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Reel of the 51st

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  • ...

    John K. Andrews Jan. 14, 2005, 8:08 a.m. (Message 40295)

    I've been recruited to participate in a demo which includes the Reel of the 
    51st.  The organizer has expressed a desire to have us perform the original 
    version as devised by Lt. Atkinson in 1941.  I've been asked to try and 
    obtain a copy of it.  All I know about the original is that unlike the 
    current version in Book 13 it was danced in a five couple set.  Can anyone 
    provide me a copy or point me in the right direction?  Also, does anyone 
    know what footwork was originally used?
    
    Jay Andrews
    Alexandria, VA
    USA
    xxxxxxx@xxxxx.xxx
  • ...

    Richard Goss Jan. 14, 2005, 9:18 a.m. (Message 40297, in reply to message 40295)

    Can´t help with the notes. Regarding the style, you might want to
    check out Ian Jamieson´s film of dancing in the Borders. There is a
    copy in the School of Scottish Studies at Edinburgh university, and
    another at Berea College (Ky). I have one, and gave a copy to the
    RSCDS archives in the early 80´s. Jamieson, is probably the only RSCDS
    afiliated person who did actual field research in country dancing.
    Many of his dances are in the Border Book produced by Allie Anderson,
    of Edinburgh Branch. In the film, rescued by the Fletts, litterly from
    a dustbin after Jamieson died, are some good examples of costume, and
    some military dancing with the men´s hairy sporans longer than their
    kilts.
  • ...

    john.m.sturrock Jan. 14, 2005, 11:15 a.m. (Message 40300, in reply to message 40295)

    'The Reel'  #165, August 1983, devoted a double page spread to the Reel Of 
    The 51st.  [I believe the same article had already appeared in New Zealand 
    and in TACtalk.]   It contains a reproduction of the original handwritten 
    notes.  They are difficult to read, but if you cannot obtain copies of the 
    publications above, I will send a transcript as best I can.
    
    BBC Scotland made a TV documentary on the dance many years ago.  In it the 
    prisoners danced in  'tackety buits'.   How anthentic that was, I don't 
    know, but you can imagine that not much in the way of  'steps'  was 
    possible!   They used a scraping shuffle, which, as it was also the band, 
    was extremely effective.
    
    John M Sturrock
    Cupar UK
  • ...

    George Meikle Jan. 14, 2005, 11:42 a.m. (Message 40301, in reply to message 40295)

    Jay,
    
    I though the following information might be of use to you in your quest for
    details about "The Reel of the 51st Division". 
    
    I recently received a copy of a newly released CD from a very good Canadian
    friend of mine, Fred Moyes. Fred came over and stayed with me when he
    recorded the CD at David Cunningham's studio on 13th July 2004. After making
    the recording, Fred left us to go and play at Summer School in St Andrews.
    
    On track 9 of the new CD, Fred has recorded "Reel of the 51st Division
    (Prison Camp Version)" as a 5x32 Reel. His sleeve notes about the dance are
    as follows and may help you with some background information:-
    -------------------------------------------------------------------
    "Reel of the 51st Division"
    In June of 1940, the remnants of the 51st Division of the British
    Expeditionary Force surrendered to the Germans at St Valery-en-Ceux on the
    coast of Normandy, France. The 51st was a Highland Division comprising
    officers and men of the Black Watch, Camerons, Seaforths, Gordons and
    Argylls. There was also a unit of The Royal Army Service Corps, composed
    mainly of men from Perth. One group of officers ended up at a
    prisoner-of-war camp in Laufen, Bavaria where they started a dancing class,
    dancing, first to clapping and "tempo" calling, whistling of tunes, then
    chanters obtained through the Red Cross, and finally an accordion.
    Remembering dances was difficult, so they improvised and even made up a few
    completely new dances. They danced, not in ghillies and Highland finery, but
    in army battledress and army boots, the only clothing and footwear they
    possessed.
    
    
    One of these new dances, a creation of Lieutenant Jimmy Atkinson of the
    Argyll Highlanders and Lieutenant Peter Oliver of the 4th Seaforth
    Highlanders, subsequently modified by suggestion from Lieutenant Colonel Tom
    Harris Hunter of the R.A.S.C., was named The 51st Country Dance (Laufen
    Reel). The dance was first performed in public at Officer's Camp 7B at
    Warburg in Westphalia, Hallowe'en 1941, before Major General Victor Fortune
    who approved the dance and its name.
    
    Copies of the dance eventually reached Perth, Scotland, where the dance was
    known briefly as The St Valery Reel. However, this title was short-lived and
    the dance was given the name by which we now know it, The Reel of the 51st
    Division.
    
