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