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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

Connections to Kelburn Club

Johnsonville longest-standing members

Kelburn’s Farewell Dance on Sunday 20 June started me thinking about club history, and reminded me that Johnsonville’s longest-standing members also have links to Kelburn Club.

It’s a nice opportunity to find out more about those members who have danced at Johnsonville for so many years, and also recognise the inter-connectedness of the Wellington Scottish Country Dancing community.

There are four current members who have been dancing at Johnsonville Club since the 1980s. Elizabeth Rendell, John Markham and John Homes all joined the club in 1981, and Aline Holden as she was then (now Homes) joined in 1982.

One way or another they all have connections to Kelburn Club.

A number of Johnsonville dancers including long-standing member John Homes, dancing Wild Mountain Thyme at a Tribute to Betty Redfearn (a former tutor at Kelburn Club) in June 2017

John Markham’s first experience of Scottish country dancing was at Kelburn, having gone along as a spectator in 1969, and been ‘dragged up’ (John’s words) by original Kelburn tutor, Mirth Smallwood

‘Going to the races’ at the 1983 Summer School in Wellington: Mirth Smallwood, Mairi-Helen Jamieson, Elizabeth Ferguson (a tutor at Lower Hutt), Kath Burn (former tutor at Lower Hutt) and Carol Smith (tutor at the now disbanded Wellington Club)

Read Mirth’s obituary in Harbour City Happenings Volume 7 No. 5, November 2004

Elizabeth Rendell started her dancing as a teenager at the Wainuiomata Club in 1965, then danced at Kelburn Club before moving to Johnsonville in 1981.

John Homes danced at Kelburn Club in the early 1970s, with tutor Betty Redfearn, before moving to Johnsonville in 1981. He met Aline when she joined Johnsonville Club in 1982, and they went on to marry in 1986.

Wellington Tutors at the1993 Wellington Region Top Event

The teachers in the photo above are:
Back row: Iain Boyd, Margaret Laidlaw, Romaine Butterfield, Rita Brennan, Margaret Allison (Bailey), Edith Campbell, Hilda Brodie (Smith), Kath Burn, Maureen Robson, Damon Collin, Dave Macfarlane, Mirth Smallwood, Barbara Gill, Elizabeth Ferguson, Val Jenness, Gary Morris, Marie Malcolm, Alma Secker, Glenys Mills, Noeline O’Connor, Ian Simmonds, Raynor Stratford.
Front row: Betty Redfearn, Norm Whitson, Carol Smith, Annette Zuppicich

Find out more about Kelburn Club’s history from 1959-1984 in this brochure

Kristin Downey
16 June 2022

Photos: Loralee Hyde

Capital City’s Birthday Night 2022

A great night, despite Covid challenges!

Capital City (formerly Island Bay) club has a long tradition of a celebratory Birthday Night dance, held this year on Thursday 26 May at the club’s home venue of Newtown School Hall.

Tutor Jeanette Watson designed an appealing programme combining old favourites, two more recent dances by local Wellington devisers, and one less well-known dance with a bit more challenge.

Unfortunately, Jeanette ended up isolating at home on the night of the dance, and club members Margaret Cantwell and Rod Downey stepped in, briefing the dances in her place.

The programme began with Newtown McDonald’s (think arches and fries, rather than clans), devised by Capital City club member Peter Beaumont for Elaine Lethbridge and the Newtown Juniors. Peter too was isolating at home, but everyone enjoyed those arches – they bring a sense of fun for dancers of any age.

Images below: Dancers enjoying Newtown McDonald’s, having plenty of fun dancing the arches!

The programme also included The Amateur Epidemiologist by Linden club member Andrew Oliver (who was in attendance), one of the dances in The Wellington 60th Anniversary Collection.

Andrew wrote the dance during the 2020 covid-19 lockdown period, depicting some of the changes covid brought to our lives. His dance finishes with a celebratory birl at the lifting of lockdown – very fitting for a birthday night celebration.

The celebration was made even better by a return to shared supper for the club. After many weeks waiting for the hall kitchen refurbishment to be complete, Capital City was pleased to once again be able to offer a hot drink and supper treats to members and visitors.

