Category Archives: Articles 2020

A whirl of activity at Johnsonville

The last three months of 2020 started with the disappointment of cancelling our annual dance, but it’s been all good news since then.

Our shared annual dance with Capital City Club was rescheduled from 22 August to 19 September due to Covid-19, then had to be cancelled when Alert Level 2 remained in force till 21 September. So near and yet so far.

A serendipitous night of fantastic live music on 28 September really restored our spirits.

Regular club musician Aileen Logie was joined by Hilary Ferral (the other half of Cranberry Tarts), plus mathematician and violinist André Nies who happened to be in town on the night. Aileen added to the festivities, bringing along an enormous chocolate birthday cake to share.

Two weeks later Johnsonville members turned out in force for a wonderful night’s dancing at the Wellington Region New Dancers’ Celebration hosted by Waikanae Club. Fourteen of the club’s more experienced dancers did a great job of supporting our ten newer dancers there on the night. Then on the Sunday of Labour Weekend, a crowd of us enjoyed a fun and relaxing afternoon of dancing at the Musicians Tea Dance.

As in past years, the club held a Halloween/Samhain celebration, with Jason Morris joining Aileen and Hilary to bring us more live music. Musicians and club members alike did an amazing job of creative costuming, Rod put together a fun programme of magical dances, and Elizabeth served up a feast of Halloween-themed supper goodies.

Witches, devils and ghoulies celebrate Samhain!

With Spring disappearing fast, we finally managed to hold our twice-postponed Spring Fling dinner and dance, just squeaking into Spring on 18 November. Socialising over mulled wine, fine Indian food from Tulsi in Johnsonville and a themed programme of easy dances kept us all very happy. And it was a pleasure to meet members’ non-dancing family and friends.

Members, family and friends decked out in Spring colours

The club’s last event for the year will be our Tartan and Final night on 14 December at Ngaio Town Hall.

The final piece of good news for the year is that the club has found a new permanent home. Many thanks to Johnsonville Bowling Club for welcoming us to their clubrooms this year, but we are moving to larger premises for our Monday night dancing.

From February 2021, Johnsonville Club will relocate to Khandallah Town Hall.

Kristin Downey
13 December 2020

Originally published in the RSCDS Wellington Region Harbour City Happenings, Volume 23 No. 4, December 2020

Naming dances

Rod and I were in Napier at the end of August for his talk on Mathematics and Scottish Country Dancing, organised by the Hawke’s Bay Branch of the Royal Society Te Apārangi.

We always take our dancing shoes when we travel, and we had a lot of fun dancing with the very hospitable Clive Friday morning group (as we did in our June trip to Napier). On this visit Rod took the whole session, teaching a selection of his dances which people would not have come across before.

Looking at the list of dances, I thought there was a story to be told about how his dances get their names, and sometimes their inspiration. They were devised between 2013 and 2019, and run the gamut from easier teaching dances to dances which introduce new formations.

You can see in the list below that Rod’s dances are named for dancers, musicians and events. They are often written as teaching dances for a particular formation, or with a new formation in mind, and sometimes the name reflects the formation.

  • Will Starr (2013) – a famous Scottish musician.
  • Moggie and the Fish (2014) – a well-known Wellington dancer, and a less well-known fish, with both a poem and a dance to record their meeting.
  • Patricia Reesby (2015) – a longstanding Johnsonville dancer, and a new formation.
  • My Golden Bear (2016) – a close family member and an auspicious occasion (or two).
  • Watchmaker (2018) – the teaching formation gives the name of the dance.
  • The Coleraine Rant (2019) – written for a Johnsonville Club occasion, with a double meaning in the name.
Dancing the World Premiere of The Coleraine Rant at Johnsonville in March 2019

Enjoy finding out all about the dances Rod taught to the Clive dancers below, together with photos and links to videos.

Kristin Downey

What’s in a dance name?

Each of Rod’s dances has a story attached to it, and as we dance, we keep those stories alive. Read on to find the stories and histories for each dance, as well as instructions and video links where possible.

Will Starr

Instructions here and video here (note both first and third couples begin in this demonstration version). Written as a teaching dance for Ladies’ Chain in quick time, and named after a very ‘quick’ musician.

