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Ceol Alba: the music of Scotland

On Monday 29 June, club member Liz Hands was telling me what a lot of fun she had at the most recent Ceol Alba get-together. Since I don’t speak the gaelic, I didn’t immediately twig, but once she mentioned Lynne Scott, things clicked into place.

Lynne is a very active Wellington musician and Scottish Country Dance band leader, who is also Music Adviser to the NZ Branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. Club members who don’t know her will get to see her and enjoy her music at Johnsonville’s shared annual dance on 22 August 2020.

What is Ceol Alba? It’s a group organised by Lynne for those who love playing Scottish music for their own enjoyment, rather than as performers. They play not just dance music, but also airs, marches, laments, waltzes, and polkas!

At past gatherings, Johnsonville club member Liz Hands has played double bass, but this time no double bass was available. Happily for Liz, Lynne produced a flute, and Liz played the flute for the first time since 1970 – and enjoyed every minute of it. Others in the group played fiddles, guitars, drums and percussion.

Liz first got involved with Scottish music making at a workshop Lynne ran last year, which Johnsonville club members Désirée Patterson and Helen Thompson also attended.

Helen, Lynne and Liz playing at the 2019 workshop

Lynne’s next workshop for dancers and interested musicians is on Sunday 26 July, from 2-4pm in Lower Hutt. All welcome.

You are also welcome to attend Ceol Alba’s monthly meetings. Lynne keeps it low pressure to make it fun for music-makers of all levels. To find out more, check out the Ceol Alba website, or email Lynne. You can also read more about Scottish music in Lynne’s music articles on the RSCDS NZ website.

Ceol Alba has now been running for thirteen years. Read Lynne’s story below about the group’s origins and the ceilidh band that grew out of it.

from Kristin Downey

The origins of Ceol Alba

I started Ceol Alba at the beginning of 2007. The impetus grew from my involvement in the Scottish Country Dance community in Wellington, where I have been dancing and playing for some years – I really love playing for dancing.

But aside from playing for dances, there was literally nowhere else where folk could get together and play tunes on a regular basis. There was at the time, an annual fiddle school, and the Irish community had a couple of pubs in Wellington where you could go and join in if you knew the tunes. But Irish music is mostly very different from Scottish, and I know what I prefer!

The name Ceol Alba was suggested by a member of the Gaelic Club who came along to see what was going on. I have been told since that we neither spell nor pronounce it correctly(!!) but I’ve opted to leave it as it is. It means ‘the music of Scotland’.

Initially we met twice a month but this settled into a monthly meeting (fourth Friday) pattern fairly quickly. Our gatherings vary in size, from maybe only 2 or 3, up to a high of 22. That one has never been repeated! In fact, recruiting members is an ongoing challenge. Some have been superbly loyal, but It’s always good to see some new faces.

You can see from the tunes on the Ceol Alba website that I try to cover the gamut of styles in Scottish music, not just jigs, reels and strathspeys. I’ve been a bit slack about keeping the music on the website up to date, but I still send out a new tune, almost every month.

Meetings usually consist of the group playing the new tune over several times, and I will suggest technical tips to fiddlers and accordionists to help make it more playable. (I play fiddle, accordion and piano.) Then as we’re usually in a circle, we go round the circle, each in turn choosing a tune or a set that they’d like to play. I keep the speeds to the level of the less able most of the time, though I’ll let the fiddlers have their head on occasion!

I’ve been adamant that the club is just that – a club for people to enjoy playing Scottish music under as little pressure as possible. We don’t do performances or play for dancing. However, when a need for a Ceilidh band arose in about 2008, by then I had a pool of musicians who had a common repertoire and were keen to put themselves forward.

So the dance band Schiehallion was formed. It’s had a pretty stable line-up from the start: accordion (me), two fiddles, flute, drums, piano and guitar. We play several times a year for weddings/parties/social, teaching the dances and playing lively tunes for the punters.

