Volume 27 #1
The Scottish Country Dancer
July/August 2010

Articles in This Issue
The Brief A Wee Bit of Scottish Politics
A Message from the Chair A Piper's Tale
Scottish and Square Dancers Are Friends Scottish Ducks?
Scottish Place Names Calendar of Events
The Brief

Here's a quick rundown of upcoming events:

  • July 4th -- whoHOO! SCD on stage at Fort Vancouver's Independence Day celebration, 7 pm.
  • July 10th, the SCD Summer Picnic, at the Shaw's home in Battle Ground, all area dancers invited.
  • July 11th, SW Wa State Branch SCD Board Meeting,
  • July 17th, the Portland Highland Games at Mt. Hood Community College, Gresham
  • August 8th, SCD dancing on stage at the Clark County Fair, 6 pm.
A Message from the Chair
by Linda Mae Dennis

Seems like I just did this. Are the months getting closer together? Is it July already?

This morning it is cool and rainy. Not very July-esque, and hard to start feeling like it's summer. Someone told me yesterday that it always stops raining on July 5th. So I guess there's still hope that the brave, but still tiny tomato plants will make tomatoes eventually.

One of the things I couldn't share with you at the Annual General Meeting, is the very exciting news that the RSCDS Management Board approved our recommendation that Marge van Nus be awarded the Scroll of Honour. Here's what the RSCDS website says about the Scroll:

"The highest accolade is the award of the Society's Scroll of Honour. This is awarded each year to a few individuals who have made an exceptional contribution, generally to the RSCDS at large/worldwide as well as locally. Nominations for a Scroll can only come from Branches... A Chairman's Panel then considers each nomination and approves it or not (nomination does not guarantee that it will be awarded). Successful nominees are then informed, as well as the nominating Branches, and the nominees are invited to receive their Scroll at the Society's AGM in November (although often overseas nominees opt to receive their award locally)."

When we became a Branch last year, we were finally able to nominate our obvious choice. There was a lot of excellent sleuthing, thanks to Geri, collecting dates and accomplishments. We kept the application process pretty quiet. And the wait between sending the application in March, and hearing the result in June was quite tense.

Because of her upcoming knee surgery, Marge says she will not be going to Perth to accept her award, so we'll have to think up a really good ceremony for her here.

(Hey! Here's an opportunity for *someone* to get involved - if you'd like to plan the Scroll Ceremony, please let me know!)

Congratulations to you, Marge!

In case you've been wondering...

After numerous and lengthy discussions, the Board concluded that we should have the 2011 Dinner Dance at St. Luke's Episcopal Church. Co-chairs Geri Stuart and Rebecca Mintz are working on all the details, and plans are underway for another memorable event. (Here's another opportunity! Ask what you can do to help out!)

Classes are finished up for the season, but the dancing continues. I hope to see you at any one of the numerous dancing opportunities we'll have this summer. September will be here before we know it.

Scottish and Square Dancers Are Friends
by Tom Halpenny

I am fascinated with the similarities and differences between Scottish Country Dance and Square Dance. I have enjoyed Scottish Country Dance for several years. I love the mental memory game, social, moderately aerobic, and musical attributes of the dance form. My wife Liza and I wanted to try something new, so we began learning Square Dance. We have loved learning this dance form that has similarities to Scottish Dance. We have found the dancing and the friendships in each group to be enriching, and we are interested in bringing together dancers from both groups. This introduction to Scottish Country Dance (SCD) and Square Dance (SD) will explore some similarities and differences for readers who are already familiar with one of the dance forms.

Scottish Country Dance and Square Dance both form a set of dancing couples who work as a team to travel geometric patterns in time with the music. A SCD dance has a predefined choreography of figures that are timed specifically to the music, selected from about 50 figures. The SCD teacher briefs or walks dancers through the figures so we can recall them long enough to perform the dance. The SD caller reveals the choreography real time and guides dancers through a sequence selected from about 100 moves at the Plus level. Dancers move through complex patterns and are magically returned to the home position.

SD footwork is a brisk rhythmic walk done to music of a variety of styles. SCD has both quick-time footwork (Skip Change and Pas de Basque for jig and reel) and slow-time footwork (for strathspey), all done to Celtic music.

