A topic which many of us return to again and again is the lack of younger dancers at dances.  From time to time there seems to be a mini-revival in Scotland itself, but the movement is never as strong or as long-lasting as we would like; in England there are pockets of younger dancers – and our area isn’t one.  To some of us, this can make the future of SCD in our area look bleak.

The Society as a whole has been aware of the problem for some years and has been taking steps to address some of the underlying problems, with medal tests for children now firmly established and some events targeted at schools in Scotland; older teens and the twenty- and thirty-somethings now have Spring Fling.  We still need more to happen.  We have one primary-age child in our group (the third or fourth generation in her family to dance) – I do feel our chances of holding on to her as she gets to her teens would be much higher if there were more children of her age dancing.  And the perennial cry – but what about the boys?  Where are they?

It is really sad, then, that there are still clubs and classes where there is little tolerance of children at classes and dances.  This not only turns the children away but also their parents – another age group where we can’t afford to lose potential or actual dancers.  As far as I know, this doesn’t happen in our area: but it mightn’t do any harm to spread the word?  Where there are dedicated children’s classes, another problem has arisen – every adult coming into contact with children has had to be CRB checked.  Amendments from the current government would mean that perhaps only the class teacher would need to be checked, since other adults who only came into contact with children two or three times a month would not need to be checked.  A second question arises: where are the teachers to teach these children’s classes?

I’ve said for a long time that the image of Scottish Country Dancing was either old-fashioned or ridiculous, but this has begun to change now.  Those of you who were at the White Rose Festival last year, and for once could watch the children dancing, will have noticed that at least the older girls are now wearing mini-kilts or other shorter skirts: they are often themselves creating the image they want, and bringing the whole look up to date without losing the Scottish flavour.  I don’t mind if for those kinds of event a young man wears a rugby top or a T-shirt with his kilt – I’d just be happy to see a young man there!

Where groups of young dancers exist, it might be possible to link together so that they could have their own dances – perhaps afternoon or early evening, depending on the target age.  Leeds and Darlington already have Children’s Festivals, but I think these are both competitive.  How about a social dance for children?  Or again, where there are potentially sufficient numbers, designating a Saturday afternoon dance as suitable for children, or having some easier dances in the first half of an evening dance and advertising it as suitable for younger dancers?  

We often feel that we must make life simple for “young people” – however sometimes it’s the energy and complexity that can attract the older teens and the twenties.  Where this age-range is responding really well and where Scottish Dancing is growing successfully right now is in Europe – just look at Internet clips to see the standard of dancing they’re reaching.

It may be that I have no solutions in the end, only questions, but do try and think about answers.

Joyce Cochrane  

And, on a totally different topic, please give us your impressions of the new layout of Broun’s Reel.



Born in Glasgow in 1924, Elfride moved to Aberdeen just before the war when her father became Professor of English there.  It was there that she began what was to be a life-long interest in Scottish Country Dancing: she learned to dance with some cousins who lived on a farm near Aberdeen, and there were dances in their barn.  She told one of our group that her father was very concerned that she danced her steps correctly!

After doing her MA at Aberdeen, Elfride won an Open Scholarship to Somerville College, Oxford, where she did a D.Phil on Candlemass, and then went on to do research on the Greek Orthodox Church.  She spent two years at Dumbarton Oaks, a research centre of Harvard University, and became a noted scholar in the field of Orthodox and Byzantine Christianity, collaborating with other leading European authorities.  She came to Hull in the 1960s, first to the College of Education, and then to lecture in the Theology department of Hull University, where she was also Warden at Lambert Hall.  Even after retiring she taught New Testament Greek.

Elfride had a very lively mind, and was very interested in everything.  She was an active member of the Theological Society and the Classical Society, and for years attended Italian and Tai Chi classes, and was really proficient at Quilling and Calligraphy.  She frequently visited major exhibitions in London, and travelled abroad to Moscow, the Holy Land, Classical Europe, and the Silk Road to Samarkand.  She attended St. Mary’s in Cottingham regularly (apparently she would put her fingers in her ears if she didn’t like the sermon!) and must have been rather intimidating to others without her scholarship at Bible Studies!  Her Christianity found practical expression in indefatigable hospital visiting.

