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RSCDS London branch eUpdate
30 August 2020


Dear fellow dancers

After the high  temperatures of this most unusual summer we start to see some signs of returning normality - not least in the chilly, damp August Bank Holiday weather!  Schools are getting ready for the new term and more companies are encouraging their employees to emerge from working from home hibernation.  The events of the next few weeks should improve our understanding of how fast social activities including dancing may safely resume.  Whilst RSCDS London  is  still  looking toward the Christmas dance, on Saturday 19 December, as it's 'return to dancing ' target, it was encouraging to see the Gay Gordons' Facebook update announcing resumption of dancing from 16 September at their Islington venue.  We wish them a happy and safe return to the joys of Scottish Country Dance.  

Meanwhile, the RSCDS London AGM will be held via Zoom webinar at 3pm on Saturday 19 September (more information below), to be followed by a short programme of ceilidh items.  We hope that you will be able to join us. 

Almost inevitably, the RSCDS Autumn Gathering has had to be cancelled but, as with London branch, the society AGM will also be held online, hosted from 12 Coates Crescent on Saturday 7 November at 2pm.  More information available here.  There is still time for anyone interested in becoming more involved in wider RSCDS work to put their name forward for one of the main RSCDS committee and board positions.  The call for nominations is open until 12 September - more details and nomination forms available here.

Please do keep sending your links, quizzes, favourite dance videos and memories of dancing in times past - whatever you have that you think may be of interest. Whether you have been dancing all your life or just began recently, if you're a teacher, musician, beginner, demonstration team member or simply enjoy the occasional social dance  - we'd love to hear from you.

Annual General Meeting 2020
3pm, 19 September 2020, via Zoom
The RSCDS London AGM will be held via Zoom webinar at 3pm on Saturday 19 September.

Papers for the meeting, annual report and accounts, would normally be available in paper copy at the AGM.  Clearly that is not feasible in a virtual meeting but the documents are all available via the RSCDS London website and via the links below.

We recognise that an online AGM cannot match the same standards as a physical meeting but we do hope that you will join us to hear about RSCDS London's actions to date and to add your voice to plans for the future.

RSCDS London AGM agenda 2020

RSCDS London Branch Minutes AGM 2019

RSCDS London accounts 2020 – draft, pending approval at the AGM

Instructions for joining the Zoom meeting

Joining the AGM
Online: If you have been enjoying the RSCDS weekly classes on Wednesday evenings then you will be very familiar with joining Zoom webinars.  However, for anyone who is unsure about what to do, we have produced a 'how to join' guide (linked here) and will be running a practice session, to talk people through the  process, including how  to ask questions and how the voting will be managed, at 3pm on Saturday 12 September.  Both the practice session and  the AGM may be accessed via this link.   

Most people will join the meeting via their PC, laptop, phone, tablet however, if you prefer simply to join by phone, this is also possible. 

By phone: If you do not have good wifi access but would still like to attend the meeting, you can dial in and listen to the events by phone. Simply dial one of the numbers below and enter the webinar ID when prompted.
• Phone: 0203 481 5240 or 0131 460 1196
• Webinar ID: 853 1848 8597
• International numbers available: click here for list

NB: Although you will be able to hear, please note you will not be able to speak, ask questions or vote so if you have something you’d like to say, please send in advance to


The Piper and the Penguin
Story by the McLaren Family (Wimbledon)
I don’t know if you are familiar with the radio programme “The Unbelievable Truth”. The concept is that panellists describe an event and the rest of the team have to decide whether it is true or false. If I had been told by my future self that I would dress like a penguin and dance in front of a room of strangers, I would have dismissed this as an unlikely story and self-evidently false. However, let me take you back to a wet, wild and windy August night in 2014.

While Hurricane Bertha was ravaging the Caribbean, the very tail end was affecting the weather in Scotland, causing unusually heavy wind and rain which splashed down on our family- six intrepid travellers who had made the journey up from London for a week’s dancing at  at St Andrews summer school. Being caught up in a storm was a metaphor, in a positive sense, for our experience of that week. Summer school is a frantically busy whirl of dancing and our family of six, then aged from 15 to 80, threw themselves into its very heart.

 We were guided through this experience by our good family friend, Davinia. A St Andrews veteran, when she discovered that we were planning to go, she took us under her wing and suggested that we might want to take part in the annual ceilidh. This long-standing tradition was a ceilidh in the more traditional sense; a celebration of culture and entertainment, not just a series of dances, and involved a series of musical and spoken word performances. As it was unusual for three generations of a family to dance together, particularly with two boys aged 15 and 18, she had an interesting idea….

