Nothing quite like gie’n it laldy in an eightsome reel - Susan Morrison

Last week I put my glad rags on and hosted an evening at the National Museum of Scotland. They were doing Burns Night and they did it in style at an epic ceilidh.
There is something ‘slightly mad’ about a good ceilidhThere is something ‘slightly mad’ about a good ceilidh
There is something ‘slightly mad’ about a good ceilidh

There is something wild and slightly mad about a good, big ceilidh. There are always the people who turn up dressed for the part. They know what they are doing and they do it well.

There’s nothing quite like the sight of a kilt flaring out just enough behind a Dashing White Sergeant, birling a bonnie lassie in a tartan sash. These are the men who own their own kilts, partnering women who are smart enough not to carry shoulder bags.

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A tip for the future, gals, forget the clutch bag for a Canadian Barn Dance. And I’d think very carefully about where you’d put that mobile phone. Get to know a lad with a capacious sporran. In with the pro-standard dancers was a group of beautiful Japanese girls, dressed like extras from Outlander in longer plaids, shawls and even little mop caps. They’re studying at Edinburgh Uni.

This to them was, and I am quoting here, better than tickets to see Taylor Swift. They knew all the steps. They learned them back at home, because apparently Scottish country dancing is big in Japan. Who knew?

There were people who didn’t have a clue. Some had never been to a ceilidh before and couldn’t quite believe the carnage. One woman asked me if anyone ever got hurt, and even I was shocked to hear myself say “oh yeah, but it doesn’t stop the dancing.’’

Fortunately, the The Jacobites Ceilidh Band had everything in hand and guitarist/vocalist Ciaran really knows how to call a reel. And, of course, there are the people who remember what to do from those classes in Scottish gym halls the length and breadth of the country, when tracksuit wearing PE teachers turned themselves into the White Heather Club.

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We had a married pair at our school, Mr and Mrs Barlow, who insisted that toes were to be pointed, heads nodded and yer pah-d’-bah had to be bang on. Clearly they had never seen the sight of 300 drink-fuelled dancers tearing up the NMS Grand Gallery.

Sad to think that we didn’t really like dance day at PE. Mainly because we had to hold the boys’ hands. It says a lot about Scottish attitudes to sex in the 60s. The girls took great care to wear their slightly bigger cardigans on Wednesdays so they could pull their sleeves down to avoid the sweaty palms of the likes of Gregor McNeish. Names have been changed to protect the innocent, of course, but believe me, that lad leaked from every pore.

The Barlows taught me well. I didn’t get the chance to dance, but it’s astonishing how muscle memory kicks in. The steps of reels I learned half a century ago came flooding back. I hope they’re still teaching it in schools, it’s a weird life skill to have, but you never know when being familiar with a Gay Gordon will come in handy.

It was joyous, in every way, and I suspect that given a choice between listening to yet another Immortal Memory or gie’n it laldy in an eightsome reel, The Bard himself would pick the dancing every time.