A Kinrowan Estate story: Why Contradances?

Dear Justina,

You were asking quite some time back about how a remote Scottish Estate came to have contradances.

It was nearly a month before Iain got back to me after I asked how contradances came to be here and the story was, well, that the Journals didn’t say a word as how they became the de facto dance here. What he did say was the first such dance was nearly fifty years ago and was the result of a winter residency for a contradance band from the Canadian maritimes. Banish Misfortune, as they were called, taught contradance, played for three dances, had their own caller and even commissioned our luthier in residence for two instruments.

The band impressed the Neverending Session musos present at that time so much that they eagerly learned the tunes and created a group dedicated to providing music for contradances. They needed a name and settled on eventually on calling themselves The Snapdragons. That was easier than finding a caller as neither the Estate or the surrounding communities had one. So Roberta, one of our beekeepers,  volunteered to be the caller and did so for several decades.

What the Journals fail to say is who arranged their residency. Iain even asked The Steward of the time, a woman by the name of Sarah ap Morgan, who was still doing well though into her second century . Iain went to Cardiff to see her, had tea with her, and learned nothing. She remembered the band not at all as gardening was her lifelong passion.

I think that what happened was the community aspect of contradancing was the thing that attracted the people here to it — lessons for new dancers before the dance, potluck suppers (though we don’t do that as we do the meal ourselves), and always stories about what everyone was up to. It became a de facto community gathering for the surrounding community except when the Winter weather weather simply made travel far too dangerous; we do to this day provide sleeping space for anyone who wants to stay the night and do a potluck breakfast with us the next morning. 

Now we’ve got a contradance tonight with the Chasing Fireflies band and I’ll be doing the calling.  I know you’ll not be visiting us until over the Winter holidays but Ingrid’s looking forward to seeing and chatting with you over tea.

warmest regards, Gus

About Gus the Estate Head Gardener

I’m the person responsible for both the grounds and the livestock which are raised here. I live with Bree (my wife) in one of the cottages that has been here for centuries.

I actually enjoy Winters here as my work load is considerably reduced as I let the younger staff members handle the needed work which leaves me time for reading, ice skating and skiing, not to mention just being with my wife. Bliss!

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