Publication Scottish Dance Archives 436
- Short name
- Published by
- Clowes, Roy / Donald, B
- Online Sources
This entry primarily concerns the publication scheme known as “Scottish Dance Archives” under which 190 newly devised Scottish Country dances from numerous devisors were published in the years 1972-81. All these dances have separate entries in this database, and are linked with this publication entry.
However, it is easy to confuse this scheme with the much more recent “Dance Archives” initiative, especially since both activities heavily involved one person, Bob Donald. An explanation of the separate Dance Archives will therefore be found at the end of this article.
1. Scottish Dance Archives
Roy Clowes and Bob Donald, both active dancers, dancing teachers and dance devisors in the Merseyside area, launched the scheme in 1972, to help aspiring devisors of new SCD to get their dances publicised and distributed.
This initiative came at a time when just a few major devisors of new Scottish Country dances had become well known, notably Hugh Foss (who had just died) and John Drewry in the UK, and also some other devisors elsewhere such as Robert Campbell and Marie Boehmer in Canada. Numerous other devisors had new dances to introduce, but lacked an easy way to issue them, since producing printed booklets was time-consuming and expensive.
At the same time, the RSCDS itself, despite having experimented with the publication of new dances in the 1960s, in Books 22 and 23, seemed to have turned its back completely on new dances, and in its more recently issued books had reverted to publishing dances taken exclusively from historical sources. (That policy was eventually reversed starting with Book 31 in 1983.)
Under the Scottish Dance Archives scheme, Roy and Bob accepted submissions of new dances, and helped the devisors by practical testing of the dances and their instructions. The finished dances, selected for widest appeal by Roy and Bob, were then distributed to interested subscribers in groups of ten loose foolscap sheets twice yearly, starting in September 1972.
Production costs were minimised by the sheets being typed on stencils and duplicated, with strathspeys, reels, jigs and medleys printed on orange, pink, blue and white paper respectively. Occasionally other (yellow) sheets were also distributed, covering teaching and discussion topics, and also a few demonstration “set dances” and Highland dances.
Roy and Bob had hoped that after “releasing the dam”, the early flood of newly devised dances would slow to a trickle, but the flow of new submissions never eased, this being an early phase of what we now call “the dance explosion”. Consequently they decided to close the scheme in 1982, after ten years in which they had published 190 new Scottish Country dances.
A little before that, the SDA team had used a growing surplus of cash from subscriptions to finance a weekend dance school in Liverpool in 1978, with several eminent teachers and musicians contributing. Some of the material from those sessions was then subsequently circulated to SDA subscribers as the very informative booklet ”Notes on teaching Scottish Country Dancing”.
By its close, nearly ninety different dance devisors had contributed to Scottish Dance Archives, mostly with just one submission each, but a few had contributed several times, including Derek Haynes, Barry Priddey, Douglas & Lisbeth Henderson, Sam Firth, Tony Bulteel and Anne Large. A scan of the dance list will also reveal several other well-known dance devisors, including some from Canada, New Zealand and the USA, and both the founders Roy Clowes and Bob Donald. Several of the dances were later re-published by their devisors in their own collections, but for some dances, the SD Archives manuscripts remain the original source, for example The Pines Of Pitlochry and Mr George Gray's Reel.
2. The “Dance Archives” website
As the separate entry for Bob Donald explains, during the 1970s, as well as helping to run Scottish Dance Archives, Bob was involved in other activities. In particular for a few years, under the name “Hugh Foss (Formby)”, Bob and his wife Mamie ran a mail-order business, originally started by Hugh Foss himself, for the distribution of sheets and books for dances not connected with the RSCDS.
Bob and Mamie ceased running this service around 1980,  that role then being taken up by others, but partly as a result of running “Hugh Foss (Formby)”, Bob and Mamie ended up with an impressive collection of hardcopy SCD instructions, including some material that had become hard to find, such as the Glendarroch sheets, originally published by Hugh Foss in the late 1960s and featuring dances by him, Derek Haynes, and others.
When web-based online information sources started up, around the year 2000, Bob and Mamie seized this opportunity in two ways. First, they set up the website www.dancearchives.co.uk which provided two things: an online index to their hardcopy dance collection, and online transcripts for the instructions of about 250 selected dances. Those online transcripts were prepared individually by Bob, not without effort, and in some cases, such as those for the Glendarroch sheets just mentioned, the transcripts were far more readable than the typed originals.
Also, having by now moved from Lancashire to Edinburgh, Bob and Mamie then donated their hardcopy dance material to the music department of Edinburgh Central Library, for use as reference material, and it is now known there as the Donald Collection.
In 2020, RSCDS London Branch agreed to take over the Donalds’ online website. The full contents are now accessible on the new link https://www.rscdslondon.org.uk/scottish-dance-archives/. However, despite the similarity of name, in most cases the 190 dances published via the Scottish Dance Archives scheme in the 1970s are NOT among the dances with instructions available online through the new website. More details of those online instructions can be found there.