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Celebrating St Patrick’s day 2021

St Patrick would have been proud

Dancers did a great job of wearing green for St Patrick and the Emerald Isle on Monday 15 March. Every shade of green was on show, and if you looked closely, there were shamrocks and celtic knots and symbols to be found on T-shirts, socks and silver.

Wearing green and having lots of fun while dancing A Trip to Ireland

Rod’s programme inspired great music from musician Aileen Logie, and we definitely had a night of ‘fun, fitness and friendship’, with a few challenges thrown in!

Aileen played wonderful sets of tunes for us to dance to, including The Reconciliation, a different tune to play

We began with A Trip to Ireland, then two RSCDS dances The Wild Geese (referencing Irish soldiers) and City of Belfast, as well as Rod’s dance The Coleraine Rant which premiered at the club’s 2019 St Patrick’s day celebration. It honours both the New Zealand wine, and the Irish county of the same name.

In the middle of the first half, we were lucky enough to dance the world premiere of The Parting Glass, newly devised by Rod for 2021’s St Patrick’s Day. It is a dance for everyone, with no difficult formations or footwork, and is named for the wonderful old song tune claimed by both Ireland and Scotland.

Dancing the World Premiere of Rod’s dance, The Parting Glass!

With five dances under the belt, we were ready for supper. Elizabeth Ngan offered a very inviting display of green-themed goodies, with green eggs, popcorn, chuppa chups and feijoas (she always includes something healthy). There were green serviettes and Irish place mats, and Liz Hands served us freshly-baked green cookies with white chocolate, just the thing to give tired minds a boost.

Back on the floor, it was time for the experienced to try out Rory O’More, amid a few tussles with arches and under-the-arm movements. Having fun is what it’s all about, and there was a lot of laughter with this one!

Seeking Irish-themed dances for St Patrick’s Day, Rod came across the jig Paddy in the Car, and strathspey The Orchards of County Armagh. Theywere both new to us, but really enjoyable, and I’m sure dancers would be happy to see them again on another programme.

We finished the night with old favourite The Irish Rover,for those who knew it. A fine finish to a very good night.

This was our first special club night in our new home at Khandallah Town Hall. It was also our first live music night for 2021. It was a beauty, may there be many more like it to come.

See more of this green-themed evening’s fun and laughter in Loralee Hyde’s photos

from Kristin Downey
18 March 2021

Pipes in the Park: A Scottish Country Dancing Connection

Held in brilliant Wellington weather at Waitangi Park on Saturday 27 February, Pipes in the Park was a day of piping, highland dancing, Irish dancing, clan and food stalls – and of course some Scottish Country Dancing.

It’s always nice to see Scottish Country Dancing on display, helping add colour to the day and raising our profile. The Scottish Country Dancing demonstration was organised by Elaine Lethbridge (Tawa dancer and teacher of Newtown Juniors), at the request of Pipes in the Park.

Elaine’s volunteers came from Capital City, Kelburn/Lower Hutt, Linden and Tawa, and included dual Capital City/Johnsonville member and tutor Jeanette Watson.

Johnsonville dancer Deborah Shuker was one of a number of Scottish Country Dancing spectators and shared her thoughts and photos for us to enjoy – see her story below.

Member of many years Laurence Black, and partner and past member Maddy Schafer were also there soaking up the Scottish atmosphere. Despite not dancing with us for quite a few years now, Maddy thoughtfully provided us with this photo.

Scottish Country Dancing with Johnsonville member and tutor Jeanette Watson at the right Photo: Maddy Schafer

Kristin Downey

Deborah Shuker: A feast of things Scottish

At Waitangi Park on a beautiful hot sunny day there was a feast of things Scottish – stalls about clans and kilts, plus crafts, and food (which wasn’t noticeably Scottish).

The earlier items were dancing – Highland dancing by groups from beginners to very experienced and massed groups. Then the Irish dancers the same mixture of abilities but more dances, and different costuming.

The Scottish Country Dancing set danced on the grass as the stage was a bit small for safety. Dancing on grass is difficult but they did a great exhibition, some of which would only be fully appreciated by those who know about timing and covering.

