Elizabeth Rendell: Scottish Connections

Elizabeth Rendell is one of the longest-standing members of Johnsonville Club, having joined in 1981.

She has now been a Scottish Country Dancer for more than 50 years, starting as a teenager in Wainuiomata in 1965, then dancing briefly at Kelburn Club, before joining Johnsonville.

Liz has been a faithful member of Johnsonville Scottish Country Dance Club ever since, continuing to dance at club nights and tartan nights when life allows. If you’ve noticed her heading home after supper, it’s because she has to be up and away to work at Wellington hospital very early in the mornings.

Over the years, Liz has helped out in the background, on committees and served as Johnsonville Club treasurer in 2010 and 2011. Together with Life Members Aline and John Homes, she cut the cake at the Club’s celebration of 60 years as a community dance group in August 2015.

Liz cutting the cake with Life Members Aline and John Homes at Johnsonville’s celebration of 60 years as a community dance group in 2015

These days, Liz likes the Tartan Nights with live music, also seeing the club growing from being a couple of sets to four or more. She always brings a cheery face to the dance floor and has welcomed new dancers to the club over many years.

Read what Liz has to say below about her Scottish family connections and her Scottish Country Dancing story.

Family connections and a lifetime of dancing

My mother Margaret (Rita) Alexander came from Scotland, born in Millport. Her mother died when she was five and she was brought up by her great aunt. In 1946, just after she was 21 years, her great aunt brought her to New Zealand. Sadly her father died while she was on the ship, so she never saw him again.

Mum’s aunty, uncle and cousin came out before her and settled in Linden. My mother met and married Neville Coley in 1949/50, they lived first in Petone, then moved to Wainuiomata. Mum was young when she passed away, but Aunty lived till 107 years (in three months she would have been 108 years).

When I was a teenager, I went to Rangers in Wainuiomata. We received a notice asking if anyone wanted to do Scottish Country Dancing and so I joined. I am the oldest of seven children and a couple of my sisters did go to dancing but left after a year or two. On the formal nights, mum would help with the supper and washing up.

The Wainuiomata Club started in the small fire brigade hall with the teacher being Rita Brennan. A few years later in 1968 we went to the larger Wainuiomata College Hall where we had quite a few sets. We had a lot of youngsters (mainly females started) and also women, not as many men. As far as I know I am the only one from that group still doing Scottish Country Dancing. Another woman who started after me belongs to the Lower Hutt Club.

Liz sitting at the right on a Wainuiomata Scottish Country Dance Club float in a Christmas parade some time between the late 1960s to early 1970s

When I was with Wainuiomata Club I was on the committee. Since I didn’t have a car, Rita would drive me to Marie Malcom’s place in Ngaio for the Wellington Region meetings. Marie would have ready for supper club sandwiches, cakes and cuppa before we went home, which made it a long night.

In 1972, while I was still dancing at Wainui, I visited Scotland to meet my mother’s family. In those days all the old people were still alive and they really made me feel welcome. There were lots of family get-togethers and they all made a fuss of me. When my husband and I visited in 1989, not so many of the old ones were left, and the younger ones had less interest in getting together.

Some time in the late 1970s I moved away, but I still wear the tartan sash passed on to me by a girl from Wainui who gave up Scottish dancing. I also remember attending Wainuiomata’s annual dance in 1984, celebrating the club’s 25th birthday, although the club ended up closing down around 1997.

Liz at the left wearing her tartan sash, with others who danced at Johnsonville Club from the 1960s to the 1980s who attended the Johnsonville 50 Golden Years celebration in 2016

In those days when I was younger I would go to formals, we would travel up the line and over to the Wairarapa. At formals you would see women in white dresses and sashes and men would mostly wear trousers and white shirts but a few would wear kilts. These days it is the other way around as men wear kilts and women are wearing anything with sashes. A formal supper would be more than just sandwich and cakes, it was a meal.

We bought a house in Newlands in 1980 and that was how I came to join Johnsonville Scottish Country Dance Club. Over the years I have seen a lot of dancers and teachers come and go at Johnsonville. Rod has been the longest teacher at Johnsonville, though his job from time to time means he has not been able to do a full year of teaching. This is a good thing as we have had other teachers which means everyone can see the different ways of teaching dancing.

This year Covid-19 has meant no dancing for three months, but Johnsonville Club has still kept in touch through the newsletter. The committee has been excellent in keeping us informed and updating us on anything we should know. Rod has also been excellent in keeping the new ones interested by showing or telling them how steps etc are done and even finding things to keep the more experienced of us interested as well.

Elizabeth Rendell
12 June 2020

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