Category Archives: History Articles

Pat Reesby: A lifetime of filming

Pat was a member of Johnsonville Club from 2009 until 2019 and continues to be very involved in the Scottish Country Dancing community.

She has taken on the responsibility of organising Tuesday daytime dancing at St John’s Church hall, dancing there and at Tawa Club. She is also a keen attendee at classes, Saturday night dances, weekend schools and summer dancing outdoors.

Pat dancing at the Wellington Region 1920s Ball in 2014 with Johnsonville members Rod Downey, Loralee Hyde and Kristin Downey

Pat has also attended New Zealand Summer Schools and danced overseas as part of her travels. This has given her many opportunities to record dances locally, nationally and internationally. Her YouTube channel now has over 200 video recordings of Scottish country dances.

As with photographers, videographers record our memories and create a history of the Scottish Country Dancing community, its people, places and events. Johnsonville Club is very fortunate Pat has captured so many special club events on video, for us to look back on in years to come.

As well as creating a historical record, videos also serve another purpose – they help people understand the dances visually and are especially useful for learning new or unusual formations. Pat’s videos have helped many a nervous dancer feel more confident on the night!

Videography is not the only way in which Pat has contributed to the Club’s history. During her time at Johnsonville, she put in many hours of research producing a booklet Notes for a history of the Johnsonville Scottish Country Dance Club, greatly expanding our knowledge of the Club’s past. Thank you Pat.

At the Johnsonville 60 Years of Dancing celebration in 2015, President Kristin Downey presented Pat (Club Secretary at the time) with a brightly flowering thank-you-kalanchoe in recognition of her many hours of research into the Club’s history

Pat tells us below about how she came to be an Scottish Country Dancing videographer, with her videos on two Scottish Country Dancing databases – the Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary and Strathspey Server.

Kristin Downey

Dancing videography

I was born in the 1940s and because my father was a keen photographer and I had no brothers and sisters, I was soon fed up with having to pose for the camera.

Pat in a photo taken by her father. She seems to remember he planned to enter the photo in a Health Stamp competition. But if he did, it didn’t win!

Dad had both a Leica and Rolleiflex … and for a while, a Super-8 movie camera. Some years ago I had his old cine film transferred to a VHS tape and could watch my forgotten childhood self riding a bike around the clothesline, and even dancing some sort of jig. (No sound, of course, and I don’t know what I thought I was doing, as I didn’t go to dance classes of any sort.)

For a special treat, click the video to watch early footage of Pat riding her bike and dancing (at 2:23 minutes), in amongst family excerpts
An image from the video of Pat dancing as a child at her family home in Westown, New Plymouth

Around 1993 I bought a video camera. It used VHS tape which eventually became redundant with the advent of digital technology. I roamed around the city with it, annoying my children by turning up unexpectedly to film them at work or videoing a cousin to send to long lost relations. I filmed the antics of a family dog on Lyall Bay beach, and then took the camera to the 2002-2003 Summer School in Christchurch where I did some random filming.

My video camera died. In 2012 I bought a new ‘still’ camera. I had no idea that it would also take movies until one day I went to take a photo … and pushed the wrong button. Amazing!

In June that year I was in Newtonmore, Scotland when I attended a Saturday night dance at the Village Hall and tried filming an all men’s set dancing Reel of the 51st Division … just a minute or two as I had no idea how long the batteries or memory card would last.

But this ability to capture both movement and sound made video well suited to Scottish Country Dancing, I realised. And many people learn best if they can watch the pattern of a dance.

Home again, I filmed a few more dances … and discovered YouTube. And then I saw that a dance I’d filmed was on the Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary website. How had it got there? Emails with Reuben Freemantle (one of the authors of the site) followed, and I learned he was keen to feature videos of dances which didn’t already have them. A challenge! The Strathspey Server website also started to feature a few dances I’d filmed.

My video of Glengarry Homestead, danced at Lower Hutt in 2014, is currently my most popular one, with nearly 17,000 views.

Pat videoing a dance at Johnsonville’s 50 Golden Years Celebration in 2016. Photo: John Patterson

Johnsonville tutor Rod Downey gave my name to a dance he devised a few years ago, and I was chuffed to find a video of Patricia Reesby on the web – filmed by someone in Lyon, France! It seems that Australian and New Zealand dance devisors are well regarded overseas.

