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 I bought one in Scotland in 1979 when I lived in Pitlochry for a time.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Johnsonville celebrated 50 Golden Years in 2016, with a golden glow providing a backdrop to the festivities.
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.
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!
6 September 2020
This article was published in the RSCDS Wellington Region Harbour City Happenings Volume 23 No. 3, September 2020
Also published in the RSCDS NZ Branch Kiwi News Volume 25 No 3, October 2020