The History of Scottish Country Dancing in North West Craven

Mary Taylor
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 


Now in 2014, seven hundred years on from the Battle of Bannockburn, Scottish Country Dancing is flourishing in North West Craven, South Lakes and North Lancashire. Dances began to be penned when Mary Queen of Scots refined wilder frolics with her French influence, and new dances continue to be devised. To prevent these dances becoming lost, Miss Jean Milligan and Mrs Ysobel Stewart collected them from all over Scotland and founded the Scottish Country Dance Society in 1923. This changed to Royal when George VI became patron in 1951; the society now has more than 15,000 members and 170 branches throughout the world with the headquarters in Edinburgh.

Music and Dance

Nothing is more important to a dancer than music. Now musicians play lively Scottish Country Dance music at every dance and ball. Bands include accordions, fiddles, keyboard and drums, and very occasionally bagpipes. In the beginning, records, often Jimmy Shand’s, were used for classes and dances, but in 1961 Mr Tom Hall and his band from Bramhall, Cheshire, and the Rattrey Band played at the Royal Oak and Town Hall in Bentham and Mr K Erane at Ingleton. Bernard Dixon’s was another early band; in 1962 Mr Reg Hainsworth offered his pre- recorded tapes. Rob Gordon, Scottish Measure and David Anderson, John Stewart, Andrew Lyon, Ian Slater, Bill Richardson, George Meikle and his Lothian Band, Chris Dewhurst and several more have all enhanced the dances.

Most dances are for four couples in long-wise sets, although some are danced in square sets. Reels, e.g. West’s Hornpipe devised for the Ladies’ Pocket Book in 1797 and Jigs, e.g. Tribute to the Borders by Roy Golding in 1979 are brisk, danced with a skip change step. A unique step to Scotland is the Strathspey, a slower, more regal dance to exquisite music e.g. The Ring of Brodgar by Derek Haynes in 2002.

Dancing in North West Craven

In the 1950s dancing became very popular all over the area, especially in Youth Hostels, and in 1955 Adult Evening Classes, administered from Skipton, were held in several villages. The Lord of the Manor of Clapham, Mr Roland Farrer, was very keen to promote any kind of dancing; he died at a dance on the last day of 1952 and was succeeded by his nephew Dr John Farrer, who also promoted dancing. First, there was American Square Dancing with Post Mistress Mrs Brown as caller. When she left, English Country Dances were held in several villages with teachers Miss Bean and Miss Alice Dale. Mrs Myra Cook taught Scottish Country dancing, gaining her teacher’s certificate in 1958. With a qualified teacher the New Branch could be formed - the North-West Craven branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society was formed in 1959.


Mrs Cook was the first teacher in this area with classes at Malham, Settle and Ingleton, travelling by minibus with some of the pupils as she didn’t drive. After she broke her foot dancing she continued to teach until Mrs Nock obtained her teaching certificate in 1962. When Mrs Nock retired, the classes at Malham and Settle had to close as the County Council would not fund the extra mileage for Mr Stan Harland, who lived at Morecambe; he continued at Ingleton until he was succeeded in 1991 by Mrs Edith Bradshaw. She had come to Ingleton as often as possible in her student days for the Scottish Country dancing at the Youth Hostel. Mrs Edna Wilkinson was an early teacher at Kirkby Lonsdale and Maureen Watson at Windermere. In the 1990s several local teachers gained their certificates including Miss Stephanie Arkwright, Mrs Jo Robinson, Mr Robert Rushton, Mr Anthony Marsden, Mrs Pauline Hampson, and a few years later Mrs Annie Park. Jo Robinson restarted dancing at Settle in 1994 and took responsibility for teaching at Ingleton following the death of Edith Bradshaw the following year. Robert Rushton accepted the challenge to teach at Ingleton when Jo retired, and later took on Settle; Jo died in 2011.

Charity Support

Members of the Branch have held many unofficial charity dances raising thousands of pounds for different charities.


