1993: Wellington-Hawke’s Bay Association 40th Jubilee

This year, 2023, is the Centenary of the founding of the RSCDS. It is also the 70th Anniversary of the formation of the Wellington-Hawke’s Bay Association in 1953. This was the first Scottish Country Dancing association in New Zealand, which later morphed into the RSCDS New Zealand Branch

See a ‘potted history’ of the Wellington-Hawke’s Bay Association and of organised Scottish Country Dancing in New Zealand from 1953-1978 in this copy of the Foreword to The Morison’s Bush Collection

In 1993, to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Wellington-Hawke’s Bay Association and the 25th Anniversary of the founding of the New Zealand Branch of the RSCDS, dancers gathered in Napier for a Jubilee Weekend from 8-10 October.

Grand March at the 40th Jubilee: Piper Bruce Fordyce. Front row from left: Nancy Baxter, Dorothy Claypole, Peg Hutchison (Wellington Region President for four years in the 1970s), Marion Cunningham, Wellington Region President Carol Smith, Hawkes Bay and East Coast Region President May Brooker, New Zealand Branch President Min Jaeger, Carine Mayhew

Below is a piece about the Jubilee celebrations from the organiser Carine Mayhew extracted from the New Zealand Scottish Country Dancer Volume 41, 1994 p17.

Happy celebrations

1993 was an important for Scottish Country Dancing in New Zealand—it was 40 years since the forming of the first Association of Scottish Country Dance CIubs.

In 1953 the Wellington-Hawkes Bay Association was formed from clubs in Wellington, Lower Hutt. Wallaceville, Hastings, and Whakatane, with affiliated clubs in Napier, Napier Boys’ High School and Paraparaumu.

Also it was the 25th Anniversary of the founding of the New Zealand Branch of the RSCDS. What better reasons could we have to celebrate? On the weekend of 8 to 10 October 1993, dancers from Hamilton to Christchurch gathered in Napier to do just that.

From the Friday night Social Get-together, arranged by Madge Laing, to the Sunday Combined Classes and final lunch everyone appeared to have a happy and enjoyable time. which was the Region‘s aim.

Some 120 dancers from 25 clubs attended. Classes were held on the Saturday with Dianne Murdoch taking the Intermediate Class and Gary Morris the Advanced Class, and on the Sunday morning each took a Combined Class. The fact that eight sets were on the floor at 9.00am to commence the first class was an indication of the enjoyment and enthusiasm.

Gary Morris dancing Alec Hay’s Gary Morris Jig from The Morison’s Bush Collection at the 40th Anniversary in Napier. Photo: A History of Scottish Country Dancing in New Zealand, p151

On the Saturday afternoon four sets of dancers from the Hawkes Bay and East Coast Region gave a display at the ‘Charity Tattoo in the Spirit of Hawkes Bay’ at McLean Park, which was organised and hosted by the Napier Caledonian Society and the Napier City Council.

The dances performed were The Reel of the Royal Scots, The Robertson Rant and the Thirty-two some Reel, which were well received.

However, the highlight was to have the special guests with us who were involved in the forming of the Wellington-Hawkes Bay Association 40 years ago.

These were Marion Cunningham of the then Wallaceville Club (now Upper Hutt), Bruce Fordyce of the Hastings Club, Nancy Baxter (founder of the Napier Club), and Jessie and Les Coe of Morison’s Bush, who arranged the first Scottish Country Dance Ball in New Zealand and hosted the ‘travellers’ at their farmhouse or the barn—wherever there was space to “put a body”!

Mary and Bruce Fordyce from Hastings with, in the front, Jessie and Les Coe and Shirley Doherty (nee Coe) from Morison’s Bush.

Maurice Colbourne, originally from the Hastings Club, was to have attended but unfortunately had to cancel at the last minute. We were delighted to have our New Zealand Branch President, Min Jaeger, with us for the weekend, and also Ian Seton from Tauranga, Jack Seton’s son.

Jack, who will be remembered by many, was the prime instigator of the original Association, and who will forget his enthusiasm and wonderful organising abilities. Alma Secker from Featherston was there too, as she was at the first Summer School which was held in Napier in 1953.

Alma Secker, Bruce Fordyce, Nancy Baxter, Ian Seton, Mary Fordyce

Our Guest Speaker at the Dinner on the Saturday night was Bruce Fordyce, who spoke vividly of those early days. May Brooker, President of the Hawkes Bay and East Coast Region, and Carol Smith, President of the Wellington Region, spoke on behalf of their respective Regions.

