That reminds me of my first encounter with this dance.
My wife and I once joined a set as 4th cp, never before having heard of
this particularly dance, but confident that it wouldn't be any more
difficult than others on that evening's program (OK, sheer madness, but we
were quite young in those far-off days in the gardens of Hove). But we made
it quite clear to the others that we'd need guidance with a firm hand.
Luckily it was a helpful set, whose hands, eyes and voices got us
succesfully through the figures in time (I think) with the music. We made
it clear we needed help, and we got it. Everyone enjoyed the dance.
Last week, I was at another dance in Sussex, interesting program, mostly
competent dancers, no recaps. I found myself in a set for "Lord Maclay's
reel" -- nothing very difficult. But although at least half of my set did
not really know the dance, no-one gave any warning that they felt unsure of
themselves. We had 5 hands across, reel of 3 and a half, 7 hands round and
back, etc, etc: a hopeless mess, because no-one knew who to help or who to
look to for help. If someone had had the courage to say "How does it start?
and what happens next?, there's no reason why we shouldn't have succeeded
with honour. Instead of which ...
When you know some of the set need help, you can offer it with confidence.
When you don't know, it can be awkward giving instructuions that might be
resented (especially if, as in my case last week, the other members of my
set are total strangers).
Perhaps the best bet is to give a helping hand, regardless of whether
others may resent it or not.
On the other hand, if like me, you then forget you are doing a 40-bar
dance, and leap into figure one on bar 33, prepare for some dirty looks !