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The evolution of the 'Eightsome Reel'.

The 'Eightsome Reel' is a fusion of opposites: the elegant quadrille with its French roots and the energetic reel native to Scotland. In the three-part structure of the 'Eightsome Reel', which evolved from the mid-1880s to the late 1890s, communal figures derived from the quadrille frame a long core section in which individual dancers display their prowess in reel steps of their choice. The community expressed by the dance was originally aristocratic, as the dance first appeared on the programmes of the exclusive Highland balls. Dance publishers stressed its social prestige and soon included it in the canon of Scottish national dances. In particular, the vigour of the reel steps and the traditional reel tunes used for the 'Eightsome' were perceived as emblematic of the robust energy of the Scottish character. So cultural nationalism enhanced the dance's popularity, and the community it expressed grew to encompass the nation itself.


The 'Eightsome Reel' is a fusion of opposites in several ways. It has been enshrined as a 'national' dance of Scotland, yet it is comparatively recent in origin. It gives a perfect opportunity for the individual display of dancing prowess contained within a communal dance. It is known as a dance of 'reelers' in kilts and ball gowns, of the Scottish regiments, and of anyone with an occasion to celebrate. In their 1964 study of social dancing in Scotland, covering the period prior to 1914 for which living informants were available, Tom and Joan Flett found the 'Eightsome Reel' in the standard repertoire of the itinerant dancing masters, on the programmes of balls given by lairds for their tenants, and on the programmes of grand Highland assemblies attended exclusively by the gentry. (1)

Many regional variations of the 'Eightsome Reel' are found in Scotland today, with different versions in Shetland, Orkney, the Hebrides, Sutherland, and many other areas. The styles in which the 'Eightsome' is danced range from the relaxed informality of ceilidh dancing to the precise formality of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. One essential feature of the dance, however, is its distinctive three-part structure, the result of an evolution that started in the mid-1880s and culminated in the middle or later 1890s. This development, seen in successive editions of David Anderson's Ball Room Guide, has been described by the Fletts. (2) The current study attempts to place it within a wider context and in particular to relate the 'Eightsome Reel' to the concept of the 'national dance' in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Scotland.

The 'Eightsome Reel' is rooted partly in the polished French quadrille and partly in the native Scots reel. Its progenitor, the early nineteenth-century 'Reel of Eight', was a quadrille in form and a reel only in its name, which it probably owed to the popularity of reel tunes. However, the 'threesome reel' component of the 'Eightsome Reel' grew as the dance developed, giving the dance its energetic core as well as its music. The quadrille component survived to 'frame' or contain the reel and give it a suitable aristocratic elegance. The main influence in the development of the dance, then, was a romantic Scottish nationalism, in which the music, dancing, and culture of the Highlands came to stand for the spirit of Scotland itself. This nationalism emanated from the upper classes but became a powerful marketing tool for publishers selling their dance manuals to the middle classes.

Description of the dance

First, a description of a typical form of the dance will show its three-part structure. The movements are described in non-technical terms, and the equivalent technical terms are given in square brackets. Some of the commoner variations are also described.

 'The Eightsome Reel'
 Sets of four couples, arranged in a square formation, each woman on
 her partner's right. Couples are numbered clockwise 1-4, 1st couple
 having their backs to the music.
 Part 1
 Bars 1-8. All join hands and circle to the left for 4 bars and back
 to the right for 4 bars. [Eight hands round and back.]
 9-16. All four women join right hands across in a wheel, keeping hold
 of partners' right hands in their left, and dance once round. [Right
 hands across.]
 Common variant: arm round partner's waist.
 On bar 12, the women release right hands and men give left hands
 across, keeping hold of partners' left hands in their right. All
 finish in original places. Note: Hands across is normally danced by
 four dancers only; this double hands across is sometimes called a
 'grand cross'.
 17-24. All four couples face partners and dance on the spot for 4
 bars. [Set to partners.] All turn partners with both hands.
 Common variants: turn with right arms, 'spin partners', or 'swing
 25-40. All four couples pass partner giving right hand, next dancer
 giving left hand, and so on around the circle. Women move clockwise
 and men anticlockwise. [Grand chain.]
 Part 2
 Bars 1-8. 1st woman dances a solo in the centre while the other seven
 dancers circle and back.
 9-16. 1st woman sets to her partner for 2 bars and turns him with
 both hands for 2 bars, then sets to and turns 3rd man.
 Common variants: both turns with right hand or right arm.
 17-24. 1st woman and 1st and 3rd men dance a figure of eight pattern,
 1st woman passing her partner by the left to begin. [Reel of three.]
 Common variants: 1st woman turns partner right hand, opposite man
 hand, partner right hand, opposite man right hand; or turns partner
 left arm, opposite man right arm, partner left arm, opposite man
 right arm.
 25-48. Repeat bars 1-24, 1st woman setting to and turning the man to
 the right of her original place and then the man opposite him. On bar
 48 1st woman returns to her original place while 2nd woman moves into
 the centre.
 Repeat 7 more times, each woman and then each man in turn dancing in
 the centre. On bars 9-16 of each sequence the solo dancer sets to and
 turns partner then the man or woman opposite. On bars 33-40 the solo
 dancer sets to man or woman to the right of his/her original place
 then the man or woman opposite.
 Part 3
 Part 1 is repeated.
 Common variant: bars 25-40, complete grand chain in 8 bars, then
 partner for 8 bars.

The reel and the quadrille

The two ancestral dances of the 'Eightsome Reel' came from opposite ends of the social dance spectrum. The reel was a dance traditional throughout Scotland, very simple in its basic form: the alternation of eight bars of travelling (the same pattern being repeated in any given reel), with eight bars of 'setting' or dancing in place. The varied setting steps gave scope for improvisation and allowed dancers to display their virtuosity. As the Fletts have shown, the commonest type of reel in the eighteenth-century Lowlands was the 'Threesome Reel', in which the dancers interrupted their setting with an interweaving figure-of-eight pattern. (3) Reels were social dances, but they were not associated with courtship ritual. Thomas Peacock describes a reel he saw danced by a twelve-year-old 'herd boy' and two young girls, and James Boswell danced a threesome on top of Dun Caan with two other young men. (4)

The quadrille, on the other hand, was imported to Scotland from France and was a sophisticated urban dance associated with formal instruction. Like its predecessor, the contredanse francaise or cotillion, it was performed by four couples facing each other in a square. Some figures of the dance, like grand chain or circling round and back, were performed by all eight dancers simultaneously. Others, like hands across ('moulinet') or ladies' chain, were performed by two couples at a time. Yet others were performed by one gentleman or lady with the opposite dancer of the other sex, or by one dancer alone. Several of these figures were combined to create a single quadrille, danced to its own tune, and several single quadrilles (usually five) were put together to create sets of quadrilles, many of which were published.

An interesting coincidence of dance history is that the reel and the quadrille both became fashionable throughout Britain at roughly the same time. Cotillions had been popular since the 1780s, but quadrilles seem to have burst on the scene when the end of the Napoleonic Wars allowed people, and dances, to come and go freely across the Channel once more. In the euphoria that followed Waterloo, dancing masters hastened to Paris and hurried home again to spread the new dance gospel. (5) In Memoirs of a Highland Lady, Elizabeth Grant writes, '[W]e were all the young people bit by the quadrille mania [ ... ] Finlay Dunn [sic] had been abroad, imported all the most graceful steps from Paris. '(6) This was, of course, an era in which France was still synonymous with cultural prestige.

