Kelburn’s Farewell

The Kelburn Scottish Country Dance Club held its final dance on Sunday 19 June. The club is closing after more than sixty years, due to a decline in numbers. Kelburn has traditionally held an annual Tea Dance and this final event was no exception.

There’s a lot to be said for an afternoon dance. We started at 2:30 in the daylight-flooded St Michael’s Church Hall, in Upland Road. Aileen Logie, Hilary Ferral and Jason Morris played for us, it’s so good to dance to live music.

The programme of 14 dances included many favourites of the Kelburn Club, plus a new dance written for the occasion – Kelburn’s Farewell, a 3 couple jig in a 4 couple set, which turned out to be slightly less difficult than it looked.

Current and former members and tutors of Kelburn Club at their farewell dance on 19 June, including Johnsonville member John Homes second from the right in the back row. Photo: Loralee Hyde

Almost two sets of Johnsonville members were there in support of the Kelburn Club, and up to seven sets on the floor at one point, completely filling the hall. There were also quite a few spectators who’d come to mark this significant event.

Fourteen Johnsonville dancers were among the seven sets at Kelburn’s Farewell, here enjoying The Borrowdale Exchange. Photo: Loralee Hyde

Johnsonville Club member John Homes danced at Kelburn Club for about 10 years from the early 1970s into the early 1980s, and has written about his time at the club. See John’s story below.

Robert Vale

Kelburn Final Dance

That was then

I first learned Scottish Country Dancing at Kelburn Club.

I had tried some English Country Dancing through the Folk Music Club, and Moggie Grayson, who I knew through that club, suggested that I might like the Scottish version. So I came along to Kelburn Club, where she was dancing, and found that she was right.

I can no longer remember exactly when this was, but it would have been within a couple of years of 1970 (I have been dancing for a long time) and Betty Redfearn was the Club Tutor. Betty was a very good teacher, or at least just the sort of teacher I needed, and I progressed rapidly under her tuition.

Betty had come from Canada, by ship as was common back in those days, and told us of the time that she was in a set that danced the Eightsome Reel on the ship, with one set requiring the entire ballroom because the set kept shifting as the ship rolled with the waves.

In those days, first year dancers were advised not to go to the Annual Dances. Dances were never walked, just briefed, and we should be thankful that it was not like Scotland, where you would not even get a briefing. But Betty told both Moggie and myself that we could go to Kelburn’s Annual Dance, provided we clearly understood that we would only be doing certain dances. This seemed fair enough, so we agreed and went. Moggie may have scandalised a few dear old ladies, by wearing a silver-shot turquoise trouser suit to a Scottish dance.

In subsequent years, we could and did go to most of the Annual Dances.

Betty’s husband Peter was not as keen or as skilled a dancer as Betty was, but he did dance, and Betty could say with a straight face that “a non-dancing husband is an irrelevance.”

Betty was the principal tutor throughout the time that I danced at Kelburn, but there were others. I recall Betty taking a year off at one point, and Elaine Laidlaw teaching the club, and from time to time other tutors had to step in because Betty was away, sometimes out at sea as part of her job in fisheries research.

One such fill-in tutor was club stalwart M. M. “Peg” Hutchison. Peg was a mainstay of the club, and of the New Zealand Branch, but she had a great many other interests as well. I recall visiting Zealandia one time, and there was Peg, checking that there were no stowaways hiding in our bags. When we bought our house, and needed a mortgage, my father sent us off to see Auntie Peg at the Credit Union, which is why the dance The Merry Oddfellows reminds me of Peg (and do look at the videos from that link).

Peg also worked hard at improving educational opportunities for women, and inspired an award for older women pursuing a change of career. Incidentally, if you go looking through that website, you will see another name familiar to long time Johnsonville members.

Peg Hutchison second from the left with other Kiwi dancers at a dancing school in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 2001. Former Johnsonville member Philippa Pointon is at the left and current member Loralee Hyde fourth from the right. Photo supplied by Loralee Hyde

Other regular dancers at Kelburn included Beth Duncan, who also served many years on the committee, and Mary Ronnie, who was the New Zealand National Librarian, and who after she retired decide that perhaps now it was time she got married.

