The Scottish Country Dancer
Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, Southwest Washington State Branch
Volume 33 #5
March/April 2017

Articles in This Issue

Learning Folk Dancing

by Tom Halpenny
Folks, Dancing

Ken Dewire announced he would be traveling to Mexico for all of January, and he asked Carol Kirsch and Tom to run his Tuesday afternoon Folk Dance Club at the Marshall Center during his absence.

Ken plays recorded folk dance music from various countries and cultures and leads the dancers with a specific dance choreography for each music selection. We can view an example video clip at You would think that after attending Ken's folk dance for the past five years that Carol and I would be able to stumble through leading the dances. However the music titles have unrecognizable names and we are challenged to recall the choreography of the dances. Before departing on his trip, Ken prepared a playlist of twenty tracks, from his collection of about seventy music selections, for dances he thought that most of the dancers could do. We agreed to give it a go. The plan was that Tom would play the music and Carol would demonstrate the choreography of the dances.

Coincident with Ken's departure, he arranged for a newspaper article to appear in The Reflector, titled "Folk dancing club in Clark County offers healthy fun." The reporter interviewed Ken and me. I said that the focus is to gain a feeling for each dance.

Ken traveled to Mexico and we folk dancers met on our own for the first week, and we greeted one new dancer. We went through the music playlist in order. Carol and I observed that we were challenged to recall the choreography of many dances, but once we began playing the music, we immediately recalled the complete choreography. I demonstrated a couple dances, like Black Nag and Patty Cake Polka, and it helped my recall to vocally sound the music as we walked the steps. We covered eighteen dances of the playlist during one and a quarter hour.

During the second week, we greeted several new dancers who had read the December newspaper article. I am fascinated to meet new dancers with their fresh brains and observe how they gradually learn the dance skills. Learning progresses most quickly when we begin moving to music as soon as possible. Dancers join hands to transmit the feeling of the movements. All dancers typically are off-balance while learning a new dance, and we gradually gain the feeling of moving to the music. We followed the same process for three more weeks before Ken returned. The weekly repetition was helpful, and our ability to cover eighteen dances maintained variety and dancer interest.

The human brain and nervous system have an emotional Elephant side and a rational Rider side that Chip and Dan Heath explore in their book titled "Switch". We need to train both sides to learn a dance. We can describe the choreography to the rational side, which foot to transfer weight with a step or to tap without a change of weight, and which path to travel. But the emotional side will learn the dance only when the music is played and we begin to gain the feeling of moving to music.

The Folk Dance Club meets Tuesdays 3:00-4:15pm year round at the Marshall Center in Vancouver with wonderful music from around the world. Cost is $1 until May, then $2. Contact Ken Dewire at or by phone at 360-216-6264.

RSCDS Management Board Meeting

by Tom Halpenny

I attended the first RSCDS Management Board meeting 28 November 2016 for my final year of the three-year term. I attend most Saturday meetings remotely, beginning 2:30am our time and going until 7:00am. Approximately one third of the Board is replaced each year, so the Board ideally has continuity and fresh viewpoints represented. New Chairman Helen Russell has begun a two-year term, with a new Chairman-Elect and three new Board members attending.

I traveled to Edinburgh Scotland for the 14 January 2017 "Away Day" Saturday meeting with Management Board, the three management committees, and HQ staff, with in-person and remote attendance totaling 36 persons. This was my fifth and final trip. I typically traveled on Thursday and arrived on Friday morning, for the Saturday meeting, explored the area on Sunday, and returned home on Monday. I have enjoyed visiting the HQ office on Friday, in order to meet the staff and have a chat with anyone who is available to talk for a few minutes and help me learn about RSCDS processes. The agenda for the Away Day was to determine committee owners to drive the actions of the strategic business plan, prioritize the actions, and define SMART objectives for the high-priority actions in order to measure success. I have gained the most value from meeting everyone and establishing the working relationships for the year.

RSCDS Management Board meeting remote attendance

Newcastle Festival

by Tom Halpenny

Scottish Country Dancing is usually known as a social dance activity. The Newcastle Upon Tyne and District Branch held its 33rd annual Newcastle Festival dance competition, Saturday 11th February 2017.

Newcastle Festival

Dance teams from UK and Europe participated in six classes: 1. Ladies' Open, 2. Men's Open, 3. Mixed Open, 4. Ladies under 16 years, 5. Mixed under 16 years, 6. Display (16 dancers form changing patterns).

Several attending teams have posted YouTube and Facebook videos of the dancing. For example, we can view the Lyon mixed team dancing College Hornpipe and observe the high-quality level of dance technique. I enjoyed watching my friend Raphaelle dancing, who begins in fourth place, and we can see adjudicator Jim Stott in the background, who is the current friendly RSCDS Summer School Director. The dancers effortlessly leap while setting to corners and partner!

