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.
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
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.
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
Friends and fellow dancers heard the sad news that Barbara Kent passed away on Friday 25 February in her 89th year. She will be missed by many in the Wellington Region, and farther afield.
Barbara was part of the Wellington Scottish Country dance community dating from the 1960s. She loved her dancing and contributed a great deal to the community, while preferring to keep a low profile.
Barbara danced at (the now dis-established) Wellington Club, and at Lower Hutt Club before coming to Johnsonville, where she was a member for around 30 years. Her earliest recorded membership is in 1973, and she was still recorded as a member in 2002. In later years she was a long-standing member of Tawa Club.
However, her trips weren’t only for work. In 1979 she joined a group of 36 dancers on a trip to Canada (described in full in the 1980 NZ Scottish Country Dancer magazine).
Barbara was part of a Māori performance item at the 1979 Oktoberfest at Kitchener/ Waterloo. As Scottish Country dancers, they ‘found a compromise (with Māori approval) by wearing a Māori type sash and headband with white frocks and shirts’, and were well received.
In amongst all her travel, Barbara found time to support Johnsonville Club both as a tutor and a member of the committee. She was club tutor in 1985 and part of 1986, took beginners’ classes in 1991, 93, 94 and 1996, and was a relieving tutor through the late 1980s and early 1990s.
In 1976 her role as president was cut short, when she was posted to Moscow, but she returned as a committee member from 1978-79, and then served a part year as president again in 1980, and was back on the committee in 1991.
1991 was the year Rod and I started dancing, and we really enjoyed our time in Barbara’s beginners’ class. In those days beginners were initially taught in a separate room in Johnsonville School until supper time, then joined experienced dancers in the hall for the rest of the night.
As beginning dancers, Barbara prepared us well. Her encouraging manner and graceful style paired well with her strong technique and clarity of instruction. For some reason my abiding memory is of her teaching hands across, getting us to understand the elegance and precision of the formation as opposed to muddling through with hands everywhere and anywhere.
When Johnsonville held its 50 Golden Years celebration in 2016, Barbara’s health did not permit her to dance, but we were very pleased she accepted the club’s invitation to be part of our celebration of those past members who contributed so much to the club.
Johnsonville Club remembers Barbara for her commitment to dancing, her support of the club and its members, and her many achievements. As her family expressed it in the Family Notices in the DomPost on Wednesday 2 March – A full life well lived and enjoyed.
Barbara’s family also thanked Malvina Major Village (among others) for their care of Barbara. Unit #9 was Barbara’s home over the last few years, and she told me she was quite tickled to have followed in the footsteps of Ngaio dancers Frieda and Murray Allardice who themselves followed Johnsonville Life Members Isla and Eric Norris in making #9 their home.
Eric and Isla had a long history with the club, first being recorded as members in 1968, and retiring from dancing in their 90s – their last recorded membership at Johnsonville was in 2003. For at least 20 years, Isla and Eric also served tea to club members at supper time.
Club minutes from 21 June 1988 are full of decision making for celebrations of Johnsonville Club’s 25th Anniversary as a community group. (Previously dancers were part of the St Columba Presbyterian church Friendship Club).
In amongst confirming Peter Elmes as musician for the Special Club Night celebration on 27 June, and realising there would be no cake (!) as the club’s cake baker was going overseas, the minutes record:
Isla Norris has made up a set of table covers for use at dances, and she and Eric are presenting them to the club for its 25th Anniversary. A letter of thanks to be sent.
A correction at the next committee meeting on 26 July clarifies that:
The tablecloths were from all three Norrises, including Gaye.
The tablecloths would have made many an appearance in that year of celebration in 1988 – at the (cake-less) Special Club Night on 27 June, the Annual Dance on 9 July, the Special S-themed Party Night on 3 October, and then the Final Night on 9 November.