When a local band is playing for a dance, a video means we can not only see our musicians but hear them. We’re lucky in Wellington to have so many talented musicians, and I do like to film a dance with live music.

In between videoing dances, Pat takes the opportunity to dance – here dancing Good Hearted Glasgow at the 2019 Johnsonville & Capital City Annual Dance with musician Mary McDonald and Johnsonville Life Member John Homes

When my trusty camera died a year or two ago, I decided to buy a proper video camera, the first since my VHS days. Of course people often use their smartphones these days, but I’m a dinosaur and don’t own one.

But I’ve discovered the Animotica program and can now cut out the start and/or end of a video should that prove a good idea.

Covid-19 lockdowns have meant that many club dances have had to be cancelled this year, and I haven’t done much filming. In fact, the grandchildren have been using my video camera more than I have. On the plus side, my grandson has tried to help me with the finer points of editing with Animotica.

And I look forward to filming a few more dances as time goes on.

Pat Reesby
17 September 2020

Loralee Hyde: Dressed for the part!

Browsing through my photo albums brings back many happy memories of my 46 years of Scottish Country Dancing. What stands out are the fun times with lots of smiles and much laughter; fun dancing to fine music, fun with friends from around the world and fun ‘dress up’ nights – from the more formal annual dances or balls to themed evenings and ceilidhs.

My sister Karen started dancing in Hamilton at much the same time as I did. We’ve had many shared experiences at weekend and summer schools and then dancing with her two children as they grew up – kids love to dress up!

When I started dancing in 1974, most women wore long dresses to formal dances, usually in white. I quickly made myself a white dress but didn’t have a sash until bought one in Scotland in 1979 when I lived in Pitlochry for a time.

1977 Rotorua Queen’s Birthday Weekend School – I’m in the centre with other Hamilton Club dancers

My first dress up nights at weekend school ceilidhs in the Waikato in the 1970-1980s had themes of Down on the Farm, very appropriate to the region.

Enjoying the Down on the Farm theme at the 1982 Hamilton Queen’s Birthday Weekend School. I’m second from the left with my sister Karen at the right.

After I moved to Wellington in 1983, there were lots more dancing adventures, often with Philippa Pointon, and Rod and Kristin Downey and their boys.

I continue to wear my white dress and sash, especially for Hogmanay, and enjoy dressing up for balls including the President’s Ball at Summer School, and the 2012 RSCDS Wellington Region Diamond Jubilee Ball and 2018 NZ Branch 50th Anniversary Ball held at Government House in Wellington. These were such special occasions with the men dressed up in their kilts and jackets and the colours of the women’s dresses glittering under the chandeliers.

Other Wellington Region events where we’ve dressed up for the occasion include the 1992 Easter Weekend School 18th Century Ball, the 1993 Top Hat event and the 1920s Ball in 2014.

1992 Wellington Easter Weekend School 18th Century Ball – Kristin & Rod Downey, Loralee, Margaret, Jenny Vaughan
Wellington tutors at the Region’s 1993 Top Hat event

At NZ Branch Summer Schools, we’ve dug deep into our imaginations to dress up for a wide spectrum of fanciful subjects including Going to the Races, the Roman Occupation and Movie Stars or colourful evenings such as gold or black and yellow.

2005-2006 Auckland Summer School Movie Stars evening – Alex, Rod, Kristin and Carlton Downey

To add to the fun, the band often joins in. The first photo I have of a band dressing the part is of Charlie Jemmett and the Gumboots Band at the 1977 Hamilton Summer School – yet another Down on the Farm evening!

1977 Hamilton Summer School – Charlie Jemmett and the Gumboots Band (Mitch Park, Brent Hansen, Barrie McDonald)

In 1991, I started dancing at Johnsonville Club where Marjorie Crawford was tutor. The first record I have of a dress up night there is of a bad taste evening that year.

1991 Johnsonville Bad Taste evening – Rod & Kristin Downey

From 2000 to 2002, Johnsonville had themes for our annual dances: black and white; jewel; and pink, with the band (Peter Elmes, John Smith and Lynne Scott along with various young musicians) joining in the fun.

Lynne Scott, Bernard Wells, Iain Matcham, John Smith, Carlton Downey and Peter Elmes playing at Johnsonville’s Pink Annual Dance in 2002

Johnsonville celebrated 50 Golden Years in 2016, with a golden glow providing a backdrop to the festivities.