As with Tawa’s Hall Warming dance, Capital City attracted quite a few visitors. Amongst them were lots of Johnsonville members, with more than a set of our club’s dancers on the floor.

A number of Johnsonville dancers took to the floor to tackle the arches in Newtown McDonald’s!

Some of our members dance at Capital City regularly, others were drawn by the programme, the music, and the opportunity to check out the hall – which will be the venue for the combined Johnsonville-Capital City Annual Dance in August.

Lovely music from Natasha McFarlane, Lynne Scott, Sharlene Penman and Sam Berkahn. Photo: Pat Reesby

The four-piece band added to the excitement of the night, bringing the hall to life. Club President John Jowett thanked well-known musicians Lynne Scott and Sharlene Penman, as well as new additions Natasha McFarlane and Sam Berkahn, for their lovely music. Two fiddles, keyboard and double bass made for a fine night’s dancing.

President: Kristin Downey

Kristin Downey
2 June 2022

Images of Newtown McDonald’s extracted by Loralee Hyde from a video taken by Pat Reesby

Tawa’s Hall Warming

Moving to a new club venue is not an easy thing, as Johnsonville club found when we moved from Johnsonville School Hall to Johnsonville Bowling Club in 2020 and then to Khandallah Town Hall in 2021, when this lovely, larger hall became available.

Once we’d settled in, we wanted to celebrate with our dancing friends. We were full of excitement when we held our first Tartan Night at Khandallah Town Hall in April 2021.

This year, Tawa club has made the big move from the Redwood Hall, where they’d been for many years, to Tawa RSA, and they too held a celebration.

I thought I’d have a quick look in old NZ Scottish Country Dancer magazines to see where else Tawa might have danced over the years.

Tawa club seems to have started out at the Scout Den in Oxford St in the 1960s, in 1968 discussed the possibility of changing their meeting-place to the (still under construction) Tawa College gymnasium but instead moved to Tawa Primary School in 1969, then to St Luke’s Church Hall (now Tawa Union Church, Redwood Centre) around 1997.

Interestingly, I did find a reference to the RSA Hall, in Tawa’s notes in the 1969 NZ SCD Dancer. It gives a picture of a time when Scottish Country Dancing was booming in the Wellington Region:

Last year’s (1968) formal saw 150 in the RSA Hall at Tawa. A good time was had by all, even by the people who had to stand all evening. … No major hitches unless you call catering for 120 when 150 turned up a major hitch!

Tawa didn’t get (and I’m sure wouldn’t have wanted) 150 dancers to their Hall Warming at the RSA hall last Thursday. It was however a very successful evening of celebration.

Robert Vale is a member of both Johnsonville and Tawa, and tells us all about Tawa’s big night.

Kristin Downey

Celebrating a new venue

On 7 April this year the Tawa Club departed from their old venue, the Redwood Hall, at the Johnsonville end of Tawa, which they were finding a bit restricted. They moved to the RSA Hall in Oxford Street at the Linden end of the village, a much larger hall with a good floor for dancing.

To celebrate their move, and introduce other dancers to their new venue, Tawa invited other clubs to join them on their regular Thursday club night on 19 May.

The Ngaio club who, like Tawa, dance on a Thursday, often share special event nights. Ngaio shifted their club night to Tawa for the occasion so they could all attend the Hall Warming. Quite a few of our members dance at Ngaio or at Tawa, meaning Johnsonville was well represented.

Pat, Robert, Maureen and Fiona were among Johnsonville members at Tawa’s Hall Warming

Tawa members decorated the hall with balloons for the night to give a ‘special occasion’ feel, and Catherine McCutcheon, the Tawa tutor, had chosen a programme of dances with appropriate names for a Hall Warming.

We started with the round-the-room jig Welcome to the Dance and later danced A Lovely Hall and Ways in New Hall. Some familiar names had been changed for the occasion, we danced Shiftin’ (Bobbins) and Best Set in the (New) Hall. Dances were walked to encourage everyone to take part.