Reels, on the other hand, were thought to originate in the antithesis of Paris, the 'wild' Highlands of Scotland. In a broad sense, they owed their popularity to the Romantic spirit of the age and its new interest in native traditions of music and dance. Dancing master Thomas Peacock of Aberdeen, writing in 1805, alludes to 'the rage which for some time past has prevailed in England, and elsewhere, for [ ... ] the national dances of the Scotch, especially their Reel. This dance, indeed, admits of so great a variety of natural and brilliant steps, as never fail to please.' (7) Thomas Wilson, a prominent London dancing master, concurs: 'No species of Dancing has ever been so universally danced, nor has ever become so great a favorite, either in this Country or any other, as Reels.' (8) In their eagerness to keep up with fashion, some dancing masters drove post-haste to Edinburgh to learn reels. Peacock writes: '[I]t is no uncommon thing, at Edinburgh, to see men of our profession who come there with no other view, but to acquire a knowledge of that dance. It is not long since that two of them (father and son) came from London to Edinburgh for no other purpose, and as they had their own carriage, it may be presumed they must have been men of some reputation in their profession.' (9)

The treatment of these two dance forms in nineteenth-century dance manuals symbolizes their contrasting roles in dance culture. The quadrille appears always at the beginning of the Scottish manuals in order to show its high status, the reel usually at the end. People danced quadrilles to display their fashionable elegance, in an easy, graceful, yet controlled style. Reels, on the other hand, were lively and spirited. Their free structure permitted spontaneity, and their driving, exuberant music made them strongly expressive of emotion, like other forms of Romantic art. In his 1818 handbook, Barclay Dun of Edinburgh (father of Finlay) quotes this comment by an unnamed writer: 'There are no dancers in the world more expressive of inward hilarity and happiness than the Scotch are, when performing in their own reels.' (10) Reel music was used to accompany social dancing of all kinds, with many late eighteenth-century country dances in both England and Scotland bearing names such as 'Lady X's Reel'. Many major collections of Scottish dance music in the traditional idiom, most notably those by Niel Gow and his son Nathaniel, appeared in this period, and in 1814 the band led by Nathaniel Gow, with its powerfully expressive music, reigned supreme in Almack's assembly rooms in London. (11)

Earliest 'Eightsome Reels'

The earliest use of the name 'Eightsome Reel' probably reflects the widespread currency of terms such as 'threesome reel' and 'foursome reel'. A well-known illustration of this occurs in the lines 'There's threesome reels, there's foursome reels / There's hornpipes and strathspeys, man', in Robert Burns's 'The Deil's Awa wi' the Exciseman' (published in 1792). Three dances are called 'Eightsome Reel' in the Blantyre manuscript, an aide-memoire of dances taught by an itinerant dancing master at Blantyre Farm, Lanarkshire, between August and October 1805. (12) The title seems to indicate only that they are dances for eight people. They call for four couples in a longways set, and are preceded by a similar dance, also for four couples in a longways set, called 'Common Cotillion, or French Cotillion'. The telegraphic style of the manuscript makes interpretation difficult, but these dances were

probably cotillions in style and reels in name only. Here is the first:

 'Eightsome Reel'
 Gentlemen all come up--follow after head Gentleman, Ladies do same
 after head Lady--right and left full round to places, change sides
 with right hand, change again with left, Allaman all, change sides,
 chace [sic], change sides, back again, right & left hands all round.

Another dance called 'Eightsome Reel' occurs in a later manuscript from rural Scotland, the record kept by Frederick Hill of the dances he learned from itinerant dancing masters in Alford, Aberdeenshire, in 1841. Here the Scottish element is more apparent. The anonymous music book The Companion to the Reticule (c.1830) provides medley sets of reels, strathspeys, and jigs, intended to be played alternately so that 'the dancing, by undergoing so many changes in the time, is kept up with the utmost spirit throughout a whole Reel'. (13) The 'Eightsome Reel' of the Hill manuscript is the earliest extant record of a dance accompanied by such a medley, here strathspey and reel, and it ends with a reel of four on the sides. The reel section at least appears to be in a longways set:

 'Eightsome Reel'
Each Figure twice done.
Strathspey and Reel Time

 Right and Left full round.
 Eight hands round and back
 Four hands round and back
 Hands across right and left.

2nd Part--Reel Time--Change sides and back
 Reel on their own sides--Finish. (14)

Progenitor: The 'Reel of Eight'

The dances above show the appeal of the title 'Eightsome Reel'. Another dance that became popular in its own right, appearing in both print and manuscript sources, carried the synonymous title 'Reel of Eight'. It first appears in the anonymous manuscript 'Contre-danses a Paris, 1818'. This is written in English, most likely by a Scottish dancing master resident in Paris (its detailed descriptions of reel and strathspey steps are particularly interesting). The manuscript includes two 'Reels of Eight', of which this is the first:

'Reel of Eight'

No. 1

Eight hands all round - 8 b.

Ladies right hands across; gentlemen outside; - half round - 4 b.

Gentlemen right [H.sup.ds] across Ladies outside, back again - b.

Set and turn partners - 8 b.

The Grand Chaine; (right and left all round.) - 8 b.

In all - 32 b. (15)

Assuming that the gentlemen's 'right hands across' is a slip for 'left hands across', here we have the introduction and conclusion of the eventual 'Eightsome Reel', but without any figures that would mark it as a Scottish dance. The second 'Reel of Eight' in this same manuscript transposes the circle, set and turn partners, and hands across to a longways set, as clearly indicated in the opening instruction: 'Four couples arranged in two lines as for a country dance.' (16) These figures are followed by a poussette and a final figure explicitly linking the dance in form and style with the quadrilles: "The Chase or Procession as in "Les Landers" 7 Chasses & jette assemble.' The dance is 48 bars long.

The square-set 'Reel of Eight' was an extraordinarily durable dance. In two sources separated by almost a century, the 1818 manuscript cited above and the Glasgow ballroom guide published by Mozart Allan about 1910, it has the same four figures: circle of eight hands round and back; hands across given by all four ladies then all four men, their other hand joined with their partner; setting and turning partners; and grand chain. (17) The same sequence appears in Kate Hughes's manuscript (Dundalk, 1867 and ff.), the Globe Guide (Glasgow, c.1900), and McEwen's manual (Glasgow, c.1902). (18) Versions of the 'Reel of Eight' in the manuals by R. and J. Lowe (Glasgow, 1822), W. Smyth (Edinburgh, 1830), J. Smyth (Edinburgh, c.1850), and W. F. Gillies (Glasgow, c.1881) show only slight differences. (19)

In all these sources, except for one of its two appearances in the Lowes' manual, the 'Reel of Eight' appears with the true reels, often in a final section entitled 'Scotch Reels'. However, in Boulogne's manual (Glasgow, 1827) the same dance appears under the title 'Assembly Reel', and is classified as an 'English Quadrille'. (20) All the manual writers link the dance with the quadrille by instructing dancers to 'stand as in the quadrille'.

