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RSCDS London branch eUpdate
7 June 2020


Dear fellow dancers

The sunshine seems to have deserted us a little this weekend but we are grateful to all those people who have shared a little joy in the videos, stories, puzzles and dances they have sent for inclusion in this eUpdate. We have, Step We Ceilidh, another fascinating vignette from the dance archives as well as 'three favourite dances', this time courtesy of London Branch Chair, Jim Cook.  This week's 'Dance Scottish at Home' newsletter did not disappoint and was packed with content including, of course, a link to the latest online class. We thank Kay Senior, Honorary President of the Chiswick Scottish Country Dance Club for the second part of her Scottish dance quiz, plus the answers for last week's questions. 
We've had some lovely feedback from dancers across London, neighbouring branches and further afield. This included news of how different groups and branches have been keeping in touch during Lockdown and sparked a new idea. We asked Cathy Daldy, Chair of the Surbition and District Caledonian Society, if she could provide an update on the group's activities.  Her entertaining update may be found further down this edition and is an inspiring example of how the Scottish dance community can play a role in our lives, even when we cannot meet in person. We'd love to hear how other groups and branches are getting on. Please do let us know if you'd like to contribute (

There is a seemingly inexhaustible supply of amusing dance related videos online and this week we have two, very different examples to share. The first features the famously slow and measured delivery of Alan Whicker, or rather, Stanley Baxter's  classic 1981 interpretation of an Alan Whicker interview. Many thanks to Peter Knight and Jim Cook who each independently forwarded the link for inclusion.  The second video (content warning - contain some expletives) contains the rather more high octane delivery of Scottish comedian Danny Bhoy with a hilarious description of a Scottish Ceilidh.

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.  

Scottish Dance Videos
This week's video is from the RSCDS archives. Step We Ceilidh is an instructional video from 1993 showing how to do 13 popular ceilidh dances. Some of these would be possible to dance along with at home by yourself or with a partner.

In last week's eUpdate we shared a video of the comic character Mr Pastry's interpretation of the dance The Lancers from a 1976 edtion of the Good Old Days. In Step We Ceildh you can see the dance being performed in a set.


Thanks again to Peter Knight and to Meryl and Ian Thomson for sourcing and making available these lovely films.

Keeping Close during Lockdown - the Surbiton Way
We were delighted to receive this update from Cathy Daldy, Chair of the Surbiton and District Caledonian Society on how their members are keeping in touch during Lockdown.  Keeping Close during Lockdown- the Surbiton Way is an interesting read and describes how members are using Social Media in innovative ways as a means of keeping in contact.

The Surbiton Caledonian WhatsApp group, originally started last October as an additional way for members and friends of Surbiton & District Caledonian Society to socialise, share news, chat, photos and events, has really come into its own since the lockdown started. 

When our weekly dancing sessions came to an abrupt halt in March, our WhatsApp group sprang to life, soon doubling its membership as people sought to keep connected to the activity we all love.  We quickly got a “Dance of the Day” idea going to raise the spirits, and to be something we could all watch or study the crib for and imagine dancing together.  As the weeks in lockdown went on, our chat became more wide-ranging, funny, kind and supportive as we shared our thoughts, experiences, life events and ideas for keeping going through this time of crisis. 

The demographic spans our youngest to oldest members, and it has been a delight to discover other common interests amongst our members such as bridge, gardening, theatre and puzzles.  We have enjoyed some joint efforts solving a London Branch eUpdate crossword and the recent Spot the Difference picture puzzle which featured some of our own members with bits missing or added!  We have let loose our creative efforts from lockdown dances to bagpipe performances, photos of our baking achievements and a members’ gardens slideshow. 