There are several SD moves and SCD figures which are very similar, like: Promenade / Promenade, Forward & Back / Advance and Retire, Dosado / Back to Back, Right & Left Grand / Grand Chain.

During SD Square Thru, four dancers chain by alternate right and left hands around their four-dancer square, by the number of sides called. A Square Thru 4 is similar to the SCD Rights and Lefts, in which dancers travel four sides of the square and return to original positions. A difference is SD dancers end facing 270 degrees from the beginning, while SCD dancers end facing the original direction.

There are many figures / moves which are specific to each dance form. A sampling of SCD specific figures is: Lead Down the Middle and Up, Figure of Eight, Reel of Three, Allemande, Double Triangles, Poussette, Set and Link, The Knot, Rondel. A sampling of SD specific moves is: California Twirl, Box the Gnat, Flutterwheel, Spin the Top, Scoot Back, Teacup Chain, Ping Pong Circulate, Load the Boat, Relay the Deucey.

Following are links to videos of the dance forms:

Scottish Country Dance: www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvW1ROlOjmk
Square Dance: www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4lxfXltCxQ

If you are intrigued by a new dance experience that has similarities to your familiar dance form, perhaps you would like to spend a couple hours to try something new, take a lesson, and make some new friends. These websites will tell you how: Scottish Country Dance: www.rscds-swws.org; Square Dance: www.happy-hoppers.com

Scottish Place Names
by Martin G. MacKenzie

Gentlefolk, this time around, I would like to give you all a little tour of GÓidhlig place names surrounding the town of my family's genesis, Ballachulish, Scotland.

Now, like place names everywhere else in the world, they can seem mysterious and, if it is a vacation destination overhyped in the tourism literature, romantic. However, the names themselves, like places here in the United States, can be simple in form like "Portland", "Port-land", eh(?) or "Death Valley" which speaks for itself. Ballachulish itself comes from a simple construction: Baile or Town, a, of the, and Chaoil, the Narrows, i.e., Baile a' Chaoil or "Town of the Narrows." In fact, both North and South Ballachulish straddle a channel or narrows leading from Loch Leven to Loch Linnhe and from thence to the ocean. In fact Loch Linnhe itself means "Pool or Gulf Lake" probably because it has fairly clear, untroubled waters.

Famous Glen Coe, to the east about a mile, place of the infamous Glen Coe massacre in 1692 is only famous because of the terrible events that transpired there. The name itself is a simple construction from GÓidhlig, i.e. Glen, Valley and Coe, meaning a crevice. It is a narrow valley with high mountains, at least by Scottish standards on either side. Beinn a' Bheithir, a mountain which means Mountain of the Thunderbolt, consists of two peaks which are often climbed by visitors in a kind of collecting of achievements called "Munro bagging." One peak is called Sgurr Dhearg. This simply means the Red Peak. The other peak of this mountain is Sgurr Dh˛mhaill meaning Donald's peak.

Now you can see that the real mystery is in the everyday lives of those who lived in those areas for centuries.

Soraidh dhuibh uile! Fairwell everyone!

A Wee Bit of Scottish Politics
by David J. MacKenzie

The Scottish National Party has had continuous representation in Parliament since 1967, but even today it fares poorly in Westminster (it holds only seven seats), thanks to the British electoral system (identical to the one found in the United States) that discourages parties other than Labour and Conservative (or Lib-Dem, if they're lucky). The devolved Scottish Parliament has improved SNP's influence considerably, helping it form a government in 2007.

Current party leader Alex Salmond has had to admit that independence is not the "center of gravity" of Scottish politics. This is especially true since the financial crisis and the collapse of their two biggest banks has done little to improve Scottish economic fortunes. His promised referendum on independence this November has already passed the parliamentary deadline. It will not go forward.

Mr. Salmond is merely changing tactics, however, hoping to gain independence bit by bit. For instance, he's supporting a campaign to have Scotland set and collect taxes, of which it will then send a percentage of the British government in order to pay for national services such as defense. Nevertheless, as The Economist points out, this may be a hard sell; Scotland is hardly in the black fiscally.