Unlike the full sets of quadrilles, however, the 'Reel of Eight' has no element of display in which one or two dancers exhibit their skill. Its figures are communal, with all eight dancers active all the time. The figures may, in fact, be traced back to the predecessor of the quadrille, the eighteenth-century contredanse francaise or cotillion. Le Repertoire des bals (1762), a collection of contredanses by the Parisian dancing master De La Cuisse, provides instructions and diagrams for 'le rond de huit' or circle for eight, 'le moulinet double' or double hands across, and 'la grande chaine' or grand chain for eight. (21) According to Gallini (1770), all cotillions began with 'le grand rond' or circle and back, and other standard figures were turning partner, hands across or 'moulinet' (often doubled as in the 'Reel of Eight'), and 'la grande chaine'. (22) These figures all occur in collections of cotillions published in London in the late eighteenth century. (23)

The section of the quadrille most closely allied to the cotillion was the finale, which included figures in which everyone danced at once. Thomas Wilson writes: 'It has been usual, in Quadrille Dancing, to have, to every Set of Quadrilles, what is termed a Finale, or Finishing Dance. These Finales, are more properly Cotillions, as they all contain some Figure or Figures, that employ the whole set, or eight persons; and some are wholly composed of these figures.' (24) As a simple, short, communal dance, the 'Reel of Eight' also seems to have been a natural finale, as of course it eventually became when embedded in the 'Eightsome Reel'. After the description of the 'Italian Monfrina' (a single-figure quadrille), the Lowes (1822) add this note: "The dance to this air was common in this part of the country, some time previous to the introduction of the proper Quadrilles, and in some parties it is still enjoyed, with considerable relish. It is performed to a variety of tunes. The Reel of Eight is commonly added to it as a finale.' (25) The 'Reel of Eight' is described at this point, even though the dance appears again in the section on reels at the end of the manual. This use of the figures of the 'Reel of Eight' as a finale must have lasted for a long time, since the Hill manuscript (1841) gives almost the same figures, not as a separate dance, but as Part 2 of 'Italian Monferrin', a version of the 'Monfrina'. (26)

An indication of the excitement the 'Reel of Eight' could create in dancers occurs in the diary kept by the dancing master Joseph Lowe, recording his experiences as a teacher of dancing to the family of Queen Victoria. Joseph Lowe was the younger brother of the Robert and John Lowe who wrote The Ball-Conductor, and grandfather of the George Lowe who recorded the 'Eightsome Reel' as danced at the Skye Gatherings. (27) Reels were clearly the royal family's favourite dances, and Lowe's diary for 30 September 1852 includes this passage: 'Got to Balmoral by twelve o'clock, was asked to the Drawing Room, met the whole party again, and had a regular practising, everything the same as the day before. I taught them the Reel of Eight. Her Majesty thought it great fun and entered quite into the spirit of it.' (28) Lowe played the fiddle to accompany his teaching, and it is likely that rousing reel music would have been used for this dance called a 'reel' and commonly used as a finale.

Precursors: 'Caledonian Quadrilles'

A precedent for the inclusion of reel figures in square-set dances may be found in the 'Caledonian Quadrilles' of the early to middle nineteenth century. The prestige of quadrilles made them enormously popular and led to a market demand for novelty. As Ellis Rogers writes, they were set to the popular tunes of the day, and so-called 'Caledonian' or 'Hibernian' sets were danced to Scottish or Irish tunes. (29) Such dances appealed to the cultural nationalism fostered by Walter Scott's elaborate staging of George IV's visit to Edinburgh in 1822. Scott represented Scotland in Highland terms, inaugurating the cult of tartan and associating it with the monarchy. At the 'Caledonian Hunt Ball', reels were danced as a spectacle for the tartan-wrapped king. (30) Three decades later, Queen Victoria went one step further when she swathed Balmoral Castle itself in tartan and engaged Joseph Lowe to teach reels to her children and, in suitable privacy, to herself.

At first the 'Caledonian' element was purely a marketing device. The English dancing master Chivers's published version of the 'Original Caledonians' (1823) shows a bagpiper on the front cover (Figure 1), but the dances themselves contain no distinctively Scottish steps or figures, and the settings are for pianoforte or harp. (31) However, H. D. Willock's 'New Caledonian Quadrille', published in Glasgow c. 1865, is an interesting cultural fusion, danced in reel time alternating with strathspey. The dancers use standard quadrille steps for the reel sections and strathspey steps for the strathspey sections. Many of the figures are standard quadrille ones, but two of the quadrilles contain reels of four. In the fourth quadrille, each man in turn dances an 8-bar solo, foreshadowing the 'Eightsome Reel'. Willock writes: 'Any of the standard Highland Fling steps are most appropriate for the gentleman's solo, and it adds considerably to the beauty of this figure when each gentleman dances a different step.' (32) This invitation to self-expression is not offered to the ladies. The 'New Caledonian Quadrille' survived up to the date of the first appearance of the 'Eightsome Reel', as it was published by W. F. Gillies (c. 1881) with only a few changes. (33) Accounts of the Royal Caledonian Ball as late as 1890 allude to a ceremonial 'Highland Quadrille' danced to open the ball, probably a dance of this type. (34) This 'Highland Quadrille' was later replaced by the 'Eightsome Reel'.

These publishers were appealing to a winning formula: cultural nationalism, allied with loyalty to the British crown and the desire for social prestige. The same formula was to ensure the success of the 'Eightsome Reel'.

Birth and dissemination of the 'Eightsome Reel'

The modern 'Eightsome Reel' is claimed to have been invented not by a dancing professional like Willock but by aristocrats with time on their hands and a romantic view of Scotland's past. Early allusions to the dance associate it with the balls held in conjunction with Highland Games, which themselves were deliberate revivals of ancient Highland culture as seen through upper-class Victorian eyes. A Web history of the Skye Games, for example, describes the Skye Gathering balls in Portree as 'an essential part of the Highland country house itinerary, a couple of sleepless nights of reels and kilts and sparkling gowns, enjoyed by those who retired afterwards to the lodges and stately homes of Skye'. (35)

The best-known account of the birth of the 'Eightsome Reel' appears in the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society's The Scottish Country Dance Book 2 (c.1924), its probable source being Lord James Stewart Murray, younger son of the 7th Duke of Atholl and President of the Society. He presents the dance as newly invented, yet evolving from tradition: 'It is said that this dance was worked up by the late Earl of Dunmore and several friends from their recollections of "Round Reels". They spent a week, in the early 1870s, evolving this dance at the time of the Atholl Gathering Ball. Later that season, or possibly the following year, it was introduced at the Portree Ball, and at Perth. It caught on throughout the country and is now danced in all parts of Scotland.'(36) The Earls of Dunmore were members of the Atholl family, being descended from a second son of the first Marquess of Atholl, and the 7th Earl, Charles Adolphus Murray, lived from 1841 to 1907. (37)

Speaking at the Annual General Meeting of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society in 1945, Murray (now 9th Duke of Atholl) repeated this claim: 'Nowhere were Scottish traditions more jealously guarded than in my native Atholl. Not only have we preserved probably more country dances than many places, but we were also responsible for the eightsome reel in its present form.'(38) James Scott Skinner, writing in 1905, gave a slightly different account, but also associated the dance with the Highland Gatherings: "This is not the Eightsome Reel that used to be danced long ago [the 'Reel of Eight'?], but a special set of it sometimes called the Skye Eightsome, which, associated originally with the Northern Meeting Balls at Inverness and the Skye Gatherings, is beginning to find its way out into the world, and seems destined to grow popular.'(39)

The documentation of the 'Eightsome Reel' dates from 1885, when it appeared twice on the dance programme of the Northern Meeting. (40) (No description of the 1885 dance survives.) Its first documented appearance on the programme of the Skye Gathering was in 1890. (41) Thenceforth it became a fixture on the programmes of all the big Highland balls and was introduced at the Royal Caledonian Ball in London (where the 7th Duke of Atholl presided) at least by 1902, replacing the ceremonial 'Highland Quadrille'. (42) The 1913 Northern Meeting programme included as many as five 'Eightsome Reels'. (43) These balls were often attended by house parties like the one described above by Murray, and one reason for the many repetitions of the 'Eightsome Reel' may have been that all the members of a house party could dance together in a set.