Dancing on the grass in brilliant sunshine. Photo: Deborah Shuker

Having tutors from three clubs in the group leant lots of expertise, and all those kilts gave lots of colour. There were six dances altogether, and I recognised one as Shiftin’ Bobbins, which we often do at club. 1

Recruiting new dancers! Photo: Deborah Shuker

We finished the day watching two Pipe Bands perform, and then headed home for a much-needed cold drink!

Deborah Shuker
11 March 2021

  1. * Elaine Lethbridge advises that other dances done were The Silver Grey, The Hunting Horn, The BarmkinMinister on the Loch, and Pelorus Jack – all done four times through, except strathspeys which were three times through. A mighty fine effort.[]

New dancers 7

Steps, Formations and Progressions

Our tutor Rod Downey provides a list of steps, formations and progressions covered in Johnsonville Beginners’ Classes

Click the short video links below to have a look if you’d like a reminder.


Terms / Formations

Dancing Rights and Lefts in the dance Argyll’s Fancy at the Johnsonville Tartan Night in April 2019


  • Once to the bottom (a 4 couple progression) Here is a dance with this progression.
  • 2 couple progression in a 4 couple set. Here is a dance with this progression.
  • 3 couple progression in a 4 couple set. Here is a dance with this progression, and the numbers on the dancers.

Click here to listen to the music or practise some steps

Rod Downey
March 2021

Robert Vale: Dancing on the Grass (and on the Lino)

From the Dominion to Dundee

When dancing shuts down over the summer, Wellington dancers still enjoy their sport thanks to the annual Dancing on the Grass organised by the Wellington Region of the RSCDS. This takes place on four summer Tuesday evenings on the grass in front of the Old Government Buildings in Lambton Quay.

Before getting on to the dancing, what about the venue?

The building was designed by William Clayton to accommodate all of New Zealand’s public servants. Originally intended to be made of concrete so as to be fireproof, that proved too expensive and so it was constructed all in Kauri instead, made to look as if it was stone, presumably to make the government look solid and dependable. It was, as building projects often are, over budget when completed in 1876.

Surprisingly, for nearly fifty years the building was heated with open fireplaces, but because of its wooden construction, smoking inside was banned right from when it opened, unlike in Wellington’s wooden-bodied trams which even provided smokers with metal plates fixed to the woodwork on which to strike their matches!

Having served the Colony of New Zealand from 1876, the Dominion of New Zealand from 1907 and housing government Ministers until 1921, the Old Government Buildings are now the home of the Faculty of Law of Victoria University.

But what about the dancing?

Dancing is outside (on the grass) in front of the main entrance, so we provide a bit of a spectacle. In previous years tourists on Lambton Quay liked to stand and watch but there weren’t many tourists this year. One night this year one of the bus drivers gave us a toot on the horn and a wave as he drove down towards the city.

Dancing on grass is quite a novel sensation. It’s certainly different than dancing on a flat floor, it’s a bit bumpy and in summer if there’s not been much rain it can be quite firm and scratchy. There’s also a large floodlight sticking out of the grass which you need to look out for when casting behind your line.

 Some people wear their dancing shoes and some like bare feet. There are little acorn-like things hiding in the grass which can give you a nasty surprise in bare feet, like stepping on a piece of the kids’ Lego in the dark.

Dancing on the grass on 2 February. Robert is dancing just to the left of centre (with the statue of Peter Fraser, New Zealand’s Prime Minister from 1940-1949, behind him). Photo from video by Pat Reesby

Each of the four summer dancing sessions is led by a different tutor from one of the Wellington clubs. The dances are usually the fairly familiar ones that appear on many club dance programmes throughout the year although there were a couple of exceptions this year that confused quite a few of us. The tutors generally choose dances that are not too complicated and they’re walked, so it’s all a lot easier than trying to dance from just a briefing.

And what about the Lino?

Well, being Wellington in the summer, it can be wet and it can be cold. This year, for both those reasons, we danced inside for two of the four sessions.

The inside space is the student café of the VUW Law Faculty (it offers a very cheap vegan lunch). The door to the café is round the other side of the building from the grass and the main entrance.

The café is a good sized space with one extra feature, which is the series of columns that hold up the floors above. These are cunningly placed so that you have to dance round them when casting, or dancing a figure-of-eight, which adds to the excitement.