How would it be, she said, if we performed a comic dance? Wouldn’t it be fun to find some costumes to dress up and dance? Well the idea developed from there. After much persuading and cajoling (eased after we agreed that we would be wearing beaks that hid our face) the six of us agreed. With Davinia joining us, and assurance that she could find a willing volunteer, we planned to put on a show of the classic dance “The Piper and the Penguins”.
We brought our costumes with us: black trousers and white T-shirts, packs of marigold yellow rubber gloves, cardboard beaks on elastic and, the pièce de résistance, black frock coats that have been sourced from a local drama clubs costume box. We rehearsed our dance in odd five minutes in between classes, during a packed week of dancing. True to her word, Davinia not only found the fourth lady to join us, but she also persuaded a Piper to lead in our motley crew. Our fourth lady was a star. She had travelled from Japan to be at St Andrews and I’m sure she had not bargained for this. She not only joined in with gusto but was also made responsible for the egg (a balloon) which she had to bring in and take out the beginning and end of the dance.

On the evening of the ceilidh we put on our costumes, stretched rubber gloves over our feet and made sure that our beaks still let us see the way. We waddled in pairs behind the Piper to perform the Piper and the Penguins. I’d like to say that the errors in the choreography were intended for comic effect but luckily, they were received that way. 
Three of my favourite dances – Sue Reed
Following selections from Sam Schad in the previous eUpdate, this edition's dances are selected by Sue Reed, who attends the Beginner / Improvers class at Richmond and also enjoys dancing with the Surbiton & District Caledonian Society.
Sue says, "I went once with a friend to a Christmas Ceilidh locally and enjoyed it so much I joined the group for a while. With two left feet and no dancing experience at all, it was quite a challenge! When the group wound up I stopped Scottish Country dancing for several years. I have been with the Richmond Beginners / Improvers class for about 2 years now. These lessons have been absolutely vital in helping me to learn and grow in confidence and I am really enjoying dancing now, although I still have so much to learn and remember".

Scott Meikle x 32 bar Reel – devised by Alice McLean – RSCDS Book 46 No. 3

This is one of my favourite dances because hearing the music just makes me want to get up and dance. It was one of the first dances I managed to learn. It is quite straightforward apart from the Tandem Reels, which for a beginner are quite unusual, but once you know them, they are not difficult. I really love this Reel, as it is one of the few dances that I can do with confidence.

A Trip to Bavaria x 32 bar Reel – devised by James MacGregor-Brown – Collins Pocket Reference: Scottish Country Dancing No. 249

I have chosen this dance because I really love the Bavarian style music. You have to learn this dance properly from the start because there is no time to learn from watching the other couples, as everyone is dancing almost all of the time. This is such a fun dance. I just love it because it makes me think of alpine villages, lakes and mountains. I especially enjoy watching the Tay Dancers version on YouTube.

The Bees of Maggieknockater x 32 bar Jig – devised by John Drewry – RSCDS 30 Popular Dances Vol. 2 No. 4

This is a really brilliant dance. When I first sat and watched it, I was mesmerised as the dancers are constantly changing direction like bees buzzing around looking for pollen. Eventually, I plucked up the courage to take part in the dance. It is a complicated Jig to learn. You have to concentrate really hard when dancing it, and it helps tremendously if there are experienced dancers in the set, but I always get such a sense of achievement afterwards. I read that John Drewry devised the dance after a sign “Maggieknockater Apiary” that was by the roadside in Maggieknockater, a hamlet two miles North-east of Craigellachie.

Whether you have been dancing a long time or just started, please do tell us what YOUR choices would be? Email to tell us about them.

Previous weeks' selections
We've  begun to compile dances nominated in previous weeks into dance lists  on the site, with the person nominated each dance cited in the notes column.

To check out the dances nominated in the first 6 weeks  click here. For dances nominated in weeks 7 - 12 click here.  More recent nominations are shown below.
Willie Lawrence
Minister on the Loch, Farewell to Balfour Road and Countess of Dunmore’s Reel

David Lowe
Postie's Jig, The Wind on Loch Fyne and Eightsome Reel 
Jenny Kendrick
Napier's IndexButton Boy and Up in the Air