Will Starr was a famous Scottish accordionist from the middle of the 20th Century (1922-1976), and was known as the King of the Scottish Accordion. The legend is that he had one speed (‘faster’), as you can hear in this video. You also get to see his fine leg, which he was proud to display in his performances.

Watch the video of this demonstration of Will Starr here

Moggie and the Fish

Instructions here. There is no video of Moggie and the Fish. However this video from Johnsonville’s 2015 Annual Dance shows the related dance The Viking’s Sheepskin which starts with the same new formation, a modified Sheepskin Hey.

Rod learned of this traditional English dance formation when he and Kristin visited Cambridge and attended classes offered by the Capriol Dancers

The dance itself was inspired by Wellington dancer Moggie Grayson’s finding of Rod’s lost ‘fish’ kilt pin at the Shetland Society’s Viking Ball. She mailed it back to Rod together with a clever poem. He wrote the dance to thank her.

Rod’s fish kilt pin on his Dress Macdonald kilt

Patricia Reesby

Instructions here and video here showing dancers from Lyon. It was posted with their thanks to Pat for her many videos of dances from around New Zealand.

Pat is a very keen dancer, a member of Johnsonville Club for many years, serving as secretary, and writer of fine newsletters. This is the first of Rod’s dances to include his new formation La Spirale, he named the dance in Pat’s honour.

Watch the video of Patrica Reesby here

My Golden Bear

Instructions here and video here (taken by John Patterson) from the Johnsonville Tartan night 1 October 2018.

Rod devised this for his wife Kristin, his ‘bear’, for her 60th birthday; and especially in appreciation of her work for Johnsonville Club’s 50 Golden Years celebration in 2016. It features his new formation Corners Pass and Turn in Tandem.

See more about My Golden Bear here


Instructions here, no video.

This is a teaching dance for the Tourbillon formation. The name comes from Abraham-Louis Breguet’s 1801 patented tourbillon (whirlwind in French), an addition to the mechanics of watches involving slow, continuous rotation of the entire assembly.

The Coleraine Rant

Instructions here, no video.

Devised by Rod for an Irish-themed St Patrick’s night, and as a teaching dance for Poussette. It was named for Te Mata Coleraine, one of the great wines of New Zealand, with a link to Ireland via original winemaker John Buck’s grandfather, who was born in County Coleraine in Northern Ireland.

See details of the premiere of this dance at Johnsonville Club on 19 March 2019

It seems devisors put almost as much thought into naming their dances as into devising them. Thanks to all our devisers who bring us the excitement of new dances and formations and stories.

3 September 2020

Rod Downey: What links mathematics and Scottish Country Dancing?

Rod gives lots of talks as part of his job as a mathematician. Every now and again he’ll mention Scottish Country Dancing, but this is the first time he’s been specifically asked to give a talk on the relationship between two passions in his life – mathematics and Scottish Country Dancing.

The Hawke’s Bay Branch of the Royal Society Te Apārangi contacted Rod earlier in the year about giving a talk on that specific topic. The original June date had to be postponed due to Covid-19, but the talk did go ahead this week on Thursday 27 August.

You might wonder, how did they know to ask? The answer lies partially in the fact that Rod wore his Dress Macdonald kilt to the 2018 Royal Society Te Apārangi Research Honours dinner where he was awarded the Rutherford medal. The kilt is his default ‘formal wear’ as he does not own a suit!

As is often the case in New Zealand, personal connections also came into play. Ex-VUW colleague and ecologist Charles Daugherty, and his wife Maryanne Horsfield (a past dancer at Johnsonville Club) retired to Havelock North, and came in contact with the Hawke’s Bay branch of the Royal Society. Charles was the natural person to approach Rod on behalf of the branch.

Public lectures are always a bit of a lottery in terms of how many will turn up on the night. But with at least a set of Scottish country dancers arriving even before Rod did (!) the planetarium was packed. Special thanks to the Clive Friday Scottish country dancers who turned out in force.

Rod had planned to live stream on Zoom, and record his talk for those who couldn’t zoom in live. Live streaming was successful, but technological issues meant that alas, his talk did not record.

Rod explaining progression of couples within a set in Scottish Country Dancing Photo: Isabel Jackson

Read more below to get a flavour of Rod’s talk including links to the Scottish Country Dancing videos he used, or view the full set of lecture slides – the best alternative to the recording that didn’t quite work out.