Since the programmes for these balls were compiled by the bands and submitted to the ball committees for approval, the rapid dissemination of the dance is likely to have been due to professionals. The band playing for the Northern Meeting in 1884-86 was provided by Messrs Logan & Co., music sellers, of Church Street, Inverness. After an interval of a few years, Logan's band again played from 1895 into the 1930s, and the Inverness Courier carried this comment on one ball: "The music played by Messrs Logan & Cos orchestra of which Mrs D. Logan, pianist, was leader, left nothing to be desired, and the dances were entered into with Highland hilarity. Numerous "extras" were played, eightsome reels being much in request.'(44) Logan & Co.'s association with the 'Eightsome Reel' was not limited to the Northern Meeting. In c. 1898 the firm sold the pamphlet The Skye Eightsome, with 'correct instructions' for the dance and four sets of reel tunes selected and arranged for the pianoforte, Mrs Logan's instrument, 'as played at The Skye Gatherings & Northern Meeting Balls by Logan's Band' (Figure 2). (45) Logan & Co. would appear to have done rather well out of the 'Eightsome Reel'.

The Lowe dynasty was another family active in more than one profitable role and also associated with the Highland balls. Joseph Lowe's son George succeeded his father as a prominent dancing instructor in Edinburgh, billing himself as 'Son and Successor to Mr Jos. Lowe, Tutor in Dancing to the Royal Children'. (46) He also led the orchestra for the Northern Meeting until he retired because of ill health in 1879. (47) His son, another George, was active as a dancing instructor until 1907. (48) This George supplied the dance instructions for the Skye Eightsome pamphlet, his name being prominently displayed on the cover. According to the firm's advertisement in 1902, 'Mr and Mrs Lowe make the teaching of Reels--Eightsome and Foursome--as danced at the Northern Meeting Balls, Inverness, the Royal Caledonian Balls, London, etc., etc., a special feature. '(49)

Other dancing masters who published versions of the 'Eightsome Reel' were active competitors at the Games that preceded the Highland Balls. David Anderson, D. G. MacLennan, and Grahame Macneilage appear in lists of dancing prizewinners between 1880 and 1904. (50) David Anderson, who published the successive versions of the 'Eightsome Reel' discussed below, taught in Dundee and surrounding towns from about 1870 until his death in about 1911. (51) His Ball-Room Guide was published in Dundee and went through many editions, six of which contain evolving versions of the 'Eightsome Reel'. Anderson prided himself on his avoidance of technical terms, especially French terms, and on the clarity of his descriptions, 'enabling even the greatest neophyte to obtain a fair knowledge by careful reading, attention, and study' (52) The Introduction to his c. 1891 edition begins, 'On introducing this the 26th thousand of my Illustrated Ball Room Guide [...]', so his sales would seem to have justified his approach and ensured wide circulation for the dances he describes.

Development of the 'Eightsome Reel'

Given the association with the Highland Games and Gatherings patronized by the aristocracy, a fusion between the ballroom quadrille and the traditional threesome reel seems natural. However, as the Fletts have shown, the evolution of the 'Eightsome Reel' took not a week but decades. (53) The many versions of the dance found in published sources between approximately 1886 and 1910 show that it did indeed catch on throughout the country, but that its distinctive symmetrical structure took some time to develop. The earlier versions are much closer to conventional quadrille structure. They do not incorporate the full 32 bars of the 'Reel of Eight', but they do repeat a section of this dance as a chorus figure, interspersed with setting, turning, and reels of three.

The earliest extant description of the dance occurs in the c. 1886 edition of David Anderson's Ball-Room Guide. Its ancestry is clearly indicated in its title, 'Scotch Reel Quadrille or Reel of Eight'. The dance appears in the 'Miscellaneous' category, but it is grouped not with reels but with single quadrilles, as opposed to sets of quadrilles. The description runs as follows:

 'Scotch Reel Quadrille or Reel of Eight'
 Reel Time
 Tune: 'Soldier's Joy', played a little slow
 Stand the same as for the Quadrille
 Eight hands half round and back to places.
 Ladies give right hands across in the centre, take hold of
 gentlemen's right hands with left, and go half round. Gentlemen then
 give left hands across in centre, still keeping hold of ladies' left
 hands with right, and back to places.
 Top lady set and turn top gent. (4 bars of music). Then set and turn
 bottom gent. (4 bars).
 Reel 3, with top and bottom gents. into places.
 Repeat from beginning, each lady in turn taking the leading part
 until all the ladies have finished.
 Then the gentlemen take the leading part, viz. eight hands half round
 and back to places.
 Gentlemen give left hands across in the centre, take hold of
 partners' left hands with the right and go half round. Ladies then
 give right hands across in the centre, still keeping hold of the
 gentlemen's right hands, and back to places.
 Top gent. set and turn top lady (4 bars). Then set and turn bottom
 lady (4 bars).
 Reel 3, with top and bottom ladies into places.
 Repeat from beginning, each gentleman in turn taking the leading part
 until all the gentlemen have finished.
 N.B. Sometimes Grand Chain is introduced in this Quadrille, the
 Setting and Reel Three being kept out, or it may be introduced
 additional. (54)

So, in this first version, a 16-bar opening sequence of circle and hands across is repeated before each dancer goes into the centre. The pattern changes a little before the men take their turn, as they give left hands to begin the hands across. In fact, the structure of this dance resembles that of the single quadrilles with which it appears ('La Russe', 'Waltz Cotillion Quadrille', 'Aladdin Quadrille', and 'New Scotia Quadrille'). In these dances the same pattern is repeated four times, with each couple, or each couple with opposite couple, taking turns to dance. In 'La Russe' (a dance that appears in almost every Scottish ballroom guide between 1860 and 1910) each couple in turn promenade and then poussette around the set while the others relax and admire them. This resemblance suggests that the 'Eightsome Reel' emerged from a broader repertoire of social dances.

The dance seems to have developed by accretion from this first version. Anderson's c. 1891 edition adds the instruction 'top lady in centre, seven hands half round, and back', and similar instructions for each dancer in turn. (55) This brings in the element of solo display familiar from earlier quadrilles and responsible for so much of the character of the 'Eightsome Reel'.

The dance is further lengthened in Anderson's c. 1894 edition, the first one to use the title 'Eightsome Reel'. (56) Here a 16-bar grand chain is substituted for the 8-bar 'eight hands half round and back to places'. Thus the overall length has grown from 8 x 32 (= 256) bars in 1886, to 8 x 40 (= 320) bars in 1891, to 8 x 48 (= 384) bars in 1894.

Anderson's c.1899 and c.1900 editions repeat the 1894 version, but also give 'another way' in small print. Here the opening reverts to eight hands round and back (shortening each repetition by 8 bars), but each solo dancer now sets and turns not only his or her partner and opposite man/woman but also the other two men/women, and also reels with them, adding 16 bars to each repetition. Thus the dance is now 8 x 56 (= 448) bars. (57)

Anderson's final version, published c. 1902, takes a significant step towards a distinctive structure. The dance now begins: 'Grand Chain full round to places. Finishing by setting 2 bars and turning 2 bars with partner.' Then follow the double hands across and the core of the dance as in c.1899 and c.1900, except that now the grand chain and hands across are not repeated each time. Both are repeated before the men begin their solos, and the chain alone is repeated at the end of the dance, creating what Hugh Thurston calls a 'double decker sandwich'. (58) In all Anderson's versions, however, each dancer has no more than one 8-bar passage of setting. The c. 1891 version survives in c.1902 as 'another way' in small print. (59)

Grahame Macncilage's How to Dance the Eightsome Reel, a thirty-two-page booklet published in Alloa in 1900, makes this two-part structure explicit. (60) Everything up to the end of the ladies' solos is labelled '1st part'; the repetition of the grand chain, hands across, and the men's solos all become '2nd part'; and then follows a brief conclusion: 'Last--All finish with Grand Chain, 16 bars.' Here, much more time is spent setting: each solo dancer sets to each dancer of the opposite sex for 4 bars before turning for 4 bars, and each dances in the centre not once but twice as the other seven circle round and back. Clearly the display of reel steps has become a key part of the dance. Macneilage was himself a gold-medal winner in Highland dancing, and a large section of his booklet is devoted to descriptions of 'Highland reel steps' suitable for use in the 'Eightsome Reel'. The overall length of Macncilage's 'Eightsome Reel' is 576 bars.

