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