The Grand March at Johnsonville’s 50 Golden Years Celebration in 2016

From 2015, we’ve had lots of fun and laughter at Johnsonville’s annual members’ dinner and dance. Themes ranging from a Bright Mid-winter Night to Viking and Celts to Spring into Autumn have given rise to colourful and innovative costumes galore.

We also celebrate Halloween with a supernatural theme inspired by the Gaelic festival Samhain. A wonderful opportunity for us to become witches, ghouls or other apparitions.

Johnsonville Halloween Samhain 2017

Photos I’ve got from the 1970s to the present give a wonderful record of dancers dressing for the part and having fun while doing so. They also bring back memories of those who are no longer with us including Marjorie, Glenys Mills and Hilda Brodie who all tutored at Johnsonville.

Reminiscing about the happy times we’ve had is almost as much fun as dressing up and dancing at our special evenings!

Click here for more photos of dressing for the part

Loralee Hyde
6 September 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

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

Wellington Region Diamond Jubilee Ball 2012

A magical evening!

Excited laughter and chatter from groups of dancers led us to the ballroom in Government House for a special evening on 30 June 2012 to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll; the Wellington Region Diamond Jubilee Ball.

Hosted by the then Governor General Lt. Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae and Lady Janine, the 150 attendees had received printed tickets and programmes (featuring the official New Zealand Diamond Jubilee logo) in the mail which allowed us entry into Government House.

As Elaine Laidlaw, the then President of the RSCDS Wellington Region and MC, welcomed us to the Ball, the golden glow from the huge chandeliers accentuated the fabulous colours of the ballgowns and the tartans of the kilts. It was going to be a memorable night!

Lots of smiles on the dance floor! Dancing in the red tartan skirt in the centre is Hilda Brodie (Smith) who relieved as a tutor at Johnsonville in 1985. She passed away in 2018.

I had offered to take photos of the evening for the Region so had a birds’-eye view of the dancers as they took to the floor for the first dance Maxwell’s Rant, dancing to wonderful music from Peter Elmes, John Smith, Lynne Scott and Aileen Logie.

Marvellous music from the band: Lynne Scott, Aileen Logie, John Smith and Peter Elmes

Sir Jerry Mateparae and Lady Janine arrived early in the evening. In his address to us, Sir Jerry shared he had actually done some Scottish Country Dancing when he was attached to the Scots Guards! His Excellency then proposed the toast to her Majesty the Queen.

Sir Jerry Mateparae addresses attendees
RSCDS NZ Branch President, Fiona Bullivant, Lady Janine, Lt General Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae and Elaine Laidlaw

To our delight, Sir Jerry and Lady Janine said they’d like to join the dancing. With the then RSCDS NZ Branch President Fiona Bullivant partnering His Excellency and Vice-President David Williamson partnering Lady Janine they danced the Kellaholm Jig. They then joined other sets for more dancing.

Lady Janine and Sir Jerry Mateparae joined in the dance with Fiona Bullivant and Lesley Nicol. Current Johnsonville member and guest tutor Jeanette Watson is dancing in 4th man’s position in the set.

Government House had recently been refurbished. During supper, we were able to wander along the long hall with its glorious red carpet and explore the beautiful rooms on the ground floor including the Blundell Room and the adjoining Bledisloe Conservatory.

Halfway along the hall, the magnificent staircase to the upper floors was an ideal spot for me to arrange groups of friends and clubs and take their photographs, providing historical memories of the occasion. There were attendees from every club in the Wellington Region, including current and former members of Johnsonville Club, along with around forty dancers from around New Zealand.

Dancers who were members of Johnsonville at the time included Désirée and John Patterson, Shirley Kalogeropoulos, Elizabeth Ngan and Bob Monks.

Shirley Kalogeropoulos and Désirée Patterson Photo: John Patterson
John Patterson Photo: Désirée Patterson
Elizabeth Ngan Photo: John Patterson

This special evening of dancing proved a grand celebration of the Diamond Jubilee. The smiles of the dancers, their laughter and the fun had by all made photographing the event an enjoyable activity.

This personal reflection from a dancer says it all:

I felt like Cinderella; the surroundings were majestic, the dancers were glamorous, the band was inspired, the supper was unbelievable and the memories are everlasting.