Meanwhile, in sources contemporary with Macneilage, the modern version of the 'Eightsome Reel' was emerging. Its balanced three-part structure is made explicit in J. Grahamsley Atkinson's Scottish National Dances of 1900, where the dance is divided into an 'Introduction', 'Reel of Eight Proper', and 'Coda'. (61) The figures of the 'Introduction' and 'Coda' are the same, consisting of eight hands round, double hands across, set and turn partner, and grand chain. So, for the first time, we see embedded in the 'Eightsome Reel' all the figures of that hardy perennial, the short 'Reel of Eight'. Atkinson actually refers to the full dance as 'the Reel of Eight, or, as it is sometimes called, the Eightsome'. (62) His instructions for the central portion or 'Reel of Eight Proper' match those in Macneilage, except that the solo dancers set to each dancer of the opposite sex for only 2 bars and turn for 2 bars. The total length of Atkinson's dance is shorter than Macneilage's, at 464 bars.

The 'Reel of Eight' and the 'Eightsome Reel' continued to lead separate lives in other manuals, however, especially those addressed to a popular market. As late as 1910, Mozart Allan's ballroom guide includes both in the section called 'Scotch Reels'. (63) The fact that the manuals by MacLeod (1897) and McEwen (c.1902), the Globe Guide (c.1900), and the edition of Allan's guide published c. 1890-1900, all carry the 'Reel of Eight' but not the 'Eightsome Reel' suggests that the 'Eightsome' did not become universally popular until the early twentieth century. (64)

Although the Fletts regard Atkinson's 'Eightsome Reel' as the earliest published description of the modern dance, it was probably pre-dated by two pamphlets, both associated with Highland balls. Both include several musical settings for the dance, all of which would be needed if the dance appeared several times on a ball programme. The (possibly) earlier of these, The Blair Atholl Eightsome Reels (Figure 3), was published by J. Marr, Wood, & Co., 183 Union Street, Aberdeen, who billed themselves as 'Piano Makers to H.M. The Queen and H.R.H. The Prince of Wales'. (65) According to records supplied by Aberdeen Public Library, the company operated from this address and used this form of their name between 1890 and 1900 (and the pamphlet cannot postdate 1901 when Queen Victoria died). It divides the dance into four parts, the ladies' and gentlemen's solos being seen as two separate parts, but the structure is essentially the same as in The Skye Eightsome pamphlet and Atkinson's Scottish National Dances. The pamphlet includes five alternative settings for violin and piano, arranged by Lady Helen Forbes (b.1844), sister-in-law of the 7th Duke of Atholl.

The second pamphlet is The Skye Eightsome itself, published by Logan and Co., and subtitled 'As played at the Skye Gatherings & Northern Meeting Balls by Logan's Band'. A copy carries the handwritten date 'Sept. 1901' (see Figure 2), but the script and the costumes shown in the illustration indicate a date between 1897 and 1900. (66) Some time after 1911, when the two companies merged, the pamphlet was reissued by Logan & J. Marr Wood Ltd. The dance description by George Lowe divides the dance into 'Introduction', 'Dance', and 'Introduction repeated', and four alternative piano settings are included.

Professional associations between the Lowes and the Atkinsons may explain why Atkinson published a version so similar to Lowe's. Two Grahamsley Atkinsons, father and son, ran dancing schools in Edinburgh, the son succeeding the father in 1895. (67) In 1871, Grahamsley Atkinson Senior announced that the Miss Lowe who had succeeded her father Joseph Lowe as teacher of dancing to the royal family had in turn selected his own daughter, Miss Atkinson, to succeed her. (68)

Once the dance had reached its three-part form, it stayed relatively stable. Versions closely similar to those in Atkinson, The Blair Atholl Eightsome Reels, and The Skye Eightsome appear in ballroom guides issued by Cosmo Mitchell (Aberdeen, c.1905), Robertson (Brechin, c. 1905). Scott Skinner (Dundee, 1905), Mackay (Stirling, 1910; reproduced from Skinner), Mackenzie (Glasgow, 1910), and Allan (Glasgow, c. l910). (69) Decades later the same dance appears in guides published by MacLennan (Edinburgh, 1950) and Newman-Sanders (London, 1952). (70)

The very popularity of the dance meant that minor variants arose. Atkinson advises his readers to 'be observant, and be prepared to join in any of the small changes you may meet'. (71) One variant he mentions occurs in the opening circle, which goes to the left only in Atkinson's own version and in Scott Skinner, but to the left and back to the right in all other sources. The length of the grand chain also varies: 8 bars in Lowe and Mitchell, but 16 bars in all other sources that specify phrasing. Because 16 bars is quite long for a grand chain of eight people but 8 bars uncomfortably short, further variants arose. One mentioned by Atkinson is that dancers may wheel with their partners when they meet in the chain, (72) while Macneilage suggests that dancers should balance for 2 bars when they meet their partners in the chain. (73) MacLennan suggests that both the grand chains should take 12 bars, allowing 4 bars for 1st lady to go into the centre and 4 bars to turn partners at the end of the dance. (74) Interestingly, the version of the 'Eightsome Reel' collected by Mats Melin in Strath Halladale, Sutherland, in the 1990s also interrupts the chain with setting to partners. (75)

Anderson (c. 1891), Lowe, Atkinson, and MacLennan all mention a conclusion to the 'Eightsome Reel' which seems to have been fairly common, especially at the end of a programme: the dancers divide into two sets of four and dance the 'Reel of Tulloch' and the 'Foursome Reel'. Kerr's Modern Dance Album for the Pianoforte contains this note to musicians: A Strathspey and Reel of Tulloch is often danced after the Eightsome Reel. If the dancers remain in position play a long chord then Strathspey three times and Reel of Tulloch eight times.' (76) According to the Fletts, this combination of the 'Eightsome' and 'Foursome' always occurred at Highland balls, and it would of course accentuate the 'national' character of the 'Eightsome Reel'. (77)

Technique: Steps and use of the arms

Those writers who specify a travelling step for the 'Eightsome Reel' (Lowe, Atkinson, and Mackenzie), call for the chasse or 'chassez'. Originating in the contredanse, by the late nineteenth century this step had become one of the two commonly used travelling steps for dances in fast time. (78) It consisted simply of step right, close left behind, step right, repeated with alternating feet, with a lilting movement as each foot comes through. For the circle, Atkinson specifies the 'chasse desuite' in which the movement is repeated with the same foot. (79) The smoothness of the chasse movement makes it easy to understand a comment made by one of Fairrie's informants about the style taught by Inverness teacher Mrs Alice Grant: '[T]he ladies were instructed to dance smoothly, with movement only from the waist downwards. The key to the eightsome was to glide from the shoulders, with one's necklace clinging to the neckline.' (80)

The solo dancers in the 'Eightsome Reel' are free to choose their own setting steps. Several writers describe possible steps: Macneilage gives eight 'Highland Reel Steps'; Atkinson gives four; MacLennan gives eight; and Mackenzie gives four steps suitable for women and four suitable for men. (81) Altogether these four writers describe sixteen different steps, with the same step sometimes appearing under different names. The pas de basque appears in three of the sources, as does the high cut (always designated as a man's step). Surprisingly, the pas de basque and balance step appears only in MacLennan, who designates it a ladies' step. However, a step that appears in all four sources is the 'double balance' or 'swinging step', which takes 2 bars (balance, balance, balance, swing). Two other steps presented by Mackenzie as suitable for men, but by MacLennan and Macneilage as suitable for both sexes, are the 'sidecut' (assemble, hop and extend, step behind, side, behind) and the 'triple spring sidecut' (assemble, change, change, step close). The steps were danced at high speed: Mackenzie recommends a metronome speed of 136 for reels, and Atkinson 126, in contrast to the 112 currently suggested by the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. (82) So one can understand Atkinson's comment on the 'Eightsome Reel': '[W]oe betide you if for one moment you lose your presence of mind.' (83)