Five sets, including Johnsonville members Isabelle and Bruce dancing in the centre, took to the floor

The Cranberry Tarts, a.k.a. Aileen Logie (on accordian) and Hilary Ferral (on fiddle), provided the music, dressed of course in cranberry colours.

The Cranberry Tarts, Aileen and Hilary

All the people I chatted with over the generous tea that followed the dancing had had a good time. It felt like a real celebration, not too formal, and a great chance to try out the new hall with five sets on the floor.

Watch Pat Reesby’s videos:
A Lovely Hall
Ways in New Hall
The Bucket Tree

Secretary: Robert Vale

Robert Vale
26 May 2022

Photos: John Patterson

Ngaio Club: The first Annual Dance of 2022

The Ngaio Scottish Country Dance Club celebrated their Annual Dance on 14 May, the first in the Wellington Region’s dancing calendar for 2022. Appropriately, the dance was in the Ngaio Town Hall, which club members had decorated with fresh greenery and tartan. A nice touch was the tartan banners hung round the walls, each labelled to show the clan whose tartan was on display.

In spite of Covid, inflation and all our other problems there was a great turnout, with six sets on the floor and lots of Johnsonville members in attendance. Melva Waite MC’d with her usual skill and the wonderful music was played for us by Aileen Logie, Hilary Ferral and Jason Morris.

Dancing Pelorus Jack to toe-tapping music from Jason, Aileen and Hilary. Watch Pat Reesby’s video of this popular dance (Pat is taking the video on the stage near Hilary).

The programme was made up of a host of familiar dances. Fortunately Rod had taught us more than half of them, as they were briefed, not walked. Everyone seemed to go well. My favourite was A Trip to Bavaria, with its music that sounds like a German band. It must have been popular with a lot of people because Melva let us do it twice.

It was a full programme with ten dances to go through before teatime. I staggered home with very sore feet when teatime came around but I had had a great night’s dancing. Most people went right through to the end.

Ngaio had a late start to their dancing year but they put on a splendid night and made us all feel very welcome.

Six sets took to the floor

The photos give an idea of the event. It’s not easy taking photos at a dance – when you get to fourth place in the set you’ve only 32 bars to whip your phone out of your sporran, glad a few pictures, put it away and be ready to be the third couple. In jig or reel time that feels like no time at all.

The last dance before supper, The Deil Amang the Tailors, with Johnsonville members Charles, Tomoko and Pat dancing at the left.

Robert Vale
19 May 2022

Photos: Robert Vale

One kilt, so many stories

In March I received a phone call from someone who’d seen our article A toe-tapping return to Scottish Country Dancing in the Independent Herald.

However, she wasn’t looking to come dancing, rather to offer us the donation of a kilt, in the hopes it would find a new home with someone ‘from the Scottish Country Dancing community’.

Like many of us, Jane Aim has accumulated a lot of possessions over her life, and is in the process of doing a clear-out. Amongst the many items, was her childhood kilt, made from fabric ordered from Scotland.

You might expect Jane’s kilt to be child-sized and well worn. However, she only wore it for special occasions, and it was made with lots of room to grow (as many clothes were in those days).

Jane tells us the story of her kilt:

About 70 years ago my Mother ordered two kilts. I would have been 13 or 14 and my sister eight or nine. She ordered Lindsay tartan and they were made by Mr McPhee, who was the kiltmaker of Wellington at that time.

Around 70 years old, Jane Aim’s Lindsay tartan kilt is in good condition. Photo: Kristin Downey

This kilt is special by virtue of its age, its connections to Jane’s childhood, and its historical links to her forebears in Scotland. Jane’s great-great-grandmother, Jane ‘Jean’ Lindsay, was born in Annan in Dumfriesshire, Scotland in 1816.

The kilt itself was made by N & A McPhee, Highland Outfitters of Wellington, established in 1946 and still operating today as McPhees, supplying kilts, sashes and dancing shoes to the Scottish Country Dancing community.

Adding more interest to the story, Jane is a fifth-generation kiwi, with links to longstanding New Zealand families, including the Blundells and the Seddons.