Bruce also piped for the Grand March, playing a tune called Dancing Years which he had composed especially for the gathering.

The evening was a happy affair, with the MC duties shared between Joy Tracey and Gary Morris, continuing the Wellington-Hawkes Bay theme.  Our Anniversary cake, which was made and iced by local dancers VaI Darragh and Margaret Vas, was cut by Min after she had given a delightful speech.

Forty years may have rolled on, but the enthusiasm is still there, as commented on by our special guests. We have much for which to thank them. They introduced us to a wonderful interest and the opportunity of making lasting friendships. Long may we retain these happy associations!

Carine Mayhew

Photos supplied by the Fordyce family, except where otherwise noted

Article produced by Loralee Hyde, 28 August 2023

Find out about the celebrations for 50th Anniversary of the Wellington-Hawke’s Bay Association in Wellington in 2003

2003: A Celebratory Weekend!

Wellington-Hawke’s Bay Association 50th Anniversary Ball

in conjunction with

Wellington Region Weekend School: 25-27 April 2003

Formed in 1953, the Wellington-Hawke’s Bay Association was the first Scottish Country Dancing association in New Zealand. This association later morphed into the RSCDS New Zealand Branch

See a ‘potted history’ of the Wellington/Hawke’s Bay Association and of organised Scottish Country Dancing in New Zealand from 1953-1978 in this copy of the Foreword to The Morison’s Bush Collection

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Wellington-Hawke’s Bay Association, dancers from around the country enjoyed an Anniversary Ball on Saturday 26 April 2003 in conjunction with a Wellington Region Anzac Weekend School at Onslow College.

With Carol Smith as convener (centre in the image below), the weekend school was promoted as:

The Place To Be in April 2003

Highlights of the 50th Anniversary Ball

  • A programme of well-known dances for all to enjoy
  • 24 sets on the floor
  • Music from Peter Elmes((Tributes to Peter Elmes following his retirement from playing his accordion for 60 years in Wellington Region and throughout New Zealand, Harbour City Happenings, Volume 21 No. 3, December 2018)), Lynne Scott and John Smith
  • Floor show prepared by Ian Simmonds((Ian Simmonds retires after 52 years of teaching Linden Club, Harbour City Happenings, Volume 14, No. 2, July 2011))
The 50th Anniversary Ball Programme: Well-known dances for all to enjoy

Download the 50th Anniversary Ball Programme

Below is a piece about the 50th Anniversary Ball by Carol Smith, extracted from her article on the Wellington Region Anzac Weekend School published in Harbour City Happenings Vol 6, No. 3 July 2003, p4-5, with accompanying photos (photographer unknown).

“The Saturday evening function at Onslow College, the Anniversary Ball celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Wellington-Hawke’s Bay Association, was a superb night and it was a wonderful sight to see 24 sets on the floor with so little room between sets. Perhaps a little tight for dancing, but it gave a great atmosphere.”

“From the Grand March to the last dance the hall seemed to be buzzing and although a formal night was also great fun.

It was nice to be able to welcome the NZ Branch President Jenny Kuttel, the Region President Chris Kelly, along with many other Branch and Region executive members and make a special welcome to Bruce and Mary Fordyce. Bruce being the only member of the original Wellington-Hawke’s Bay committee still dancing.

The floor show prepared by Ian Simmonds was great entertainment and it was a delight to see a set of dancers enjoying themselves so much. Thank you Ian and the team for a great effort.

Peter Elmes, Lynne Scott and John Smith provided great music and it just seemed that the dancers and the band sparked off each other, responding to each others enthusiasm.

Janice Henson provided a lovely cake celebrating the 50th Anniversary. All in all a great night.”

The cutting of the cake was shared by Bruce Fordyce (one of the original committee members of the Wellington-Hawkes Bay Association), Peg Hutchison((Peg Hutchison Wellington Region President for four years in the 1970s; RSCDS New Zealand Branch President 1985-1986; RSCDS New Zealand Branch Life Member 1998)) and Gary Morris((Gary Morris Extract from Sociable Carefree Delightful A History of Scottish Country Dancing in New Zealand 1995 p150-151)) (long-time Region tutor and RSCDS examiner).

Lynne Scott, John Smith and Peter Elmes from the band are on the stage behind the group cutting the cake.

