December 2012  A NEWSLETTER         No. 131


“It’s not proper Scottish Dancing,” someone complained. Well, it may not have been, or then again it might: it all depends on how you define “proper” Scottish dancing. I suspect that for some people the definition is “the sort of Scottish dancing I like” while for others it’s almost the opposite: all those details (like proper steps, and being in a straight line on bar 5) that everyone except the teachers knows don’t really matter.

“It’s not proper Scottish Dancing” is something I’ve heard a lot about ceilidh dancing, usually in a superior or disparaging tone.  But actually, I think it is proper Scottish Dancing – it’s just not Scottish Country Dancing as per the RSCDS. So does that mean we should reject it as not worthwhile? Is it “not good enough” for us because we know better, or because we are dance snobs?

I’ve been looking over my photos from Summer School at St. Andrews; I wrote in the last issue about ceilidh-dancing one evening when the music came from Luke and Adam Brady and Martainn Skene. What has struck me in the photos is how happy everyone looks!  There are so many smiling faces – laughing people – dancers just having the greatest time. All of these people didn’t think that ceilidh dancing wasn’t good enough – and on that occasion, ceilidh dancing was competing with standard Scottish Country Dancing to a live band in the Younger Hall.

In the pictures, you can see what a variety of people took part – there were beginners and intermediates, teachers and advanced dancers from the Summer School demonstration teams.  The range was not just limited to their dancing, either – there were students, people in their twenties and thirties, and so on up to 100 (perhaps I exaggerate a little!) People on the dance floor included Scots, English, Japanese, and French dancers – even a Swiss girl and the odd New Zealander.

So what was the appeal of the ceilidh dancing, apart from the excellent music? We had all done lots of “proper” dancing all week (this was the Friday night); maybe something a little easier and more relaxed seemed a good option as the aches and pains we’d all been acquiring were making their presence felt. Perhaps the attraction was that it was something different. Perhaps, for those who were beginners or less experienced, it was not wrestling with the huge mountain of new dances and figures; for the younger dancers, it was a chance to let your hair down (literally in Olga’s case – it came to her waist!)

What is the appeal of ceilidh dances when you aren’t at St. Andrews dancing to the Brady Bunch? Because there undoubtedly is one.  First of all, it’s the route by which many people got into Scottish Country Dancing in the first place, and it’s still an attractive safe place to go back to.  It’s more accessible, too – more people can do it successfully.  In the end, for me it’s not as ultimately satisfying as SCD, but it can still be a lot of fun on an occasional basis.

By the time you are reading this, you may well have been dancing at the December dance in Swanland, where each half opened with a ceilidh-type dance – and you may equally well have your own views on including ceilidh dances in a Scottish Country Dance programme. In January, Rita’s programme begins with the Friendly Waltz, another ceilidh dance. The devisers of both dance programmes have intended that right at the beginning of the dances everyone will be mixed up, creating a sociable atmosphere where people dance outside of their usual groups.

There is another great advantage to beginning with a ceilidh or walking dance. It is very rare at any dances to see anyone warming up before the dance, or before the second half – and most of us are at the kind of age where we really need to.  Beginning either half with a ceilidh dance or walking dance would mean that at least some warming up had been done.

So what is “proper Scottish Dancing?” My answers in the next editorial!

Joyce Cochrane

Harvest Chaff

I’ve just danced Staffin Harvest for the first time in spite of its being a dance from 1978. Found the whole thing a bit bafflin but managed to stubble through the combine of crosses, turns, reels and half poussettes.

 Then I began to ponder further on the name. What do you get if you  harvest staffin? Is it what you put in pillows, or turkeys at Christmas? Extra caffin for coffee? Is it oily like paraffin?

Perhaps the grammar’s a bit awry: compare it with Vagaries of the English Language, Vagary No. 295: ‘Sale: Extending ladders reduced by 10%’, and No. 3124: Two road signs: ‘Blind Summit!’ and ‘Blind Children!’*. Staffin harvest might be about redundancies among the workers – or indeed the opposite: how to get enough of them on the farm?

But stuff staffin! – just dance, and  enjoy even if you’re huffin, puffin and faffin around.

Then someone told me: Staffin’s a place on Skye. My stars! – you have to end up laffin.

*I saw that very recently: it does seem an easier sign for a driver to respond to than ‘Visually Challenged Children!’. Did common sense prevail, or was it an old sign, I wonder.

Veronica Wallace, York

[But Veronica – isn’t “staffin” what posh people have with their roast chicken on Sundays?]

From a list published by the Scottish Parliament:

Staffin (Skye), An Taobh Sear (district) or Stafainn (name of both settlement and island). The English and second Gaelic names come from Norse and may contain the word for "staff" or be based on stamh, a type of seaweed.