Fiona Bullivant, RSCDS NZ Branch President

At the time of the Ball, I was Editor of Harbour City Happenings. It was easy to fill the pages of a Diamond Jubilee Special issue with articles and photos: Volume 15 No. 2 August 2012. This was the first issue ever printed in colour, forming an eye-catching record of this spectacular celebration.

Download the issue below to enjoy more about the magical evening from:

  • Region President’s column from Elaine Laidlaw: A summary of the whole event including Sir Jerry Mateparae and Lady Janine taking part in the dancing
  • The Spurtle-wielder: A focus on the magnificence of the evening including the elegance of the dancers’ clothes and the refurbishment of Government House
  • Bev Whitelaw, Convener, Diamond Jubilee Ball: About organising the event along with Edith Campbell, Charlotte Williams, Elaine Lethbridge and Shirley Kalogeropoulos and her magical memories of this wonderful occasion.

Click here to see all the photos of the evening including clubs and groups and download them if you wish

Loralee at the right in the Blundell Room at Government House with Past Johnsonville President Philippa Pointon and Past Secretary Ann Oliver

from Loralee Hyde
27 May 2020

Johnsonville Club Summer Ceilidhs: How did they start?

In 2008 Rod and I began extensive renovations on our house in Newlands. Some time later … in 2009, work was finally complete, and we stood admiring the recycled timber floorboards in our newly expanded living-dining space. As I stood in the space, still empty of furniture, I was seized by the desire to dance, and have others dancing with me.

I never let go of that desire, but it was not until five years later that we found a way to fill the space with dancers and Scottish dance music. On 1 February 2014, the club held its first summer ceilidh in our house with such brilliantly warm and sunny weather that we could dance both inside and on the deck!

Twenty-one members attended that first ceilidh, and brought four non-dancers with them. With the folding doors open, we could fit a set in the house and a set on the deck, the coomber was in between so everyone could hear the music, and Rod positioned himself to keep a beady eye on both sets.

Dancing on the deck with a stunning view over Wellington Harbour

Ceilidhs in New Zealand Scottish country dancing circles usually include Scottish dancing, and the sharing of music, dance, song, and recitation by those who attend. We called for volunteers ahead of time and got a wonderful response from members.

Peter Sullivan (who has shared his love of Scottish music here) was one of the performers at this first ceilidh. He played guitar and sang a medley of well-loved Scottish and Irish folk songs including Mairi’s Wedding, Will Ye Go Lassie Go and She Moves Through the Fair.

Current member Malcolm Leitch and his friend Bill played a piano duet from Brahams and Dvorak’s Hungarian dances.

A peaceful interlude with Malcolm and Bill playing a duet

John Markham contributed a humorous recitation of the The Lion and Albert (perhaps inspired by Stanley Holloway’s rendition).

John’s recital amused us all

Members who no longer dance with the club also performed on the day. Jennifer Timmings on piano played My Love is Like a Red Red Rose and Mary of Argyle. Sono Barnes on flute brought us dance music from the 1700s by Francois Couperin, and Sally Taylor played Czardas by Monti on accordion.

Many of 2013’s new dancers were there, and we enjoyed the chance to get to know each other better in a social setting. We rounded off the day with a potluck dinner, and a glass of wine.

Our summer ceilidhs give us the opportunity to share music, dance and song … with lots of fun and laughter!

And so the scene was set for the club to hold a summer ceilidhs from then on.

With club members on the rise every year, we’ve never returned to dance ‘in the hoose’ at Newlands. Instead we moved to Johnsonville Bowling Club for our summer ceilidhs, and added bowling to the mix.

Every year we’ve been blessed with fine weather, and every year our members generously share their talents with us. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event, and finding more talents hidden amongst us.

from Kristin Downey
21 May 2020

Johnsonville Club’s first Life Members: Isla and Eric Norris

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.

In the centre of the set, Isla and Eric Norris dance Isla’s Fancy (devised by tutor Rod Downey) at the 2001 Johnsonville Annual Dance
Then President, Philippa Pointon presents Eric with his 90th birthday cake at the 2001 Johnsonville Annual Dance
Isla and Eric at the Ngaio 2005 Annual Dance

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 tartan tablecloths took pride of place at the Johnsonville 50 Golden Years Celebration in 2016

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.

