The roots of the Peterborough Scottish Country Dance Society go back to the early 1950s when a group interested in Scottish country dancing formed the “Heather Club.” They met at St. Alban’s Anglican Church on Monaghan Road. Admission was 25 cents, of which 10 cents was for the tea. Members (there were about 12 initially) included Ella Robertson, Lillie Boyd, Maureen Daly, Margaret Rodgers, Abbie Boyd, and Elsie Gillespie. Dancing was taught by Ella Robertson.
Later, the club relocated to The Regent Theatre, on Hunter Street between George and Water Streets. They met after the children’s Highland Dancing class (run by Jean Muir). By 1963, the club had grown to 22 members and included some men. In 1979 a new group was formed by Brian Parkins from the Clans of Scotland in Toronto. The teacher, Olive, commuted from Oshawa; she was assisted by Bill Schlater, David Walker and Flo Walker. At about this time, the club became independent from the Clans of Scotland and was reconstituted as “The Peterborough Scottish Country Dancing Society.” Meetings were held at St. Andrew’s United Church with Maureen Daly as the main instructor. In the early 1980s, a strong contingent from Lindsay helped the membership climb to over 70 people. Club activities involved demonstrations, ceilidhs, a workshop, and a Tartan Ball. At the end of 1984 there was another major reshuffle of the group when the decision was made to change the focus from “social dancing” to “classes.” With this shift came more emphasis on the teaching of steps and formations. This change was not universally popular and when the dust settled the club had lost many of its supporters.
Since 1985 the club has gradually been rebuilt and its membership and activities expanded. Two teachers with RSCDS certification, Maureen Crapp and Bob Reid, taught separate classes for beginners and intermediate dancers. These classes were offered at St. John’s Anglican Church Hall. 1985 also saw the first Stoney Lake event that consisted of a Friday night ceilidh, a Saturday workshop, and a Saturday night dance. This annual Stoney Lake Weekend has become one of our most successful events. Over the years there have been many notable visiting teachers, and many fabulous musicians, especially Fred Moyes.
In 1988-89, the group moved to the Queen Alexandra Community Centre (now Activity Haven), where the classes were taught by Bob Reid, Jim Caldwell and John Reeves. In January 1992 the club moved to All Saints Church Hall on Rubidge Street, Peterborough. Growth continued and in the year 2000 the membership listed over 80 people, some of whom came from Port Hope and Cobourg. Over the next decade, teaching was shared by a number of instructors. The basic and intermediate classes on Tuesday nights were taught by Elizabeth McMahon, Joan Reeves and Ian Sandeman. There was also a children’s class taught by Jim Caldwell and Margaret Kean. John Reeves established a class in the fall at Peter Robinson College and Trent University students regularly joined in the activities of the club, which included social dances once or twice a month on Friday evenings between September and April, along with special events to celebrate Christmas and the Burns Supper.
Around 2010 until the summer of 2019, a “Warsaw Group” was founded in nearby Douro-Dummer Township. Slated for Wednesday nights, the instruction for this small group was provided by Elizabeth McMahon. For the main club, a busy schedule of Tuesday classes, monthly social dances and demonstrations kept the group active. A tradition also began whereby social dancing took place through the summer months (on Tuesday evenings, in the Gazebo at Riverview Park).
Many of those important club traditions continue to this day — our classes are still held on Tuesday nights; we put on monthly social dances and continue summer dancing in Millennium Park; we celebrate Christmas and Burns Supper; and we host an annual Scottish Country Dance Weekend at Stoney Lake. We are also active on social media where we host a Face Book Page that advertises our classes and events and a Group site where members can interact online and share related content.
Beginning November 2018, the PSCDS implemented a new plan to combine beginners, intermediates and advanced dancers in the same class and to move our Tuesday dance evenings from The Mount Community Centre back to All Saints Church Hall.
In January 2020, the plan was tweaked once again. For the time being, dance instruction for all levels is held in a combined class. The doors open at 6:45 p.m., class starts at 7 p.m. and continues until 9 p.m. or so. At the beginning of class, there are easy dances with a focus on footwork skills and then the dances progress to different levels of difficulty. The programme is run by Elizabeth McMahon (with June Jacklin assisting). The teacher(s) informs (ahead of time) when the dances are more difficult and asks less experienced dancers to watch.
Blair Mackenzie assists with live music at each class and during the monthly social dances too.
What is Scottish country dancing?
Scottish country dancing is a sociable dance form with roots stretching back through the ages. SCD tells stories, commemorates special events, and keeps a cultural heritage and music alive. Scottish country dancing was traditionally danced in the cottages, towns, cities and castles of Scotland. Today, SCD groups can be found all over the world (in 160 countries!). The music we dance to is one of the great glories of Scottish country dance. It varies from lively jigs and reels to graceful waltzes and strathspeys.