This all complements our official weekly email message, sent out every Thursday when we would normally be dancing, which aims to help our members to continue to feel connected to Surbiton through a personal message from me [Cathy Daldy] together with a historical photo of interest from our archives.  Just one of our 91 members is not online, and she receives a weekly phone call from one of us!  We are all longing to meet and dance together again, but in the meantime we are sustained by our ability to keep in touch in these ways.
Three of my favourite dances – Jim Cook
Following last week's selections from Margaret Shaw, this week Jim Cook, London Branch Chair, shares his favourite dances with us. 
During 52 years of dancing, one's favourite dances ebb and flow. So, what should I choose?  I have opted for two reels and a strathspey.
1. Swiss Lassie x 32 bar Reel RSCDS Book 39 No. 1
It is 24 years since book 39 came out and I recall that "Swiss Lassie" was a hit from the start. Soon after this, my dancing travels took me to Ravensburg in Germany where the jigsaws come from. The dance's deviser, Rosi Betsche,  taught a weekly class here and lived nearby. But Rosi is German. So who is the Swiss Lassie? It is Zurich dancer Judith Binder whom Rosi described as a keen dancer who really enjoyed her dancing. At Rosi's house, I was shown a video of a dance weekend in Stein am Rhein, a very picturesque town on the Swiss side of the Rhine. Thus, I saw Judith dancing although I never met her personally. Alas the dance is a memorial to Judith as she died in 1992 at the early age of 40. This seems to have made an impression on my mind because, whenever I do this dance, at some point the name of Judith Binder flashes through my mind...a dance which she never danced herself but which the whole dancing world dances in her memory.
2. Belle Of Bon Accord x 32 bar Strathspey Deeside Book Part 2 No.18
Many years ago, I was conducting the weekly dance evening for the Surbiton and District Caledonian Society. In parallel, during the first part of my dance evening, some of the dancers were away performing a local demonstration. The dem included "Belle" and, by coincidence, it was also on my programme. "Belle" is a dance during which newbies, who do not know it, can be easily coached by their partners. That evening, one of the Club's newest dancers had enthusiastically attended the dem as a spectator and, at the dance evening, I asked her to do "Belle". But she declined, exclaiming that this dance had been on the demonstration programme and so she could not possibly do that! But I insisted and reassured her not to worry. She correctly responded to the whispered word and the handing and all went well. And I remember the big smile at the end when she said "Gosh. I never thought I could do a dance like that!"
3. Tap The Barrel x 32 bar Reel Graded Book 3 No. 1
It is getting better known now but, when Graded Book 3 first came out, nobody knew this dance. However, I latched on to it because it is a rare 3X32 bar reel which is a jolly dance that is easy to learn. If you are conducting an evening with a flexible programme it is a good dance to slip in if you are told that the tea for the break is running a couple of minutes late.  I recall worried looks as I embark upon an unknown dance with tea in two minutes time. But experience proves that it is easy to pick up after one walk through taking, say, 30 seconds, and then 96 seconds to dance ... but admittedly with a bit of coaching over the music to help things along if need be.

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 Starry 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

Margaret Shaw
The New PetronellaJohnnie’s Welcome Hame and Sloane Square 

Scottish Country Dancing Quiz
This week's quiz has again 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 share the second part of Kay's quiz, with a link to a pdf of Questions 11 - 20. Again, all the answers are the names to well known Scottish dances. 

To find out the answers to last week's questions then click this link.

Many thanks to Kay for providing the quiz for the last 2 weeks. We hope you've enjoyed puzzling out the answers.

RSCDS Dance Scottish at Home.
The 11th edition of Dance Scottish at Home brought another wealth of content from across the RSCDS community.  This week the 'At home' podcast gave us the story behind Pelorus Jack, a favourite on many dance programme and chosen by London branch committee member, Mel Rowland, as one of her '3 favourite dances' in an earlier eUpdate (starts at 13.32).  As well as the usual great selection of music this week's podcast features a musical quiz inspired by dancing animals, courtesy of Diane Hastie in Sydney who gave us a great online step dance class a few Wednesdays ago..

How many of us learned to recite 'Tam O'Shanter' at school? Robert Burns famous narrative poem inspired not just generations of school poetry lessons but the naming of the famous tea clipper, now restored at Greenwich, and a brand of whisky. This week's investigation into well known dance names gave the fascinating history of the poem, the ship and the whisky and brought back many happy memories. Sunday afternoon expeditions, when we had young children, often featured taking the DLR to Island Gardens, running through the dank, echoey foot tunnel and emerging into the sunshine (it always seemed to be sunny) of Greenwich to see how the painstaking restoration of the Cutty Sark was progressing.

On the subject of childhood memories - the newsletter also includes a link to Feis Rois, which is a Dingwall based initiative, bringing short teaching films of well-known songs to school children across Scotland.  Well worth checking out the  Dundee Ghost and other songs.

Previous editions of the RSCDS newsletter, Dance Scottish at Home are available here: 
Week 10Week 9Week 8Week 7Week 6Week 5Week 4Week 3Week 2Week 1

This week's RSCDS Online class came from Dundee, courtesy of Fiona Mackie, with much appreciated live music from Luke Brady.  We were looking forward to welcoming Fiona to teach at the London branch day school in October this year. Sadly, this has now had to be postponed until October 2021 but, at least we were able to enjoy a taste of Fiona's teaching style in this week's class.  Building upon Dave Hall's class a few weeks ago (when we danced a strathspey Petronella during 'The Lea Rig'), Fiona increased the pace and took us back to basics, literally and figuratively, with 'Petronella', dance no 1 from RSCDS Book 1.

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 or name below.
Fiona Mackie
Graham Donald
Angela Young, Mervyn Short, Dave Hall, Diane Hastie,William Williamson, Ron Wallace
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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