Monday, 26 October 2009

Scotland the Brave

We started rehearsals in the spring.
It's been a little chaotic at times, but all those rehearsals were worth it. We had so much fun.
On Sunday our Scottish Country Dance group participated in "Memories of Scotland", a fundraiser for the Richmond Hill Centennial Pipe Band.

In addition to the pipes and drums, there were Highland Dancers, singers and of course, the best part of the show, the Scottish Country Dancers!

I don't have any pictures of our actual dancing.... maybe on a later post... but the whole group performed four dances on the stage (The Piper and the Penguin, Bratach Bana, The Minister on the Loch, and The Reel of the Royal Scots) and the men performed The Reel of the 51st Division. This dance has a fascinating history.

At the beginning of World War II, the 51st (Highland) Division formed part of the British Expeditionary Force's GHQ reserve.
In 1940, the 51st Division was helping the French Army slow the German's advance on Paris. When the situation became hopeless, the 51st decided to fight their way back to the coast, but were unable to cross the channel, and about 10,000 men and officers surrendered to the German army.
Some officers of the original 51st (Highland) Division ended up in a POW camp near Salzburg. Since dancing was always a big part of Scottish military life, the POWs started a dance class to pass the time. At first the dancers were reduced to hand clapping and counts for music, but later on managed to obtain musical instruments such as practice chanters and even an accordion through the Red Cross.
The dance called The Reel of the 51st Division was invented during the winter of 1940 by three officers. One of the officers tried to send a description of the dance to his wife in Scotland, but the German censors suspected that the dance notation was a secret code and spent a lot of time trying to decode it, until the men demonstrated the dance to them.

Since then, The Reel of the 51st Division has been traditionally a men's dance.

Here's the dance notation:

1-81C set, cast off two places (2C up) and lead up to 1cnrs
9-161C set to 1cnr, turn 1cnr RH, join LH in the middle to BiL, turn 1¼ LH to 2cnrs
17-24Repeat with 2cnrs, cross to 2pl own side
25-322C+1C+3C circle6 and back.

No wonder the Germans were confused!

(btw, I'm in the middle, top left photo.)


  1. I was too curious and managed to find some interpretations on YouTube. I guess that yours was better! (It also gave me the opportunity to listen to some Scottish music, just love it!)

    A fascinating story!!

  2. Very fascinating Shammie. What a lot of work but well worth the effort. Wish I could have seen it myself.

  3. Very cool, Shammie. And I knew that was you. :)

  4. I am always amazed (and gratified) to hear of the amazing things prisoners of war sometimes conjure to stay sane, entertain themselves, etc. To create dance, which is such a joyous expression of life, while imprisoned, speaks volumes concerning those men.

  5. What a neat post....we have two pipe and drum bands here... Albeni Falls and St. Joseph's....we go to their shows twice a year....the music and dancers make me cry.

  6. Sounds great! I also wish I could be there personally.

    About the Cumulonimbus, did you know that those big clouds did not brought a thuderstorm? It's amazing, isnt't?

  7. I can always spot you a mile away, Sham, so I knew exactly where you were in these images. And I've never even met you! :D

  8. That's a great story...What a History to that Dance! And I can see how the Germans would have thought it was definitely some kind of a! It looks like a "code" to me, too! LOL!
    It looks like you all have such a great time when you dance together...Lots of work, but lots of fun, too!

  9. And btw: I love that your little Grandbaby of five months will be in Costume, too, come Saturday...!

  10. There's nothing like trying to solve a puzzle that isn't a puzzle.

    That's good that they were allowed to use instruments.

  11. heehee, i'm pretty confused, too! But that's not unusual, actually. :) I'd certainly trip over my feet if I ever attempted it...not that I could seeing as i'm A)not male and 2) not Scottish, LOL!
    But you all look like you had a lot of fun and I'm glad to hear that all that practice paid off! You look amazing...glowing if I do say so!

  12. I bet it's fun to be in a Scottish country dance group! I thought you were English! ;-) (Only teasing)

  13. Looks like a lot of fun and interesting history, too. And I thought that the Cajuns were the only one's dancing at fundraisers! :)

  14. It is awhile since I have visited, but may I say, how well you look, you look fabulous and so much happier and healthier than I have seen for awhile.


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