Highlights of the Anzac Weekend School: 25-27 April 2003

A digital copy of the 2003 Wellington Region Weekend School Brochure. Original printed brochure kindly supplied by Margaret Bailey-Allison

Download the 2003 Wellington Region Weekend School Brochure

Six Classes and Teachers

  • Advanced Senior/Social: Pam Perkins, Opotiki
  • Advanced Technique: Ester McKay, Auckland
  • Intermediate Technique: Yvonne Gray, Auckland
  • Intermediate/Elementary: Philippa Pointon, Wellington (Johnsonville Club President at the time)
  • New Dancers: Maureen Robson, Wellington
  • JAMS: Melva Waite, Wellington


  • Special Guest Musician: Jennifer Foong, Sydney
  • Other Class Musicians: Merren Simmonds, Peter Elmes, John Smith, Gary and June Stratton
  • Fiddlers Class: Guest Teacher Cathy Fraser, Australia

Read about the fun of the dancing and social activities at the April 2003 Wellington Region Weekend School in this review by Ellen Bracefield (‘a weekend school novice’), Harbour City Happenings Vol 6, No. 2 May 2003, p3.

A weekend to remember!

Thank you to all those who contributed to the success of this celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Wellington-Hawke’s Bay Association and the Region Anzac Weekend School, particularly Convener Carol Smith and her committee of Eileen South, Shirley Kalogeropoulos, Ian Taylforth and John Gregory.

As Ellen said in her review of this celebration, “Anzac Weekend School in Wellington was the place to be in April 2003”.

Loralee Hyde
26 July 2023

Percy Reserve: Summer dancing

At the Wellington Region afternoon of Early Wellington Dances in April, we danced Ian Simmonds’ dance Percy Reserve (The Linden Collection), which commemorates the many years of summer dancing at Percy Scenic Reserve in Lower Hutt.

1955: Summer Dancing in Percy Reserve, Wellington Evening Post Scottish Country Dancers at Percy Scenic Reserve, Korokoro, Lower Hutt. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1955/2562-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22736027

Percy Scenic Reserve has a fascinating history, originally being the site of the Percy family’s mill, established in the 1840s. The family was one of the pioneer families of Petone, with Joseph Percy and (later wife) Anne Maria Welch arriving as settlers in the early 1840s.

Scene at Korokoro, circa 1860s, with Percy’s Britannia Flour Mill. Photographer unidentified. NatLib image

View from the Percy family property (later Percy Scenic Reserve) in Maungaraki, looking south down the Hutt Valley toward Petone, Somes Island and Wellington Harbour. In the left foreground is Percy’s flour mill. Photographer James Bragge, circa 1860s. NatLib image

1902: View of Lower Hutt looking due east from Percy’s Reserve. The edge of Ratanui Tennis Court is at the bottom right. Photo: Barclay Hector Upper Hutt City Library Heritage Collections

From early on, ‘the mill soon became a social hub hosting dances and events.’ Land nearby was later developed as a private garden, and in 1939 three of the Percys’ grandsons gifted the park and its special plant collections to the Crown ‘for the purposes of a scenic reserve’.

‘From the 1950s the reserve was regularly used for a variety of cultural events such as dances and performances.’ Scottish Country Dancing was one of the groups favoured by the Petone Borough Council in those years. (See Hutt City celebrations of Percy Reserve 70th anniversary)

Interestingly there is a family connection to Scottish Country Dancing through past Wellington dancer, Plimmerton Scottish Country Dance Club tutor and later Johnsonville member, Margaret Bailey (now Bailey-Allison).

Margaret tells me her 2x great-aunt was Anne Maria (Welch) Percy, wife of Joseph Percy, who was ‘the mother of all those Percys who didn’t marry, and who bequeathed the family land’. In New Zealand, you never have to look far for a family connection.

The Scottish Country Dancing connection with Percy Reserve began in the 1950s.

1955: A Scottish Country Dancing demonstration

Dancing at Percy Reserve seems to have begun with a Sunday afternoon demonstration in March 1955, at the request of the Petone Borough Council.

Fifty dancers from Wellington district took part, and the white frocks and tartan looked particularly attractive against the background of bush-clad hills. A light mist hanging round the tree-tops only increased the resemblance of the scene to thills of Home.

The NZ Scottish Country Dancer 1955, p 19

Amazingly it was performed before ‘some 700 spectators’, and followed on from a January demonstration on the lawn in the moon-lit Botanical Gardens.