    Initially, the R.S.C.D.S. refused to accept the dance. However, its
    popularity resulted in its eventual acceptance - but not without a few
    modifications. The original five-couple set was reduced to four, and a bow,
    which has ended the first eight bars, was deleted. The dance appeared in
    RSCDS Book 13 (the 1951 edition), the "original" tune being The Drunken
    Piper. The tune most used in the prison camps where the dance was danced
    during the war was My Love She's But A Lassie Yet!. For his "Prison-Camp"
    version of the Reel of the 51st, this is the lead tune used by Fred Moyes on
    his CD "What You Hear is What You Get!"
    
    Most of the above information is derived from an article by Michael Young,
    which appeared in TACTALK. It was made available to me by J.D. Shaw of
    London (Canada) and R. Anglin of Ottowa, both enthusiastic Scottish Country
    Dancers and former army officers. The Reel od the 51st Division was danced
    by a battledress-clad group of ten men at the Teacher's Association of
    Canada Summer School Ceilidhs in 1994 and 2004, with a uniformed Fred Moyes
    providing the "original" music on both occasions.
    
    Fred Moyes 2004
  • ...

    alan mair Jan. 14, 2005, 3:57 p.m. (Message 40305, in reply to message 40301)

    Jay,
    
    Recently I had the use of a full set of RSCDS Bulletins. I found references
    there to the events leading up to the eventual publication of this dance by
    the Society. From memory the dance was first published as a leaflet for
    inclusion in an earlier book and "The Reel of the 51st" was not initially
    included in the dances for Book 13. It appears to have been the late Queen
    Mother (who knew of the dance) who asked why it was not being published -
    and guess what happened?
    
    I have since passed the Bulletins on for the use of my successors so cannot
    give accurate details or references but I did post the information on
    "Strathspey" just after the Queen Mother died drawing attention to the fact
    that she was the person who made the Society take the historic step of
    publishing a "newly devised" dance which is now regarded as "traditional"!!
    
    Regards
    
    Alan
    Cupar, Fife
  • ...

    Stella Fogg Jan. 13, 2005, 4:33 p.m. (Message 40306, in reply to message 40301)

    I have a recording on video tape of the documentary from BBC.  It has a demo 
    of how the dance would originally have been danced.
    
    Stella Fogg
    Richmond, VA
  • ...

    Andrew Smith Jan. 15, 2005, 12:34 p.m. (Message 40309, in reply to message 40301)

    I believe that either one of the devisors or one of the original
    participants came from Bristol.
    Andrew,
    Bristol, UK.
  • ...

    mlamontbrown Jan. 14, 2005, 12:10 p.m. (Message 40302, in reply to message 40295)

    Jay enquired:
    
    > 
    > I've been recruited to participate in a demo which includes the Reel of the
    > 51st.  The organizer has expressed a desire to have us perform the original
    > version as devised by Lt. Atkinson in 1941.  I've been asked to try and
    > obtain a copy of it.  All I know about the original is that unlike the
    > current version in Book 13 it was danced in a five couple set.  Can anyone
    > provide me a copy or point me in the right direction?  Also, does anyone
    > know what footwork was originally used?
    
    As John has already said, when the BBC showed the dance being performed by people in
    battle dress and boots they did a sort of scuffling step. But they also performed the
    dance the way it is still danced by the Reelers (and I suspect by the army). In their
    version the turns, including the one after the balance in line, are done as burls,
    going clockwise - despite the apparent lack of speed because they are not using skip
    change, there is a lot of speed generated in the turns. - The advantage of performing
    it this way is that on the last turn (birl) the dancing couple are moving the right
    way into the circle. 
    
    Malcolm
    
    
    Malcolm L Brown
    York
  • ...

    Pia Walker Jan. 14, 2005, 12:24 p.m. (Message 40303, in reply to message 40302)

    re BBC : Can I just warn against just looking at a film to see how a dance
    is carried out - unless it is a direct performance piece or an amateur film
    of a performance.
    
    Sometimes the Directors idea of what looks good in film, doesn't necessarily
    correspond with the way things were / are done.  Directors and Producers
    have certain ideas on how all things scottish should look and feel and as
    their word is law in a film ..... and of course some things are more
    difficult to film than others.
    
    Just remember it was danced by men only - women being in short supply :>)
    
    Pia
  • ...

