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RSCDS London branch eUpdate
31 May 2020


Dear fellow dancers

Welcome to this week's London Branch eUpdate. Another week has gone by and still the beautiful weather continues!  There can be few people who will admit to enjoying lock down but at least the sunshine helps a little.

Sadly, we need some sunshine to reconcile us to the unpalatable realisation that many of our planned activities for 2020, London Branch's 90th anniversary year, are no longer feasible.  At a branch management committee this week we, very reluctantly, agreed that we must postpone our plans for classes and dances, including the open air dancing in Kensington Gardens, during the Autumn term. The main stumbling blocks are access to school and other halls for classes, plus manifold problems relating to use of public transport. We hope that it will be possible to hold our Christmas dance in December but all other face to face activities are cancelled until then.

The London Branch AGM, originally scheduled for 13 June then rescheduled to precede the New Season Dance in September, will now take place on 19 September in virtual format.  More information, including plans for some virtual entertainment, to come in future eUpdates.

We are immensely grateful to Margaret Catchick who, with the 90th Anniversary celebrations committee, has done so much to prepare the fabulous programme of anniversary celebration we must now postpone until 2021.  She has summarised the revised plans in the article immediately  following this.

On a happier note, we have a wealth of new content to share with you in this eUpdate. We have another interesting film from the dance archives, this week celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the RSCDS. We also have our usual set of three favourite dances, courtesy of Dance Convener, Margaret Shaw, as well as links to Dance Scottish at Home including music and link to the latest online class. We have the answer to last week's Wordsearch and part 1 of a Scottish dance quiz from Chiswick Scottish Country Dance Club Honorary President, Kay Senior.
Many thanks to everyone who has been submitting items for the eUpdates. We thank Meryl and Ian Thomson for this delightful video of 'Mr Pastry',  perhaps the first performer to be known as a "television star" and also the first to have his own television series. His interpretation of The Lancers, from a 1976 edition of The Good Old Days, may resonate with those of us who have become rather too familiar with the variable joys of dancing solo. 

Ian Cutts offers this scan from his copy of Kerr's Collection, enlarged edition as of potential interest to readers. He advises that the Collection is "dated by the British Library as post 1933 - with a description of dance step and figures for country dancing by James Orr Robertson" - this apparently is what's meant by 'enlarged'. The book also has reels and strathspeys "arranged in sets for dancing" [presumably foursome reels], 6 tunes in each set, alternately strathspeys and reels, each tune 16 bars and each to be played 3 or 4 times. Metronome marks are 90 minims to the minute for strathspeys (that will strike us as very fast) and 116 for reels. That works out at 5 minutes 41 seconds if each tune is played 3 times, 7 minutes 35 seconds if four times. And definitely no "half-Tulloch".

Please do let us know if you find something to share with fellow London dancers. Quizzes, favourite dance videos and memories of dancing in times past - all welcomed.  

90th Anniversary Ball & Day School
It is with regret that we have decided to postpone our Anniversary Ball which, was due to take place on Saturday October 30 2020, because of Covid-19. We have, however, made alternative arrangements to hold the Ball on October 16 2021 (the third Saturday in October) which is usually the Saturday of our Day School.  

We would like to reassure the many dancers who have already applied for tickets for the  Ball they can either receive a refund or can have their application and payment held against the new date of October 16 2021.  Unfortunately Marian Anderson will not be available on that date but we hope to announce very shortly who the band will be.

We will also be advising you in due course of our revised arrangements for the postponed 90th Anniversary Garden Dance.

We are sorry to announce that this year’s Day School, which was due to take place on Saturday October 17 2020, has been cancelled because of Covid-19.  The Day School (which is normally held the third Saturday in October) will take place next year on October 30 2021.

Further details will be appearing shortly but in the meantime we are pleased to advise that Fiona Mackie, David Queen, Mervyn Short and Alice Stainer  (who were due to teach this year) have confirmed their availability for October 30 2021 as has Barbara Manning.
Scottish Dance Videos
This week we have selected a video taken at a reception attended by HM Queen Elizabeth held in 1998 in the City Chambers, Edinburgh, to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. The Queen is seen with RSCDS chairman Bill Clement greeting many members of the Society and watching dance demonstrations to live music from Keith Smith and Muriel Johnstone.

See a report of the event in the RSCDS Bulletin No. 76 page 11. One of the dancers, Kyra Oates of London Branch, wrote about the experience in The Reel no. 225 page 4.
Thanks again to Peter Knight and to Meryl and Ian Thomson for sourcing and making available these lovely films.
Three of my favourite dances – Margaret Shaw
Following last week's selections from Mervyn Short, this week long-term Branch Committee member, Margaret Shaw, shares her favourite dances with us. 