The 1955 season was deemed to be ‘highly successful’ with these two public demonstrations having ‘given fresh impetus to Scottish Country Dancing in the District’. (The NZ Scottish Country Dancer 1955, pp 3,19)

1955-1956: Dancing under lights

By end of 1955, the Petone Borough Council had installed flood lights and a PA system, and offered the Reserve free to the Scottish Country Dance community to dance one evening a week throughout the summer.

This was such an exciting development, the 1956 NZ Scottish Country Dancer had a full page spread on Percy’s Scenic Reserve

Regular evening dancing started on 21 November 1955, broke for Christmas and resumed to coincide with the second New Zealand Summer School held 3-14 January 1956 at Wellesley College, Eastbourne.

On 12 January 1956 at this second summer school, the New Zealand Scottish Country Dance Society came into being, fulfilling ‘a recommendation made some 12 months earlier from the first Summer School’ [held 27 December 1954 to 7 January 1955 at the Boys’ High School, Napier]. (The NZ Scottish Country Dancer 1956, p 11)

What Jack Seton had to say

At that inaugural meeting, dancer and musician Jack Seton was elected the first President of the New Zealand Scottish Country Dance Society. He was also one of three teachers at the second Summer School, and was very excited about summer dancing at Percy Reserve.

Jack Seton MC’ing a Scottish Country Dance. Photo supplied by Ruary Laidlaw

In the Hastings Notes from Affiliated Clubs  in the 1956 magazine, Jack writes enthusiastically:

Since I came to lovely New Zealand, I often wondered if I could ever capture the same thrill at a massed display [as he’d experienced at a demonstration at Holyrood Palace]. During the last Summer School, the class together with members of the Wellington and District clubs performed at Percy’s Reserve. The setting, plus the lighting which added colour to the contrast of tartan sashes and kilts against the green sward brought back the same happy feeling, a feeling which made me inwardly proud of the leaders of clubs who have brought our dances to such a high standard of perfection and a love for every member who gave of his best.

The NZ Scottish Country Dancer 1956, p 19

Percy’s becomes an institution

From the 1950s onwards summer dancing at Percy Reserve was part of the fabric of Scottish Country Dancing in Wellington. Some years were better than others weatherwise, with gatherings washed out on occasion.

In 1971 summer dancing was still going strong, with Lower Hutt Club writing:

This year we were very fortunate with the weather for all eight nights’ dancing at Percy’s Scenic Reserve. On the Hutt Club’s nights, approximately 10 sets turned out for dancing under the stars.

The NZ Scottish Country Dancer 1971, p 36

In 1972, Wellington Club reported that ‘on two of our allotted nights the grass was too wet to allow us to cavort’. But large numbers continued to enjoy dancing at Percy’s throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s.

An exciting development in the 1980s was live music at Percy’s Reserve. Peter Elmes’ notes include a dance programme for 26-1-82 at Percys Reserve and the 1984 Dancer magazine mentions live musicians playing at some of the Percy Reserve nights in 1983.

Little other mention was made in magazines during the 1980s or 1990s. Other events took priority, with summer dancing at Percy’s Reserve having become a normal part of the Wellington Scottish Country Dancing calendar.

Clubs might go into recess for the summer months, but warmer weather never seems to deter the Scottish Country Dancer. Outdoor dancing at Percy’s Reserve during January and February … keeps the fitness levels up until clubs recommence in early March.

The NZ Scottish Country Dancer 1995, p 35

The end of an era

After 1995, I can find no further mention of summer dancing at Percy Reserve in my collection of magazines, and come 1999:

In January/February, outdoor dancing was held at Riddiford Gardens in Lower Hutt – each night being hosted by a different club.

The NZ Scottish Country Dancer 2000, p 25

Summer dancing at Percy Reserve was a feature of Scottish Country Dancing in the Wellington Region for at least forty years – a mighty fine run indeed.

A personal note

Rod and I started dancing in 1991 and we have happy memories of dancing in Percy Reserve in the summer (despite being eaten alive by midges). It was a lot of fun, and we were still young, so dancing on the grass didn’t impact our feet the way it does these days.

Rod became tutor of Johnsonville in 1997 and can remember taking some nights at Percy Reserve in that role, so it would seem summer dancing was still going strong at Percy’s into the late 1990s.

Summer dancing had transferred to Riddiford Gardens in Lower Hutt by January 2000. Harbour City Happenings Vol 2 No.5 November 1999, p6

Kristin Downey
21 May 2023

Originally published on the Johnsonville Scottish Country Dance Club website

Our Musicians: John Foden & Tom Barnes

As part of the Wellington Region’s 60th Celebrations in 2021, a small team has been gathering information relating to the Region’s history.