Kristin Downey

Maths and Scottish Country Dancing

A lecture to the Hawke’s Bay Branch of the Royal Society Te Apārangi 27 August 2020

The Hawke’s Bay Branch of the Royal Society has an interesting history, growing out of the Hawke’s Bay Philosophical Institute established in 1874. It is very active ‘in the advancement and the public understanding of science, technology and the humanities, particularly through the delivery of lectures to members and the general public of Hawke’s Bay.’

The branch has a good relationship with Hawke’s Bay Holt Planetarium and uses it as a venue for some of their public lectures. Organiser Lynne Trafford purposely chose this atmospheric venue for Rod’s talk – he was surrounded by space paraphernalia, with a model spacecraft suspended above his head.

Rod setting up for his talk with Emre Erturk, President Hawke’s Bay Branch Royal Society Photo: Kristin Downey


Rod first talked about the mathematics he does, beginning with graph theory and algorithms. He also mentioned some applications of his research by others, using paramaterised complexity – things like genomic analysis of the causes of prostate cancer, and data analysis of otitis media in aboriginal communities. He emphasised that the original research was purely ‘blue skies’ research, with no applications in mind.

Rod explaining an application of his research to analysis of the causes of prostrate cancer Photo: Isabel Jackson

Rod then spoke about his new area of research interest, online algorithmics. An online algorithm is one where you have to react to dynamic situations, making decisions without knowing the future. For example a triage nurse must schedule patients as they arrive, without knowing anything about patients who will arrive in the future. (In contrast, an offline situation would be where all appointments are made in advance.)

His research aims to find a general framework to design algorithms to solve these ‘online’ problems. The key aspect of all of this is the visualisation of what is happening to objects as they evolve with time.

So how does this relate to Scottish Country Dancing?

Scottish Country Dancing

For those at the talk not familiar with Scottish Country Dancing, Rod used this video of De’il Amang the Tailors to illustrate an old dance which is loved worldwide, for the choreography and music combination. For Rod, the music is king, and the single most important part of the dance is the interpretation of the music.

When he devises a dance he needs to understand how the interacting agents (in this case people) must behave, so as to enable the phrasing and choreography of the dance. Where should everyone be and when? How can each individual dancer modify their phrasing to enable the dance for themselves and others?

A simple example of this is a right shoulder reel, where each dancer must adjust to the others as they move through space and time. To see clearly how team phrasing works in a dance, look at this video of The Celtic Brooch devised by Hugh Foss (the leader of the team at Bletchley Park which broke the Japanese Enigma code).

Rod enjoys the challenge of constructing new formations for the dances he devises. In this video of his dance My Golden Bear the central figure ‘Corners Pass and Turn in Tandem’ is one of his new formations. All the dancers must work together to enable the figure to succeed.

Aesthetics are also a big consideration for him, he finds both maths and Scottish Country Dancing ‘quite beautiful’.

An example of a beautiful piece of mathematics is Euler’s theorem on plane graphs. Why is it beautiful? It tells us something universal, it is unexpected, and the proof is intuitive, visual and simple. With the stroke of a few lines we see something eternal about all plane graphs.

Everyone has their own idea of what makes a beautiful formation or dance. Rod’s formation the Rose progression has flow, phrasing, visualisation in space and gives a certain ‘feel’ when it is danced. The RSCDS Lyon Branch ‘Ladies 1 team’ demonstrated the Rose beautifully at the 2019 Newcastle festival – watch them dance Library of Birmingham by Kenneth Reid.

Rod’s Summary

For this kind of mathematics we attempt to understand interacting processes as they change with time, and develop algorithms to cope with that.

Rod in full flight during his talk Photo: Lynne Trafford

The creative part is to develop the framework: How to represent things, and the algorithmics: How to make efficient, safe, etc algorithms, and how do I know they are good or maybe the best?

For this kind of dancing we have many agents (people) interacting with time: How to develop an algorithm (a dance), choreography which allows flow through positions.

Both have aesthetics although the mathematics is not usually set to music. A beautiful exception is Dance your PhD by Roni Zohar.