Differing descriptions of the pas de basque illustrate the absence of standardization in the pre-First World War period. Macneilage, Mackenzie, and MacLennan all describe the same version of this common setting step, in which the dancer steps a little to the right on the right foot (beat 1), closes the left foot in front in 5th position (beat 2), and beats with the ball of the right foot behind (beat 3). (84) However, Atkinson (the only writer to call for the pas de basque in setting to one's partner and to the opposite man or woman) presents a version of the step in which the dancer closes the left foot behind the right on beat 2 and extends the left foot to the side on beat 3. (85)

Those writers who mention the method of turning one's partner or opposite dancer specify linked arms or 'swinging', except for Atkinson who calls for a 'wheel' with interlocked arms as in the 'Reel of Tulloch' in the 4-bar turns in the introduction, but turns with hands in the core section of the dance. (86) All the turns are clearly clockwise: Macneilage calls for a left-shoulder reel; Atkinson advises a left-shoulder reel, although he also writes 'either direction will do'; and Mackenzie's diagram shows a left-shoulder reel. (87)

Marketing of the 'Eightsome Reel'

The publishers marketing the dance appealed to the social ambitions of a largely middle-class clientele by stressing the aristocratic origins of the dance. In 1894, in one of the earlier published versions of the 'Eightsome Reel', David Anderson calls it 'Eightsome Reel. The Society Dance at the Northern Meeting Assemblies, Blair Athole, etc.' George Lowe's instructions for the dance carry the full title "The Skye Eightsome Reel as Danced at the Northern Meeting Balls and Skye Gatherings', and the music is given As played at "The Skye Gatherings" & "Northern Meeting Balls" by Logan's Band'. Donald Mackenzie sold his diagrams for the figures of the dance separately from his book as D. R. Mackenzie's Chart of the Eightsome Reel as Danced at the Royal Caledonian Ball, Hotel Metropole, London (Figure 4).

Atkinson also used his association with the royal family to promote sales, giving his credentials on his title page as 'Late Manager for Mr and Miss Atkinson, Teachers of Dancing to the Royal Family'. His reading of the dance places it in the context of courtship rituals and quadrilles, suggesting an element of competitiveness covered by a polite surface. In his 'Letter' devoted to the 'Eightsome Reel', he writes: 'The principle or idea running through the dance is as follows:- One dancer, going into the centre of the set, performs a pas seul, after which he or she devotes some attention to each of the other performers of the opposite sex.' (88)

Social ambition and fashion certainly played a part in the popularity of the dance. It was created by a wealthy elite and promoted by dancing masters who often taught in the houses of the gentry. However, publications like those of Atkinson, Macneilage, and Mackenzie are 'self-help' books for people prepared for a challenge. Atkinson wrote his book as a series of letters to an imaginary (male) reader, explaining in the Preface that he has chosen the epistolary form 'as the nearest approach to a personal method of instruction'. (89) An advertisement for Mackenzie's chart quotes an extract from the Stirling Journal: 'Mr. D. R. Mackenzie has published an Illustrated Chart describing most clearly all the different movements, so that anyone may easily learn it by simply following his instructions [...] As the dancing season is coming on, the opportunity of adding the ability to dance this most picturesque of step dances to one's accomplishments should not be missed.' (90) Dancing the 'Eightsome Reel', in a further quotation from the Stirling Observer, is described as a 'truly Highland pastime'.

Much of the appeal of the 'Eightsome Reel' probably lay in the relative freedom it gave for individual self-expression and the exhibition of dancing prowess. Macneilage, MacLennan, Mackenzie, and Atkinson all give detailed descriptions of reel steps, and encourage their readers (particularly men) to build their own repertoire so they may call on different steps at will. Atkinson writes: '[T]he chief charm of Reel dancing lies in the variety of detail introduced by the individual dancers.' (91) Whereas the setting in traditional reels was reciprocal, the setting steps in the 'Eightsome Reel' were placed in a new context of improvisation and display, and were overtly competitive, for the men at least. Of course, the steps demanded skill and much practice, and 'Eightsome Reel clubs' were formed for this purpose; on his title page Macneilage offers 'special terms to private Eightsome Reel clubs'. The 'Eightsome Reel' also featured prominently in the classes offered by Mackenzie. His advertisement in the Stirling Observer for 1 September 1909 reads, 'Scottish Eightsome Reel--Steps for Ladies, Steps for Gentlemen--Mr. D. R. Mackenzie gives expert instruction daily.' He also advertised classes, beginning 26 September 1910, including 'Eightsome Reel and Strathspey class 6-7 p.m.' and 'Step Class 7-7:30 p.m.'. (92) In addition, he was prepared to arrange classes for 'fashionable Eightsome Reel Clubs'. (93)

Another appealing element of the dance must have been in the opportunity it gave to wear Highland dress. Instead of the drab uniformity of white shirt, black jacket and vest, men could dress magnificently in the kilt and express sartorial nationalism at the same time. This was, of course, also the era of costume balls, where the conventions of dress were suspended, and, as Christina Bates writes, 'Men, particularly, could flaunt their sexuality in sartorial splendour.' (94) The gentlemen in Mackenzie's diagrams wear extravagantly formal Highland dress. Their kilts are weighed down with huge sporrans, and they wear starched collars, evening jackets, black ties, and plaids over their left shoulders. His women, on the other hand, wear no emblems of Scottish identity. They are in Edwardian evening dress: off-the-shoulder gowns with lacy flounced sleeves and trains below which their feet are barely visible. The men's kilts have a liberating effect on their dancing style; they hold arms aloft for setting and reeling, whereas the ladies have arms akimbo while setting and hold their skirts while travelling in the reel.

Music for the 'Eightsome Reel'

The music accompanying the 'Eightsome Reel' at the Highland balls reflected the hybrid nature of the dance. Traditional driving reels were played for the dance, but the 'tradition' of dancing it to the pipes developed over time. Fairrie writes, 'Since the earliest days of the Northern Meeting it has been the custom to have pipers to play for the Highland reels and foursome reels, and even occasionally for an eightsome. (95) However, the only detailed information he supplies concerns the highly successful band led by Mrs Logan, pianist, consisting of violins, flute, oboe, clarinet, cornet, trombone, double bass, and drum. (96) This band's spirited playing of the 'Eightsome Reel' led to calls for encores. (97)

The earliest published versions of the 'Eightsome Reel' (Anderson, c. 1886 and c. 1891) specify only one tune: 'Tune: "Soldier's Joy", played a little slow'. However, sets of tunes were compiled and published for the dance, beginning with the five alternative sets for violin and piano in The Blair Atholl Eightsome Reels and the four alternative sets for piano in The Skye Eightsome. These sets of tunes link the 'Eightsome Reel' with the quadrille, since they follow an established pattern of publishing sets of popular Scottish tunes for quadrilles, including the anonymous Scotch Quadrilles by Scotchmen and Joseph Lowe's Balmoral Castle Quadrilles. (98) So the assembly of traditional tunes in a fashionable publishing mode echoes the fusion of opposite elements in the 'Eightsome Reel' itself.