This ongoing project aims to build a historical resource, and in so doing, honour all the people who’ve been a part of the Region’s history.

Those who attended the Wellington Region’s 60th Ball this year, had the opportunity to enjoy viewing some of the historical photos and videos collected and digitised by the project team and other volunteers.

There’s been an exciting development – we’ve received material from the families of two Scottish Country Dance musicians who played in the 1980s, fiddler John Foden and accordionist Tom Barnes.

Margaret Foden has shared some of her personal photos, and Sono Barnes has donated cassette tapes of Tom and John playing for various Scottish Country Dancing events. These are valuable additions to the Region’s archival collection, many thanks to both for giving us this window into our Scottish Country Dance musicians.

Wellington Scottish Country Dance musicians (from left), Roger, Tom Barnes,
John Foden and Merren Simmonds at the Cambridge Queen’s Birthday Weekend School in June 1984 with Mairi-Helen Jamieson as MC

If you have material you could share with, or donate to the region’s Archives Project, or recollections of those times, please email Region committee member Philippa Pointon

Kristin Downey

Originally published in Harbour City Happenings Volume 24 No. 4, December 2021

Wellington Region: The Early Years

As part of the Wellington Region’s 60th celebrations, I’ve started combing through old NZ Scottish Country Dancer magazines, extracting items of interest relating to the Region.

I didn’t come to New Zealand until 1986, and didn’t start dancing till 1991, so this has been a voyage of discovery, and I’m really enjoying finding out about the history of Scottish Country Dancing in the Wellington region.

Although the Wellington ‘Branch’ (as it was then known) wasn’t established until 1961, Scottish Country Dancing was already alive and well. Here’s what I’ve found, apologies for any mis-interpretations or omissions, I’m happy to be corrected.

‘In May, 1949, under the auspices of the Wellington Association of Scots’ Societies, the Scottish Country Dance Circle came into being, and was affiliated to the Scottish organisation. The membership was approximately 60, and included members of the Hutt Valley Scottish Society.’ (1954 SC Dancer, p 4.)

‘However, owing to the small attendances and lack of interest, it was reluctantly decided, in April of 1951, that the dancing circle should cease functioning. A new start was made on 10 October 1951 … and Scottish Country Dancing was soon firmly established in Wellington’ as the Wellington Dancing Circle. (1954 SC Dancer, p 5.)

Lower Hutt continued to dance as ‘a Scottish Country Dance Circle of the Lower Hutt Scottish Society(1957 SC Dancer, p 20) and ‘Wallaceville Scottish Country Dance Club began its career halfway through 1952 as ‘from Wallaceville to Wellington is a long trek on a cold winter’s night’. (1954 SC Dancer, pp 5-6.)

In Coronation Year, 1953, the Wellington-Hawkes Bay Association was established, with member clubs including Lower Hutt, Wallaceville and Wellington.

Early committee members of the Wellington-Hawkes Bay Association, including Wellington Region club representatives (1967 NZ SC Dancer p 21 – download article including committee members’ names below)

However ‘the distance for meetings had become quite a problem, and so in November 1958, the Hawke’s Bay Branch was formed’. (1973 NZ SC Dancer, p4.)

This led to the formation of the Wellington and Districts Association, which included clubs in the Wairarapa. It was an exciting time, culminating in 1960 with the ‘first truly Scottish Country Dance Ball held in New Zealand’. (1961 SC Dancer, p 13 – download below.)

In late 1961 ‘it was agreed … to dissolve the Wellington and Districts Association’ with the formation of ‘two new branches – Wellington Branch and Wairarapa Branch.’ (1962 NZSC Dancer, p 17.)

There is more to the story, including the formation of the NZ Scottish Country Dance Society in 1957, and then in 1968, the NZ Branch of the RSCDS. But that’s for another day.

Clubs in the Region have come and gone over the years, but Scottish Country Dancing remains in good heart in the Wellington Region, built on the shoulders of all those who came before.

This year the Region celebrates its 60th year with a 60th Anniversary Ball, and honours the Wellington Region dancing community by starting to collect and share its history.

Many thanks to those who gifted back copies of NZ Dancer magazines to help with this research. I would be very grateful to hear from anyone who has spare magazines covering the years 1954-1958. Please email me here

Kristin Downey
June 2021

This article was originally published in the RSCDS Wellington Region Harbour City Happenings Volume 24 No. 2 June 2021