And remember Alasdair Brown’s tune “Puffin Mad” – now is that connected with the birds or with the instrument he plays?


Time:   8.00 pm (31 December 2012) to midnight plus (1 January 2013).

Place:  Dunnington Reading Rooms.

Catering: Faith Supper.

Admission: By ticket-crib only.   The ticket-crib contains information on all the dances in the programme.

The New Year will be welcomed in our customary manner.   If, weather permitting, you wish to dance the year away, ticket-cribs, at £3.00 each, may be obtained from:

Michael & Susan East, 11 Cedar Glade, Dunnington, York, YO19  5QZ  (Tel: 01904 489 799)


Our dance in January will be held at the Reading Rooms in Dunnington on Saturday 26th January, beginning at 2.00 pm.  This is the second of the season’s afternoon dances, and has a Burns theme. As usual at afternoon dances, you are not asked to bring contributions to a Faith Supper, but there will be a short interval.  After the dance there will be a Burns Supper, and the whole afternoon is expected to end at 5.00 pm. The price for the dance, including the Burns supper, is £5.

The programme, to be danced to recorded music, has been chosen by Rita Eastwood.

Table-top sale

At the Burns afternoon dance at Dunnington there will also be a table-top sale where some of the Branch’s CDs which are no longer used will be on sale. Also available will be past editions of the dance books produced by the RSCDS – a chance for you to complete your collection or get rid of copies you no longer use.


We are holding our Annual Dance on Saturday 23rd  March, at the Village Hall in Stockton on Forest, beginning at 7.30 p.m. Music is live, with David Oswald’s Band – they’re a favourite band of mine, but we’ve not seen them for a few years. Supper will be catered; due to circumstances beyond the committee’s control, we do not yet have a price for you.  Iain Keegan has drawn up the programme.


Many people will remember Kathleen McTurk, who died on 20th September at the age of  94. Kathleen danced all over the Branch area for a long time, though in latter years only danced in the Hull area; at 90 she was still attending class regularly, but by 91 was only able to do strathspeys and was forced to give up – it was just too cold for her to sit out the quicker dances in our hall.

Kathleen Storr was born in Hull on 2nd July 1918, and lived most of her life in Hull and East Yorkshire. Indeed, she felt she had been particularly fortunate to live her life in the Hull area.  After school, Kathleen became a shorthand typist, then joining the ATS as a shorthand typist in 1942; she found this a great experience and really enjoyed the company of other girls of her own age.  After the war, she returned to Hull, where in 1948 she met Alick at an Electricity Board dance; they were married in 1949. In the obituary at her funeral, which she had written herself, she said that her married life with Alick had been very happy and stress-free, and thanked him for this.

Around 1968, Kathleen and Alick began Scottish Country Dancing at Kirkella School with George Thomson, and were both enthusiastic dancers for many years, until a knee injury in her 80s curtailed Kathleen’s dancing somewhat; Scottish dancing had given them a great deal of pleasure and kept them active. Even in her late 80s, Kathleen was puzzled when Mike George assumed that she would want to dance a strathspey rather than a reel – “but this is such a good dance!” she explained to me, and her eyes would light up when the tune for a favourite dance was played. In recent years she had got a lot out of Leisure Day at Willerby Methodist Church – where other dancers from the Cottingham group are regular helpers.

Kathleen and Alick have two children, John and Margaret, who have come to occasional dance classes, and who were regular attenders at the New Year’s Eve dances when we had them at Cottingham.  Our sincere condolences to you both; we will remember your mother with great fondness.

I wrote the following dance for Kathleen and Alick on the occasion of Kathleen’s 90th birthday.  It’s pretty straightforward and is a good one for teaching “set and link for 3 couples” to beginners or inexperienced dancers.

LINKED TOGETHER             32 bar Strathspey

  3 couples in a 4 couple set

For Alick and Kathleen McTurk on the occasion of Kathleen’s 90th birthday

1-8  1st couple cross & cast off 1 place (2s step up bars 3 & 4); dance half a figure of 8 going to the right (ie 1M up, 1L down, ending in 2nd place on own side;

9-24  All 3 couples dance Set and Link for three couples, four times, so that all end up where they began the figure;

25-32  1s, nearer hands joined, dance up between the 2s, cast back to 2nd place; 1L turns 3L LH 1½ times while 1M turns 3M RH 1½ times to reach the bottom of the set.

Repeat with new top couple

Joyce Cochrane



From Monday 7th January, the Cottingham Monday class will be meeting at the Arlington Hall (St. Mary’s Church Hall) in Arlington Avenue in Cottingham.

Parking is extremely limited in Arlington Avenue, and so we are advising parking either in the Co-op car-park behind Hallgate or in Kingtree Avenue.