The Newcastle Festival reminded me when I was a member of a locally sourced dance group who visited Japan in October 2002 and entered a special dance competition at the Tokyo Highland Games. We took second place!

A poem by Robert Service, shared by Liza Halpenny

by Liza Halpenny

From the link, Part one of two.

The Ballad of How MacPherson Held the Floor

Said President MacConnachie to Treasurer MacCall:
"We ought to have a piper for our next Saint Andrew's Ball.
Yon squakin' saxophone gives me the syncopated gripes.
I'm sick of jazz, I want to hear the skirling of the pipes."
"Alas! it's true," said Tam MacCall. "The young folk of to-day
Are fox-trot mad and dinna ken a reel from Strathspey.
Now, what we want's a kiltie lad, primed up wi' mountain dew,
To strut the floor at supper time, and play a lilt or two.
In all the North there's only one; of him I've heard them speak:
His name is Jock MacPherson, and he lives on Boulder Creek;
An old-time hard-rock miner, and a wild and wastrel loon,
Who spends his nights in glory, playing pibrochs to the moon.
I'll seek him out; beyond a doubt on next Saint Andrew's night
We'll proudly hear the pipes to cheer and charm our appetite.

Oh lads were neat and lassies sweet who graced Saint Andrew's Ball;
But there was none so full of fun as Treasurer MacCall.
And as Maloney's rag-time bank struck up the newest hit,
He smiled a smile behind his hand, and chuckled: "Wait a bit."
And so with many a Celtic snort, with malice in his eye,
He watched the merry crowd cavort, till supper time drew nigh.
Then gleefully he seemed to steal, and sought the Nugget Bar,
Wherein there sat a tartaned chiel, as lonely as a star;
A huge and hairy Highlandman as hearty as a breeze,
A glass of whisky in his hand, his bag-pipes on his knees.
"Drink down your doch and doris, Jock," cried Treasurer MacCall;
"The time is ripe to up and pipe; they wait you in the hall.
Gird up your loins and grit  your teeth, and here's a pint of hooch
To mind you of your native heath - jist pit it in your pooch.
Play on and on for all you're worth; you'll shame us if you stop.
Remember you're of Scottish birth - keep piping till you drop.
Aye, though a bunch of Willie boys should bluster and implore,
For the glory of the Highlands, lad, you've got to hold the floor."
The dancers were at supper, and the tables groaned with cheer,
When President MacConnachie exclaimed: "What do I hear?
Methinks it's like a chanter, and its coming from the hall."
"It's Jock MacPherson tuning up," cried Treasurer MacCall.
So up they jumped with shouts of glee, and gaily hurried forth.
Said they: "We never thought to see a piper in the North."
Aye, all the lads and lassies braw went buzzing out like bees,
And Jock MacPherson there they saw, with red and rugged knees.
Full six foot four he strode the floor, a grizzled son of Skye,
With glory in his whiskers and with whisky in his eye.
With skelping stride and Scottish pride he towered above them all:
"And is he no' a bonny sight?" said Treasurer MacCall.
While President MacConnachie was fairly daft with glee,
And there was jubilation in the Scottish Commy-tee.
But the dancers seemed uncertain, and they signified their doubt,
By dashing back to eat as fast as they had darted out.
And someone raised the question 'twixt the coffee and the cakes:
"Does the Piper walk to get away from all the noise he makes?"
Then reinforced with fancy food they slowly trickled forth,
And watching in patronizing mood the Piper of the North.

Proud, proud was Jock MacPherson, as he made his bag-pipes skirl,
And he set his sporran swinging, and he gave his kilts a whirl.
And President MacConnachie was jumping like a flea,
And there was joy and rapture in the Scottish Commy-tee.
"Jist let them have their saxophones wi' constipated squall;
We're having Heaven's music now," said Treasurer MacCall.
But the dancers waxed impatient, and they rather seemed to fret
For Maloney and the jazz of his Hibernian Quartette.
Yet little recked the Piper, as he swung with head on high,
Lamenting with MacCrimmon on the heather hill of Skye.
With Highland passion in his heart he held the centre floor;
Aye, Jock MacPherson played as he had never played before.

Maloney's Irish melodists were sitting in their place,
And as Maloney waited, there was wonder in his face.
'Twas sure the gorgeous music - Golly! wouldn't it be grand
If he could get MacPherson as a member of his band?
But the dancers moped and mumbled, as around the room they sat:
"We paid to dance," they grumbled; "But we cannot dance to that.
Of course we're not denying that it's really splendid stuff;
But it's mighty satisfying - don't you think we've had enough?"
"You've raised a pretty problem," answered Treasurer MacCall;
"For on Saint Andrew's Night, ye ken, the Piper rules the Ball."
Said President MacConnachie: "You've said a solemn thing.
Tradition holds him sacred, and he's got to have his fling.
But soon, no doubt, he'll weary out. Have patience; bide a wee."
"That's right. Respect the Piper," said the Scottish Commy-tee.