Definitely a kilt with lots of stories to tell, read on for a few in brief.

Jane ‘Jean’ Lindsay

Namesake and great-great-granddaughter Jane Aim gives us a short history:

My great great grandmother was Jane Lindsay (sometimes called Jean) who came from Annan, a market town and port in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. Jane married Thomas Seddon of St Helen’s, Lancashire and this is where they lived. They were both teachers.

Jane taught junior school at Eccleston denominational school and Thomas was headmaster of an endowed ‘free school’ and taught about 50 pupils. Later their second son, Richard John Seddon came to New Zealand, lived on the West Coast and was Premier of New Zealand from 1893 – till his death on 10th June 1906.

Jane ‘Jean’ Seddon (Lindsay) Photo: Geni
Richard Seddon Photo: Wikipedia

N & A McPhee

Neil McPhee was a Detective Sergeant in the New Zealand Police, where he set up the Wellington (now New Zealand) Police Highland Pipe Band. From some time early in the 1930s he started making bagpipes, and when he retired from the police in 1945, he opened his own bagpipe turning shop with brother Alan.

In 1946, Neil then founded N & A McPhee, Highland Outfitters. The company has had a long connection with Scottish Country Dancing in New Zealand, with a full page ad on the back page of the first edition of The New Zealand Scottish Country Dancer magazine in 1954.

N. & A. McPhee were ‘Always at your service’ offering ‘Ladies and Gents Kilts made to measure’ from ‘a fine selection of Hand Woven Tartans in Ancient Colourings just to hand from Inverness.’ Also ‘Ladies Sashes and Dancing Pumps’.

By 1957 their ad had moved to the inside of the front cover of The NZSC Dancer, and the company was now known as McPhee’s Highland House, stocking ‘everything required by Scottish Country Dancers’. They now also offered dance books and ‘Country Dance recordings by Jimmy Shand, Bobby MacLeod’ and many other musicians whose music the club holds in its music collection.

The company has continued to operate continuously since 1946, under different owners over the years and is now known simply as McPhee’s. It still makes kilts and still advertises in The NZSC Dancernow with full colour illustrations of their range of dance shoes and sashes.

You can see some fantastic old photos of Neil McPhee on the New Zealand Police Band Facebook page.

Jane Aim

Jane is well embedded in the Wellington community, to which she has given great service, and for which in 2016 she was presented with the Queen’s Service Medal.

Jane Aim at her investiture on 15 April 2016 with the Governor-General Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae. Photo: Government House

Jane’s family has a long history with Old St Paul’s and she was very involved with its preservation and enhancement. As a life member of the Oriental Bay Resident’s Association, Jane has also been involved in many projects, such as the children’s playground at Freyberg beach.

In addition to her family connections to the Seddons, Jane is also a descendant of Henry Blundell who founded The Evening Post newspaper in Wellington.

Henry Blundell Photo: Stuff

Both Jane’s father and grandfather worked at the newspaper and she was present at a function prior to the opening of the new Press Hall in Willis Street, on the site that once housed The Evening Post’s printing presses.

All this history tied up in one kilt, with only one small repair to hint at its longevity.

Many thanks to Jane Aim for the donation of her kilt, and the stories that go with it.

Kristin Downey
5 May 2022

Loralee Hyde: Fun and friendship down south

After two years of covid restrictions, many New Zealanders are making the most of the opportunity to explore special areas around our own country before making the big leap to travelling overseas again.

As Scottish Country Dancers, we are always made welcome at other clubs across New Zealand on our travels – it’s a great chance to catch-up with old friends and make new. For the experiences some Johnsonville members have enjoyed in the past, see Rod and Kristin dancing in Hawke’s Bay and Pat Reesby in Whangarei

During a tour around the south of the South Island at the beginning of April, I was fortunate to stay in Dunedin on a Monday night, which is when Ceilidh Club dances at St Johns Church Hall in Roslyn.

