Bernice’s close connections with Johnsonville dancers
Bernice Kelly, President of the RSCDS Wellington Region from 2005-2010, died on 6 June 2021 at the age of 87 years.
I was Editor of Wellington Region’s quarterly newsletter Harbour City Happenings from 2008-2014. During the cross-over period in our roles, I got to know Bernice as we worked together on the newsletter. I remember she did not use a computer, so she typed her column for each issue, which arrived punctually in the post for me to transcribe and place into the newsletter layout!
Following her election as President at the Region AGM in November 2005, Bernice mentioned in her first President’s column in the February 2006 Harbour City Happenings she had danced for 30-plus years in Wellington and had been on the Region Committee several times.
Bernice developed many friendships over her years of dancing and through her regular attendance as President at Region events such as Hogmanays and New Dancers’ Celebrations.
Members of Johnsonville Club had a close association with Bernice during her time as President, either through helping to organise Region events or dancing at them.
As a photographer, the photos I took at a number of these events provide a wonderful visual history of the people Bernice was involved with in Scottish Country Dancing in Wellington over the years and a snapshot of the fun and friendship this activity generates.
2006 Wellington Region Hogmanay
At the 2006 Wellington Region Hogmanay, organised by John Gregory and his committee in the Onslow College Hall, Selwyn Ng (Johnsonville member from 2006-2009) was First Foot during the ceremony to welcome in the New Year. This was his and Joanne Ang‘s (Johnsonville Treasurer 2009) first experience of Hogmanay.
After Selwyn, carrying a lump of coal (for warmth), black bun (for sustenance) and whisky (water of life), was piped into the hall by Ross Edwards, Bernice as President raised a toast to the RSCDS Wellington Region, as is the custom.
2008 Wellington Region Hogmanay
Also held at Onslow College, the 2008 Wellington Region Hogmanay was organised by Bob Monks and his committee. Johnsonville tutor Rod Downey MC’ed the evening and Selwyn was again First Foot.
2010 Good Neighbours (Guid Nychburris) Festival
Diane Bradshaw and the Upper Hutt Club organised the 2010 Wellington Region event, the Good Neighbours (Guid Nychburris) Festival, at Knox Church Hall in Lower Hutt. Six local teachers were invited to teach dances they had devised—Rod Downey and Jeanette Watson from Johnsonville, Iain Boyd, Romaine Butterfield, Catherine Edwards and Ian Simmonds.
Rod taught Isla’s Fancy, written for Eric Norris on his 90th birthday in 2001. Rod chose this dance as 2010 was the year both Eric and Isla (who were Life Members of Johnsonville Club) died, aged 98 and 97 respectively.
Inspired by the Good Neighbours Festival in Dumfries in Scotland which appoints a ‘Queen of the South’, the Festival organisers selected a ‘Queen of Wellington’ by drawing a name out of a sparkling top hat. Bernice as Region President, presented Dorothy Warring from Island Bay Club (now Capital City) with a royal blue sash and tiara, fit for the occasion.
2010 Wellington Region Hogmanay
After five years as Region President, Bernice stood down at the AGM in 2010. She said In Harbour City Happenings, “I wish to thank the dancers in the Wellington Region for their help during that time to organise the Region’s activities: classes, the New Dancers’ Celebration, the Region Event, Hogmanay Dance and fundraising events. The welcome, hospitality and friendship extended to me by all Clubs has been much appreciated. I look forward to seeing you all at dances during 2011, albeit from the bottom of the set!”
Just one month later, Bernice acted as President at the 2010 Wellington Region Hogmanay in the absence of then Region President Elaine Laidlaw. Held at the Newlands Centennial Hall, this celebration was organised by Rod and Kristin Downey, Prisilla Conroy, Bob Monks, Catherine MacAulay and Jean Denne (all Johnsonville members at the time) with help from John Markham, John Gregory and Bernice herself.
2013 New Dancers’ Celebration
In the following years, Bernice continued to attend Region events as a dancer.
The 2013 New Dancers’ Celebration was organised by Johnsonville Club at the Newlands Centennial Hall with tutor Rod Downey as MC.
Former member Pat Reesby was Club Secretary in those days and produced the Johnsonville Club newsletter. On 23 October 2013, Pat wrote:
“What a wonderful time we had at the New Dancers’ Celebration, with lots of dancers (new and ‘old’) from other clubs. Twelve sets! And special thanks to Debbie and friends who organised the bunting. It was much admired…”
The hall was crowded with dancers including a great contingent of new members from Johnsonville enjoying their first formal dance. I was fortunate Bernice was in the top set for one dance so I was able to get some great photos of her dancing at the age of 79—Scottish Country Dancing is truly for all ages!
2016 Wellington Region Hogmanay
I took my final photo of Bernice celebrating with the Wellington Scottish Country Dancing family at the 2016 Wellington Region Hogmanay organised by John Gregory and team at the Crofton Downs School Hall. She spent much of the evening catching up with old acquaintances including those of us from Johnsonville.
We remember Bernice for her enjoyment of Scottish Country Dancing and her connections with fellow dancers as well as for her dedication to her role during her five years as Wellington Region President.
A favourite memory of mine is Bernice dancing in bright blue or red shoes—take a closer look at some of the photos above!
16 June 2021