Elfride really loved her dancing, and I remember her enthusiam and passion for it when I first met her at an evening class in Cottingham.  She was one of the founder members of the Monday Cottingham Group at St. Mary’s Church Hall, and was a member of the RSCDS when none of the rest of us knew about the Society at all.  She encouraged us all to go to dances - even as far away as York! - and would insist we could do the next (previously unknown) dance - and yes, we could do it: she was right.

Those who only knew Elfride in her latter years never knew her at her best.  Always having taken a delight in precision, she could lose patience if things weren’t just right, and it must have been most frustrating for her when she could no longer dance as she had formerly.  It was only after her recovery in 2009 from a major fall in the Vall d’Aosta when she cracked some vertebrae that she reluctantly decided she would have to give up dancing.

Though physically still very active, she found it increasingly difficult to cope on her own.  She had dealt with a failing memory by meticulously writing everything down.  Shortly before Christmas last year, she realised she would have to give up her home, and moved into residential care in Cottingham.  She died after a short illness on Friday 21st February.  She was one of a kind, and will be remembered by many.

Our condolences to Ursula and David, and the rest of the family.

Iris Pennie and Joyce Cochrane.  


Fiona and Ernest Rudd arrived in York in 1987. Amongst their many interests was a love of Scottish music and dancing and they quickly joined the local dance groups. York Club was a short walk from their home, as was the RSCDS Friday class taught by Malcolm. Both of them attended regularly until Ernest’s ill health forced him to retire from dancing.

Fiona continued to be involved. In 1993 she spent a year on the Branch committee, and later started to organise summer dancing on Fridays for those who, like her, wanted to dance throughout the year. Her music was on tape, which she used with mixed results as the evenings progressed. CDs seemed to be the answer, so her favourite tracks were transferred from tape to CD and the waiting time to find the correct music was reduced slightly.

She thought that everyone should have the chance of going to the ball, and was keen to organise a coach to transport those who were unwilling or unable to drive. All the proceeds from summer dancing went towards the cost. She was a keen supporter of the RSCDS and the local Branch, attending the larger events and Harrogate Weekend Schools while she was able. Later, having Broun’s Reel delivered meant she still knew what was going on.

Labour Party members of long standing, she and Ernest were soon caught up in local politics. Fiona became secretary for the York Constituency Labour Party and Ernest the treasurer. She had an immense knowledge of the history of UK politics.

After Ernest died in 1999 she moved to a smaller house - not too small, because as anyone who had visited them would know, there had to be space for the hundreds of books which lined walls from floor to ceiling. A large part of Fiona’s life was devoted to books, both reading and writing. She had written poetry, and was committed to having her biography of her father, Ritchie Calder, published. Hopefully this will happen later this year. He was a journalist, peace activist, a founder member of the CND movement and was created a life peer in 1966. Thus Fiona was actually entitled to be “the honourable”, but typically she preferred letters to be addressed to Fiona Rudd – not even a “Mrs”.   For anyone interested in her book there is an excerpt on the National Library of Scotland website.

She was in Edinburgh discussing the book with a publisher when she suffered a minor stroke. Being Fiona, she didn’t hang about and two days later was on the train home. She took her prescribed medicine and resumed her normal life, dancing and running her weekly book club at home. Publication of her book was still on hold, but ten proofs were printed and she invited friends to read it and give their honest opinions.   

Later a second stroke was more severe and she “lost her words”, unable to read or communicate by speech or writing. Although she had a huge collection of classical literature her taste in reading was diverse. She enjoyed crime novels and science fiction and was a great fan of the Harry Potter books, pre-ordering them and usually reading them within a day.

Fiona valued her independence, but living on her own was becoming increasingly risky and after another fall she moved to live near her daughter Lucy in Hartlepool. She died in hospital in Stockton on December 12th after a major stroke.

Our sincere sympathy goes to daughters Alison, Judy, Lucy and their families.

Rita Eastwood


Our condolences also go to family and friends of Molly Williams, who has died very recently - we hope to bring you an obituary in the next Broun’s Reel.  

February 2011           A NEWSLETTER      No. 124