It may be that the Scottish people truly are interested in independence from London, but it is easier to say such things in economically prosperous times. Even so, there is little question that the SNP will be around for a while. If nothing else, it's a party for Scotland.

A Piper's Tale

As a bagpiper, I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a grave side service for a homeless man. He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper's cemetery in the Pennsylvania back-country.

As I was not familiar with the backwoods, I got lost; and being a typical man I didn't stop for directions. I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight.

There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch. I felt badly and apologized to the men for being late. I went to the side of the grave and looked down, and saw the vault lid was already in place. I didn't know what else to do, so I started to play.

The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and soul for this man with no family and friends. I played like I've never played before for this homeless man.

And as I played 'Amazing Grace,' the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept, we all wept together. When I finished, I packed up my bagpipes and started for my car. Though my head hung low my heart was full.

As I was opening the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, "I never seen nothin' like that before and I've been putting in septic tanks for twenty years."

Scottish Ducks?
by Van Hord

[Van and Charlie recently visited the Desert View Tower, a museum in the high desert east of San Diego, and ran across this interesting tidbit. -Ed.]

In the 20's, 30's, and 40's, driving through the American deserts could be harsh, not because of lack of fuel but because of the lack of water, for drinking. Solution? Bring bags of water with you. Where to carry them? Attached to the front of the car... that way the wind through the flax bags would cool the water by evaporation. Where did this flax come from? Imported from Scotland! Printed on the front of one bag was "Desert Brand, Reg. U.S. Patent Off., Trade Mark Registered, Camping Water Bag Made by Canvas Specialty Los Angeles, California, U.S.A." On the back was printed, "Saturate Before Using, Made of Flax Duck From Scotland."

(Not to be confused with a later use that Charlie's family encountered in their cross-the-desert travels: One could rent a bag full of water on one side of the desert expanse. This water bag was placed in front of the car, so that by manually depressing a lever, water would squirt on the radiator to help cool it. Then when the other side of the desert was reached, the bag was turned in. Water was not to be drunk.)


Calendar of Events

July 10: Sw Wa State Branch Picnic
11 am to 3 pm, at a Fresh, New Location in Battle Ground*
Bring: Provided:
Food to share Lots of room to dance
Lawn chairs Plates, utensils, napkins
Binoculars, cameras Red jug of ice water
Games! Clean restrooms
* Call Susan Shaw 360-576-5678 for details.
July 17: Portland Highland Games 2010
Mt. Hood Community College, Gresham, OR.
Spend the day among the Scots! The tradition returns and you, your family, and friends are invited to enjoy a day of traditional Scottish entertainment and fun.
For more information, see their webpage at: www.phga.org
Sep 10-12: 36th Fort Worden Workshop and Ball
      Sharon Barker -- Calgary, AB
      Janet Johnston -- Edinburgh, UK
      Gordon Robinson -- Victoria, BC
      Tim Wilson -- San Francisco, CA
      Ryan McKasson (Fiddle)
      Cali McKasson (Piano)
      Calum MacKinnon (Fiddle)
      Ryan McKasson (Fiddle)
      Ginny Snowe (Bass)
      Lisa Scott (Piano)
Information: Registrar, Kathi Ploeger 7016 17th Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98117
or see their website for more information and registration forms: www.rscds-seattle.org/ftworden

Socrates learned to dance when he was seventy because he felt that an essential part of himself had been neglected.
~Source Unknown

  Do you have an item of Celtic interest you would like to see in print?  
  You can contact me in any of the following ways:  
  By mail:  
  John Shaw
  PO Box 2438
  Battle Ground, WA 98604
  By email:  
  The Scottish Country Dancer is a bi-monthly publication of the Vancouver USA Scottish Country Dancers, a non-profit educational organization. For changes of address, please contact John Shaw, PO Box 2438 Battle Ground, WA 98604, . The editor reserves the right to alter or edit any material submitted for publication for reasons of taste, style, or clarity. All materials for publication should be sent by email to the editor at the address above, preferably in straight text. Deadline is one week before the end of the month prior to publication date. Editors of other newsletters may use or adapt any materials in the Scottish Country Dancer unless a specific copyright notice is included. Please credit author and original source.
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