A meeting was held on Monday 12 January 1959, at Malham Youth Hostel to form the committee. Chairman Mr W Clark, Secretary Mrs M Cook, Treasurer Mrs E Bothwell and Delegate to the Executive Council Miss B Dean. This followed a meeting On Monday 1st December 1958, at Malham Youth Hostel, when Mrs Cook was appointed to write to Miss Hadden at the Executive Council in Edinburgh for permission to form a branch of the RSCDS to be known as the North West Craven Branch. By January 1959 permission had been received.

These four officers attended the first committee meeting on 22 February 1959 at the home of Mrs Cook in Giggleswick. There is no record of other first committee members. The following served on the committee during the first three years :- Mr D & Mrs E Sutcliffe (Malham), Mrs W Clark (Malham), Mr & Mrs Nock (Ingleton), Miss M Bilsborough, Miss Park, Miss A Simpson (Giggleswick), Miss E Boyle, Mrs Newbould (Malham), Mrs Wilkinson (Kirkby Lonsdale), Miss E Lancaster (Kirkby Lonsdale). Mrs Botterill, Mrs M Humphries (Ingleton)

Following the formation in January all officers were elected or re elected at the Annual meetings in June. Chairmen
1959 - 1960 Mr W Clark1959 - 1960 Mrs Myra Cook
1960 - 1961 Mr D Sutcliffe 1960 - 1961 Miss M Bilsborough
1961 - 1988 Mr Bill Nock (died in office)1961 - 1975 Mrs W Nock
1988 - 2012 Mr Robert Rushton 1975 - 1991 Mr Stan Harland
2012 - Mr Trevor Clarke1991 -1995 Mrs Edith Bradshaw (died in office)
Vice Chairmen1995 - Mr Keith Bradshaw
1978 -1981 Mrs HarrisAssistant Secretaries
1981 -1986 Mrs M Nelson1913 - Mr Roger Dearden
1986 - 1988 Mr R Rushton
1988 - 1989 Mrs M Nelson
1989 - 2003 Mrs Jo Robinson
2003 - Mrs Pauline Hampson
2012 - Mr R Rushton
Treasurers Assistant Treasurers
1959 - 1961 Mrs E Bothwell 1967 - 1970 Mrs M Cawood
1961 - 1963 Miss Beatrice Dean 1970 - 1974 Mrs M Williams
1963 - 1966 Miss Boothroyd 1974 - 2011 Miss Margaret Harper
1966 - 1991 Mrs Edna Wilkinson 2013 - Mrs Mary Beck
1991 - 1997 Mrs Grace McGonagall
1997 - 2013 Mrs Mary Beck
2013 - Mrs Nita Hart
Delegate to Exec. Council
1959 Miss B Dean
1960 Miss E Boyle
1986 - 1999 Mrs Moyra Devlin
1999 - 2004 Mrs Jo Robinson
Delegates to the RSCDS AGM This is held each year at different locations in Scotland and is attended by delegates from all over the world. A representative has attended from this area for each of the 54 years, some having attended more than once.

Achievements of the committee

From committee meetings in people’s homes and AGMs held at Settle High School, all meetings are currently held in Ingleton Community centre. The committee arrange dances all over the area, liaising with adjoining branches to prevent dates clashing, booking bands and venues, sometime years in advance, and have held celebration events and Balls. They also run day schools, now called workshops, for beginners or advanced dancers to learn steps and formations or brush up their techniques. Teams have danced at the White Rose Festival at Leeds, York and Harewood and have given demonstrations at Ingleton Gala and at many other events. The Branch has a website and most members can be contacted by email.

Teacher Training

Mrs Cook gained her certificate at St Andrews, as did several others. Alice Murphy taught candidates in this area from the early 1990s until her death in 2004; each candidate had to pass a preliminary exam and the final two years later. Maureen Haynes has continued to train teachers. Candidates now have to pass five modules.


Mrs Humphries, a History teacher at Ingleton Secondary Modern School from the 1960s taught children in the lunch hour, and Jo Robinson taught children at Catteral Hall, Giggleswick where she worked in the office. Robert Rushton ran children’s classes for many years at Ingleton.

Ingleton Ball on 7 December 2013 at Ingleborough Community Centre

Ingleton Ball on 7 December 2013 at Ingleborough Community Centre