    SallenNic Jan. 15, 2005, 2:36 a.m. (Message 40308, in reply to message 40295)

    In a message dated 14/1/05 7:18:26 am, xxxxx@xxxxxxxxx.xxx writes:
    
    
    > Can?t help with the notes. Regarding the style, you might want to check out 
    > Ian Jamieson?s film of dancing in the Borders. There is a copy in the School 
    > of Scottish Studies at Edinburgh university, and another at Berea College 
    > (Ky). I have one, and gave a copy to the RSCDS archives in the early 80?s. 
    > Jamieson, is probably the only RSCDS afiliated person who did actual field 
    > research in country dancing. Many of his dances are in the Border Book produced by 
    > Allie Anderson, of Edinburgh Branch. In the film, rescued by the Fletts, 
    > litterly from a dustbin after Jamieson died, are some good examples of costume, 
    > and some military dancing with the men?s hairy sporans longer than their 
    > kilts.
    > 
    
    But that film, fascinating though it is (there's also a copy in the Vaughan 
    Williams Memorial Library, Cecil Sharp house, London) was taken in the early 
    1920's, whereas The reel of the 51st was devised during the second world war, 
    surely? :-)
    
    
    
    Nicolas B., Lanark, Scotland http://www.nicolasbroadbridge.com
  • ...

    Fiona Grant Jan. 15, 2005, 4:06 p.m. (Message 40310, in reply to message 40295)

    Malcolm writes:
    "As John has already said, when the BBC showed the dance being performed by
    people in
    battle dress and boots they did a sort of scuffling step. But they also
    performed the
    dance the way it is still danced by the Reelers (and I suspect by the army).
    In their
    version the turns, including the one after the balance in line, are done as
    burls,
    going clockwise - despite the apparent lack of speed because they are not
    using skip
    change, there is a lot of speed generated in the turns. - The advantage of
    performing
    it this way is that on the last turn (birl) the dancing couple are moving
    the right
    way into the circle."
    
    A couple of summers ago I attended a "Old Scots Reels and Quadrilles" class
    in South Uist in the Hebrides, tutored by Frank McConnell (a splendid step
    dancer and teacher). He taught the Reel of the 51st as he was told it was
    originally devised for 5 couple sets (10 times through at the very least).
    He had the instructions for the dance from talking directly to Hector Munro,
    the son one of the original dancers in the 51st. Hector is the Chief of the
    Clan Munro and occupies the house at Foulis in Easter Ross. Hector's father
    Patrick Munro (previous Chief) was one of the prisoners held in the camp at
    St. Valery when the dance was composed.
    
    The version taught by Frank was in the style of the Reelers as Malcolm
    describes (hard shoes/boots and rhythmic stepping). One key feature
    distinguishing it from the ballroom version published by the RSCDS is the
    absence of any balance in line. After setting to corner (setting can be
    stamp and kick (x2) or stamp,stamp,stamp x2), turn corner right arm, birl
    partner right, set and turn other corner right arm, birl partner right into
    the circle. The birls are done with crossed hand hold: slap right hand to
    partner's right hand, slap left hand to partner's left hand on top and pull
    round to right to spin as fast as possible (the grip is holding onto the
    hand base below your partners thumb joint). Also, the corners start moving
    into the circle before the beginning of the phrase so that the dancing
    couple join an already moving circle, and little impetus is lost for the
    dancing couple. The circle goes round very fast, a slip step with a strong
    pull. It is possibly the most physically demanding country dance I have ever
    danced, and a good deal of upper body strength required for satisfactory
    performance!
    
    Well, this is the men's version, and I guess it was modified for ladies to
    join in at home, and then for the RSCDS ballroom style.
    
    Definitely worth trying though.
    Fiona
    
    Bristol
    UK
  • ...

    Jim Healy Jan. 15, 2005, 7:59 p.m. (Message 40311, in reply to message 40310)

    Greetings,
    
    I have been staying out of this one to read with increasing awe the myths 
    and legends that have grown up around this dance.
    
    The basic idea of the central 16 bars of the dance was worked out by Lt. 
    Jimmy Atkinson of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders on the march from St 
    Valery on the French Atlantic coast to the POW camp at Laufen in Germany. 
    The concept of the 16 bars was to reproduce the saltire shoulder flash of 
    the 51st Division and Jimmy Atkinson is on record as saying it was a 
    variation on the diagonal of Scottish Reform (see below). Although as John 
    Sturrock has said the original instructions that were sent back to Perth are 
    not easy to read, they clearly state:
    
    13-14 First couple, second man and third lady balance in diagonal line 
    (Scottish Reform)
    
    15-16 First couple turn left hand to second corners
    
    17-20 First couple set and turn corners by right hand
    
    21-22 First couple, third man and second lady balance in diagonal line 
    (Scottish Reform)
    
    The rest of the dance was suggested by Lt Peter Oliver of the Seaforths and 
    Lt Col Tom Harris Hunter of the 51st Division Logistics Group RASC. Tom 
    Harris Hunter was, both before and after the war, Chairman of the Perth & 
    Perthshire Branch of the (R)SCDS and it was to his wife that the original 
    version quoted from above was sent: she passed it on to Miss Milligan. In a 
    memorable interview a few years ago, Jimmy Atkinson relates going to Harris 
    Hunter for advice on the dance and tune because as a senior member of the 
    SCDS "he was the authority". I do not dispute that birling crept in some 
    variations but that is not how the dance was devised or intended.
    