In fact, we were in Dunedin right at the end of February, to play at Larnach Castle for a group of Reelers who were travelling in New Zealand. I’m so glad we got that in before the world turned upside down! It was enormous fun.

from Lynne Scott
2 July 2020

Pieces of Eight: A new dance for an old tune

During the Covid-19 lockdown, our tutor Rod Downey’s mind turned to writing dances.

John Markham’s Rant incorporated movements inspired by Ann Campbell’s dance The Dancing Bells. The Great Teddy Bear Hunt was inspired by seeing all the teddy bears in the windows while out walking.

Pieces of Eight grew out of The Great Teddy Bear Hunt and was a simplification of the movements in that dance, which in turn came out of a mental exercise to devise a dance with the only formation being figures of eight.

Rod wrote Pieces of Eight as a jig and was searching for suitable music, when he discovered Peter Elmes had written a hornpipe tune called Pieces of Eight. The idea of using a tune by Peter really appealed. Plus the tune already had a Johnsonville connection, as it was written in 1984 for Aline Homes’ dance Long John Silver

Peter’s tune wasn’t recorded. Rod asked Aileen Logie if she could record herself playing the tune so he could see if it suited the dance. Aileen played it as a hornpipe but also tried ‘jiggifying’ it to see how that would work.

In the end Rod’s dance remained as a jig and Peter gave his permission for use of the jig version of his tune.

On 15 June, the first Monday of dancing after the lockdown, Johnsonville Club danced the world premiere of Pieces of Eight. As a special treat, Aileen Logie had brought her accordion along to club and played Pieces of Eight – the jig version of Peter Elmes’ 1984 hornpipe tune.

Aileen Logie played the jig version of Pieces of Eight at the first night of dancing following the Covid-19 lockdown

It was a fun dance to do, manageable even at the end of our first dancing night in three months. Thanks to Rod, Aileen and Peter as well as Aline Homes for inspiring Peter’s original hornpipe tune.

from Kristin Downey
19 June 2020

John Markham: Scottish Connections

John’s dancing life story

As told to Kristin Downey

At the left, John is dancing Kingussie Flower with Maureen Sullivan at the Johnsonville & Capital Coast Joint Annual Dance in August 2019

When John and his late wife and soul-mate Petra arrived in Wellington from the UK in 1969, John had no idea he was about to embark on a life of Scottish Country Dancing.

As new arrivals, they decided a good way to meet people would be to join a group of some sort. Petra heard about Kelburn Scottish Country Dance Club from someone at work and off they set.

Petra had danced at school, John had not, and knew nothing about it. He was expecting to go along and sit on the sidelines and watch. However, this was not to be.

Mirth Smallwood (founder of Kelburn Club) approached John on the sidelines and as John puts it, ‘dragged him up’ to dance Mairi’s Wedding

Download a summary of Mirth Smallwood’s contribution to Scottish Country Dancing below, from Sociable Carefree Delightful – A history of Scottish Country Dancing in New Zealand by Margaret D Laidlaw and Margaret M Hutchison

Despite being thrown in the deep end on the first night, John and Petra joined Kelburn Club where Betty Redfearn had recently taken over as tutor.

They continued to dance at Kelburn for some years, and in 1974 John remembers meeting Miss Jean Milligan at club one night. He saw an ‘old lady’ sitting down watching the dancing, and didn’t realise till afterwards that she was one of the two founders of the RSCDS. (Mirth had arranged for Miss Milligan’s tour of New Zealand and Kelburn was one of the clubs she visited.)

In 1975 John and Petra moved to Dunedin and joined Knox Club. Then in 1980 they moved back to Wellington, bought a house in Ngaio and danced at both Ngaio and Johnsonville Scottish Country Dance Clubs.

John is recorded as a member of Johnsonville Club from 1981 and has danced with the club ever since. John’s son Michael came along to dancing with him as a young boy. At times, John even brought Phys Ed students from his Onslow College Scottish Country Dance class to experience club dancing.

John also continued to dance at Ngaio Club, where Marie Malcolm was the long-term tutor. Marie was a great support to John when, in 2006, he started working towards his tutor’s certificate in Scottish Country Dancing.