The publication of so many alternative sets is not surprising when one considers that up to the mid-twentieth century the 'Eightsome Reel' might appear several times on a dance programme. Certain tunes, however, are strongly associated with the dance. The Skye Eightsome uses "The Reel of Tulloch' as the finale tune in all its four settings. Mackenzie lists just three tunes, "The Deil amang the Tailors', 'The Fairy Dance', and 'The Wind that Shakes the Barley', and these also occur in the settings in Blair Atholl Eightsome Reels, Skye Eightsome, Paterson's Eightsome Reel (1909), Cosmo Mitchell's Eightsome Reel (1912), Allan's Ballroom Companion (c.1930), and Kerr's Modern Dance Album (c.1930), except that "The Wind that Shakes the Barley' is absent from Mitchell. (99) Another tune that occurs not in Mackenzie but in all the others is 'Mrs McLeod'.

In some of these published sets the same tune is used for the introduction and conclusion of the dance, emphasizing its symmetry (Paterson and Allan use 'The Fairy Dance' in this way). The number of tunes in each set varies from four in The Skye Eightsome to eight in Paterson and Kerr. So often the tune would change as each new solo dancer went into the middle, helping to build excitement. One of Fairrie's informants on the Northern Meeting balls of the early 1930s writes, T remember the sort of surge and crescendo as the first man went into the middle, especially to "Rachel Rae".' (100)

The earliest of these published settings, Lady Helen Forbes's arrangements for The Blair Atholl Eightsome Reels, stands out from the others in two ways. Forbes provides separate settings for violin and piano, rather than piano alone. Also, while she includes many driving reels, she combines them with several Scots measures such as 'Corn Rigs', 'Miss Forbes' Farewell to Banff, and 'There Was a Lad Was Born in Kyle'. This last tune is even used as the opening and closing tune for one of the settings (Figure 5); despite its Burns associations, it seems a much less exciting opening than one of the driving reels. Possibly it is significant that twenty-nine of the thirty-five tunes included in Forbes's settings also appear in The Athole Collection of 1884. (101)

As the 'Eightsome Reel' began to be danced as a ceremonial rather than a purely social dance, the pipes were used to accompany it more and more. The Royal Caledonian Ball in London opened with prearranged sets of 'Eightsome Reels' danced by members of Highland regiments and leading Scottish families to the pipes first of the Atholl Highlanders and later of the Royal Scots Guards. The report of the 1939 ball reads: 'The stirring music of the pipe band of the Atholl Highlanders, under Pipe-Major P. Wilkie, heralded the procession of the dancers in the set reels, led by the Earl of Dunmore with the Duchess of Atholl, followed by Colonel Sir Colin MacRae and the Countess of Dunmore, the [8th] Duke of Atholl following alone.' (102) At the 1914 celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the 7th Duke of Atholl's accession, the 'Eightsome Reel' was featured amid a theatrical scene of fireworks and 'wild cheering' outside Blair Castle: 'Into this scene burst eight kilted stalwarts of the Atholl Highlanders, and to the strains of the pipes the Eightsome Reel was danced as it should be danced, in its own true Highland setting, and by its proper exponents.' (103) Thus a modern dance took on an aura of ancient pageantry.

The 'Eightsome Reel' as a national dance

From the early 1800s, the term 'national dance', used in a derogatory sense, was applied to the Scottish reel by dancing masters who saw themselves as guardians of decorum. In his chapter on the etiquette of the ballroom, Thomas Wilson writes: 'Snapping the fingers, in Country Dancing and Reels, and the sudden howl or yell * too frequently practised, ought particularly to be avoided, as partaking too much of the customs of barbarous nations [...] and by no means suited to the Ball Room.' (104) Wilson leaves his readers in no doubt about what he considered the prime example of a barbarous nation when to the word 'yell' he appends the footnote, 'Introduced to some Scotch parties as purely national with them'. Such comments stem from the popular image of the Scots as a primitive nation whose dancing expressed their untamed, irrational nature. Specifically, dancers in a reel were alleged to behave as if they had been bitten by a tarantula. (105) As late as 1879, a manual published in Aberdeen reproduced a description of the reel resembling an observation of an alien, barbaric tribe: 'The patrons of this truly national dance are so indefatigable that they get quite intoxicated, and throw their arms and feet in the air, and screech out with enthusiasm.' (106)

However, the concept of the 'national dance' that developed among several late nineteenth-century writers was based on a much broader set of social values, and reflected a romantic nationalism in which the traditional culture of the Highlands became the basis for a national identity. The later nineteenth century also saw the use of the term 'national music' applied to the revival of the traditional music of the Highlands. In 1881, the Edinburgh Highland Reel and Strathspey Society was formed, giving concerts that evoked patriotic fervour from audiences dressed in tartan. The Society's Annual Report for 1913 states: 'Our Society has undoubtedly led the way in this patriotic work of reviving and upholding and creating a love for the National Music of Scotland.' (107) As in the case of the 'national music', the 'national dances' or reels were perceived as predominantly Highland, even though they were published in the Lowlands and Lowland dancing masters had played a significant part in developing and codifying them.

As described above, the 'Eightsome Reel' began as a single quadrille with solo passages but evolved into a series of threesome reels within a quadrille frame. So it was quickly included in the canon of Scottish 'national dances', in the company of the genuinely traditional reels. Before the 'Eightsome' was twenty years old it was published in Atkinson's Scottish National Dances: A Practical Handbook along with the 'Foursome Reel', the 'Reel of Three', and an earlier nineteenth-century creation, the 'Reel of Tulloch'. In 1910, Donald R. Mackenzie published his Illustrated Guide to the National Dances of Scotland, listing on the title page 'The Classic Foursome Scots Reel, The Eightsome Reel, Highland Fling, Sword Dance, Strathspey, etc.'. His title for the 'Eightsome Reel' is 'Caledonian Eightsome Reel', with all its overtones of ancient dignity and 'Caledonia stern and wild'. Finally, in 1950, D. G. MacLennan published 'The Eightsome Reel' in his Highland and Traditional Scottish Dances together with Highland and Hebridean solo dances, traditional reels, and ritual dances.

Implied in the canon of 'national dances' created by these writers is the idea that the dances symbolize the character of the Scottish people. For Atkinson, this is more important than their antiquity, for he writes: 'Whatever be the origin or age of these dances, they are now the Scottish National Dances, and are woven into the nature of the people. '(108) The dances are perceived as carrying the moral and cultural values that make up the Scottish identity. Two key aspects of this constructed identity are the 'myths' of manly vigour and of social inclusiveness.

Scotland in this period was increasingly an urban and industrial nation, but, as Murray Pittock writes, 'Emphasis was repeatedly put on the "strong", "hardy", "sturdy", and "robust" qualities of Scots, indicative of a sort of pre-industrial valour.' (109) These qualities were put on display at Highland Games and were exemplified by William Wallace, hero of the nineteenth-century Scots. Writers who idealize the 'national dances' read qualities of strength and vigour (both mental and physical) into them. Atkinson even extends this to the political realm in his vision of the self-reliant individual within a stable society:

 All who know Scottish National Dances will admit they bear the
 impress, or are the exponents of a manly, vigorous and healthy people
 --sound and healthy both in body and in mind. There is neither
 voluptuousness nor langour about them. They typify activity,
 alertness, presence of mind, fertility of resource, independence,
 attention to minutiae, the concession of rights and privileges to
 others while maintaining those of the individual. (110)

Here, Atkinson is careful to reconcile rugged individualism with conservative politics. The Scots may be independent of mind, but they are emphatically not rebellious. Individualism is combined with social responsibility, just as the solo dancers in the reels are free to express themselves, yet also experience their interdependence in the communal dance. In a similar way, as Pittock and Devine both show, Wallace was revered for his patriotic struggle against oppression, but his struggle was seen as leading not to an independent Scotland but to equal partnership in the Union. (111)

Of course, Atkinson's statements prescribe a certain style for the national dances. While dancers of both sexes may perform reels, they are to be danced in a manner that is essentially masculine. Scott Skinner's description suggests that dancing reels is a ritual of patriotism and a way to perpetuate the past:

