‘Bowling’ into the new year

Johnsonville held its first summer ceilidh at Kristin and Rod’s place in 2014, dancing in the living room and on the deck, in perfect Wellington weather conditions.

But by 2015, larger numbers of members had us shifting the ceilidh venue to Johnsonville Bowling Club, with the bonus of adding bowling into the day’s activities.

Saturday 30 January was our seventh ‘bowling ceilidh’. Once again the weather favoured us and we had a grand time – on the bowling green, on the dance floor, and at our pot luck dinner.

This year’s atmosphere was buzzy right from the start. There was lots of chit chat and catching up while we waited to get onto the bowling green, with time to get the dance floor decorated with the club’s tartan bunting, and our long-serving tartan tablecloths brightening up the downstairs dining area.1)

Bowling Club members set us up to bowl, and guided those who’d never played before. Since most of us only bowl once a year, our efforts were often unpredictable with warning shouts of ‘incoming!’ alerting us to bowls approaching from unexpected quarters. Of course, some of us did quite well, and all of us had a good time.

A quick snack and a drink, and it was time to ceilidh. Some years we have few members available to share their talents, but this year was a bumper year for ceilidh items, perhaps inspired by the ‘Rabbie’ Burns theme of the day.

Fitting in with the Robbie Burns theme, Graeme piped in Aileen carrying a haggis. Photo: Kristin Downey

We began with items by the Scots in our midst. New member Maggie Boag was up first entertaining us with a lively performance of the poem Aince Upon a Day by William Souter. She was followed by our club musician Aileen Logie on accordion. Husband Gareth joined in on guitar, as they played a moving bracket of popular Scottish tunes written by Robert Burns.

Then it was time for our first dance moves of the year. Rod warmed us up on the dance floor with his dance Spring Chick Waltz Mixer to the music for Burns’ poem Comin’ Thro’ the Rye. Next we danced The Linton Ploughman in honour of Burns, the ploughman poet.

Spring Chick Waltz Mixer – a perfect dance to start off a ceilidh! Photo: Désirée Patterson

Across the afternoon, we interspersed ceilidh items with Burns-related dances.

Kate Quigley played two piano pieces (Spanish Donkey-Driver by Jeno Takacs, and Rush Hour) as well as joining John Markham in singing a beautiful duet (Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes by Ben Johnson, and Ave Maria by Jacob Arcadelt). Malcolm Leitch accompanied.

New member Graeme Stuart gave us an entertaining ‘Wee Yam on Tin Whistle’ (his words), supported by Aileen who stepped in to accompany him on piano for a host of familiar Scottish tunes.

Then it was back to dancing. We all had a lot of fun with the ceilidh dance Bonnie Lassie Party Dance, and that was followed by Scottish Country Dance Ha! Ha! the Wooin’ o’ it (named for a line out of the poem Duncan Gray by Robert Burns).

For our last set of ceilidh items, Malcolm returned with his expressive piano solo of Fantasia on Scottish Airs by Stuart Templeton, including melodies of Robbie Burns poems such as Scots Wha Hae and Auld Lang Syne.

The last performance for the day was Sono Barnes and her lovely flute items Salute de Amor by Edward Elgar, and Dance of the Blessed Spirits by C. Gluck. Sono’s not been dancing for the last couple of years, and it was very nice to have her back amongst us, and back on the dance floor.

The final dance of the afternoon was Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, written to commemorate the bi-centenary of Robert Burns’ Highland Tour of 1787. Then it was downstairs for a very special event.

The haggis is the centrepiece of Burns celebrations everywhere. But what is a haggis without a piper, or a speaker to welcome and honour this ‘great chieftain o’ the puddin’-race’?

Many thanks to our piper Graeme, and to Aileen for her spirited rendition of Burns’ poem Address to a Haggis. Who knew she could be so fierce with a knife? Their traditional drams of whisky were well drunk and well deserved.

 At the line ‘An’ cut you up wi’ ready slicht’ in the Address to the Haggis, Aileen plunged the knife into the haggis and cut it open from end to end. Photo: Désirée Patterson

We finished the day with a fantastic feast of shared pot luck dishes, and a lot more chit chat.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the day’s success. We couldn’t have done it without our MC Rod, ceilidh performers who generously shared their talents, kitchen workers with Elizabeth Ngan at the helm, and those who set up and packed up.

Behind the scenes treasurer Allison Kay managed the finances, Loralee Hyde developed the online registration form, and Maureen Sullivan co-ordinated pot-luck dinner offerings.

Having made the Bowling Club our home for the 2020 dancing year, it was especially nice to continue that connection. The summer ceilidh gave us the opportunity to catch up with some of those bowling friends who welcomed us each Monday night – something we can look forward to doing next year as well.

Kristin Downey
3 February 2021

See more of Désirée and Kristin’s photos including our members sharing their talents

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  1. The tablecloths deserve a paragraph to themselves. They are now 33 years old, appear at every club function, and are loaned out for other events (members may have spotted them at the 2020-2021 RSCDS Wellington Hogmanay). The red tartan tablecloths were made and presented to the club in 1988, by life members Isla and Eric Norris on the occasion of the club’s 25th anniversary of opening up membership to those outside the original church group. (They have also now been joined by a green tartan more recently gifted by Liz Hands.[]