John has always loved teaching, and had no trouble passing the theoretical side of the certificate. However, his hips paid the price of so much physical activity over so many years and they didn’t stand up to all the work needed for the practical side.

Rod Downey teaching at club in October 2005 while on crutches following a knee operation – with John also on crutches following a hip replacement handling the music!

Two hip replacements later, John is still dancing at Johnsonville. Since 2015 he has also served as a club committee member and can always be relied upon to help with any club event and bring his enthusiasm and laughter to the dance floor.

John leading the singing at Hogmanay in 2010 which was organised by Johnsonville Club

John’s one regret is that he was unable to attend Johnsonville Club’s special 50 Golden Years celebration in 2016.

At Johnsonville Club’s first summer ceilidh on 1 February 2014, John gave a humorous recitation of the The Lion and Albert (perhaps inspired by Stanley Holloway’s rendition)

World premiere of John Markham’s Rant

On 15 June 2020, the first Monday back dancing after the Covid-19 lockdown, Johnsonville Club danced the ‘world premiere’ of John Markham’s Rant

Club tutor Rod Downey wrote this dance in lockdown in recognition of John’s long commitment to Johnsonville Scottish Country Dance Club – it’s a busy dance with lots going on, reflecting John’s enthusiasm for physical activity.

18 June 2020

Pieces of Eight

Devised by Rod Downey on 4 March 2020 as a relatively simple fugal dance with the movement of Ladies of Dunse as a basis.

On 15 June, the first Monday of dancing after the lockdown, Johnsonville Club danced the world premiere of Pieces of Eight. As a special treat, Aileen Logie had brought her accordion along to club and played Pieces of Eight – the jig version of Peter Elmes’ 1984 hornpipe tune

Aileen Logie played the jig version of Pieces of Eight at Johnsonville’s first night of dancing following the Covid-19 lockdown

See more about the history of the Pieces of Eight dance and tune

John Markham’s Rant

Devised by Rod Downey on 26 April 2020 for John Markham, a longstanding member of Johnsonville Club.

World premiere of John Markham’s Rant

On 15 June 2020, the first Monday back dancing after the Covid-19 lockdown, Johnsonville Club danced the world premiere of John Markham’s Rant

Club tutor Rod Downey wrote this dance in lockdown in recognition of John’s long commitment to Johnsonville Scottish Country Dance Club – it’s a busy dance with lots going on, reflecting John’s enthusiasm for physical activity.

See more about John’s dancing life story

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

Wendy Donald: More Scottish Connections

Travels back to Scotland

Wendy Donald has previously told us about some of her Scottish connections regarding Glasgow, Clan Donald and an Anderson Modern tartan sash

She now shares more about her travels back to Scotland. Find out more below.

In 2017, after a rail tour in Portugal and the north of Spain, we took an overnight ferry from Santander, Spain to Portsmouth on England’s south coast. Travelling on by train took us to several parts of England and then to Scotland.

My travel companion wanted to see some of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s work, so this time, off Buchanan Street, a large, pleasant, pedestrianised shopping street, down a little lane, I visited The Lighthouse Museum, with its excellent display of some of his work, and other Scottish designers.

The actual building was designed by him, and is billed as the ‘Landmark Rennie Mackintosh-designed exhibition space dedicated to architecture, design and the city’. We visited his Willow Tearooms 1 too, which had moved since my last visit, but was still furnished with his furniture and design work.

In 2019, I was in Scotland again, and thinking that I would like to have a wool stole/wrap, as lighter ones just slipped off unless held tightly, the best place to buy such an item could well be in Glasgow.

The first shop I tried had them in tartan! There was one in Anderson Modern, so that would be perfect for me! The next shop had polar fleece jackets with ‘Scotland’ embroidered, and were without a hood (unlike others I had) so perfect for dancing!

Wendy’s Anderson Modern tartan wool stole/wrap with her Scotland fleece jacket

Altogether with all my visits to the city of her birth, my paternal grandmother would be pleased with me!