Isla and Eric’s wish that the tablecloths be used at dances has been fulfilled many times over since 1988. As the photos below show, the tablecloths create a colourful and cheery presence at Tartan Nights, Annual Dances, Summer Ceilidhs, Midwinter Dinners and special events such as the club’s 50 Golden Years Celebration in 2016.
Plus One More
More recently another tablecloth has joined the collection. In 2016, her first year with the club as a new dancer, Liz Hands donated a blue and green tartan tablecloth, bringing numbers up to six – perfect for Midwinter Dinners. Originally bought for family dining at a refectory size table, Liz no longer had use for it when she downsized.
In 2013, the club’s tartan bunting joined the club’s tartan tablecloths in being indispensable to any club occasion. The bunting transforms any hall from drab to festive, bringing colour and excitement to our events, photos, and videos.
How did the bunting come to be?
The first bunting bee
2013 was a bumper year for new dancers at Johnsonville, and it was also the club’s turn to organise the New Dancers’ Celebration. The bunting was the brainchild of new dancers Debbie Cooper and Lee Fraser, as a way to decorate Newlands Centennial Hall for that occasion, and for the club to use into the future.
Debbie took the lead, collecting unwanted tartan or plain fabric from club members, some of us scoured the op-shops for more, and Pete’s Emporium supplied the rest. The call was put out for pinking shears and volunteers, and many club members answered the call.
Pat Reesby held an open house, where people could come and wield the pinking shears to cut out triangular pennants, ready for the sewing team. Her diary from that time lists members Jean Denne, Joan Clayton, Kristin Downey and Shirley Kalogeropoulos as potential pinkers.
Joan was also on the sewing team, together with new dancers Allison Kay, Deborah Shuker, Shelley Hancock, and Debbie and Lee. The bunting bee took place at Ngaio Tennis Club rooms, where Debbie and Lee were members. Deborah S remembers an ‘evening at Ngaio Tennis Club rooms (with) two machines at least and cutters, pinners and material guiders to the machinists’.
The bunting is launched
On the afternoon of 19 October 2013, club members met to decorate Newlands Centennial Hall for the New Dancers’ Celebration. There were pot plants, tartan rugs, saltires, and tartan tablecloths on the supper tables, but the star of the show was the new tartan bunting.
The hall looked fantastic, and a great night was had by all. You can see the bunting in close-up at the start of Pat Reesby’s video of The Illabo Rant, as well as the happy crowd.
We ended up with an unexpectedly large turnout on the night, as we agreed to host the medal presentation for juniors, with family members in attendance.
From then on the bunting became a standard feature of club events, next appearing at Kristin and Rod’s house for the club’s first ever Summer Ceilidh in February 2014.
The bunting made every Tartan night at Johnsonville School hall a special night, and added enormously to the atmosphere of every Annual Dance from 2014 onwards – see Pat’s video of The Robertson Rant from our 2014 Annual dance.
More bunting is needed …
Fast forward to 2016, and the club’s celebration of 50 Golden Years of association with the worldwide network of RSCDS dancers. Karori Recreation Centre was chosen to accommodate what we hoped would be a big crowd of dancers, and the space was HUGE.
So of course, we needed more bunting! Club secretary John Munro rallied club members to the cause, beginning with the club newsletter of 12 April 2016:
‘Step forward for the Bunting bee. We’re aiming to have a full complement of tartan bunting ready to decorate the hall for our 50th anniversary dance in August. Didn’t it look great on Tartan Night!’
The next week he confirmed that:
‘The Queen Bee is summoning the workers for Thurs 19 May and/or Sat 21 May. On these days the ‘bunting co-ordinator’ Janet McFadden has Open House between 10am and 4pm for bunting construction. Prior donations of tartan/plaid/plain coloured fabric are extremely welcome.’
Then on 18 May:
‘Bring pinking shears if you have them and beaver away with a cheerful group. All participants will be members of the Illustrious Order of the Bunting Bee, which has been dignified with a fine dance devised by Rod Downey.’