If you are interested in learning about Robert Service himself, please visit

This ends part one. See part two next time

Atholl Brose – A Traditional Scottish Beverage

by Mel Whitson

A story goes that this drink takes its name from the Atholl family of Perthshire. Supposedly, in an attempt to ward off a battle, the Atholls served it to their would-be enemies, who became so intoxicated that no fight took place!

So just what is in this drink? Traditionally, the three main ingredients are: oatmeal, honey, and whisky. Given that oatmeal based brose was common daily fare as far back as at least the 1500’s, it is fair to say that the Atholl family story is just that, a story.

Nonetheless, there is a recipe published by the Atholl family which was used to prepare a serving of Atholl Brose to serve to Queen Victoria when she visited Blair Atholl in 1844:

"To make a quart, take four dessertspoonfuls of run honey and four sherry glassfuls of prepared oatmeal; stir these well together and put in a quart bottle; fill up with whisky; shake well before serving.

To prepare the oatmeal, put it into a basin and mix with cold water to the consistency of thick paste. Leave for about half an hour, pass through a fine strainer, pressing with the back of a wooden spoon so as to leave the oatmeal as dry as possible. Discard the meal and use the creamy liquor for the brose."

Some Scots add cream to their glass for another flavor dimension. Give it a try!

Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing. ~William James~

Calendar of Events

Mar 11: Portland's 38th Annual Workshop and Ball
Presented by Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, Portland, Oregon Branch
Burlingame Water Tower Dance Hall
8936 SW 17th Ave
Portland, OR 97219

Musicians: Patti Cobb, piano, James MacQueen, fiddle, Annie Rodier, fiddle of the band StringFire!

Teacher: Bruce Herbold, Oakland, CA

For more info, see the registration form
April 21: Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas, Concert
A Great Concert Coming Up!

Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas are coming to the Walters Cultural Arts Center at this coming Friday April 21st, 2017, at 7:30pm.
For tickets, advance online sales end at 5:30 pm on 4/20, but advance pricing may still be available until 9 pm via phone by calling
the Walters at 503-615-3485. Prices for general admission are $28.00 ($29.97 w/service fee.)
You may order on line at
See you there!
April 22: Annual Dinner Dance
Hosted by The RSCDS Southwest Washington State Branch
Dinner at 6:00pm
Grand March at 7:15pm
St. Luke's Episcopal Church
426 E 4th Plain Blvd
Vancouver, WA 98663


The Mad Hatter 8x32J Boyd, Happy to Meet
Delvine Side 8x32S RSCDS Bk 2
Pinewoods Reel 8x32R Dickson, Yankee Sampler
Mrs. Stewart's Jig 8x32J RSCDS Bk 35
Chasing the Eclipse 3x32S Gallamore, Highland Road Coll.
The Flirtation Hornpipe 4x32R J. Wallace
The Rock and the Wee Pickle Tow 8x32J RSCDS Bk 3
Bridge of Nairn 8x32S RSCDS Bk 13
A Plethora of Piñatas 8x32R T. Halpenny
Seton's Ceilidh Band 4x64J Fordyce, Morison's Bush Coll.
The Silver Tassie 8x32S RSCDS Leaflet 1
Domino 5 5x32R (SQ) RSCDS Graded Bk 2
Les Remparts de Séville 8x32J RSCDS Bk 50
The Flower of Glasgow 3x32S RSCDS Bk 46
The Reel of the Royal Scots 8x32R RSCDS Leaflet 7

The cribs can be downloaded from here.
The danciemaetions can be found over here.
And the sharable flyer can be seen at this location.

You may complete the registration form and mail payment to the registrar:

RSCDS SW WA State Branch
PO Box 2438
Battle Ground, WA 98604

OR, you may complete the form electronically with Adobe Reader, save the form, email it to
, and then pay online at the PayPal link at the bottom of this page under the calendar entry
"April 22 Annual Dinner Dance":
May 31: Fifth Tuesday Mixer
Fifth Tuesday Mixer
May 31, 2017 7:30 p.m.
Columbia Dance Center
$3.00 or FREE for first-timers
Invite your friends, family, and cohorts for an evening of fun introductory dances!
  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:  
  Martin MacKenzie
  10701 SE Hwy 212 C-7
  Clackamas, OR 97015
  By email:  
  The Scottish Country Dancer is a bi-monthly publication of the RSCDS Southwest Washington State Branch, a non-profit educational organization. For changes of address, please contact Martin MacKenzie, 10701 SE Hwy 212 C-7 Clackamas, OR 97015, . 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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