Wendy Donald
5 June 2020

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  1. In July 2014, Glasgow businesswoman Celia Sinclair, made it her mission to bring the tea rooms back to life. By September 2018, The Willow Tea Rooms Trust had painstakingly restored the tea rooms with the aim of preserving an important part of Glasgow’s cultural heritage. Read the restoration story here[]

More experienced dancers 6

Our tutor Rod Downey gives some tips on dancing the corners in Reel of the Royal Scots and diagonal half rights and lefts

Turning corners in The Reel of the Scots
Diagonal Half Rights and Lefts
More complex variations

Turning corners in The Reel of the Royal Scots

The Reel of the Royal Scots with video is a favourite dance of Kristin’s, and one we often do at club to bagpipe music.

I was always taught the first couple initiates the turns from the sidelines, so at the end of the first 8 bars, the first couple will be just passing through second place on own side, heading for their first corners.

The video is not bad, but you can see the first lady may be a wee bit anxious about getting home, so she is already in the center at the end of eight bars (rather than on the sideline), while her partner isn’t! All steps are not equal length in Scottish country dancing. If you attack your steps you can initiate the turn from the sidelines and still get home in time. Don’t be a one-speed dancer.

The first couple turn their corners for 4 bars but only hold on for 2, so that the corners have two bars dancing the remainder of the turn by themselves. 1C is turn right, pass right, turn right, pass right. So, attack is needed to get home for the first couple.

This is a relatively modern dance (late 20th Century) by Roy Goldring who was a prolific deviser especially of `social’ dances. The keys to this dance are:

  • you must think geographically: `Where am I going next?’
  • Corners and first couple don’t hold on too long (as the active couple will be misdirected)
  • Don’t make the turns too small (as the active couple will be misdirected). So don’t pull yourself too close to the other person in a 4 bar turn as you need to be free for the next place.

Diagonal Half Rights and Lefts

Diagonal Half Rights and Lefts is a modern figure. It is usually done as in my diagram below.

  • beginning with the first couple in second place on own side
  • and typically with 2nd couple on opposite sides in 3rd place
  • and 3rd couple on opposite sides in 1st place (but this is not compulsory) (fig).

The key for a supporting couple, is that if you start coming up keep coming up, and if you start going down keep going down.

If you are beginning as I describe for the typical instance, then:

  • 2nd man will move from 3rd lady’s place up through 2nd man’s and up to 1st man’s place
  • 3rd woman in 1stman’s place at the top, first goes down to 2nd lady’s place and thence down to 3rd lady’s place

The key for the first couple is that they stay on their own halves. Typically, the lady goes up and the man down on bar 1 to their 1st corner positions, then to second place on opposite sides then double back down for the man and up for the lady. The lady remains in the ‘top half’ of the set, the man in the ‘bottom half’.

I like to think of the first couple’s tracks as a bowtie. My diagram shows the bar by bar breakdown. Of course, you have two bars per hand, and alternate right and left hands. No courtesy turns except on the last left hand.

I believe the figure originated with James B. Cosh in a famous dance called The Irish Rover with video in a book called 22 Scottish Country Dances (and 2 more).

For bars 1-4, the first couple, 2nd man and 3rd lady are the only people involved. It is really important that the second people to be involved in the half rights and lefts (3rd man and 2nd lady) be ready. If they know when and where they are going, then all is good in the group. The Irish Rover is a very fragile dance, and if anything goes wrong, it is extremely hard to recover.

By the way, The Irish Rover is a traditional and quite funny song. Listen to a song by Seamus Kennedy or watch a video of The Pogues and the Dubliners. The club has an archaic recording by Seamus Hallissey on a 45 record, which I played on the St Patrick’s night, when we danced many Irish-related dances including The Irish Rover.

Bruce’s Men with video, has the formation in Strathspey time, and is an example where the start place is non-standard.

More complex variations

More complex variations of the formation occur in lots of places. The Dance of Diamonds with video has diagonal half rights and lefts where those not involved in the half rights and lefts (2L and 3M on bars 1-4, and 3L and 2M on 5-8, if they began in typical positions above) dance around the outside so the formation is non-progressive.  The video shows clearly that the formation is tricky.