Ready for 50 Golden Years
And finally on 25 May John reported:
‘Now we are well supplied with extra bunting to decorate Karori Recreation Centre for our big dance on 20 August. Many thanks to: Janet McFadden, Deborah Shuker, Liz Hands, Joan Clayton, Moira Scott, Prisilla Conroy, Kristin Downey.’
And so a generous expanse of bunting adorned our ‘big dance’, with around 150 dancers, a 5-piece band led by Peter Elmes, five pipers and a drummer from the City of Wellington Pipe Band, and a demonstration set from Newtown Juniors. What a spectacle it was, and how perfect to be surrounded by our tartan bunting.
Kristin Downey 18 November 2021
All photos by Loralee Hyde except where stated.
Note: The club also holds a small string of beautifully sewn and finished tartan bunting, donated by Lieschen Bayvel in 2016. As John Munro wrote:
It will be perfect to grace our midwinter dinner and our 50th celebration dinner. Lieschen Bayvel is a friend of Janet McFadden, both members of a longstanding quilting group. When Lieschen heard that Janet was looking to borrow pinking shears for the bunting bee, she went a whole lot better and donated some bunting already made up.
As you can see, her name is not very Scottish, but her recently deceased husband was Scottish and she thought it would be appropriate to donate the bunting to our Scottish Country Dancing club. Thank you Lieschen.
This year at the AGM the committee was pleased to recognise the work that often flies under the radar – that of hall setup and pack-up.
Most often, service awards go to those who hold a formal position in the club, or perform a service which is highly visible in some way.
This year, the committee chose to recognise the service of three members who fly under the radar.
None of these members holds a formal committee position, but each of them makes a regular and ongoing contribution to the club, with no fuss, no bother, no expectation of recognition, and a great attitude of service to our club community.
This year the committee took pleasure in recognising the contributions of the following club members, who have made substantial and ongoing commitments to the set-up and pack-up of the hall, before and after club nights.
Tomoko has been with the club since 2013, when she and husband Charles, came along to the club’s beginners’ classes.
For many years now, Tomoko has been part of the team of people who stays till the end of every club night, to help pack up the hall – first at Johnsonville School Hall, then Johnsonville Bowling Club, and now at Khandallah Town Hall.
This is not a formally appointed team, it’s not rostered, it’s made up of people who see the need and step in. From 2017-2019 there were also formally rostered teams of volunteers to cover pack-up (when Rod and I were overseas for extended periods), and Tomoko’s name was always on the list.
Tomoko works quietly in the background, always looking out for what needs doing, helping out when she can, ensuring there are plenty of hands to share the work of packing up. Thank you Tomoko, your practical support for the club over many years is very much appreciated.
Wendy already had a long history as a Scottish Country dancer when she joined the club in 2019. She was so keen to dance with us, that she joined in the fun at the Summer Ceilidh before the dancing year started.
Wendy is one of the dancers who has danced at three different club venues since she joined, and has always been an early bird, arriving before dancing begins. Soon after joining us in 2019 for her first year at Johnsonville School hall, Wendy was asking what she could do to help with hall set-up, and so she began.
With the move to Johnsonville Bowling Club, helping with set-up translated into a lot of furniture moving! Wendy (working with fellow early-bird Robert Vale), moved countless chairs and tables on and off the dance floor during our 2020 year of dancing at the Bowling Club, and again this year when we returned there to dance during Level 2.
Wendy has continued to arrive early and help with hall set-up at Khandallah Town Hall, doing whatever needs doing, working alongside committee members who also arrive early. Thank you Wendy, the willing work you put in makes a big difference, and we appreciate it.
Lizzie is the most recent club member to be recognised this year, joining the club following beginners’ classes at the Bowling Club in 2020. She is an enthusiastic dancer, and has joined fully in the life of the club from the beginning, attending classes, and bringing her husband PK along to social events.
Despite all the interruptions to dancing over the last two years, Lizzie has kept on coming back, and from early on has stayed to watch the more experienced dancers in the latter part of the night.