Deborah Shuker wearing one of Isla’s kilts as she dances Fugal Fergus at the Johnsonville Tartan Night in July 2019
Maureen Sullivan wearing Isla’s green modern Macdonald of the Isles tartan sash while dancing Argyll’s Fancy at the Johnsonville Tartan Night in April 2019
Johnsonville President Kristin Downey with John Munro wearing Eric’s kilt in 2017

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.

Club member Pat Reesby’s Boyd tartan sash with the Johnsonville Club badge

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.

The Newtown Junior Group dancing Short and Very Sweet at the Johnsonville 50 Golden Years Celebration in 2016

Watch Pat Reesby’s video of Short and Very Sweet

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

See more about their life

Maureen Sullivan’s memories of Isla and Eric

Obituary for Isla Norris, extraction from Harbour City Happenings, Volume 13 No. 3 October 2010

Obituaries for Eric Norris, extraction from Harbour City Happenings, Volume 13 No. 2
July 2010

Classes and Schools for everyone

Our tutor Rod Downey talks about Scottish Country Dancing classes and schools and the experiences he and Kristin have had.

How we began dancing

Kristin began dancing in Singapore in the early 1980s when I had my first ‘real job’ lecturing at the National University of Singapore and Kristin was an expat wife. She went back to dancing in 1991 after both our children were born here in Wellington, joining the beginners’ class at Johnsonville Club.

At the same time I went back to playing volleyball, immediately sprained my ankle (yet again) and quit. Then on Easter Monday 1991, with no club night running at Johnsonville, Kristin dragged me along to dancing at Linden Club saying ‘you might like this’.

With the help of baby-sitters in those early years, Kristin and I started regular dancing with the Johnsonville Club and never looked back. To learn faster we also each danced individually at a second club.

How we learnt more

Rod, Loralee Hyde and Kristin from Johnsonville dancing in a demonstration set at the 1994 Wellington Anzac Weekend School. Dances: Argyll Strathspey, Mrs Stewart’s Jig, Rose of Glamis

As beginners

Early in 1991, we both went to the beginners’ class run by Ian Simmonds, tutor at Linden Club. This was a typical beginners’ class with a group of new dancers (maybe a set or so) all of more of less the same standard.

Ian worked on the basic steps and formations in a very concentrated way. I distinctly remember him working on Pas de Basque, emphasising the use of the knee and the flexing of the ankles to gain rhythm. I remember mine was all wrong at the time.

Having the opportunity to work on this in a concentrated session was invaluable. When else do you get time to work in a small group on your steps and basic formations? If you are new dancer and see the chance to go to a Region Class then go: they are really helpful.

As intermediates

We went to a nice class with Damon Collin during the 1992 Easter Weekend School in Wellington. This was a weekend school run by the region, for three days of a long weekend.

From memory, the classes were divided into the usual levels, new, intermediate, advanced and maybe advanced technique. Of course, now there tend to be other categories, like advanced social, low impact, high impact etc.

With my usual impatience, I had wanted to go into the Advanced Class, but Marjorie, my then tutor told us to go to Intermediate. Good idea, we learnt a lot.

Every teacher teaches you something, if you look for their ideas. I am always surprised when I hear people say that they ‘got nothing’ from a class. Be keenly observant, and questioning of your dancing.

Even more helpfully for Kristin and I, Damon’s Intermediate class was also small, maybe two sets, whereas the advanced was typically large with many sets, and hence individual dancers had little concentrated attention from the tutor.

Damon gave everyone lots of individual attention accordingly (something not recommended by the Society, but I find really helps for me). If you want this at a class you should talk to the class tutor who I bet will be overjoyed to help. (But don’t take any comments which you perceive as negative to heart, as they are trying to help).

There were the usual after parties at the school late at night, but we had small children and the only parties for us at the time involved fish sticks or chicken nuggets. We did go to the final Ball, which was themed around the 18th Century, and had dances from that period.

Kristin, Rod and Loralee Hyde at the Wellington 1992 Easter Weekend 18th Century Ball

Damon chose what has become one of my favourite dances, Down on Yon Bank, as our key dance to learn. He wanted us to be perfect for the ball.

This was an excellent teaching choice by Damon as it is quite tricky with a lot of phrasing points, so it taught us a lot as intermediates. It was a challenge for many at the ball, but not for our class! It definitely made us feel momentarily superior, at least until the next dance which we likely stuffed up.

