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  • sandramclevy

Summer 2023

Updated: Jun 11

It is a long time since I wrote once of these blogs, but I hope an occasional blog with links to things of interest to Scottish dancers and their friends will not go amiss.

As many of you know already, I am a big fan of the BBC Scotland radio programme "Take the Floor" which features Scottish dance bands. Those of you lucky enough to live in Scotland can hear it live at 7 p.m. on a Saturday night, but you can also listen to it any time you like on the web, or on the BBC Sounds App.

The programme is 2 hours' long, and often features interview with bandleaders or Scottish musicians. I know that many of you are fans of the fantastic folk duo, Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain, and if you have ever had the good fortune to hear them playing live, you will remember hearing Phil's stories of his great friend, Fergie McDonald.

The programme which was broadcast on 27th May (and will be available until 26th June) features the John Burns' dance band, and the second hour feature an interview with Fergie, he is every bit as entertaining as you might imagine if you have heard Phil Cunningham's stories about him. He is now 86, still very lively, and still playing his button-box accordion!

Here is a link if you would like to listen to the programme:

Take the Floor with Fergie

And if you want to hear Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain again, try this:

Phil and Aly, Shetland Festival 2022

Phil and Aly, with Violet Tulloch

This one is a longer video, 22 minutes from a concert in Biddulph, so a bit more of the craic for which they are famous!

Phil and Aly at Biddulph

The RSCDS Centenary

Many of you will know that the RSCDS celebrate its' centenary this year, and there has already been a grand ball in the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh, in March, attended by about 400 people from across the world. There was good representation from the Oxford area, with 12 of us there. Of course, everyone had a fabulous time dancing the night away to 2 great bands, Marian Anderson in one ballroom, and Ewan Galloway in the other. And here we are in all our finery!

I also attended a concert in the Cannongate Kirk, where we were treated to some fabulous musicians who played music from every decade of the RSCDS's history. Here is a video of them playing (from right to left Tim Macdonald, Pete Clark, Peter Shand, Muriel Johnstone).

RSCDS Centenary Concert

The view from our window

It was a lovely occasion, and I thoroughly enjoyed being there, and made the most of my time by spending a weekend in Edinburgh, staying right at the top of the Royal Mile, in a flat in an eighteenth-century tenement, built about 1725. We had great view of Princes Street Gardens, and had the bonus of being a stone's throw from all the top attractions, including the National Gallery of Scotland, which gave me an another opportunity to see Sir Henry Raeburn's Portrait "Reverend Robert Walker skating on Duddingston Loch", Of course many of you will know that this painting was the inspiration for the dance "The Minister on the Loch", devised by Roy Goldring. However, you might not know much about the minister in question. He was a personal friend of Raeburn (hence the portrait), and lived from 1755-1808. He was born in Ayrshire, but spent his youth in in Netherlands as a child, as his father was a minister at the Scots Kirk in Rotterdam, and it is reasonable to assume that he learned to skate there. He became licensed as a minister at the age of 15, and became the minister of the Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh, and he joined the Edinburgh Figure Skating Club, which was the world's first figure skating club.

Local News

And finally, some items of more local interest. Many of you will know that the Headington Scottish Dancers have started having regular dances in the past year. In March 2022 we held a charity dance, with Ian Muir of Prestwick playing for us. In November 20233 we had a dance to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the group, Sandy Nixon played for us. One of the dances on the programme was "Jig for Jessie" devised by Lesley McCourt, and we recorded a video of the dance, here it is:

Oxford is famous for celebrating May morning, with Magdalen College Choir singing, and Morris Dancers in the streets, but the celebrations do not finish there, there is something for everyone, including (of course!) Scottish Country Dancing. The Oxford University Scottish Dance Society dance every year in Radcliffe Square, starting at about 6.20 a.m., just after the choir finishes, and continues until about 7.30. It is great fun to participate or to watch, here is a link to the RSCDS blog about this year's event:

May Morning Oxford 2023

I hope you have enjoyed this canter through my dancing year!

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