And the flooring in the café is lino, or to give it its proper name, Linoleum, which is made from jute and linseed oil. There’s a fine Scottish connection, as the city of Dundee was famous for “jute, jam and journalism”. Known in the 19th century as Juteopolis it was the centre of the global jute trade. Dundee was also famous for producing Keiller’s marmalade and for still being the home of D C Thomson, the publishers of well-loved comics like The Beano and Scottish cartoon strips The Broons and Oor Wullie.

Dancing on the grass is a great way to enjoy some dancing when clubs are closed for the summer. You get to meet people from other clubs, you might then see them later in the year at a dance. One of the four nights this year was a beautiful warm, still night and it was magical dancing outside as the dusk fell.

There’s also something special about being able to dance right outside the heart of government, just across from the Beehive. This year it felt extra special to be able to dance at all, given the situation in many less fortunate countries.

Being able to dance in front of Parliament (or at least the Beehive) seems so unlike what might be permitted in the UK, the USA or even in Canberra, where the people seem less able to get close to the seat of power.

Robert Vale
13 February 2021

Aileen Logie: Rabbie Burns – Scotland’s National Bard

Many Johnsonville dancers were at the club’s Bowling Club Ceilidh on 30 January where the theme was Burns. Part of this was the Address to a Haggis in Scots – probably largely unintelligible to many! If you’re wondering what all that was about, read on.

Aileen giving a fine rendition of the Address to the Haggis at the club’s summer ceilidh. Photo: Kristin Downey

Burns night is celebrated in Scotland on the 25 January – Robert Burns’ birthday. He lived from 1759 to 1796, dying young at 37 years, but packed a lot into his short life. January is cold and dark in Scotland, so this is a winter feast with warming fires, whisky and poetry/singing/dancing involved. It’s very popular and second only to Hogmanay.

Burns was a man of the people, not rich, good looking and utterly charming to the ladies (to whom he comes across as irresistible). He believed all people are born equal, rebelling against the established (unequal) religious and moral views of the time.

The New Atholl Collection commemorates the bicentenary of Robert Burns’ 1787 Highland Tour. We danced Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia from this collection at our summer ceilidh.

This sums up the epitome of Scots’ character and his poetry and songs strike the heart-strings of all Scots – hence his abiding popularity. Indeed the Scottish Parliament was opened in 1999 with Sheena Wellington’s wonderful rendition of Burns’ poem/song – A Man’s a Man For A’ That.

Burns saw that many Scottish cultural traditions, historical records and literature, and tunes were being lost and he set out to collect these and keep them alive. His many poems were often set to existing older tunes for either singing or dancing. He himself was fond of dancing.

The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society catalogue features many ‘Burns’ dances – too many to mention them all, but there are some done regularly at Johnsonville such as Corn Rigs and The White Cockade, and we did Ha ha the Wooin’ o’ It at our Summer Ceilidh.

Other well-known ones include – Burns Hornpipe, The Star o’ Rabbie Burns, Salute to Rabbie Burns, Dainty Davie, Green Grow the Rashes, Birks of Abergeldie, Deuks Dang Ower My Daddie, Ca’ the Yowes, Kenmuir’s On ‘n Awa’, My Love She’s but a Lassie Yet. There are also lots of Burns tunes commonly found in sets for other dances – again the list is too long to detail.

Rabbie was a contemporary of Niel Gow – a well respected tune composer (you’ll know many of these too!) and they met up a few times. The lead tune for The Barmkin was composed by the two men together while having a drink at the Inver Inn in 1787 (tune title – Landlady of Inver Inn).

So, what happens at a Burns Supper? There is a celebration of his poetry and songs with many toasts. The haggis was a symbol of working class fare, nourishing poorer people and at the same time using up all parts of animal efficiently (much as sausages do). The haggis is brought into the room on a silver salver with great ceremony and a piper leading the procession.

The Address to the Haggis can be simply translated into sections:

1st and 2nd verses compliment the haggis on its fulsome appearance (chieftain of the pudding race), fat face and buttocks like distant hills, also enticing amber bead droplets exuding through the pores.

3rd and 4th verses describe the knife cutting into the haggis (gushing entrails bright) and the glorious sight and smell. People rush forward with their spoons to partake until their bellies are fit to burst and the head of table says a thankyou grace.

