HISTORY OF SCOTTISH COUNTRY DANCING AND THE WINDSOR BRANCH
Many of the steps that we use come from the French Ballet, and our mannerisms come from the French Court. So there are formations such as the poussette and allemande etc. The English introduced this type of dance to Great Britain and they danced there for many years before it came to Scotland. However, the Scots embraced the form and added their own inimitable music, the beautiful Strathspey, as well as formations such as “set to and turn corners”.
At the end of WWI there was a great influx of American troops into Great Britain, and while we welcomed them and appreciated them, they brought their jazz and syncopated rhythms also. This took such a hold of the population that it almost brought an end to the art of Scottish Country Dancing.
However, two characters entered the scene in Glasgow in 1923. One was Miss Jean C. Milligan, and the other Mrs. Ysobel Stewart of Fasnacloich, who became the founding members of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. They met in a tiny office in Glasgow, and decided to put Scotland back on its dancing feet by placing this advertisement in the Glasgow Herald:
A MEETING of all interested in above will be held in the
ATHENAEUM, ST. GEORGE’S PLACE,
ROOM 17, TONIGHT, at 5 o’clock
Mrs. Stewart later emigrated to South Africa and formed the Capetown Branch. Miss Milligan, always a proponent of physical education, was in the perfect position to promote SCD, as she was the Co-ordinator of Physical Education at Jordanhill College in Glasgow: All P.T. instructors who graduated from there, had to do Scottish Country Dancing as part of their curriculum.
First it was Glasgow who organized, then Edinburgh, then other cities and towns across Scotland followed. A Summer School was held in St. Andrews for one week in 1925, and 100 Scots attended. Now, with the exception of the War years, the Summer School at St. Andrews has been a continuing experience, and lasts for four weeks now, with 300 people attending every week from all over the World…
In 1951, King George VI bestowed the title of “Royal” on the Society. Queen Elizabeth, our Patron, is herself a beautiful dancer, and takes a great interest in the organization.
In 1954, Scottish Country Dancing spread abroad with its first Branch in Capetown, South Africa, the second in Boston, and our own Hamilton, Ontario Branch was third.
The Windsor Group was formed in 1965, and our own June and John Dey were part of that fledgling number. We are told that they didn’t change into their shoes until they could be sure that enough people would arrive to form a set!
Windsor obtained Branch status in 1981 and celebrated its 25th anniversary with a Special Celebration Dance and Potluck Dance on November 25, 2006 at Bedford United Church. We are proud to be part of the “Royal Scottish Country Dancing Family”, and although we are a small Branch, never exceeding much over 50 members at a time, a lot of country dancers have passed through our portals since 1965. We like to think that many of them who had their beginnings in Windsor continue to dance wherever they have gone.
Since becoming a Branch, there have been many milestones and much to celebrate. We have close ties with our fellow dancers in Michigan and neighbouring states, and they support many of our functions. There have been many Workshops, and we are probably the only Branch in Canada that hosts an annual International Workshop each year with our Detroit friends.
We take part in demonstrations, and are always very well received by the public. We have even recruited members for the group from going out and showing how beautiful and how much fun Scottish Country Dancing can be.
We also host an Annual Ball, scheduled at the end of October. For many years we danced to the wonderful music of Bobby Brown and the Scottish Accent (considered by many to be the finest Scottish Country Dancing band in North America if not the world). Since 2011 we have enjoyed the music of Scotch Mist, led by Laird Brown, which is ably following in the Scottish Accent’s path.
Historian, RSCDS Windsor Branch