmanham has an interesting history and is the site of the chief pagan temple which was destroyed by its own high priest on his conversion to Christianity.

Leaving Goodmanham on the Wolds Way, we crossed the old Market Weighton to Driffield railway line, and followed a good slowly ascending path to Towthorpe Corner, where we met more of our party who had chosen to park at this quiet corner of the A163. Now as we descended towards Londesborough Park we watched a red kite as he drifted along checking out the fields on our right for an early lunch. Londesborough pond with a few moorhens busy among the reeds was our next port of call before we began our final ascent towards the village.

The village was our mid-morning stop and there was time to wander around it and visit All Saints’ Church. Londesborough used to have its own railway station, though the only sign of it now is a small section of platform in someone’s garden.

Turning our back on the village, we returned by a different path, and followed a quiet section of road where we spent time in recognising some of the wild flowers growing on the edges. Finally we arrived at the Goodmanham Arms in perfect time for lunch.  This pub has its own micro brewery called the All Hallows after the local church, and they even have an ale named after the local witch!

We sat outside close to the door of the brewery and were served an excellent lunch as those of us who were non-drivers sampled the products. There was an opportunity to have the brewing process explained, but sitting in the sun and being replete with food and ale, I just didn’t have the energy to get through the door.

We all agreed that we’d had a great day out in a lovely part of East Yorkshire. Thanks to Jean and Joyce for the organisation.

Ken Wallace, Hornsea


Was warm. In fact it was hot. Dancing in the Common Room with all of the doors closed was an adventurous way to spend an evening, but it was fun and yes, they only kept them closed on the first night. After that common sense prevailed

So many nationalities there this year and as it was week one the musicians course was also running so on Saturday evening we danced in the Younger Hall to a massed band of fiddles, accordians and percussion led by George Meikle. That alone was worth the cost and the travel. The music filled the room with musicians playing for pleasure, and we enjoying every moment………..what you miss when you can’t be bothered with the travel to St Andrews.

There was a ceilidh on Friday evening and during this a young lady from the Northern Isles called Shona, a new name to us all, sat down to entertain us with her fiddle. George Meikle sat with her. When Shona put her bow to the fiddle and started playing I can honestly say that everyone in the room was transfixed. Beautiful tunes so hauntingly, beautifully played and George was not leading her he was following. We were also entertained very ably and very amusingly by some of the different nationalities present and able to participate as they performed.

There were the usual classes in the morning and the afternoons free to either participate in extra activities or to have to your own devices.

There were five of us from York and E. Yorks that attended and once again we were honoured when Alan Highet was chosen to be a part of the demonstration team as they performed a couple of dances from the new book. You should be able to find it on UTube.

Saturday afternoon I saved for shopping and turning a corner in the centre of St Andrews there were most of my class-mates dancing to live music with some of the locals and visitors. Well what could I do but join in myself (actually I wasn’t given a lot of choice!) but afterwards there was a small United Nations visit to the ice cream shop. I did manage to get some of my shopping done!

Summer school is certainly worth the effort and the cost of attending. It is the atmosphere, the camaraderie and of course the dancing.

Incidentally, for a period there were a group of French teenagers who were living on one of the campuses and eating at our dining room. They were fascinated by us and our dances in the evenings.  One was heard commenting to his friends ‘They dance nice, but why are they all so old?’

A good question!

Ken Wallace, Hornsea


As usual our annual Branch Half Day School is being held at the Village Hall in Stockton on the Forest, near York. Once again we will be delighted to welcome Pat Cass from Newcastle Branch to play for us; the teacher for the afternoon will be Maureen Haynes, who is well known to many of us.  The Class will be held in the afternoon from 2.00 to 5.15; the cost is £12.

There will be a High Tea between the class and the dance at a cost of £6.

Catering for the Half-Day School: if you can offer any help with catering for the High Tea, please contact Helen Brown, who would be delighted to hear from you. She would particularly appreciate offers of salads and desserts for the High Tea, but also tray-bakes for the evening dance.  If you’ve been inspired by The Great British Bake-Off, now’s your chance to join in!  Of course, the Branch will refund any expenses you incur. I’m sure Helen would also appreciate offers to help at the event too.

Those who have expressed an interest, or who have previously attended the day school, should have received an information/application form either by email or in the post. If you have not received one and would like one, the application form can be photocopied or downloaded from the branch website (; or contact the organisers, Ken Wallace on 01482 532440 or Norma Wheeler on  01904 870905.

The evening dance, to the music of Robert Whitehead, begins at 7.30. Tickets cost £12 – just £10 though if you attended the day school.  Light refreshments in the form of traybakes will be available during the interval.


The Y & NH Branch Weekend School in 2014 takes place at the Cairn Hotel in Harrogate from January 21st to February 2nd.  Those who have either expressed an interest or who have previously attended should have already received an application form either. Places are going fast, so please get your application in quickly to avoid disappointment!


What has now become the biennial Y&NH/Leeds Branches Joint Ball will take place on November 16th at the Riley Smith Hall, in Tadcaster, beginning at 7.30 p.m. Music comes from Ian Thomson and his band, and a (catered) supper will be provided; tickets cost £15. The programme has been drawn up by Iain Keegan.


Our Branch dance in December is another of our winter afternoon dances which have proved successful in the last few seasons. It will take place on Sunday, 8th December, at Swanland Village Hall (at the back of the village pond), beginning at 2.00 p.m. As before, this pre-Christmas dance is being held on the Sunday afternoon so as not to stop any vital Christmas shopping on the Saturday! Usual costs apply (£4 for members, £5 non-members); there is no Faith Supper, but there will be mince pies provided.  The programme will be provided nearer to the time and will be distributed to class teachers; it will be danced to recorded music.


Helen is putting together an order for copies of Book 47 and/or the CD which accompanies it.  Please contact her as soon as possible if you would like a copy of either (or both) and she will include you in the order.






Summer School