Isla and Eric Norris’ association with Johnsonville likely began as part of the St Columba’s Presbyterian club friendship group, which went on to become the Johnsonville Scottish Country Dance Club.
Despite much research by club member Pat Reesby, we can’t quite tie down the details, as records from that time are incomplete.
However, Eric and Isla were definitely amongst the 30 people listed as members in the earliest Johnsonville Scottish Country Dance Club attendance records, dated 1968. They danced into their late 80’s and are last listed as being members of Johnsonville in 2003. They died within months of each other in 2010.
Isla (President 1968-1971) and Eric (President 1978-1979) were stalwarts of Johnsonville club, Ngaio club, and the Wellington region dancing community, and were awarded life membership of Johnsonville club in 1985.
Download the presentation below to see more photos of their contributions to Scottish Country Dancing.
Keeping their memories alive
Memories of Isla and Eric are kept alive by physical items still in use by the club today. Isla made the tartan tablecloths which were presented to the club by the Norris family (including daughter Gaye) in 1988.
Those tablecloths brighten up our supper tables at every Tartan night, annual dance and mid-winter dinner. This is especially appropriate as the Norris family were behind the teapots at supper time from at least 1976 until Isla and Eric stepped down as supper co-ordinators in 1997.
The club also keeps their legacy alive on the dance floor through the kilts and other Scottish regalia donated to the club after their deaths. Deborah Shuker wears one of Isla’s kilts, Maureen Sullivan wears Isla’s tartan sash, past member John Munro wears Eric’s kilt, and you might see Isla’s cheery red tartan bow popping up on Mandy Clarke’s wrist at dancing events.
If you look closely you may notice some of today’s longer standing members wearing Johnsonville Club badges on their tartan sashes. These were designed by Isla and Eric in 1985, made available for members to purchase for some years, and then provided to new dancers until stocks ran out.
Dances for Isla and Eric
Rod and I benefited from all that Isla and Eric contributed to the club, including shepherding us as beginners. In recognition of the huge part they played at the club, and out of personal affection, Rod wrote dances for each of them.
In 1999 Rod wrote Isla’s Fancy (which of course refers to Eric) which is in The Cane Toad Collection, and in 2004 he wrote Short and Very Sweet (in They Stole My Wife From Me Last Night) in celebration of Isla’s 90th birthday.
In 2016 Isla and Eric were once again part of the club’s history when Short and Very Sweet was performed as a demonstration dance at the club’s 50 Golden Years event. It was wonderful to see their memories honoured by two sets of dancers from the Newtown Junior group, organised by Elaine Lethbridge.
Isla and Eric are well remembered by all those who danced with them, for their service to the club and their generous support of new dancers.
by Kristin Downey
7 May 2020