An aspirational dance with diagonal half rights and lefts is The Border Wizard which has diagonal half rights and lefts in a 7 couple dance, and the 3 simultaneous diagonal half rights and lefts interlock (start going up, keep going up, etc.). I know of no video of this dance. I wrote The Celtic Rover which is a 5 couple version of the Irish Rover, and people find it tricky. No video alas.

Rod Downey
4 June 2020

New dancers 6

Our tutor Rod Downey gives some tips on who your corners are and turning corners

Who are your corners?
Turning corners
Turning corners in Reel of the Royal Scots

Who are your corners?

Remember if you are first couple standing in second place, your first corner is the person on your right on the opposite side, and second corner is the one on the left, also on the opposite side.

See my diagram below:

For first lady:

  • your first corner is 2nd man who is in first man’s original place
  • your second corner is 3rd man in his home place

For first man:

  • your first corner is 3rd lady in her home place
  • your second corner is 2nd lady who is in first lady’s original place

These are important people. In traditional dances you often do something with the first corner then with the second.

Turning corners

In Delvine Side with video these are 2-bar, two-hand turns. Count: turn on 1, letting go on 2 (1C release L hand), pass on 3 & 4, turn on 5, letting go on 6, pass on 7 & 8. (i.e. Turn for 2, pass R for 2, turn for 2, pass R for 2.) Delvine Side is a very old dance and we could imagine ladies in 18th Century formal attire, flowing through such a dance.

What is the key to these turns? Yes, it is phrasing. They must be big wide turns (don’t pull!) and you must let go (left hand of dancing couple) early in the turns, else you are misdirected.

Note that, after the first turn, the active couple are more or less in line with the people they turned:

  • first man will be between the 3rd couple facing up
  • first lady will be between the 2nd couple facing down

After the second turn, first couple will be on the sidelines, as they still have 2 whole bars to get to the next place. 

See my diagrams showing positions at the end of each bar below.

Turning corners in Reel of the Royal Scots

Similar turns are in The Reel of the Royal Scots with video, a favourite dance of Kristin’s, and one we often do at club to bagpipe music.

These turns are a little different, with the corners turning for 4 bars while the dancing couple turn for only 2 bars.

The video is not bad, but you can see the first lady may be a wee bit anxious about getting home, so she is already in the center at the end of eight bars (rather than on the sideline), while her partner isn’t! All steps are not equal length in Scottish Country Dancing. If you attack your steps you can initiate the turn from the sidelines and still get home in time. Don’t be a one-speed dancer.

The first couple turn their corners for 4 bars but only hold on for 2, so that the corners have two bars dancing the remainder of the turn by themselves. 1C is turn right, pass right, turn right, pass right. So, attack is needed to get home for the first couple.

This is a relatively modern dance (late 20th Century) by Roy Goldring who was a prolific deviser especially of ‘social’ dances. The keys to this dance are:

  • you must think geographically: `Where am I going next?’
  • Corners and first couple don’t hold on too long (as the active couple will be misdirected)
  • Don’t make the turns too small (as the active couple will be misdirected). So don’t pull yourself too close to the other person in a 4 bar turn as you need to be free for the next place.

Rod Downey
4 June 2020

Aline and John Homes: Life Members

At Johnsonville’s Annual Dance in 2011, President Kristin Downey had the happy task of presenting Aline and John Homes with certificates of Life Membership of Johnsonville Scottish Country Dance Club.

John and Aline with their Life Membership certificates in 2011 Photo: Pat Reesby

Aline and John have been members of Johnsonville Club for almost 40 years. John joined the club half way through 1981, when he moved out from Brooklyn. Prior to that he had been dancing at Kelburn Club for around ten years.

Aline was still Aline Holden in those days. She joined the club in 1982, where she met John. They were married on 8 March 1986, at Johnsonville Guide Hall in the little reserve below Johnsonville West School (now West Park). Isla and Eric Norris (inaugural Life Members of Johnsonville) attended their wedding on behalf of the club.