Aileen plunging the knife into the haggis while Graeme who piped in the haggis stands alongside. Photo: Désirée Patterson

5th and 6th verses poke fun at those who dabble in continental faddy food (ragout, olio, fricassee) which would make a sow sick and good folk vomit. Such poor devils are weak with thin legs, small fist and not fit enough to run across a field or flood.

7th and 8th verses compare a haggis fed man – his tread makes the Earth tremble and any blade in his hand would whistle while cutting off legs, arms and heads like the top of a thistle. To finish, it beseeches those choosing food for Scots to avoid watery stuff in wee bowls but give them haggis to earn their gratitude.

Haggis is always served with Neeps (Swede turnip) and mashed Tatties….and whisky. It is usually preceded by The Selkirk Grace by Rabbie Burns.

Some hae meat and canna eat, — And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat, Sae let the Lord be thankit.

In a nutshell, Rabbie brought us many well-loved stirring poems and songs, ranging from beautiful to satirical. He created valuable collections of tunes, history and culture of his times.

His humble beginnings were working with his parents on the farm in Ayrshire in the Borders. It was a hard life punctuated with landlord troubles, colouring his attitude to figures of authority abusing their power. His ‘artistic temperament’ made him very popular, including siring 14 children by four different mothers.

After using up all his money, he later took a job as an exciseman (oh, the irony) and settled down with his wife Jean Armour. He died of heart failure.

We remember him often by singing Auld Lang Syne at the end of every Scottish Event – his most enduring poem about friendship.

Other often quoted lines include:

O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us. (O would some power the gift give us to see ourselves as others see us.)

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain
For promis’d joy.

Aileen Logie
7 February 2021

‘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

  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.[]

2014 Wellington Region 1920s Ball

Memories of an elegant evening

Going back in time to the Roaring Twenties, groups of elegant dancers entered a beautifully decorated ballroom ready for an evening of dance and friendship: flappers in dresses decorated with beadwork, sequins or embroidery, feathers in their hair and long swirling strings of pearls; men in striped jackets, white trousers and boater hats or resplendent in black Prince Charlie jackets and kilts.

Loralee Hyde and Rod and Kristin Downey arrive at the 1920s Ball

Wellington Region President at the time, Philippa Pointon, says the committee decided to have a 1920s ball to celebrate the decade in which the RSCDS was formed.

Thanks so much to the committee of Melva Waite, Kath Ledingham, Eileen South and Philippa, who was also MC for the evening, for organising this grand affair on 5 July 2014.

The ‘1920s’ committee: Melva Waite, Kath Ledingham, Eileen South and Philippa Pointon

As dancers arrived, they were offered punch by three smartly dressed bartenders; Kevin Lethbridge, Pat Waite and Peter Warren.

Ready to serve the punch: Kevin Lethbridge, Pat Waite and Peter Warren

Everyone had the opportunity to pose in their finery in a gold photo booth, made especially for the purpose by John Gregory. Thanks to John for pulling together all the fantastic decorations for the evening, with the photo booth continuing to feature at formal occasions including the Johnsonville 50 Golden Years Celebration in 2016.

Johnsonville ‘1920s’ dancers: Aline and John Homes, Rod and Kristin Downey with Sono Barnes in front, Malcolm Leitch, Désirée Patterson and Pat Reesby

Lively music from Aileen Logie, John Smith, Peter Elmes and Terry Bradshaw (with some sets containing 1920s tunes cleverly arranged by Peter), got toes tapping and dancers on to the floor throughout the evening.

MC Philippa Pointon with Aileen Logie, John Smith, Peter Elmes and Terry Bradshaw

Old favourites on the programme included The Sailor, Cadgers in Canongate and Sugar Candie. Dances published by the RSCDS in the 1920s were represented by Flowers of Edinburgh (Book 1, 1924) and Blue Bonnets (Book 3, 1926).

Johnsonville dancers: Kristin & Rod Downey, John Homes and Loralee Hyde

“A great night was had by all”, Philippa says. “I don’t think the Charleston had ever been played on an accordion before!”

Check out these photos for more memories of a fabulous evening of fun and friendship with elegant costumes abounding and memorable dancing and music

Watch Pat Reesby’s video of Village Reel below

Loralee Hyde
20 January 2021

Join us at dancing in 2021

Scottish Country Dancing is a fun way to get fit and make new friends – all with toe-tapping Celtic music!