Seeing the need, Lizzie became part of the furniture-moving crew at the Bowling Club, starting to pack up while the very experienced enjoyed the final dance of the night. She has continued helping with pack-up at Khandallah Town Hall, staying till the very end to help carry out bags to the car, before heading home herself.
While Lizzie is not the member who travels the farthest to be with us, she does have a fair distance to drive home to Porirua – more so since we moved from Johnsonville to Khandallah. But she still stays on till the end, bringing her enthusiasm to the task. Thank you Lizzie.
Johnsonville Club members are often out and about in the community—sharing the fun and friendship of Scottish Country Dancing. In the past, this has included taking part in demonstrations as part of groups who danced in at retirement homes or in schools, or through current members participating in a variety of community events.
The first photos I took of members’ participation in the community was in 1998 when a group of new dancers from that year, including Kristin and Rod Downey’s children, Carlton and Alex, danced in a demonstration at the Newlands Baptist Church.
More recently, our archive of historical photos taken by various members, brings back memories of those who used to dance with us at Johnsonville, as well as providing a record of those who dance with us now.
When former club member Pat Reesby’s grandchildren were at Ngaio School, a group of dancers from various clubs enjoyed showing the joy of dancing to the students, with some of them joining in!
World Rugby Sevens Parades
When the World Rugby Sevens teams used to play in Wellington, the associated street parades provided a wonderful opportunity for dancers from around the Wellington Region to support the Scottish team and join in the fun of these popular parades.
In the Johnsonville Club newsletter on 12 February 2014, Secretary Pat Reesby wrote:
“Jean Denne, John Munro, Désirée Patterson and I all took part in the Sevens parade last Wednesday. We led the Scottish team, and John Patterson took a photo of us with them (see photo below).
“Others in the photo are Elaine Lethbridge and Mary and Duncan Macdonald. Iain Boyd is holding the RSCDS Wellington Region banner on the left, and Allan Forsyth (from the Association of Scots Societies) the one on the right.”
In 2015, members of Johnsonville, Tawa, Kelburn, and Island Bay Clubs took part in the parade.
Through our Johnsonville Club website, we now have easy access to details about our more recent participation in community events.
Fun at Newlands Marae: 2015
The club took part in Neighbours’ Day 2015 at the Newlands Marae, Ngā Hau e Whā o Paparārangi, sharing the experience of dancing with audience members.
A further community event involving children was a visit to Karori Brownies in 2018. It all came about when the Brownie leader spotted a Johnsonville Club Beginners’ Poster in a shop window in Karori and got in touch with us.
Held in brilliant Wellington weather at Waitangi Park in 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.
Let’s look forward to more fun and laughter of dancing at community events in the future!
In 2014, the club was looking around for a venue for our second summer ceilidh, having grown too large in number to continue dancing at Kristin and Rod’s place (where the first Johnsonville summer ceilidh was held).
Amongst many other places I visited, was Newlands Marae, Ngā Hau e Whā o Paparārangi. It turned out not to be suitable for our ceilidh, but a connection had been made. So when it came time for the marae to celebrate Neighbours’ Day, they got in touch to invite us to participate.
Neighbours’ Day is all about connections within communities, and across cultural groups, and it seemed like a good thing to be involved in. The theme for 2015 was ‘the young and the elderly’, and at the time we could offer both!
Newlands Community Centre helped with organisation, and promoted the event:
Mark your calendars now for Neighbours Day 2015. This year Newlands Community Centre and Ngā Hau e Wha o Paparārangi (NHEWOP) are organising a neighbourly event for our community on Saturday 28 March, 1 – 4pm at NHEWOP marae. There will be activities and entertainment for young and old including Scottish Country dancing, kapa haka, face painting, bouncy castles, sports activities,hāngī and much much more! Come along and meet your neighbours and have fun!
The plan was for the pōwhiri to take place at 1pm, and for us to dance outside on the grass at 2pm. However, the rain changed all that, and we danced inside instead, which was a little cramped but it made for a cosy atmosphere.