For more information (especially on the maths) view the full set of lecture slides on Rod’s website.

by Rod Downey
27 August 2020

Click here for a short video snippet of Rod in action at his talk Video: Isabel Jackson

CANCELLED Johnsonville & Capital City Joint Annual Dance: 19 September

A series of information bulletins aimed at giving our members all the details they need about our Annual Dance

Annual Dance 19 September CANCELLED
NEW DATE for Annual Dance: Saturday 19 September
Annual Dance on 22 August CANCELLED
Volunteer to help
Learning the dances
Save the date and download 22 August programme!

Annual Dance 19 September CANCELLED

15 September

Unfortunately the Johnsonville & Capital City Joint Annual Dance on 19 September is CANCELLED due to Covid-19 restrictions.

We are very disappointed and also feel for our musicians who’ve worked so hard to get ready for the big day. Thanks Lynne, Sharlene and Richard.

NEW DATE for Annual Dance: Saturday 19 September

21 August

Download the programme with the new date below:

Our Annual Dance on 22 August CANCELLED

16 August

Due to Covid-19 conditions, and in the best interests of our dancing community the Johnsonville & Capital City Joint Annual Dance on 22 August is cancelled.

Volunteer now to help with our Annual Dance

4 August

Volunteers from Johnsonville and Island Bay Clubs helping to set up the hall for our 2019 Annual Dance. See more photos

We do need help from members to organise this premiere dance event of our Club year.

Complete our online volunteer signup form at by Friday 14 August

Volunteer for the following time slots:

A. Hall Setup: 3.30-4.30pm
B. During the Evening: 7.30-11.00pm
C. Hall Packup: 11.00-11.30pm

More details on the volunteer sign up form at

Using our online form will also be a big help as it will save a lot of time for our Volunteer Co-ordinator Elizabeth Ngan.

We’re well on the way to being prepared!

30 July

  • Rod’s already taught 10 of the 18 dances on the programme – some once, some twice and one dance three times!
  • We’ve again booked Ngaio Town Hall as our venue, it’s perfect for an annual dance
  • Musicians Lynne Scott, Sharlene Penman and Richard Hardie have been practising hard, and will bring us great music on the night
  • The committee has confirmed that entry is free for Johnsonville members!

Our Premiere Event: Save the date!

17 July

Our annual Saturday night dance on 22 August is a very special occasion. It is our premiere dance event of the year, which we organise for our enjoyment, and that of other dancers throughout the region.

This dance is for all our members, from the very newest to the most experienced. Mark it on your calendar, then come along to club as often as you can over the next few weeks, to practise the dances. They’ll be walked on the night for one couple, but the more you know, the more fun you’ll have.

Download the programme below:

Into lockdown and out again

Despite the Covid-19 lockdown, the last few months have been full of activity for Johnsonville Club.

On 16 March we celebrated St Patrick’s Day. Club members turned out in force (and in green) for what turned out to be our last club night before dancing was suspended.

It was a good night to look back on, starting with a set of Irish reels for A Trip to Ireland, andfinishing with Irish Rover. It was alsofun to have another opportunity to dance The Coleraine Rant written by tutor Rod Downey for last year’s St Patrick’s day celebration.

Rod searched out lively music in Irish style, bringing a flavour of Ireland to well-known Scottish Country Dances devised around an Irish theme. Supper co-ordinator Elizabeth Ngan supplied a super supper with a green theme – ranging from healthy minted green pea dip and corn chips, to delicious green-wrapped Easter eggs. It was a good send-off to a dance-free life for the next three months.

With no idea how long we might be unable to hold club nights, we felt we needed to do something to keep our dancing community engaged. We made the decision to keep producing our weekly newsletter, much along the lines of RSCDS HQ’s Dance Scottish at Home – though obviously on a much smaller scale.

Tutor Rod provided information to keep people in dancing mode, learning more about formations, viewing dance videos, and practising their footwork. Club members Désirée Patterson, Elena Lark, Maureen Sullivan and Moira Broughton generously offered their time as video subjects demonstrating reels, reels and more reels.

Secretary Robert Vale drew on his time in Scotland to bring us interesting items on places Scottish, with a focus on the Glasgow area. John Homes continued his Dances Done at Club segment, searching out interesting facts relating to familiar dances and Kristin Downey and Loralee Hyde played their part in the background.