John and Aline’s wedding 8 March 1986: the celebrant, groomsman Malcolm Tippet (who
used to dance at Linden), John, Aline and Matron of Honour, Margaret Harper

Aline and John have been stalwart club members ever since. To put their longevity of membership into perspective, the only other current club members who were dancing at Johnsonville around that time were Elizabeth Rendell (recorded as a member in 1981, and then 1984 onwards) and John Markham (first recorded as a member in 1984).

In 1986, both Aline and John became club committee members, with Aline going on to serve as president and John as secretary in 1987 and 1988. They also attended RSCDS Wellington Region meetings as club delegates in 1988.

Aline and John made a particularly memorable contribution to Johnsonville Club’s 25th Jubilee celebration on Monday 3 October 1988. Aline (as president) and John (as secretary) were heavily involved on the organisational side of the club’s S-themed party night, but they also each created a permanent gift to the club.

To mark the event, Aline wrote the dance she named Long John Silver – referencing Johnsonville’s Silver anniversary with Robert Louis Stevenson’s character, Long John Silver rounding out the title. The figures in the dance were also carefully chosen – the shapes in bars 1-6 represented Roman numerals XXV, and double figures of eight and reels with their ‘8’ shape denoted the year 1988.

Download the instructions and diagrams of figures for Long John Silver below.

John composed an accompanying tune for the dance, also titled Long John Silver. As he says, “My musical background is rather limited, but I’d come up with a couple of very brief pieces earlier, in much the same way as I did that one, noodling around on a tin whistle.”

Download the tunes below.

In 1989, after the change from the club delegate system to elected committee members, Aline remained as a Wellington Region committee member. John acted as a delegate to the RSCDS NZ Branch AGM at Summer School.

In 1989, Aline also began working towards her preliminary certificate as a qualified RSCDS tutor with support from the club committee and tutor Marjorie Crawford. Together with Deb Shepherd she passed her preliminary teachers’ certificate test at the 1989-1990 Hamilton Summer School.

In the early part of 1990 Aline, Deb and Janet Keilar shared the responsibility of tutoring the club for the first half of the evening through till supper, with tutor Marjorie Crawford taking the latter part of the evening. Over the years, Aline (amongst others) took on the role of relieving tutor on occasion to give Marjorie some time off.

From at least 1995, Aline is noted in club documents as arranging the floral decorations for Johnsonville Club’s annual dance, a task she continues to this day with John her able assistant. She and John have also been responsible for theme-night decorations for a number of club events, such as the Johnsonville Black and White Annual Dance at Onslow College on 8 July 2000.

John and Aline with their decorations at the 2000 Johnsonville Black and White Annual Dance

In 2020, John has returned to the club committee to take on the newly created role of committee member with responsibility for the newsletter, a task no longer included in the club secretary’s duties. He has come to the role in ‘interesting times’ as they say, with dancing suspended due to Covid-19 and the newsletter more important than ever in keeping club members connected.

Both Aline and John have contributed to the club in many ways over the years, welcoming and supporting new dancers, serving on the club committee and helping out whenever they can. Due to injury, Aline has been unable to dance regularly for some years, but she continues to contribute to the club and the Region and attend club and Region events.

Aline and John dancing The White Cockade at the Johnsonville 50 Golden Years celebration in 2016

Aline’s floral arrangements continue to delight and we all enjoy Aline and John’s regular appearance as The Sweeper and The Old Year at Wellington Hogmanay ceremonies. See Pat Reesby’s video of Aline and John from the 2019 Wellington Region Hogmanay, organised by Johnsonville.

Thank you both.

Kristin Downey
4 June 2020

  • Information sourced from Johnsonville Scottish Country Dance Club documents, additional information supplied by John Homes
  • Thanks to Elizabeth and Malcolm Ferguson for supplying a copy of Aline’s dance from Lower Hutt Club archives, when no copy could be found in Johnsonville’s archives