    There are several things to note in this description. It was a five couple 
    set. Tom Harris Hunter (and Perth & Perthshire Branch) never accepted the 
    change to a four couple set and the current Branch committee has just agreed 
    that we will include it in programmes this year (our 80th anniversary) in 
    five couple sets - Edinburgh are not the only ones who can have regional 
    variations :) The instructions clearly refer to ladies and the dance was 
    always intended as a standard social dance - the fact that it was danced by 
    10 men was an accident of the circumstances not a declaration of intent. The 
    involvement of Tom Harris Hunter also tends to counter the suggestion in 
    some parts that the setting during the balance in line should be done with 
    high cuts.
    
    Jim Healy
    Perth, Scotland
  • ...

    Martin Jan. 17, 2005, 7:06 p.m. (Message 40333, in reply to message 40311)

    Jim wrote:
    
    >... several things to note in this description. It was a five couple set.
    
    But why was it?
    Has anyone an explanation for the 5-cp sets that were apparently part of 
    the Scottish tradition and which are still used I believe by reelers.
    These dances were obviousl y notdesigned to be danced a la Black Mountain 
    reel (1st & 3rd cps dancing simultaneously), nor is 1st cp expected to 
    dance 3 times through, as far as I know.
    So why?
    Is it an echo of the old "longwise for as many as will" sets?
    Or were there just 10 abled-bodied prisoners available at the outset?
    
    
    
    Martin,
    in Grenoble, France.
    
    http://perso.wanadoo.fr/scots.in.france/scd.htm
  • ...

    Anselm Lingnau Jan. 17, 2005, 7:59 p.m. (Message 40334, in reply to message 40333)

    Martin wrote:
    
    > These dances were obviousl y notdesigned to be danced a la Black Mountain
    > reel (1st & 3rd cps dancing simultaneously), nor is 1st cp expected to
    > dance 3 times through, as far as I know.
    
    Many three-couple dances can be straightforwardly adapted to 5-couple sets of 
    the Foss ?1s and 3s start? variety. This includes the Reel of the 51st, which 
    we have done in this fashion to great effect at demonstrations, or when only 
    5 couples have turned up for the night.
    
    > So why?
    > Is it an echo of the old "longwise for as many as will" sets?
    > Or were there just 10 abled-bodied prisoners available at the outset?
    
    No idea. As 5-couple dances of the ?1s and 3s? variety, which in themselves 
    are in a way a continuation of the ?longwise for as many as will? idea, 
    hadn't been invented yet, my guess would be that, having nothing better to do 
    with their time, the POWs tried to get as many people to join the dance as 
    would turn up for the practice sessions, i.e., your suggestion #2.
    
    Anselm
    -- 
    Anselm Lingnau, Frankfurt, Germany ..................... xxxxxx@xxxxxxxxxx.xxx
    Microsoft bought MS-DOS from a Seattle company, and it was called QDOS then
    (Quick and Dirty Operating System). Some say it is not quick anymore, but the
    rest stays the same.                                  -- Wilson Roberto Afonso
  • ...

    Edward Fryer Jan. 18, 2005, 3:38 p.m. (Message 40335, in reply to message 40295)

    Martin wrote:
    
    >But why was it?
    >Has anyone an explanation for the 5-cp sets that were apparently part of 
    >the Scottish tradition >and which are still used I believe by reelers. 
    >These dances were obviousl y notdesigned to be >danced a la Black Mountain 
    >reel (1st & 3rd cps dancing simultaneously), nor is 1st cp expected to
    >dance 3 times through, as far as I know. So why? Is it an echo of the old 
    >"longwise for as many as >will" sets? Or were there just 10 abled-bodied 
    >prisoners available at the outset?
    
    At all the reeling balls I go to, with a 5 couple set the 1st couple do 
    dance 3 times, and then dance doubles at the bottom with the 5th couple (if 
    they're comfortable with doing this - otherwise they just drop down). 
    However 5 couple sets are being supplanted by 6 couple sets, where the 1st 
    and 4th couples start, and the first couple dances through 4 times.

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