Margaret calls them her "Three of my Happy Memories dances".

The New Petronella x 48 bar Reel RSCDS Bk 28 No. 5
My first Summer School and I was thrilled to be taught by Miss Milligan. I remember her stern words “do I have to come down off the stage to demonstrate how to dance petronella”. Also, Iain Stuart Robertson stood in the middle of Younger Hall and sang “The Hebridean Milking Song” as we danced.

Johnnie’s Welcome Hame - x 40 bar Reel  RSCDS Book 32 No, 1.
This was devised by my friend Neil Grant of Forres. His Rights and Lefts for three couples threw the class the first time we tried this new formation. Lots of laughter!

Sloane Square  - x 64 bar Strathspey  London Branch’s Golden Jubilee Book (1979)
We, The Cairngorms as was, danced this wearing Victorian attire at a Tonbridge Ceilidh in 1986. When dancing the crescent reels we swapped rolled umbrellas and newspapers. Except that Gill Russell was a bit naughty and gave George Potts a copy of “Playboy” instead of a newspaper. Happy days!

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
Simon Wales
The Dancing MasterAutumn in Appin and John of Bon Accord

Meryl Thomson
The New Rigged ShipThe Rakes of Glasgow and The Montgomeries’ Rant

Stephen Webb
The Starrie Eyed LassieSleepy Maggie  and Up in the Air 

Melanie Rowland 
Catch the Wind, Pelorus Jack and The Dream Catcher 

Chris Hood 
Bratach Bàna, Clutha and Seann triubhas Willichan 

Rachel Wilton

Flowers of EdinburghJennifer's Jig and Midsummer Common

Dave Hall
College Hornpipe, Gentleman and Wild Geese 

Mervyn Short
The NurserymanLord Elgin's Reel and The Deil amang the Tailors
Branch Puzzle - Answers to Wordsearch
Here are the answers to last week's Spot the Difference puzzle provided by Thelma-Jane Robb. Did you manage to find them all?

Scottish Country Dancing Quiz
This week's quiz has been compiled by Kay Senior, Hon. President of Chiswick Scottish Country Dance Club. As Kay says "it's a quiz to wile away the weary hours".

In this eUpdate we link to a pdf with the first 10 questions - next week we will share the last 10. All the answers are the names to well known Scottish dances.

Many thanks to Kay for this fun quiz. We hope you enjoy it.

RSCDS Dance Scottish at Home.
The Dance Scottish at Home newsletter has become an eagerly anticipated weekly event with consistently interesting articles, podcasts, puzzles and more. This week was no exception including the history of The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle and the story behind the dance Sueno's Stone.  There was a reminder to listen into Gary Innes 'Take the Floor Ceilidh'. live on Sundays from 1700-1900 on BBC Radio Scotland, and a joyful rendition of the Eight-some Reel, courtesy of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

The  'At home' podcast included the history of 'The City of Belfast' told by Lucy Mulholland, who devised the dance for the Belfast Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2006 (item starts at 25.57). As I listened to Lucy, the familiar tune took me back to the last time I danced this, which was at the London Branch Tea dance on 1 March.  Jenny Kendrick and I were ostensibly on duty at the registration desk but we ran away, leaving Sarah Shaw to hold the fort,  so that we could make up the final set for this much loved dance.  I danced in stocking feet as I didn't have time to find my dancing shoes before the music began but it was a lovely start to a memorable afternoon. Few of us, if any, realised just how long it might be before we would be able to dance together again.

Previous editions of the RSCDS newsletter, Dance Scottish at Home are available here: 
Week 9Week 8Week 7Week 6Week 5Week 4Week 3Week 2Week 1

Attendance at the RSCDS Online class seems to have stabilised with an impressive community of more than 1,250 global log ins each week.  This week's class came from Japan and was delivered by Atsuko Clement, whose return to Edinburgh from Ichikawa, near Tokyo, has been delayed due to Covid-19. Atsuko (perhaps most recently seen by London branch dancers as a teacher at the 2019 Berkhamsted Strathspey and Reel Club day school in November 2019, as well as at Summer School in August 2019) took us through a vigorous warm up and then the steps necessary to dance the Threesome Reel from RSCDS Book 6, albeit as a solo dance. Many thanks to Atsuko for a truly enjoyable class - and best wishes for a swift and safe return home.

You can catch up with this week’s class and some of the chat here.
Next week's class, with a different teacher, will be at 7pm on Wednesday and available via this link (same link every week). Grateful thanks to RSCDS, the teachers and the technicians who make this weekly class possible.

To revisit any of the classes so far simply click on the relevant image below.
Graham Donald
Ron Wallace
William Williamson
Mervyn Short
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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