We welcome you to our Beginner’s Classes on 1, 8, 15 & 22 February, 7.30pm-9.30pm on Monday nights at Khandallah Town Hall, 11 Ganges Road, Khandallah, Wellington.

Our classes suit all ages from teenagers and upwards.

First Class: Monday, 1 February

Doors open at 7.15pm. Come a little early the first night to register and be ready to dance at 7.30pm.

Our tutor Rod Downey will introduce the steps over the four weeks and you’ll be up and dancing during the first evening.

  • This is social dancing and we all dance together and help each other.
  • No partner is needed – come by yourself or with a friend
  • Wear soft shoes and light comfortable clothing
  • Just $5 for each class, or $15 for all four! Pay by cash at the door.

FREE for 2020 Johnsonville Scottish Country Dance Club members


To find out more, contact Robert on 021 163 9649 or email him or Rod/Kristin on 04 478 4948 or email them


Khandallah Town Hall, 11 Ganges Road, Khandallah, Wellington.

Isabelle and Maggie: New dancers in 2020

Isabelle and Maggie with Kristin Downey, President of Johnsonville Club

Two new dancers have kindly shared their experiences of being a new dancer at Johnsonville Club in 2020.

Find out more from Isabelle and Maggie about their first year of dancing


Download the Johnsonville Beginners Poster 2021 below


Click here for more about our club and Scottish Country Dancing

Our new dancers of 2020

More than twenty new dancers came along to Johnsonville’s beginners’ classes early in 2020 to try out Scottish Country dancing. Around half of those decided it was not for them, but the other half wanted to know more.

Club nights had only been up and running for three weeks when Covid got in the way, dancing was suspended, and many people’s lives changed. Despite this, four of our new dancers found the joy of the dance irresistible, and have become part of our dancing community.

Two of those dancers have kindly shared their experiences of being a new dancer at Johnsonville Club in 2020: Maggie Boag and Isabelle Joseph. Find out more below.

Isabelle and Maggie with Kristin Downey, President of Johnsonville Club

Maggie Boag: An incredible way to exercise the body…and brain

Maggie has a bit of a head start on many of us, having done easy Scottish Country dances as a child at school in Paisley, not far from Glasgow. She also lived in the Highlands, in the wee village of Foyers (famous for its ‘smoky’ waterfall) south of Inverness, on the shores of Loch Ness.

Robert Burns and Lord Kelvin, amongst others, visited Foyers, Burns wrote a poem about it, and there is a Scottish Country dance named The Falls of Foyers. Maggie’s Scottish background surely set her up to find the joy in Scottish Country dancing.

But outside of school, she only ever danced at Christmas dances, weddings and ceilidhs until a Kiwi friend brought her along to beginners’ classes in Johnsonville. As Maggie says: ‘It seems I had to come to New Zealand to learn RSCDS dances … all far more complicated than any I had done before.’

Maggie with her daughter Fiona in Johnsonville

If Covid-19 had not come along, Maggie’s allowed 6-month visit to family in New Zealand would have finished, and she would have headed back to Scotland in April. Happily for us and for Maggie, her visit was extended, and she danced with us all year. Long may it last.

Maggie says:

Since I recently became a widow, I found it difficult to meet new people and enjoy company. A good friend suggested that I might like to join her at Johnsonville Scottish Country Dance Club on a Monday night.

I was very nervous and, right up till the last minute, I almost pulled out. I am so glad that I didn’t.

From the moment I arrived, all of the members gave me a warm welcome. They showed an interest in me, encouraged me, and reassured me that I would soon learn the steps of the many dances.

They pointed out that, in the past, they too had been beginners, and it didn’t matter if you made a mistake, or got your right mixed up with your left, the patterns would soon fall into place.

Experienced dancers always took me and the other new dancers as partners for each dance. They would gently and subtly point out the correct way to go and what was coming next.

Of course that didn’t always work, and there were sometimes hilarious consequences. But these kind people never laugh at you, instead they laugh with you!

Every evening there is much laughter and communication. This is so very good for your spirit.

Our excellent tutor, Rod, is a very patient man. He breaks down each dance, explains each part of it, and demonstrates how it should be done. (He is so light on his feet!)

Before each class, he lets us know by email what new dances will be taught that week and includes videos of those dances. This is tremendously helpful.