Around two sets of Johnsonville members came along, ranging from longstanding dancers to some of our new dancers (Sarah and Josh), who’d only been dancing for a month or two.
We starting with a demonstration of The Robertson Rant (video from the club’s 2014 Annual Dance), and the ever-popular The De’il Amang the Tailors (video from Wellington’s 2016-2017 Hogmanay, with plenty of Johnsonville members and past members).
The day was all about sharing the experience with the community, so we moved on to some easy dances that everyone could enjoy – our very newest dancers and audience members alike. The Kingston Flyer (video from the 2013 New Dancers’ Celebration, organised by Johnsonville), and Rod’s dance Room One both made for a lot of laughter (as in this video from Johnsonville’s 2015 Bright Midwinter’s Night).
Pat Reesby, who was club secretary at the time, wrote in the club newsletter of 1 April 2015:
“Last Saturday at the marae in Ladbrooke Grove was great fun. We demonstrated The Robertson Rant and De’il Amang the Tailors and then encouraged people to join in The Kingston Flyer and Room One. Here are some photos (thanks to John Munro for taking one of them).
By the way, the ‘fairy’ is Marie Thomson 1 of the New Players of Newlands, and talking with her reminded me that when I worked for Kapi-Mana News back in the 1980s I used to review their plays and pantomimes.”
Click through the arrows at the bottom of the photo gallery below to see the fun we had participating at the Neighbours’ Day celebration in 2015. All photos by Pat Reesby except where stated.
So, a good time was had by all. And some of us went home with gifts of plants from the Newlands Community Gardens. The cabbage trees we received are looking good, and our white kākā beak is struggling on in the Newlands wind.
Kristin Downey 7 October 2021
Marie was a fantastically larger than life Newlands personality, who passed away at the end of 2016.[↩]
Johnsonville dancers at these special events from 2013
Members of Johnsonville Club make the most of opportunities to participate in Wellington Region events, joining other dancers at weekend schools, balls, Hogmanays, New Dancers’ Celebrations, demonstrations and classes.
The New Dancers’ Celebration is a special event for those who have started dancing in the past two years, with more experienced dancers coming along as support.
My perusal of the Region’s publication Harbour City Happenings through the early 2000s didn’t result in finding much about New Dancers’ Celebrations in those years, other than perhaps a paragraph in the President’s Column about the dance coming up or occasionally a programme.
Nowadays, Harbour City Happenings is a wonderful source of historical information with contributions from dancers around the Region about events and those who organised them, developed and MC’d the programmes, and provided the music for us to dance to.
Armed with a better camera from 2013, I have a selection of photos from New Dancers’ Celebrations I’ve attended since then. At other times, various Johnsonville dancers have added their photos to the collection.
As part of the Johnsonville 50 Golden Years Celebration, the club developed a website in 2016. Since then we have developed a fine historical record of many Region events, both through articles and photos contributed by members.
Taken together, the available articles in Harbour City Happenings and on our website, and our photographic records provide a valuable snapshot of the fun and friendship we’ve had at New Dancers’ Celebrations.
Click on the year below to find out about the New Dancers’ Celebration for that year.
Johnsonville Club hosted the New Dancers’ Celebration on 19 October 2013 at the Newlands Centennial Hall.
In the Johnsonville Club newsletter on 23 October 2013, Secretary Pat Reesby wrote:
“What a wonderful time we had at the New Dancers’ Celebration, with lots of dancers (new and ‘old’) from other clubs. Twelve sets!
We had a wonderful band for the night – Lynne Scott, Jean Malcolm and Richard Hardie. Lynne says: ‘I think a lot of people enjoy the sound of the band with the double bass in it. And Richard and Jean are such good musicians! I really enjoy playing with them. Also, I do work quite hard to select and arrange music that suits the shape and formations of the dance, and perhaps that helps underpin the playing. It’s certainly fun!’”
