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

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