Mary Ronnie dancing Wild Mountain Thyme with Romaine Butterfield (with John Homes and Dame Margaret Sparrow as third couple), at a Tribute to Betty Redfearn (a former tutor at Kelburn Club) in June 2017. Photo: Loralee Hyde

There were of course many more dancers, but most of them are now lost in the mists of my fallible memory. I will not try to list the few I do recall, at the expense of the others.

For Kelburn’s tenth anniversary, before my time, Betty had written a dance, Kelburn’s Reel, which was then published in The Morison’s Bush Collection. When the twenty-first anniversary was looming, I had made a few attempts at writing dances, and wrote one for the anniversary, which I called Welcome to St Michael’s, from where Kelburn Club danced, and Betty taught it for the occasion. The instructions have now long been lost, but I recall that it was a three couple strathspey in a three couple set, and you changed partners for each repeat.

In the middle of 1981 I moved out to Johnsonville, and joined the Johnsonville Club, but Kelburn had not yet finished with me.

In 1982, the new dancers at Johnsonville included a lady named Aline Holden, who I thought we could make into a good dancer if she kept it up. It appears that within two or three months, other club members were thinking of us as a couple, although it was much later in the year before we started thinking of that ourselves.

Then in 1983, Aline moved to Orangi Kaupapa Road in Northland, which was more suitable for her work at the University, and so for the next two years we danced at both Kelburn and Johnsonville. In 1985 she moved back to Johnsonville, and in 1986 we were married, and although we continued to attend Kelburn special events, that was the end of our regular attendance.

John and Aline’s wedding 8 March 1986: the celebrant, groomsman Malcolm Tippet (who
used to dance at Linden), John, Aline and Matron of Honour, Margaret Harper

This is Now

Now, alas, Kelburn Club is no more. But it finished up in style, with a splendid Final Dance on the afternoon of Sunday 19th June 2022. Our compliments must go to final tutor Chris Totton and the remaining members who put on a great time for us.

It was a good programme of dances old and new, none very difficult, including one, Kelburn’s Farewell, especially written by Chris for the occasion, and videoed by both Pat Reesby and myself. Pat also videoed Tap the Barrel. St Michael’s Church Hall was quite full, although not quite like Mick McGilligan’s Ball, and there were seven sets up at times.

We danced to the music of Aileen Logie, Hilary Ferral, and Jason Morris, who provided an excellent sound. Aileen of course plays regularly for Johnsonville Club, and very pleased we are to have her.

MC Chris Totton with Jason Morris and Aileen Logie

As well as saying Farewell to Kelburn Club, I had the opportunity to meet up with a number of dancing friends who I had not seen for quite a while. Among them was Margaret Sparrow, who is on the far left in the group picture at the top of this article, and who I first met in my first year at University, when I signed up for the Health Check offered to all first year students, and Margaret was the Student Health Services GP who checked me over.

John Homes, a former member of Kelburn Club, dancing Maxwell’s Rant with Dame Margaret Sparrow, a current Kelburn member. Photo: Loralee Hyde

As well as old friends, or, as someone would say, friends of long standing, there were new people to meet. One lass, on learning that I had once danced the Morris, told me she had danced Border Morris, and was hoping to find a side here in New Zealand.

John dancing Water of Leith. Photo: Kristin Downey
Johnsonville member, Loralee Hyde who is usually taking photos, dancing Water of Leith at the right. Photo: Kristin Downey
RSCDS Wellington Region President Ann Oliver presenting John Gregory with a Tribute from the Region to mark the enormous contribution of his time, creativity, carpentry and artistic skills. Photo: Loralee Hyde

Kelburn had been going for sixty-three years, and towards the end of the afternoon, John Gregory rose to give us a history of the Club.

Then, when he thought he was going to sit down again, Region President Ann Oliver came up to present John with an award for his many services to the Region.

After the last dance had been danced, and Chris and the musicians thanked for their efforts, there was a substantial supper laid on to refresh us all after our efforts.

I could not stay for long, as I had to get home to get ready to go out to dinner, but there was plenty for those who could stay.

Kelburn Club is now gone, but the memories will remain.

See more photos from Loralee and Kristin from this lovely afternoon of dancing

John Homes
23 June 2022

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