It was wonderful to catch-up and dance with Xiaowen Yu, one of the tutors at the club. Formerly from Wellington, she is now living in Dunedin and working at the University of Otago with funding from the Neurological Foundation

This was the first time the club had gathered to dance since February. A rotation of people take the dancing at Ceilidh Club. On this evening Janet Favel, a former President of the New Zealand RSCDS Branch, and Anne Watkins, a club member, shared teaching the programme of relatively well-known and easier dances including Maxwell’s Rant, The Minister on the Loch and The Mad Hatter, a dance devised by Wellingtonian Iain Boyd.

Dancing at Ceilidh Club: Janet Favel is at the left and Xiaowen second from the right. Photo: Loralee Hyde

With the Omicron covid variant doing the rounds, I hadn’t danced since the Wellington 2021 Hogmanay. This was a lovely relaxing evening of fun and friendship…and helpful for recovering some of my mental fitness for dancing!

Thanks so much to Ceilidh Club for your welcome and for the opportunity to get to know you.

Xiaowen and Loralee

Next time you’re travelling to a different part of New Zealand, take a look at the NZ Branch club directory to see what club is dancing near you and pack your shoes! As Xiaowen says: “It’s lovely to slot right in wherever you go”.

Loralee Hyde
21 April 2022

A Fine Night of Dancing at our first Tartan Night for 2022

We had a great night’s dancing on Monday 11 April, with plenty of tartan on display – rugs and banners round the walls and ties, sashes, skirts and kilts on the dancers. Even our newest dancers turned up in tartan, a mighty effort.

It was amazing how quickly the Khandallah Town Hall was transformed into a Scottish venue for the night by all the willing helpers with drawing pins and Blu-tack. We were a bit short on ladders, so new dancer Ian was in great demand, his height being very helpful with pinning up the tartan rugs!

Saltires and a banner with Scottish lion rampant provided a great backdrop for our tartan-clad band, Aileen Logie, Hilary Ferral and Jason Morris.

Jason, Aileen and Hilary with a physically-distanced Rod at the right surveying the floor. Photo: Pat Reesby

Time (and lack of ladders) meant only a little of the club’s tartan bunting was on display, but it added to the atmosphere, perched cheerily on the balcony above.

The Club’s bunting high up on the balcony. Photo: John Homes

There were several firsts for 2022, our first Tartan Night of the year, our first night with a band on stage and Rod’s first night back after suffering with a Covid infection. We hope that Kristin will be with us again before too long.

Other firsts included Rod as ‘masked man’ briefing through his Covid mask, a great feat involving juggling both the headset and his mask. At one point the headset ended up under the mask, but he got it all sorted out.

Rod managing both his mask and the headset while briefing a dance. Photo: Robert Vale

In an ‘abundance of caution’ Rod confined himself to the stage all night. Thanks to teacher-in-training Maureen Sullivan, for taking the warm-up. And to those who made sure Rod didn’t miss out on supper goodies, handing up plenty of delectable tidbits along with his cup of tea at supper time.

Maureen leading the warmup. Photo: John Homes

Rod had taught us all the dances on club nights but it’s definitely a different experience to do a dance after a single walk-through, congratulations to our new dancers who all went really well. The club’s experienced dancers were happy to give them a helping hand when needed.

Enjoying the first dance, Bev’s Delight. Photo: John Homes
Dancing six hands round and back in the Birks of Invermay. Photo: Robert Vale

We were definitely ready for tea after the first six dances, thanks go to everyone who provided such a tempting spread. There were even rumours of fish and chips, but when the package was unwrapped it was full of delicious deep fried dumplings – a very tasty supper surprise.

Supper Co-ordinator Elizabeth Ngan presenting the most-welcome supper. Photo: John Homes
A supper for all to enjoy. Photo: Robert Vale

Back on the floor after supper, everyone continued having fun (despite the challenges of Corstorphine Fair), and lots of people stayed to the end and helped with the packing up. Another fine night of dancing.

