What is Scottish Country Dancing?

In the years immediately following the 14/18 World War there was a revival of interest in traditional dance and song in England. The English Folk Dance Society, which had been founded in 1911 by Cecil Sharp, had published several books of English Country Dances. These books were enthusiastically taken up by the recently formed Girl Guide Association and the dances they contained were taught to Guides in Scotland as well as England.

Mrs Ysobel Stewart of Fasnacloich, who was then Guide Commissioner for Argyll, decided that it would be more appropriate for Guides in Scotland to learn Scottish Country Dances. To make that possible, a book, similar to those available from the E.F.D.S. was required. Mrs Stewart, therefore, wrote out in a notebook the Scottish dances which she had danced all her life; she also included the music to accompany them.

With a view to publication, she then approached Michael Diack of the Glasgow publishers, Patersons, who agreed to undertake the project provided the correctness of the dances was verified. He arranged a meeting with Miss Jean Milligan of Jordanhill College, Glasgow. As a lecturer in physical education, Miss Milligan had included the Scottish dances in her work with student teachers.

The two ladies met in the autumn of 1923 and agreed to go ahead with the publication of a book of twelve Scottish Country Dances and also to the formation of a Society to give support to the new publication.

The Scottish Country Dance Society was formed on 26th November 1923 at a meeting held in Glasgow and attended by twenty-seven interested people. The title "Royal" was conferred upon the Society by King George VI in 1951. The partnership of Miss Milligan and Mrs Stewart provided the Society with a firm foundation on which to grow and develop and from its small beginnings in 1923 it has now become a worldwide organisation with a membership in 1991 of 28,000.

Whilst attaching importance to good standards of dancing and teaching, the R.S.C.D.S. has always been anxious to emphasise the social character of Scottish Country Dancing. Above all it should be enjoyable, offering plenty of opportunity for friendship and fun. The combination of a correctness of dancing technique with a lively and spirited response to the Country Dances and their music was described by Dr. Milligan as "controlled abandon".

She also asserted: ". . . dancing is a joyous thing and must never become so drilled and detailed as to lose the natural gay social spirit, which should be aroused in the dancers by the lively movements of these national dances and the stimulus of their gay, Scottish music."