Perhaps the most entertaining part of the newsletter was the Scottish Connections segment, made up of articles contributed by club members. We learnt about people’s family histories, choice of tartan sash, beloved items such as Scottish songbooks, and memories of childhood.

We honoured our longstanding members and Life Members, and delved into the club’s history.

Once New Zealand reached Level 1, we were back dancing, holding our first club night on 15 June. It was hard to know how many people would return to club, so we were really pleased to have four sets on that first night back, including some of our beginners.

This year’s beginners had only been dancing for seven weeks when we had to shut up shop, and they were concerned they had forgotten much of what they’d learnt. To re-build their knowledge and confidence, Rod started club nights early to focus on basic skills and it’s really nice to see them doing so well.

Those skills stood them in good stead for their first night dancing to live music at Johnsonville’s Live Music & Tartan Night on 13 July.

Lots of fun and laughter dancing Corn Rigs at Johnsonville’s Live Music & Tartan Night on 13 July

The event was to have been on 6 April at Onslow College gym, with all Wellington dancers invited to attend. It was cancelled, then the hall became unavailable post-Covid, and our current club venue is too small to invite others – so we had a fine night dancing ‘at home’ instead with rousing music from musicians Aileen Logie, Hilary Ferral and Jason Morris.

Jason, Aileen and Hilary provided rousing music on the night

from Kristin Downey, President
20 July 2020

Originally published in Kiwi News, RSCDS NZ Branch Inc. Volume 25, No 2 July 2020

Kristin Downey: Dancing in Hawke’s Bay

Rod and I recently spent a few days away in Napier. With rain forecast for the whole time, we decided we needed a backup plan to include some activities other than cycling and walking. Naturally our minds turned to dancing.

The Hawke’s Bay and East Coast Region lists four dancing groups – two in Hastings, one in Napier and one in Parkvale. With groups not yet started back, we instead joined a casual social group for experienced dancers which runs on Friday mornings at St Francis’ Church hall in Clive.

Tutor Isabel Jackson and other dancers were very welcoming – especially so because five of their usual dancers were absent. They also pointed out that we were the youngest dancers on the floor, something to be savoured as that’s pretty rare for us these days!

It’s always interesting dancing with different groups, each one has a different repertoire of dances. Isabel started with Rodney’s Rant (chosen before she knew we’d be coming), moved on to Red House (an old favourite for us) and finished with “Deer” Friends which was unfamiliar to me. There is also a dance called Deer in the Headlights – and that more closely described me till I got myself sorted out.

With a cup of tea under our belts, Rod took up the invitation to teach some of his dances. The Lady in Pink was an obvious first choice as there were five couples on the day. Rod then taught John Markham’s Rant – only the second time it’s been danced, and we finished the session with Miss Leslie Cunningham.

Rod in the centre with the Clive Friday morning dancing group. Tutor Isabel Jackson is third from the right in blue.

It was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed being a person of no-responsibility-whatsoever, just a dancer. We also enjoyed getting to know the group better over lunch at Clive Bakery, and getting some tips on wet-weather destinations in the area.

We didn’t make it to The Silky Oak Chocolate Company or the MTG museum and gallery as the rain never really arrived, but they’re on our list. And we’re looking forward to dancing in Clive again when we return to Napier.

Kristin Downey
24 June 2020

Never a dull moment at Johnsonville

Before, during and after the Covid-19 lockdown

We’d only just started settling in to our new club home at Johnsonville Bowling Club, when it became obvious that we would need to suspend club nights due to the risks posed by Covid-19. We also had to cancel the club’s planned Tartan Night on 6 April and postpone the club’s annual mid-winter dinner dance.

We did however manage to squeeze in our St Patrick’s Day celebration night on 16 March before we shut up shop. It was a fun night of Irish-themed dances with a lot of green to be seen not only on the four sets of dancers, but also on the supper table.

Rod started with a set of Irish reels for A Trip to Ireland and finished with Irish Rover. He searched out Irish style music to add a flavour of Ireland to well-known dances with an Irish theme such as City of Belfast, and we got a second chance to dance The Coleraine Rant written by Rod for last year’s St Patrick’s Day.