New dancers Ian and Janet joining in the fine night of dancing. Photo: Robert Vale

Kristin Downey and Robert Vale
14 April 2022

St Patrick’s Day Celebration 2022

The club’s January Summer Ceilidh was cancelled this year due to Covid settings, so our St Patrick’s Day celebration on 21 March was the first club event of 2022, and a fine one it was.

People really got into the spirit of St Patrick and the Emerald Isle, with members and visitors alike each wearing their own shade of green.

It was great to see new dancers joining in so enthusiastically, with all sorts of Irish-themed accessories – think shamrocks, leprechauns, a bit of glam and a bit of fun. And fun was what it was all about.

A sea of emerald green. Photo: Robert Vale

As usual, Rod devised a programme of dances with Irish connections, some perhaps apocryphal (eg Lady Glasgow, rumoured by previous club tutor Marjorie Crawford to have been notorious for stealing money from the Irish, but Google provides no clues to the truth of this).

Also as usual, there were a few challenges amongst the dances, for both experienced and newer dancers – but it all added to the fun. It all started well with The Wild Geese, Rory O’More and Rod’s dance The Parting Glass.

Then St Patrick’s Day tripped us up a bit with its requirement for going hardly anywhere in 4 bars (twice), and the reels in Dougal of Shandon were definitely a challenge.

But what did it matter when we had such good company and music to set our toes a-tapping. Accordionist Aileen Logie started the way she meant to go on with a jig for our warm-up music, then gave us lots of Irish flavoured tunes to take us through the night.

Aileen did leave the stage to join in dancing The Parting Glass. However, we still danced to her playing of this evocative set of song tunes, courtesy of a recording she’d made with Hilary Ferral and Jason Morris.

Of course, it wasn’t all dancing and music, we also enjoyed a good supper, with a few special things on offer. There was green tea, home-made apple cake from Elizabeth Ngan, plus green and white apple sherbet lollies and no less than two shades of green serviettes and a lively green tablecloth.

Congratulations to this year’s beginners. They’d only joined us a few weeks earlier, and still managed to dance their way through some tricky and unfamiliar dances.

Thanks to Rod, Aileen, and the club’s more experienced dancers (and our visitors) who made sure everyone had a good time on the dance floor. The night finished with a set of very experienced dancers flying through that old favourite, The Irish Rover.

Kristin Downey
24 March 2022

Aileen Logie: Scottish/Irish Music Connections

Aileen’s musical life in Scotland started as a child in a family of musicians, surrounded by music, so I asked her if she could write something for us talking about the relationship between Scottish and Irish music. She was kind enough to agree.

As Aileen says, “This is a quick primer through numerous subjects really. Each paragraph is a subject in itself.”

I found her article really interesting, especially thinking about how music for Scottish Country Dancing fits into the wider picture of Celtic music. There are lots of musical treats in store in Aileen’s article, just click on the links to enjoy some fantastic Celtic music performances.

Kristin Downey

Aileen playing the strathspey The Parting Glass for Scottish Country Dancing at the Johnsonville St Patrick’s Day celebration in 2021 Photo: Loralee Hyde

There has been cross pollination of music between Scottish and Irish way back through the mists of time. The Celts are a musical tribe. What you find depends a lot on which slice of history you look at.

There is a notion that local music reflects the cadence of local language. Scottish and Irish Gaels are cousins – both Scottish and Irish gaelic is mutually understood and is phonetically very similar (although spelled differently). The root of much traditional music is traced back to gaelic songs – rhythmic working to ballads, eg waulking songs for stretching tweed fabric. The oldest form of Celtic music is ceol mor Highland piping – and links to the classical music of Northern India (which is where the Celts originally came from).

Engraving of Scotswomen singing while waulking cloth, c. 1770 Image: Wikipedia

Scots and Irish both share some very difficult history. Highland villages were displaced for sheep grazing during the Clearances. Irish suffered famine and crop failure. Both led to forced emigration in desperate circumstances from their homelands to New England and east coast settlements. Such heartbreak leads to stirring and emotional tunes – some beautiful, others chilling, eg Sorais Slan le Fionnairidh (Leaving Fuinary) and Carrickfergus.