First Summer School and first advanced technique class

Our first summer school was in 1993 in Wanganui and we were in the advanced technique class run by Mary Stoker, a friend of Miss Milligan (the co-founder of the RSCDS). She was very much the old school style of teacher.

Mary Stoker with her daughter, Carole, at the President’s lunch in 2005, the 75th Anniversary of the London Branch. Photo: The Reel No. 292 London RSCDS Branch 2015

Many people think that an advanced technique class will be a class with lots of really complicated dances, kind of like the last dance we do at Johnsonville Monday nights on steroids. This is occasionally true but more often it is not the case.

For RSCDS schools like ‘the’ Summer School (at St. Andrews), NZ Summer School, TAC Summer School (Canada), where teachers are expected to mainly use Society dances. In this case a technique class is either mostly basic dances, or even basic formations, done perfectly, or you do some of the non-flowing dances from the RSCDS books we don’t do (and usually there is a good reason for that).

Wanganui Summer School had the usual format of classes in the morning, activities like other dance forms, music, sleep(!) or a G &T in the afternoon, and some kind of social dance or ceilidh each evening; including two major social and more formal dances: Hogmanay and the President’s Ball. Then after the night’s dancing, informal parties, which Kristin and I did not go to because of young children.

In our technique class we would warm up in a circle, have some step practice, and then do lots and lots of basic formations. One day we did 4 hands across and 4 hands round, and especially 4 bar turns for about an hour. Mary drilled and drilled us. My 4 bar phrasing was never the same again.

1993 Wanganui Summer School Advanced Technique class with tutor Mary Stoker standing at the rear with musician Robert Mackay. As well as Kristin and Rod, John and Aline Homes and Loralee Hyde are Johnsonville dancers.

Thinking back, I recall dancing The Braes of Breadalbane (video here) and The Frisky (video here), which are typically thought of as ‘beginners’ dances’.

We did do some of the less commonly done formations, like the tournee. I have done the tournee in many, many of the advanced technique classes I have been to! That and the Strathspey all round poussette.

For this reason, and since I had begun writing dances, I wrote one for our teacher Mary Stoker called A Mary Summer which was the second dance to feature my Rose Progression. This would be a good technique teaching dance with both tournees and roses!

I also learned how to set to and turn corners at Mary’s class; she was very big on moving forward for the turn. These simple lessons have stayed with me ever since and I use her ideas in my own classes.

As learners, one thing to always be is observant. What is the tutor saying? How do they view a formation different from my own view? Can I incorporate this in my own dancing? Mary was also quite big on foot changes, but I have not used her method.

The other advanced (technique) class approach is to do lots of un-flowing dances, possibly not copied down correctly from the 19th century fan or the like. The Society had access to lots of old material, but the reconstructions of the actual dances is difficult.

Compare the current instructions for the dance The Colonel (video here) with the original manuscript for The Collonel below and you can see how the dance was adapted.

What you need for such non-flowing dances is good technique and the ability to modify your dancing to adapt to strange phrasing. Memorable such dances include oft done ones like The Maid of the Mill (video here) where the transitions are really quite difficult, and you need real scope (attack) with the steps, similarly The Carl Cam’ Ower the Croft.

Another example is The Falkland Beauty, where bars 1-8 are diabolical. Maybe it was originally a 32 bar dance reconstructed wrongly; we don’t really know how they danced 300 years ago. Notice in all of these dances, the emphasis is not on the complexity but on the transitions.

TAC Summer School

One such class I did was at a TAC summer school. TAC (Teachers Association of Canada) is a really fun school to go to in Canada, lots of lovely people, really well thought out social programmes catering to all levels of dancer, with lots of walk throughs. I recommend it very highly if you want to try a school for an overseas holiday.

I have been to TAC several times and at one school the tutor was Marjorie McLaughlin from San Diego. She decided to dance all the dances from Book 8. One of these dances The Braes of Atholl has very tricky reels in it which are very difficult to phrase. Half the sets in the room fell apart, and it was abandoned!

Sometimes you’ll do very complex dances, but rarely. At one Easter school in Wellington tutor Morag Napier of Sydney tried the Hugh Foss fugue Wing the Wind with ‘modest’ success (but somewhat better than in this video).