Rod has a wealth of knowledge of all the dances and the music that  accompanies them. We all learn so much from him and are inspired by his enthusiasm.

I have also found that Scottish Country Dancing is an incredible way to exercise … not only the body, but also the brain. Since taking up dancing, I find the many hills of Wellington far less challenging.

After this first year of dancing, I am still very much a beginner compared to most of my new friends. With their kindness, friendship, and encouragement, I am keen to carry on and become more competent.

I still make many mistakes, and am often more like a baby elephant than a nimble elf, but when I get the moves in a dance right, and I glide across the floor with an excellent partner, I experience such a feeling of accomplishment and such a feeling of joy.

It really has astounded me that Scottish Country Dancing could make me feel so good. I really am so grateful to all at Johnsonville Scottish Country Dance Club.

Newer dancers from Johnsonville at the 2020 Wellington New Dancers Celebration – Elizabeth Judge, Maura Beattie, Bruce and Fiona Jones and Maggie

I am looking forward to future years of good company, a fun way to exercise both my mind and body, and to learn more of these amazing dances.

I would dearly love to stay in New Zealand permanently, not only to be near my daughter, but because I have found the people, the culture and the land of this beautiful country to be wonderful. Hopefully this might happen in the not too distant future.

Isabelle Joseph: Enjoying dancing allows me to have fun

Isabelle just loves to dance. From the moment she saw Johnsonville Club’s beginners’ ad for dance classes close by in Johnsonville, she was hooked.

Isabelle had done some traditional Malay dance at school in Malaysia, and danced to music and song at parties. She’d seen and liked the Irish dancing in Riverdance, but not seen Scottish country dancing before. That didn’t matter though, Isabelle just wanted to dance.

As she says: ‘I’m so glad that I took some time to read the Independent Herald in January, in which I came across the Johnsonville Scottish Country dance club. I “braved” myself to come in for the first night of dancing and have loved every session I attended.’

Since then Isabelle has earned renown for the delicious Malaysian curry puffs she prepares for Tartan nights and volunteered to join this year’s supper team. She also likes the sound of bag-pipes which she finds to be an amazing musical instrument!

We are lucky she was brave enough to join us on the dance floor, and are so pleased she’s staying on to dance with us. A friend has even made Isabelle a beautiful tartan sash to wear while dancing.

Isabelle says:

I came to New Zealand in December 2015. I moved here from Malaysia to be with my husband.

Working life in Malaysia was hectic with long hours so when I came to . it took some adjustment to the free time I had, to a point I became bored just sitting around the house and not doing much.

So I joined both a Tamil society here in Wellington and then joined the Malaysian society in 2017 where I am currently secretary. Apart from that, I volunteered as a teacher aid with MCLaSS, and with Mary Potter Hospice store in Porirua.

When my husband started his own financial business about three years ago, I stopped my volunteering and started working with him due to the banking background I have. However I still do volunteering, every Tuesday fortnight at the Home of Compassion, Island Bay.

As for dancing, back in my school days I’ve done traditional Malay dance, and in October 2017, myself with three other friends did a dance for the NZ Malaysian Society Deepavali event. Apart from that, it’s just free dance to any kind of dance music/song in parties.

I got to know about the Johnsonville Scottish Country Dance Club through the Independent Herald, January 2020 publication. I read the article in the newspaper (though it was small, it caught my attention). I decided to email the club to express my interest and get more information. I promptly received a reply, advising me on the day when the club resumes dancing.

Monday 3 February, I got ready and drove down to the Johnsonville Bowling Club. Though I was nervous I went with an open mind to be greeted by smiles and hellos. That put me at ease.

Then the dancing started, with some simple, do-able warm-ups. The experienced dancers looked after the new dancers, partnering with them for each dance routine. It was not easy remembering the moves but eventually you get the hang of it with the help of the experienced dancers.

Since then, Monday evening is a day I look forward to, a day/time I block off on my calendar. The dance is fun and keeps the brain active as you need to remember the formations and when it is your turn to move, of course with the guidance of our dance tutor.

I can’t say I knew Scottish dance before I joined the club. I must say it was unexpected. I didn’t know there were so many routines, formations, different kind of steps for different kind of music. It was pretty challenging.