Johnsonville Club bunting was used for the first time at this celebration. Some of our new dancers in 2013 came up with the great idea of the club making its own bunting for when we hold a special dance. They suggested collecting tartan and plain fabric, and then having a ‘bunting bee’ so we’d have bunting ready for this New Dancers Celebration.
Organised by Upper HuttClub on 11 October 2014 at the Jubilee Centre at Chilton St James School in Lower Hutt, with music from Roaring Jelly – Lynne Scott on the fiddle, Jean Malcolm on the keyboard and Richard Hardie on the double bass.
In the Johnsonville Club newsletter on 13 October, President Kristin Downey said:
“With approximately 13 sets on the floor, a great night was had by all.
Rod was really impressed with how well all our new dancers did on the night, and says they should be very proud of themselves. As new dancers, they stood out on the floor with their independence, resilience and level of accomplishment.
The great turnout of 28 Johnsonville dancers made up around a quarter of the sets who enjoyed a splendid night of dancing. Despite some understandable nervousness on the part of our eight newest dancers who were there, everyone was up dancing and mixing and having fun. All that hard work on club nights, and studying videos and crib sheets at home definitely paid off! And our 11 experienced dancers supported our new people wonderfully well.
Good news from some of last year’s nine new dancers who attended for their second year, is that they felt much more confident this time around. Instead of constantly worrying about making mistakes they could relax and enjoy the dances they knew well. It’s onwards and upwards from here. All in all, well done team!”
Hosted by Linden Club on 17 October 2015 at the Plimmerton School Hall with music from Peter Elmes, Don McKay and Terry Bradshaw.
In Harbour City Happenings, Volume 18 No. 3 December 2015, Region President Philippa Pointon said:
“Thank you to the Linden Club who did a great job of organising the New Dancers’ Celebration. It was a huge success and very well attended. The Plimmerton School Hall was a great venue—both from a dancing perspective and as a central location for people travelling from Waikanae, the Hutt Valley and Carterton.”
With a yellow and black ‘bee’ theme, this event was hosted by Lower Hutt Club on 15 October 2016 at Knox-St Columba Church Hall, Mc’d by Damon Collin, with music from Roaring Jelly – Lynne Scott, Jean Malcolm and Richard Hardie.
In Harbour City Happenings, Volume 19 No. 3 December 2016, Johnsonville President Kristin Downey said:
“The New Dancers’ Celebration was a really great night. Fourteen of our more experienced dancers turned out in support of our newer dancers. Only four could be there on the night but they did themselves proud – congratulations to Jacqi, Jen, Liz, and Tao.”
Hosted by Island Bay (now Capital City) and Kelburn at Knox-St Columba Church Hall in Lower Hutt, Mc’d by Jeanette Watson and Chris Totton, with music from Roaring Jelly – Lynne Scott, Sharlene Penman and Richard Hardie. Read more about the 2018 New Dancers’ Celebration
Hosted by Waikanae Club with a blue butterfly theme at the Paraparaumu Memorial Hall, Mc’d by Romaine Butterfield, with music from Aileen Logie, Hilary Ferral and Jason Morris. See more about the 2020 New Dancers’ Celebration
Roll on more dancing, fun and friendship at future New Dancers’ Celebrations!
Johnsonville members are keen participants in a range of Wellington Region events, joining other dancers at weekend schools, balls, Hogmanays, New Dancers Celebrations, demonstrations and classes.
With dancers enjoying the fabulous Wellington Region 60th Anniversary Ball on 7 August 2021, it’s an ideal time to recall the happy memories of Johnsonville members taking part in some of the Region’s events back in the 1990s. Photos from my archives provide a vignette of the marvellous friendship, fitness and fun we had dancing over that decade…which continues on to this day.
This Dinner and Dance at Southwards Car Museum, organised by Bill Hudson and his committee and MC’d by Maureen Robson, was a sociable occasion with many opportunities to mingle and chat with other dancers from around the Region and beyond.