People have tried to generalise about the recognisable features between Irish/Scottish. You hear that Scottish music has stronger rhythms and Irish music is more flowing and ‘diddly’. I find that the background of the player is every bit as important – accent, emphasis and phrasing. There are huge regional variations in Scotland and Ireland – more so than the Irish/Scottish divide. In Scotland there is the West Highland tradition, steeped in pipe tunes, (eg Aonghas Grant), strong rhythmic fiddle playing style in NE (Strathspey territory), (eg Paul Anderson playing tunes you’ll recognise!), lowland music geared to community – quite mixed, often with Presbyterian hymn chord sequences as its base.

You can play any tune in any ‘dialect’ you want to. Donegal has strong Scottish links and have tunes called ‘Highlands’ which turn out to be strathspeys (eg Mairead Ni Mhaonaidh). Glasgow is a home from home for Irish and any session there will have a strong representation of Irish tunes (eg an Irish pub session). What is true is that Scottish traditional music has some unique forms eg the Strathspey (12 different types identified), pibroch pipe music (stirring stuff) (eg Lament for Donald of Laggan), retreat marches (3 beats to the bar) (here at Dufftown Highland Games), and a wide range of other marches not found elsewhere. Irish hornpipes have wide appeal, but are not unique.

The Scottish Country Dancing music you hear played is a distinct genre which is shoe-horned into the requirements of this branch of dancing. Only 3 tempi (reels, jigs, strathspeys) played in a very prescribed style – particular speed, emphasis on first beat of the bar, steady and continuous. Music is not normally formulaic like this and you might be surprised to hear how some of these tunes are traditionally played! You will not hear much difference between Scottish and Irish jigs when played for Scottish Country Dancing, as I will be strictly bounded by that dance prescriptive form.

Enjoying the Scottish Country dance The Parting Glass (devised by Rod Downey) at the Johnsonville St Patrick’s Day celebration in 2021 Photo: Loralee Hyde

Here’s a close to authentic version of The Parting Glass played in a pub. It is a very old song linked to a very old tradition of having a farewell drink together at the end of a convivial evening. Called Stirrup Cup in England, Deoch an Doruis (drink at the door) in Gaelic. (Listen to a 1912 recording by Harry Lauder.) This tradition still continues to a degree, but has been severely hampered by tough drink/drive laws! The tune is Scottish, first version noted in 1605 – so it well precedes the Burns and Gow era. It was collected and committed to paper in the 1780s. Most people think it is Irish, and this happens a lot, but I’m sure cuts both ways.

Scottish silver stirrup cups, Hallmarked Edinburgh, 1917 Image: Wikipedia
Parting Glass, British, Burslem, Staffordshire, Stirrup cup, Ceramics-Pottery, c. 1780 Image: copyright Metropolitan Museum of Art, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

One tune can travel far, gathering lots of different names as it goes – some might have 15. A tune is a living entity and depends on the player to bring out what they feel the music is saying – this obviously varies – a lot! It can develop arms, legs and twists as it goes. It also depends on the instrument. Drone reed instruments tune to the Pythagorean scale (just, true frequencies) and play only in that key. Other instruments tune mostly to Equal Temperament scale (developed by Bach) which compromises notes so that any key is playable by the instrument. However, it means different keys have a different mood/feel and this feature can be emphasized when you are composing a tune. Bright and happy – go for G or A. Sad and emotional G minor and D minor does it for me.

It has been interesting having more Celtic nation festivals. You can really hear the commonalities. Cape Bretons developed a strong very rhythmic style to suit their percussive step dancing (eg Andrea Beaton, live strathspeys then reels). Step dancing has been reseeded back to Scotland (from whence it came) and is enjoying considerable revival. Here’s an older Cape Breton video of step dancers and in this more recent one you can hear the foot percussion. The links with Irish dancing are plain to see. Galician (and Breton) pipe music is more complicated harmonically but again shares the same roots. We even have Bulgarian dance rhythms fusing with Celtic music – this makes sense as it was on the Celts migration route west.

Celtic music connections far outweigh notional national differences!

Aileen Logie
15 March 2022