Isabelle at the far left and Maggie second from the right dancing Spring Fever at the Johnsonville Spring Fling in November 2020

But the fact that I enjoyed dancing allowed me to have fun with it. Of course the more experienced dancers did a great job looking out for new dancers like me. And Rod is an amazing tutor.

Read an article below about about Johnsonville’s new dancers in the Independent Herald

Join us at dancing in 2021!

Scottish Country Dancing is a fun way to get fit and make new friends – all with toe-tapping Celtic music!

This year, our Beginner’s Classes are on 1, 8, 15 & 22 February, 7.30pm-9.30pm on Monday nights at Khandallah Town Hall, 11 Ganges Road, Khandallah, Wellington.

Find out more here

9 January 2020

Wellington Region Hogmanay 2020

On a balmy Wellington evening, more than 12 sets of dancers including a great contingent from Johnsonville saw off the end of a challenging 2020 by cheering in the New Year at the Wellington Region Hogmanay on 31 December in Lower Hutt.

Thanks to Ann and Andrew Oliver and their team for organising this superb evening which was full of smiles and laughter after a disrupted year of dancing. A constant refrain was one of thankfulness for being able to celebrate Hogmanay together when so many around the world could not due to severe Covid-19 restrictions.

Robert and Liz leading down the middle in Wild Geese

Along with dancers from throughout the Wellington Region, we welcomed RSCDS New Zealand Branch President Linda Glavin, Vice President Debbie Roxburgh with Paul, and Communication, Publicity and Membership Coordinator Sue Lindsay. Others from outside the Region included Sue and Ian Pearson from Whanganui, Doug Mills and Lynda Aitchison from Marlborough and former Wellingtonian Xiaowen Yu, now living in Dunedin.

Thank you to the MCs who gave briefings and oversaw walkthroughs of dances during the evening—Ann, Johnsonville Club member Jeanette Watson, Margaret Cantwell, Diane Bradshaw and Edith Campbell (who shared intriguing tidbits about the dance origins!).

We danced the night away to fine music from the Saltire Scottish Dance Band led by Mary McDonald on the fiddle, with Jason Morris (keyboard, clarinet), Duncan McDonald (drums), Glenice Saunders (fiddle) and Alastair McDonald (sound technician). Joining them were guest musicians Lynne Scott (accordion, octave-below fiddle, keyboard) and Moira Croad (flute, piccolo).

Mary says the band got a buzz out of playing to the full hall and seeing all the smiling faces.

MC Edith Campbell with the band – Glenice, Mary, Moira, Jason, Duncan & Lynne

Popular dances included the old favourites De’il Amang the Tailors, Pelorus Jack and the toe-tapping reel Mairi’s Wedding. The more experienced dancers took up the challenge of dancing Culla Bay, Best Set in the Hall (repeated for those keen to dance it a second time) and A Capital Jig.

Jeanette second from the left and Elizabeth and Ross at the right scooting along in The Flying Scotsman
Moira in the top set with Pat behind dancing left hands across in Pelorus Jack

Before midnight, Damon Collin led a singalong of Scottish songs—this time with the words projected on to a screen rather than the printed copies we’ve used since the last century!

The ceremony for welcoming in the New Year began by sweeping out the old year, with Lee and Michele Miller taking on the roles of the Old Year and the Sweeper while we sang Auld Lang Syne.

As President of the Wellington Region, Ann announced the arrival of the First Foot—the first person to come across the threshold in the new year, carrying gifts of coal for warmth, salt or money for wealth, shortbread for sustenance and whisky for good cheer.

Led by piper Doug Sinclair, First Foot James Scott walked a circuit around the hall before presenting the gifts to Ann. The First Foot then raised a toast to the RSCDS Wellington Region and we welcomed in the new year of 2021.

Doug Sinclair piping in First Foot James Scott

After wishing each other Happy New Year, it was time for the dancers to tackle the final three dances—the Eightsome/Thirtytwosome Reel, City of Belfast and The Reel of the 51st Division.

Let’s look forward to year filled with dancing!

Loralee Hyde
3 January 2021

Loralee with Liz at Hogmanay

See more of Loralee’s photos and download them if you wish

Watch Pat Reesby‘s videos
New Year Jig
Dashing White Sergeant
The Glasgow Highlanders
Auld Lang Syne

Watch Aline Homes‘ videos
The Wild Geese
Best Set in the Hall