The Tale of the Tartan Bunting

In 2013, the club’s tartan bunting joined the club’s tartan tablecloths in being indispensable to any club occasion. The bunting transforms any hall from drab to festive, bringing colour and excitement to our events, photos, and videos.

Club members and guests enjoy the dance Texas Progressive Threesome at our 2020 summer ceilidh at the Johnsonville Bowling Club, with the bright tartan bunting to the fore!

How did the bunting come to be?

The first bunting bee

2013 was a bumper year for new dancers at Johnsonville, and it was also the club’s turn to organise the New Dancers’ Celebration. The bunting was the brainchild of new dancers Debbie Cooper and Lee Fraser, as a way to decorate Newlands Centennial Hall for that occasion, and for the club to use into the future.

Debbie took the lead, collecting unwanted tartan or plain fabric from club members, some of us scoured the op-shops for more, and Pete’s Emporium supplied the rest. The call was put out for pinking shears and volunteers, and many club members answered the call.

Pat Reesby held an open house, where people could come and wield the pinking shears to cut out triangular pennants, ready for the sewing team. Her diary from that time lists members Jean Denne, Joan Clayton, Kristin Downey  and Shirley Kalogeropoulos as potential pinkers.

Joan was also on the sewing team, together with new dancers Allison Kay, Deborah Shuker, Shelley Hancock, and Debbie and Lee. The bunting bee took place at Ngaio Tennis Club rooms, where Debbie and Lee were members. Deborah S remembers an ‘evening at Ngaio Tennis Club rooms (with) two machines at least and cutters, pinners and material guiders to the machinists’.

Members of the Johnsonville ‘bunting bee’ group who made the lovely club bunting in 2013 – Debbie, Deborah, Lee, Joan and Allison. Photo: Pat Reesby

The bunting is launched

On the afternoon of 19 October 2013, club members met to decorate Newlands Centennial Hall for the New Dancers’ Celebration. There were pot plants, tartan rugs, saltires, and tartan tablecloths on the supper tables, but the star of the show was the new tartan bunting.

The hall looked fantastic, and a great night was had by all. You can see the bunting in close-up at the start of Pat Reesby’s video of The Illabo Rant, as well as the happy crowd.

The bunting along the walls at the 2013 New Dancers’ Celebration. Debbie, Lee and Shelley who helped at the bunting bee, are dancing in the top set

We ended up with an unexpectedly large turnout on the night, as we agreed to host the medal presentation for juniors, with family members in attendance.

From then on the bunting became a standard feature of club events, next appearing at Kristin and Rod’s house for the club’s first ever Summer Ceilidh in February 2014.

At Johnsonville Club’s first summer ceilidh on 1 February 2014, John Markham gave a humorous recitation of the The Lion and Albert, with the bunting on display behind him.

The bunting made every Tartan night at Johnsonville School hall a special night, and added enormously to the atmosphere of every Annual Dance from 2014 onwards – see Pat’s video of The Robertson Rant from our 2014 Annual dance.

Volunteers setting-up the bunting at the 2019 Johnsonville & Capital City Shared Annual Dance at Ngaio Town Hall

More bunting is needed …

Fast forward to 2016, and the club’s celebration of 50 Golden Years of association with the worldwide network of RSCDS dancers. Karori Recreation Centre was chosen to accommodate what we hoped would be a big crowd of dancers, and the space was HUGE.

So of course, we needed more bunting! Club secretary John Munro rallied club members to the cause, beginning with the club newsletter of 12 April 2016:

‘Step forward for the Bunting bee. We’re aiming to have a full complement of tartan bunting ready to decorate the hall for our 50th anniversary dance in August. Didn’t it look great on Tartan Night!’

The next week he confirmed that:

‘The Queen Bee is summoning the workers for Thurs 19 May and/or Sat 21 May. On these days the ‘bunting co-ordinator’ Janet McFadden has Open House between 10am and 4pm for bunting construction. Prior donations of tartan/plaid/plain coloured fabric are extremely welcome.’

Then on 18 May:

‘Bring pinking shears if you have them and beaver away with a cheerful group. All participants will be members of the Illustrious Order of the Bunting Bee, which has been dignified with a fine dance devised by Rod Downey.’

Ready for 50 Golden Years

And finally on 25 May John reported:

‘Now we are well supplied with extra bunting to decorate Karori Recreation Centre for our big dance on 20 August. Many thanks to: Janet McFadden, Deborah Shuker, Liz Hands, Joan Clayton, Moira Scott, Prisilla Conroy, Kristin Downey.’

And so a generous expanse of bunting adorned our ‘big dance’, with around 150 dancers, a 5-piece band led by Peter Elmes, five pipers and a drummer from the City of Wellington Pipe Band, and a demonstration set from Newtown Juniors. What a spectacle it was, and how perfect to be surrounded by our tartan bunting.

The Club bunting made by volunteers from our membership formed a fine connection to our Scottish heritage at the Johnsonville 50 Golden Years celebration in 2016

Kristin Downey
18 November 2021

All photos by Loralee Hyde except where stated.

Note: The club also holds a small string of beautifully sewn and finished tartan bunting, donated by Lieschen Bayvel in 2016. As John Munro wrote:

It will be perfect to grace our midwinter dinner and our 50th celebration dinner. Lieschen Bayvel is a friend of Janet McFadden, both members of a longstanding quilting group. When Lieschen heard that Janet was looking to borrow pinking shears for the bunting bee, she went a whole lot better and donated some bunting already made up.

As you can see, her name is not very Scottish, but her recently deceased husband was Scottish and she thought it would be appropriate to donate the bunting to our Scottish Country Dancing club. Thank you Lieschen.

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