This is how you get flow in your dancing. Advanced dancing to me is not defined by what formations you ‘know’, but your ability to modify your own dancing to enable the dancing of others. When this is done right, and it is done in phrase with the music, I think you get the true joy and beauty of Scottish Country Dancing.

The key to Scottish Country Dancing is not so much pointing toes etc, but being in the right place at the right time, not rushing, and being calm. You must count, count, count and really listen to the music.

It’s a team sport …

I like teaching all kinds of classes and different classes suit different groups. Why do we dance? There are many reasons: loving the music, feeling the rhythm, dancing as an expression of that symbiosis, seeing the patterns.

The social aspect is important too, being with a nice group of people like those at Johnsonville. Being with your partner. Even more importantly being in phrase with your set; it is a team sport.

Rod dancing with his JAMS class at the 2000 Queen’s Birthday Hamilton Witches & Wizards Ceilidh

14 April 2020

Dancing shoes with a Royal connection

Two pairs of donated dancing shoes recently arrived in our club secretary Robert’s mailbox. Read about the history of these shoes from the donor’s daughter Pru Galloway.

It’s really nice to pass these on and it turns out there is a royal connection (well almost!).

My parents Jean and John Galloway bought the shoes for Queen Elizabeth II’s royal visit in January 1954.

Prior to that my dad had danced in his ‘sand shoes’ and they were mum’s first dancing shoes (she was a very recent convert to Scottish dancing after marrying Dad in 1953).

Jean and John Galloway in fancy dress in the 1970s. Jean is wearing her dancing shoes!

My mum is now 91 and dad is deceased, but mum remembers they were members of the Caledonian Dancing Club in Wellington. They were invited to dance for the Queen at the Basin Reserve as she was staying close by at Government House and it was thought she could easily attend. On the day, they danced as planned, but the Queen didn’t appear!

In mid-1954 mum and dad left Wellington for Mangakino (Dad was a hydro dam engineer] where there was no Scottish Country Dancing club, so the shoes were never worn much. I believe the laces are original. They have been living safely in mum’s camphor wood chest ever since. She has just moved into a rest home so we are pleased to hand them on.

They don’t fit me or I might be tempted to join your club!

A little more on the Scots connection. Dad was born in Banff in Scotland and grew up in Perth, he studied engineering at Glasgow University and emigrated to New Zealand after the war to take up a lectureship at Victoria University. He met mum in Wellington.

Pru Galloway

Hogmanay Customs: New Zealand and Scotland

New Zealand has developed its own New Year’s Eve traditions over the years, and the Scottish Country Dancing community celebrates Hogmanay in its own particular way.

This year Johnsonville Club organised the Hogmanay dance on 31 December 2019, and member Pat Reesby videoed Piping in the First Foot and Sweeping out the Old Year. You can find links to her videos at the very bottom of this Wellington Region Hogmanay article.

Doug Sinclair piping in First Foot Jason Morris

Aileen Logie was leader of the band for our Hogmanay dance, and she found it interesting comparing these customs with how Hogmanay is celebrated in modern day Scotland. Read what Aileen has to say below.

Aileen Logie playing in the band with Iain and Jason at the Wellington Region Hogmanay

It’s wonderful this Victorian version of Hogmanay persists in Wellington – it doesn’t quite happen like this in Scotland now! Everybody cleans their house and gets all business/jobs finished ready to start the new year with a clean sheet and new resolve.

Celebration is immediately after the last bell of midnight – primed with a charged glass and counting the seconds down. Chaos for the next wee while – hugging, toasting and singing.

The First Foot is important – whoever first crosses the threshold after midnight (can’t be from your house) determines the luck of the household for the next year – a tall, dark, handsome, male scores top ratings.

Usually a neighbour appears (after bringing in the New Year in his own house) carrying the required items – traditionally, a lump of coal (warmth), black bun (sustenance) and whisky (water of life). But coal and black bun are becoming rare, so humorous substitutes turn up, but the whisky is a forever staple. He gives everybody a dram from his whisky bottle and gets some cake/singing/dancing in return. People then go from house to house in their street. If a fine night, sometimes dancing in the street.

Councils are now tending towards organising an event in the town centre to contain the noise/people in one place! These attract tourists in large numbers, so the council rigs up bands, weather cover, food stalls etc so Hogmanay is transmogrifying into something more like a music festival especially in cities. Older locals shake their heads, stay away and stick to the old ways at home…or just go to bed.