A unique experience of our Scottish Country Dancing history
A lively crowd of close to 60 dancers from clubs across the Wellington Region along with Auckland tutor Katharine Hoskyn and a visitor from the UK, gathered at St John’s Anglican Church Hall in Johnsonville on Saturday 29 April for an afternoon of trying out dances from our past.
As part of the RSCDS Centenary Events, this special occasion celebrated the role of the extended RSCDS Wellington Region as the well-spring of Scottish Country Dancing in New Zealand.
Over the afternoon, four long-time tutors from the Region—Iain Boyd, Romaine Butterfield, Edith Campbell and Elaine Laidlaw—taught dances from the early days of Scottish Country Dancing in the lower North Island.
The tutors selected dances from The Morison’s Bush Collection (published in 1978 to mark the 25th Anniversary of the founding of the Wellington/Hawke’s Bay Association of Scottish Country Dance Clubs), The Harbour City Collection (published by the Wellington Region in 1986), Silver Threads (published for the RSCDS New Zealand Branch 25th Anniversary in 1993) and The Linden Collection (dances devised by Wellington Region tutor Ian Simmonds).
To set the scene, tartan bunting and historical photos decorated the walls of the hall along with posters containing brief summaries of the tutors’ contributions to Scottish Country Dancing and photos of them MC’ing noteworthy events in the Region.
To add to this unique experience, The Cranberry Tarts—Aileen Logie and Hilary Ferral—provided music for the afternoon from the original tunes and arrangements used by Peter Elmes.
A sizeable number of tutors from clubs in the Region from Carterton in the Wairarapa to Waikanae on the Kāpiti Coast attended the event.
Welcoming everyone to the occasion, event organiser Rod Downey explained the event was a celebration of the extended region as the ‘cradle of Scottish Country Dancing’ in New Zealand.
He emphasised the stars of the afternoon were the old dances, with the stellar group being the well-regarded tutors.
Programme organiser Iain Boyd introduced the teacher for each dance, mentioning many of the dances have special music with arrangements by Peter Elmes.
We took to the floor for Elaine Laidlaw’s first dance, Mirth’s Welcome (The Morison’s Bush Collection), devised by her husband Michael Laidlaw for Mirth Smallwood, a long-time tutor of Kelburn Club. Mirth went away to Rarotonga for a time and Michael took over teaching Kelburn during that period. He devised the dance for her return in June 1969, and also composed the music.
Watch this video of Mirth’s Welcome (first two times through, followed by the final time through)
After a brief break to regain our breath, Edith Campbell taught her dance To Ane An’ A’ (The Harbour City Collection). She explained we celebrate the arrival of a new year at Hogmanay by singing the traditional Scottish song A Guid New Year (which she sang to us). She thought a celebratory dance was also needed, so devised To Ane An’ A’ as a Round-the-Room dance to encourage dancers to wish a good new year to ‘one and all’. Tom Barnes, a Wellington accordionist in the 1980s, arranged the music.
Iain Boyd took us through Under A Shady Tree (Silver Threads) devised by his wife, Wellington tutor Noeline O’Connor. This dance is connected to summer dancing in the past on the Puriri Lawn in Wellington Botanic Garden where a seat around a large puriri tree provided respite for the dancers from the sun. The music is traditional.
Watch this video of Under a Shady Tree (final time through)
Ian Simmond’s dance Percy Reserve (The Linden Collection) commemorates the many years summer dancing was held at Percy Scenic Reserve in Lower Hutt. Romaine Butterfield described how hordes of dancers met on the lawn near the duck pond on balmy summer nights. She said it was essential to “watch out for low-flying ducks” when dancing! Peter Elmes composed the tune Dancing on the Lawn.
Watch this video of Percy Reserve (two times through)
After four energetic dances, people chatted about the programme being rather exhausting, both physically and mentally. Before tackling Govandale Reel, (a 48-bar jig!), Rod shared a brief pertinent comment from our distant past:
”It is perhaps significant that these dances, from completely different sources, all show a tendency which could be characteristic of dancing in our vigorous young country.”1958 New Zealand Scottish Country Dancer, p6
The room erupted with laughter!
Govandale Reel (The Morison’s Bush Collection) was devised by Jim Lean, who played the records for many years at Lower Hutt Club. Edith gave us a brief history of Govan, a district on the River Clyde in Glasgow. Charlie Jemmett, a well-known accordionist from Christchurch, composed the music.
Watch this video of Govandale Reel (first time through)
Following a well-earned break for afternoon tea, Romaine taught her dance Joy Be Wi’ You (The Morison’s Bush Collection), a 5-couple dance with marvellous traditional music. She hoped the “joy would be with us” throughout the dance. Indeed, plenty of smiles and laughter from the dancers lit up the floor.
Watch this video of Joy Be Wi’ You (first two times through)
Elaine returned to the floor to teach Feshiebridge devised by long-time tutor Gary Morris in Edinburgh in 1962. The beautiful Feshiebridge crosses the River Feshie in the Cairngorms, conveniently located near a distillery! Gary also composed the music which was recorded by Peter Elmes, John Smith and Lynne Scott on the Scottish Country Dancing CD Thistle Hall.
Watch this video of Feshiebridge (two times through)
Iain taught the last dance of the afternoon, Kelburn’s Reel (The Morison’s Bush Collection) devised by long-time tutor Betty Redfearn for the 10th Anniversary of Kelburn Club in 1969. This cheerful and social Round-the-Room dance was a perfect ending to a superb afternoon of dancing, listening to Peter Elmes’ arrangements of tunes and socialising.
Considerable work is needed to make sure an event like this is a success. Thanks so much to Region President Rod Downey for organising the afternoon, Iain Boyd for organising the programme, Kristin Downey and the Johnsonville team for the hall decorations, Elaine Lethbridge for hall-setup and preparing the delicious afternoon tea, Kevin Lethbridge for hall-setup and on the door, Loralee Hyde for promotion, communications and photography, and John Patterson for videography.
A special thank you to the four tutors, Iain Boyd, Romaine Butterfield, Edith Campbell and Elaine Laidlaw, for the time they took to select, research and teach their chosen dances. We very much appreciated their knowledge, expertise and insights into the Scottish Country Dancing history of our region.
Thank you also to the Cranberry Tarts, Aileen Logie and Hilary Ferral, for their marvellous playing, bringing back so many memories of Peter Elmes’ fine arrangements of tunes.
This special afternoon is one to remember.
5 May 2023
Photos by Loralee Hyde except where noted
Videos by John Patterson and Pat Reesby
 The Foreword of The Morison’s Bush Collection says “For Country Dancers in the Wellington, Wairarapa and Hawke’s Bay area it [Morison’s Bush] was for many years the centre of social life and dances there were not to be missed.”
 Wellington Scottish Country Dance musicians John Foden and Tom Barnes Harbour City Happenings Volume 24 No. 4, December 2021