Elizabeth Ngan supplied a super supper with a green theme. Dancers were spoiled for choice with minted green pea dip and corn chips, Easter eggs and Lindt chocolates in green paper, green apple sherbet fizz, and Kiwiberry (for the health conscious amongst us). All in all, a cheery last club night before embarking on Alert Level 4.

Going into lockdown, the challenge was to keep club spirit alive, our new dancers connected, and our experienced dancers interested. The club newsletter became our point of contact, a means of dance instruction, and a way to keep us entertained.

The newsletter team worked hard to put together a weekly newsletter including teaching points from Rod, a focus on dances previously done at club by John Homes, a Scotland-themed item from Robert Vale, and tidbits for lockdown entertainment from Kristin.

Club members also took up the challenge, writing about their connections to anything Scottish. Thanks to all our contributors, we managed to keep the newsletter running throughout lockdown.

Thanks also to Loralee Hyde who set up our very appealing Mailchimp newsletter template and continued to maintain our website. She posted all Rod’s instructions on the website for future reference, as well as the stories and photos contributed by members. Two special stories featured Johnsonville’s longest standing members Aline and John Homes, and Liz Rendell.

Johnsonville’s longest standing members Liz Rendell, and Aline and John Homes cut the cake at Johnsonville’s celebration of 60 years as a community dance group in 2015. Photo: Loralee Hyde

The website is increasingly becoming a great historical resource for the club. Read Johnsonville members’ stories of their Scottish connections, 2020 articles and history articles

Johnsonville returned to the dance floor on 15 June, although there are still lots of adjustments to make to the club’s operations and planned social events.

from Kristin Downey, President
16 June 2020

Originally published in RSCDS Wellington Region Harbour City Happenings Volume 23 No.2 June 2020

Aileen Logie: Loch Coruisg … and whisky

Quite a few people who are not Johnsonville Club members get our newsletter—it’s really special to have a contribution on our website from one of those ‘extras’ who is a real Scot.

Musician Aileen Logie has played at our tartan nights and annual dances over the last few years, originally as part of Peter Elmes’ band, then as leader of her own bands since Peter’s retirement

Aileen in the band at the Johnsonville Annual Dance 2017 along with Hilary Ferral, Don McKay and Peter Elmes

Read what Aileen has to say below about a special area of Scotland where she has spent time out and about tramping.

A love for Loch Coruisg and its kelpie

You might be interested in a connection between two recent Johnsonville Club newsletter articles. On 16 April, Loch Coruisk on the Isle of Skye (and its kelpie) were mentioned – and on 7 May we had some words of Scottish origin (some gaelic and some Scots) including the word whisky.

Being at Loch Coruisg (to use its original gaelic spelling) often means an overnight bivvy, inevitably a wee dram or three, and potentially meeting the kelpie in the half light. Loch Coruisg also has a lovely slow air tune, in G minor, very fitting.

I couldn’t find a recording of Loch Coruisg anywhere online. I’ve played a short piece of the tune so you can get an idea of how it goes, .

Listen to Loch Coruisg on the piano accordion, and then on the piano

Loch Coruisg (to use its original gaelic spelling) is a magical, atmospheric remote loch surrounded by the crags of the Cuillin ridge on the Isle of Skye. It is relatively difficult to get to, unless you have a boat, and is one of my favourite places on Earth.

Loch Coruisg on the Isle of Skye

Easiest access is by a coastal path which features a potentially deep river crossing (bridge washed away) and the ‘bad step’ – a crag to traverse with two ledges, one for feet, one for handhold, a bit balancey and exposed with waves crashing below.

A climber traversing the ‘bad step’ on the ridge!

The Cuillin ridge is 10 miles of scrambling/rock climbing which is a challenge to complete in a oner. Route finding is tricky as the rock is magnetic gabbro with basalt dykes and your compass needle spins uselessly. The correct route is usually the way which looks impossible, and it’s often swirly misty.

At Loch Coruisg, it’s easy to believe a kelpie lives here – it’s wild place with often wild atmospherics. A kelpie is a celtic water-horse spirit – considered mischievous rather than malignant – able to adopt a human form.

That’s the background – now where’s the connection?