Ian Simmonds tutored the demonstration team who danced to the music of Peter Elmes, John Smith and Merren Simmonds.
“A highlight of the evening was an awe-inspiring demonstration by the six dancers from the Region demonstration team.”
Alan Kemp, Wainuiomata
1992 Easter Weekend School
A highlight of this weekend (the first school attended by our President Kristin Downey and tutor Rod Downey) was the 18th Century Ball on the Saturday night with many dancers attired in marvellous period costumes.
MC’d by Damon Collin and Betty Redfearn, we danced to music from Peter Elmes, John Smith and Merren Simmonds.
“The highlight for me was the Saturday evening 18th Century Ball. This was an event to savour, dancers resplendent in fantastic costumes, and brilliant decorations around the hall.”
Alan Dixon, Doncaster Branch, UK
1993 Top Event
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the New Zealand Branch of the RSCDS in 1993, the Region held a Dinner and Ceilidh at the James Cabaret in Wellington. Organised By Bronwyn Maysmor and her team, the evening had a focus on honouring the Wellington Region teachers for their dedicated work, week after week, year after year.
Twenty-six Wellington Region tutors present at this event were warmly welcomed by Region President Alan Burn with words of appreciation for their commitment to keeping Scottish Country Dancing alive through clubs, classes, demonstrations and region events.
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
Dorothy Wilson from Blenheim MC’d the ceilidh programme with items interspersed by dancing – Scottish Country and ballroom. John Smith, Peter Elmes and Merren Simmonds provided the music (they’re on the stage at the rear in the photo above).
1994 Anzac Weekend School
Organised by Johnsonville tutor Marjorie Crawford and her committee, this was one of the biggest weekend schools the Wellington Region had ever had, with almost 200 dancers attending.
“With the band of Peter Elmes, John Smith, Merren Simmonds and Lynne Hudson in superb form, it all made for a happy, relaxed atmosphere and a good time was held by all.”
Carol Smith, Region President and Harbour City Happenings Editor
Tutored by Noeline O’Connor, the team danced Lanes of Au, Land of Cakes and the Eightsome Reel to the music of Peter Elmes, John Smith and Merren Simmonds.
Watch a video of a men’s demonstration set (including Johnsonville’s Rod Downey and former member Richard Moriarty) dancing The Reel of the 51st Division at the 1998 Anzac Weekend School Ceilidh.
1998 Magical Butterfly Ball
Wellington Region held a special evening in October 1998 “for all dancing butterflies, ugly bugs and creepy crawlies” aged up to 19 years old (JAMS). Organised by Bronwyn Maysmor, these young dancers had a magical evening of dancing at this Butterfly Ball!
Remembering these fun-filled events held through the 1990s, we acknowledge and appreciate the considerable work done to make sure each one was an outstanding success. Thank you to all the organising committees, the tutors, the MCs, the musicians and the demonstration teams for their commitment and dedication.
We can look forward to more great Wellington Region events ahead as we celebrate 60 years of dancing this year.
Bernice’s close connections with Johnsonville dancers
Bernice Kelly, President of the RSCDS Wellington Region from 2005-2010, died on 6 June 2021 at the age of 87 years.
I was Editor of Wellington Region’s quarterly newsletterHarbour City Happenings from 2008-2014. During the cross-over period in our roles, I got to know Bernice as we worked together on the newsletter. I remember she did not use a computer, so she typed her column for each issue, which arrived punctually in the post for me to transcribe and place into the newsletter layout!
Following her election as President at the Region AGM in November 2005, Bernice mentioned in her first President’s column in the February 2006 Harbour City Happenings she had danced for 30-plus years in Wellington and had been on the Region Committee several times.
Bernice developed many friendships over her years of dancing and through her regular attendance as President at Region events such as Hogmanays and New Dancers’ Celebrations.
Members of Johnsonville Club had a close association with Bernice during her time as President, either through helping to organise Region events or dancing at them.