Sam Schad
SchiehallionThe Plantation Reel and The Dancing Master


The Branch Puzzle: Mountains
In our last edition, Julian and Kerstin Mason provided a series of anagrams on the theme of Scottish hills and mountains. We are grateful to them both for this challenging puzzle and are delighted to publish the solutions below. 
  • BE PHONE A virtuous mountain? (3,4) Ben Hope
  • NO NUT MEEK Eager to climb this (5,4) Mount Keen
  • NO BOLD MEN One of these is in Tasmania, but more likely you
  • will see it from Glasgow (3,6) Ben Lomond
  • BEE NORM Not a small hill (3,4) Ben More
  • LEFT GOAL Not so sure-footed (4,3) Goatfell
  • PUPS OF A JAR 3 of these on an island (4,2,4) Paps of Jura
  • BYE ON ALL No traitors here (3,5) Ben Loyal
  • COSTLY PAL Parrots pile up here? Stac Polly
  • RUN THE BAR Also known for shoe repairs (3,6) Ben Arthur
  • SURE HAS TART A capital climb (7, 4) Arthur’s Seat
  • BEAR IN TALC Eat off stones in the Borders (5, 5) Cairn Table
  • PIN CLEANS NICE ICE SLAB It can be climbed (12, 8) Inaccessible Pinnacle
  • HOT VICE Not quite in Scotland (7) Cheviot
  • CAN HE BE IN Dont dance in front of this (9) Bennachie
  • NASTY BENS Change one letter and you have agreed (3,6) Ben Assynt
  • GOAL RANCH Royal connections here (9) Lochnagar
  • A WALL LORD Sterling not accepted here (7,3) Dollar Law
  • CARS IN ROME 3 of these in SW Scotland (10) Cairnsmore
  • SHIELD NO ILL Sir Walter Scott liked these (6,5) Eildon Hills
  • HIS HAL ON ICE Slow at first, then quicker, in Perthshire (11)  Schiehallion
Branch memories
We're grateful to the eUpdate reader who kindly sent us this photo showing children being evacuated from Marlborough School,Chelsea in 1939.

As many readers will recall, London branch classes were held at Marlborough School, Chelsea from 1958 onward. London branch archivist and President, Rachel Wilton, advises that  the editorial on Reel 44 mentioned the Branch's decision to start new classes in the LCC's Chelsea Institute, swiftly followed by Marlborough School appearing on the  Classes list in Reel 45.  We have few records of branch wartime activities although Rachel did find James Garvie's description in Our Branch 1V  where he mentioned  sharing a hall with the ARP.

The Branch danced at Marlborough School until well into the 21st century and many current members started their dancing career or taught on its very hard floor. It was demolished in 2015 to be rebuilt and reopened with vastly enhanced facilities in 2017. 

RSCDS Dance Scottish at Home.
Dance Scottish at Home has dropped to fortnightly publications, still packed with the quality content and connections which have brightened lock down for so many of us.

This week's abbreviated edition may be viewed here, the full edition from 21 August here and the previous week's brief summary here.

The weekly class
This week's class came from Foster City, just south of San Francisco in California. Fred DeMarse, joined by Julee Montes to help demonstrate the movements, and by musicians Susan Worland-Bentley and Michael Bentley, took  lively class, culminating in dancing the jig “The Scallywag” from RSCDS Book 52, devised by Jennifer Kelly.

You can catch up with last week’s class and some of the chat here.

The previous week saw Andrew Nolan, with musician Ewan Galloway, broadcasting live from the RSCDS office – 12 Coates Crescent in Edinburgh. Featuring "The Social Swing” as warm up dance, fabulous music including the waltz “The Auld Meal Mill” and the jig “Robin Brock’s Farewell to his Gall Bladder”, the session culminated in A Capital Jig which was definitely a favourite dance. Class recording is available here.
Going back still further the 12 August class came from Oxford where Alice Stainer took dancers through a great warm-up, strathspey steps and the two couple Allemande before working through the strathspey Delvine Side, from RSCDS Book 2 and Thirty Popular Dances Volume Two.  If, like me, you were away and missed this class, you can catch up via the recording here.

Thanks yet again to all the people who work so hard to make these classes available to us.

This week's class will once again be on Wednesday evening at 7pm, lead by a mystery teacher and accessible via this link . We look forward to seeing you there!
To revisit any of the classes so far simply click on the relevant image or name below.
Angela Young, Mervyn Short, Dave Hall, Diane Hastie,William Williamson, Ron Wallace, Graham Donald, Atsuko Clement, Fiona Mackie, David Queen, Debbie RoxburghRebecca Blackhall-Peters, Sue Porter, Trish NichollsSamuele GrazianiRobert McOwen, Andrew Timmins, Alice Stainer, Andrew Nolan
We will continue to include links from Dance Scottish at Home but, if you'd like your own personal copy simply visit, scroll to the bottom of the homepage and complete your details in the ‘Sign up for the RSCDS eNewsletter’ section. It’s quick and easy! There is also a DSAH webpage where you can access previous issues of the Dance Scottish At Home eNewsletter and view all of the Zoom online classes to date – visit

NHS advice on keeping yourself well:

Government advice here:
RSCDS Blog here:

We look forward to dancing with you soon.
Copyright © 2020 RSCDS London Branch, All rights reserved.

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