Cor’uisg is made of two gaelic words:

  1. Coire = corrie = a bowl shape in the flank of a hill caused by glacial erosion. They are common in Scottish hills and often have a loch or lochan (small loch) in them.
  2. Uisge = water. This is pronounced wooishke, and is the root of the word ‘whisky’. Whisky’s full title is uisge bheatha = water of life!

Talking more of whisky…

Scotch whisky is made from barley (malted) and local spring water. The water gives each whisky its own distinctive flavour.

Whisky made in the west tastes very different to say a Speyside on the east. The distillery Talisker is just round the corner from Loch Coruisg – its whisky is tangy and peaty.

Whisky is not to be confused with whiskey – which is American/Irish bourbon distilled from corn. They drink it with ice, on the rocks, which would be sacrilegious to a Scotch whisky – a warm drink to be taken preferably near a lively fire in convivial company!

Most Scottish distilleries have recently diversified their product and also produce ‘botanical’ gins. These currently outsell whisky … a sign of the times/changing tastes!

from Aileen Logie
13 May 2020

Liz Hands: A Brief Encounter (with Jimmy Shand)

Until I began Scottish Country dancing in 2016 it had never occurred to me that a chance meeting quite a few years ago would possibly make me the envy of many.

In 1962 Kerridge Odeon promoted the ‘Kenneth McKellar Show’ for a second tour of New Zealand. It was loosely based on a popular UK television series The White Heather Club and starred some of the participants from the television show.

This type of show was favoured by Kerridge since its simple concert style allowed it to be performed in the smaller towns. Alongside tenor Kenneth McKellar there appeared the soprano, Moira Anderson, comedians Duncan MacRae and Jimmie Warren, and Jimmy Shand and his band.

For a reason I cannot recall Jimmy did not bring his bass player on the tour. My husband Brian Hands had already been hired by Kerridge for a couple of tours since our move to Auckland the previous year, so was offered the position to play double bass in Jimmy’s band which of course was accepted.

Jimmy Shand and his band including Brian Hands at the rear wearing a suit. Photo: Nelson Photo News August 18, 1962

As was the custom with being on tour, after the evening performance the company would go to the hotel house bar for a few drinks. The evening I attended the show happened to be in Hamilton and we were staying with some friends who would babysit our 7 month old daughter. We were invited by Kenneth and his lovely wife Hedy to come to the bar, where I was introduced to those already there.

After a while Jimmy came in and ordered a drink, whisky I think, and Kenneth introduced me to him. It was a very brief conversation on how I had enjoyed the show and Jimmy paid Brian a compliment, saying how well he fitted into the band. With that he finished his drink and left. Apparently that was his habit, one before bed time, not one for socialising very much.

A message from Jimmy Shand to New Zealand Scottish Country Dancers in the RSCDS NZ Branch NZ Dancer magazine 1963

There was a final return of the ‘Kenneth McKellar Show’ in 1964. I had returned to touring with Brian and our daughter in 1963 in the pit orchestras for the large stage shows and found in our travels that Wellington was a far better place than Auckland to live and earn a living from music.

Brian was again hired to play in Jimmy’s band. I did not meet Jimmy again, but remember fun times as we entertained and fed Syd Chalmers, the brilliant fiddle player while the show was in town. Listen to Syd here.

Read more about Jimmy Shand’s Australasian tours here and listen to him here.

from Liz Hands
29 April 2020

Loralee Hyde: Scottish Connections

Lorimer, Anderson, Lennie

A search for a family tartan

Soon after I started Scottish Country Dancing in 1974, I thumbed through books of tartans (no internet in those days!), trying to locate a clan connection so I could get a tartan sash to wear. No luck, so I chose a Hunting MacRae tartan.

Third from the right, I’m dancing in a Wellington demonstration set in 1991 with my Hunting MacRae tartan sash flying. Dances: Jacobite Ladies, Crown of Kings, Sound of Harris

My father Jim Hyde and my aunt Barbara knew and kept in touch with most of their aunts, uncles and cousins; which was quite an undertaking as their mother, my grandmother Sarah Hyde (née Lorimer), was one of fourteen siblings. They were also aware their mother’s parents had emigrated from Scotland but weren’t sure where their grandparents had been born.

