Memorial plaque to the left of the entrance to the headquarters of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society at12 Coates Crescent Edinburgh, EH3 7AF
Ysobel Stewart (1882 - 1968)
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"Mrs. Stewart— bagpiper, wood-carver, bookbinder, spinner, weaver, knitter of tartan hose, and Gaelic speaker— left a legacy of altruism and graceful social dance enjoyed worldwide by many races and all levels of society."
~ Mrs. Stewart of Fasnacloich: First Lady of SCD by Donald E. Holmes
In November 1923, a small group of people interested in Scottish Country Dances met in Glasgow. The meeting, called by Mrs Ysobel Stewart of Fasnacloich and Miss Jean Milligan of Glasgow on the 26th of November 1923, marked the beginning of the movement which is now world-wide and known as "The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society".
Mrs Stewart of Fish Hoek
The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society (RSCDS), was founded in 1923 as the Scottish Country Dance Society by Jean Milligan and Ysobel Stewart of Fasnacloich, who wanted to preserve country dancing as performed in Scotland, country dancing having fallen into disuse after the influx of continental ballroom dances such as the waltz or quadrilles and, later on, American-style dances like the One-step or foxtrot.
From Mrs. Stewart of Fasnacloich: First Lady of SCD by Donald E. Holmes:
Ysobel Campbell was born on November 23, 1882, in Appin, Argyll. On January 6, 1909, at Christ Church Lochgilphead (Episcopal) she married John Charles Stewart of Fasnacloich, a captain in the Imperial Light Horse who worked in the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries department where Ysobel was Vice-President.
She was also Commissioner of Girl Guides for Argyll in 1923 and Head of Training of Guides throughout Scotland from 1920-1927. She was awarded the "Silver Fish" (1925) "the highest possible award for good service and only granted by Headquarters".
Since Scottish girls were being taught English Country dances, she decided Guides in Scotland should learn Scottish Country Dances. It was on an Edinburgh walk "along Princes Street that I determined to have the first book of country dances published and so the society was originated". Mrs. Stewart took "a blank book with lines for music on alternate pages and wrote descriptions of country dances I had always known and danced
in Argyll, and copied the music on opposite pages. I showed this book, at a Commissioners' Conference, to representatives from all the Airts, and found agreement as to the manner of carrying out the dances."
To revive the friendly spirit of Scottish dance, she approached Michael Diack of Patersons, a Glasgow publisher who paid for the book's production and who later suggested the first examination for Scottish Dance teachers. She insisted the dances be published and distributed to Guides. He agreed conditionally— only if the dances were verified as correct. Fortunately, many elderly people could give definite and authentic information on correct form of dance and technique excellently taught in their youth. He arranged the meeting between Mrs. Stewart and Jean Milligan, a lecturer in physical education at Dundas Vale College who used Scottish dances with her students. Together, they wanted to preserve country dancing as performed in Scotland since it had fallen into disuse after the influx of continental ballroom dances like the waltz or quadrilles and Foxtrot. Mrs. Stewart and Miss Milligan attended a meeting in the Athenaeum in Glasgow on November 26, 1923, where 27 people "interested in Scots country dancing" formed the core of the fledgling society. She says "I was appointed Honorary Secretary - a post which I held for ten years. Book 1 (my manuscript) was published and the society grew beyond the conception of Miss Milligan or me".
The Society collected dances from living memory as well as from old (17th-, 18th-, and19th-century) manuscripts and republished them in a series of books. Most of these dances needed some interpretation, and the dance style itself underwent serious standardization, becoming much more balletic instead of the easy-going style that was the norm in the early 20th century, and which the Society's founders considered sloppy and untraditional. Wherever possible, the oldest known form of the dance was adopted In 1955, prompted by rheumatism, the death of her husband in 1948, and the death of their only child Duguld in 1916 at age 5, she moved to South Africa to be with her cousins and niece. Mrs. Stewart— bagpiper, wood-carver, bookbinder, spinner, weaver, knitter of tartan hose, and Gaelic speaker— left a legacy of altruism and graceful social dance enjoyed worldwide by many races and all levels of society.
For more details of Mrs. Stewart's life, click her portrait.