As a photographer, the photos I took at a number of these events provide a wonderful visual history of the people Bernice was involved with in Scottish Country Dancing in Wellington over the years and a snapshot of the fun and friendship this activity generates.
2006 Wellington Region Hogmanay
At the 2006 Wellington Region Hogmanay, organised by John Gregory and his committee in the Onslow College Hall, Selwyn Ng (Johnsonville member from 2006-2009) was First Foot during the ceremony to welcome in the New Year. This was his and Joanne Ang‘s (Johnsonville Treasurer 2009) first experience of Hogmanay.
After Selwyn, carrying a lump of coal (for warmth), black bun (for sustenance) and whisky (water of life), was piped into the hall by Ross Edwards, Bernice as President raised a toast to the RSCDS Wellington Region, as is the custom.
Diane Bradshaw and the Upper Hutt Club organised the 2010 Wellington Region event, the Good Neighbours (Guid Nychburris) Festival, at Knox Church Hall in Lower Hutt. Six local teachers were invited to teach dances they had devised—Rod Downey and Jeanette Watson from Johnsonville, Iain Boyd, Romaine Butterfield, Catherine Edwards and Ian Simmonds.
Rod taught Isla’s Fancy, written for Eric Norris on his 90th birthday in 2001. Rod chose this dance as 2010 was the year both Eric and Isla (who were Life Members of Johnsonville Club) died, aged 98 and 97 respectively.
Inspired by the Good Neighbours Festival in Dumfries in Scotland which appoints a ‘Queen of the South’, the Festival organisers selected a ‘Queen of Wellington’ by drawing a name out of a sparkling top hat. Bernice as Region President, presented Dorothy Warring from Island Bay Club (now Capital City) with a royal blue sash and tiara, fit for the occasion.
After five years as Region President, Bernice stood down at the AGM in 2010. She said In Harbour City Happenings, “I wish to thank the dancers in the Wellington Region for their help during that time to organise the Region’s activities: classes, the New Dancers’ Celebration, the Region Event, Hogmanay Dance and fundraising events. The welcome, hospitality and friendship extended to me by all Clubs has been much appreciated. I look forward to seeing you all at dances during 2011, albeit from the bottom of the set!”
Just one month later, Bernice acted as President at the 2010 Wellington Region Hogmanay in the absence of then Region President Elaine Laidlaw. Held at the Newlands Centennial Hall, this celebration was organised by Rod and Kristin Downey, Prisilla Conroy, Bob Monks, Catherine MacAulay and Jean Denne (all Johnsonville members at the time) with help from John Markham, John Gregory and Bernice herself.
In the following years, Bernice continued to attend Region events as a dancer.
The 2013 New Dancers’ Celebration was organised by Johnsonville Club at the Newlands Centennial Hall with tutor Rod Downey as MC.
Former member Pat Reesby was Club Secretary in those days and produced the Johnsonville Club newsletter. On 23 October 2013, Pat wrote:
“What a wonderful time we had at the New Dancers’ Celebration, with lots of dancers (new and ‘old’) from other clubs. Twelve sets! And special thanks to Debbie and friends who organised the bunting. It was much admired…”
The hall was crowded with dancers including a great contingent of new members from Johnsonville enjoying their first formal dance. I was fortunate Bernice was in the top set for one dance so I was able to get some great photos of her dancing at the age of 79—Scottish Country Dancing is truly for all ages!
I took my final photo of Bernice celebrating with the Wellington Scottish Country Dancing family at the 2016 Wellington Region Hogmanay organised by John Gregory and team at the Crofton Downs School Hall. She spent much of the evening catching up with old acquaintances including those of us from Johnsonville.
We remember Bernice for her enjoyment of Scottish Country Dancing and her connections with fellow dancers as well as for her dedication to her role during her five years as Wellington Region President.
A favourite memory of mine is Bernice dancing in bright blue or red shoes—take a closer look at some of the photos above!