Dad had always loved history; he knew all the details of the intense battles fought in Scotland including the Battle of Culloden. He sparked my growing interest in our heritage and in the early 1970s with help from him and my aunt, I created the first steps of a family tree (done in pencil to allow for numerous rubbings out!) on their mother’s side, the Lorimer family.

My parents explored Scotland in 1978 with my sister Karen. Dad loved visiting the places he’d learned about at school – here he and my mother Tess are at the memorial cairn at Culloden Battlefield.

Now, with so much information available on the internet, I’ve discovered Lorimer is from the Old French lor(i)mier (The Surnames of Scotland (1946) by George Fraser Black (1866-1948)), meaning “a maker of bits, spurs, stirrup-irons, and generally of all metal articles of horse-furniture”.

My grandmother Sarah Hyde (née Lorimer) in 1952. She died in 1956 so I didn’t have a chance to talk with her about the Lorimer family history.

Building a family tree nowadays

The internet has opened up a whole new world for drawing up family trees. After my mother died two years ago, I inherited thousands of photos going back to the late 1890s taken by mum, my grandmother and my father. I’m slowly scanning representative images to build a family history.

I could identify many of the people in the photos but realised others might not, so I started developing a family tree online using My Heritage. The main advantage of using an online service is the site automatically constructs the family tree charts as you enter the details of your relatives. Another benefit is the site connects names in your tree with the same names in other people’s trees – enabling you to discover many more branches of relatives! This can lead you down many a rabbit hole …

Four generations ago: Lorimer and Anderson connections

On MyHeritage, I discovered my great-great-grandfather, William Lorimer, was born in 1804 in Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. He married Jean Anderson from Upper Boyndlie, Tyrie in Aberdeenshire in 1833 and had five children – Alexander Lovie, William (my great-grandfather), Elizabeth, Jane and Joseph.

By 1841, my great-great grandfather William was the main farmer of Smithyhillcock farm in Peathill, Aberdeenshire. He farmed there for the rest of his life. Photo: MyHeritage 2009

Now knowing my great-great-grandmother Jean was an Anderson, I could choose to wear that tartan.

Three generations ago: Researching the name Delany

As a lover of history, my father was thrilled to have a photo of his grandmother Jane Lorimer. He recalled her maiden name as Delany.

Using the power of searching on MyHeritage, I found out my great-grandfather William Lorimer born in 1834 in Pitsligo, Aberdeenshire, married Jane Lennie (originally from Stirling, Scotland), in Kaiapoi, Canterbury in 1863. At the age of 20 and described as a domestic servant, Jane had emigrated to New Zealand in 1862 aboard the ship Echunga travelling from London.

Echunga passenger shipping list for the sailing from London (2 Sep 1862) to Lyttelton (24 Dec 1862). A journey of 102 days!

Delving ever deeper into the internet to find out more about the name Delany, I came upon the history of the MacMillan sept of de Lany.Leny/Lennie (a sept is a subdivision of a clan). The spelling of last names can vary in Scotland so de Lany, Leny and Lennie are three variations of the same name.

My great-great grandmother Jane Lorimer (née Lennie) at age unknown. She died in Hawera in 1902 at the age of 58.

How amazing to find out I connect to Clan MacMillan through my great-grandmother Jane’s maiden name of Lennie! And I now have a choice of MacMillan tartans for my sash. I see on the McPhees website a sash of MacMillan Hunting Ancient tartan is available. A purchase may be made soon!

MacMillan Hunting Ancient tartan

Feeling at home in Scotland

During 1979-80, I lived and worked in Pitlochry, Perthshire, Scotland for nine months. During that time, I travelled extensively throughout Scotland. Although I didn’t go to Aberdeenshire where my great-great-grandfather William and my great-grandfather William were born, I did go through Stirlingshire where my great-grandmother Jane came from and explored Stirling Castle.

How strange I passed through the area where my great-great-grandmother Jane Lennie was born without knowing that part of our family heritage.

Now I know why I’ve always loved Scotland – the music, the dancing and the landscapes – and feel at home there. I was fortunate to return to Scotland for a brief visit in 2019 with my sister Karen, who is also a Scottish country dancer. We’ll be back again one day to visit the land of our forebears.

With my sister Karen in North Queensferry across the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh in May 2019 with the Forth Bridge behind us.

from Loralee Hyde
15 April 2020