 Some things have been introduced into the Reel which tend to impair
 its true Scottish character. There should be no 'schottisching' in
 the genuine Highland Reel. Dance the steps in manly fashion, as of
 yore. Further, walking--instead of 1, 2, 3, hop--is to be
 condemned. It is a common practice for couples instead of dancing to
 each other for eight bars to do this for four bars and swing during
 the next four. We should, however, adhere to the original way of
 dancing the Reel. Professor Blackie has well said--'To hand down the
 work of the past to the men of the future in all its fulness is a
 sacred duty.' We must not break with the past and mutilate our
 glorious National Dances. There is a danger now of over-refinement.
 Let us keep the native vigour of the Reel, with the crack of the
 thumbs, and even the 'hooch' [exultant cry], if these accompaniments
 are not made too obtrusive. (112)

An equally powerful idea in the late nineteenth-century construction of Scottish identity was that of social inclusiveness, of laird and cottar dancing together without distinction of class. This idea certainly had a basis in reality. Elizabeth Grant describes the balls given early in the century by the Duchess of Gordon as 'perpetual dances, either in the drawing room or the servants' hall [...] fiddles and whisky punch were always at hand, and then gentles and simples reeled away in company till the ladies thought the scene more boisterous than they liked remaining in'. (113) The idealized memory of all classes dancing together also seems like a nostalgic version of the old patriarchal clan structure, perhaps even a fiction in the face of the people's sense of betrayal by their traditional leaders, in an era when many clan chiefs had been driven into bankruptcy. So Scott Skinner introduces reels (including the 'Eightsome Reel') in these terms: 'Reels have always been regarded as the peculiar property of the Scottish people, whose original spirit and temperament they very faithfully reflect. In them we can trace the hearty social feeling that prevailed long ago, when upon occasion laird and cottar, threading their merry mazes, would "rub shoulders" and answer each other's "hoochs".' (114) The gillies' and tenants' balls of the late Victorian and Edwardian periods may be seen as deliberate, and often highly successful, attempts to recreate this 'hearty social feeling'.

The newly created 'Eightsome Reel' exemplifies both these sets of ideas so well that it is easy to understand its rise to popularity. It begins and ends as a communal social dance, with the social frame providing a context for the vigorous setting, turning, and reeling, and the display of individual dancing prowess.

A broader patriotism

One way in which the past could be both perpetuated and transformed was in the harnessing of the martial valour of the clans in the service of the British Empire. In the century following Culloden, the success of Highland regiments in many pivotal battles created the image of the brave, steadfast Highland soldier as a focus for national pride and a symbol not only of Scottish but of British patriotism. As Devine writes, "The '45 was recognized as a heroic failure but also depicted as a glorious feat of arms which epitomized the essential Scottish qualities of courage, loyalty, trust, and fidelity which were now so vital to the achievement of the imperial mission.' (115)

The iconography of the Highland soldier has a special association with the 'Eightsome Reel', as illustrated by the Blair Atholl Eightsome Reels pamphlet. It is dedicated to the Atholl Highlanders, private regiment of the Duke of Atholl, and in addition to the clan motto and crest the cover depicts two stalwart soldiers in the splendour of full Highland military dress, one carrying a flag and the other a bayonet (see Figure 3). The pamphlet was, as mentioned above, published by a firm holding an appointment to Queen Victoria. The 'wild Scot' clearly stands ready to serve Queen and Empire, just as the reel is no longer perceived as barbaric but as safely contained within the structure and discipline of the ballroom. Small wonder, then, that vigorous dancing of the 'Eightsome Reel' became part of the training ritual of Scottish regiments in the twentieth century.

In fact, the Blair Atholl example carries special poignancy. While the chief of clan Murray remained loyal to the British crown in 1745, three of his sons fought on the Jacobite side, most notably Lord George Murray who was Charles's chief general. Exactly one hundred years later, Queen Victoria granted her royal colours to the clan regiment, which had stood guard during her visit to Blair Castle in 1844. The citation conveniently rewrote history, running in part: 'I am sure you must feel that no greater honour could be paid you. I am sure the same loyalty which caused the Atholemen to rally round the banner of their sovereign in the last '45 will induce you to preserve these colours with untarnished honour, and hand them down unsullied to posterity.' (116)

As late as 1950, D. G. MacLennan--whose dating for the 'Eightsome Reel' has to be considered unreliable--created a kind of apostolic succession for the dance running back to Sir Walter Scott and George IV, again connecting the dance with an unbroken tradition of loyalty to the British crown:

 To conclude this section, mention must be made of the very popular
 Eightsome Reel, which really belongs to fairly modern times. It was
 arranged by the father of the late Duke of Atholl and Lord Dunmore
 (both gentlemen reputedly skilful dancers), and founded on a former
 Caledonian Reel, which was so much admired by King George IV when he
 attended the Grand Ball at Edinburgh in 1822, Sir Walter Scott being
 chief organizer. About 1886 the Eightsome Reel was first done at the
 Royal Caledonian Ball in London; earlier at private Balls in
 Scotland. (117)

In Lord James Stewart Murray's account of these events (quoted above) the 'Eightsome Reel' is said to have been founded on 'recollections of "Round Reels'". Here, MacLennan creates a more explicit pedigree for the dance. The 'Caledonian Reel' of this passage is probably the 'Reel of Eight', although in fact no detailed records exist of the reels danced for George IV. Scottish national pride is again perceived to be synonymous with patriotic devotion to the British crown.

At the Royal Caledonian Balls in London the dancing of the 'Eightsome Reel' provided an opportunity for the display of the Scottish aristocracy in its tartan splendour. The report for the ball of 6 July 1908 runs: 'The Royal Caledonian Ball took place last night at the Hotel Cecil, where a large company assembled in the Grand and Victoria halls. The scene was most brilliant, for all the men were in Highland dress or uniform, or wore coloured facings to their dress coats [...] Every inch of space was covered in the Grand Hall, where the Eightsome Reels were danced, the gallery was crowded with spectators, and all the little boxes were occupied.' (118) The names of the aristocrats and Highland military officers who danced in the nine ceremonial 'Eightsome Reels' are then listed.

This display of tartan and ancient lineage was an essential element of the Caledonian Balls. The announcement of the 1920 ball specifies that gentlemen 'cannot be admitted to the ball in plain evening dress, but are requested to wear full uniform, Highland, Court, or hunting dress'. (119) Interestingly, military uniform fulfils the same decorative and symbolic function as the kilt. Ladies 'taking part in the sets must wear white dresses and the tartan sashes of their clan'. The cover of The Skye Eightsome suggests that kilts were less common there prior to 1900, but reports of the Skye, Oban, and Northern Meeting balls in the 1920s and 1930s allude to ubiquitous tartan. (120)

Royal patronage underlined the British patriotism made visible in these balls; in Pittock's words, 'The tartan of civil threat [had become] the tartan of civil triumph.' (121) On 25 September 1924, the Duke and Duchess of York 'were cheered by a large crowd when they arrived from Glamis Castle' to attend the Forfar County Ball, where 'The [ir] party made up a set for an eightsome reel, and spent over an hour at the ball'. (122) Thus the ruling classes put themselves on picturesque display. Such occasions may be compared to the ritualized, theatrical public occasions of which David Cannadine writes in Class in Britain. (123) In Cannadine's view, such ceremony, which he calls 'ornamentalism, was also used to create a sense of unity in the British Empire: '[O]rnamentalism was hierarchy made visible, immanent and actual [...] chivalry and ceremony, monarchy and majesty, were the means by which this vast world was brought together, interconnected, unified and sacralized.' (124)

The 'Eightsome Reel' figured in at least one such occasion: an 'Imperial Jamboree' of twelve thousand Boy Scouts held at Wembley Paddocks in 1924, attended by the Prince of Wales and Lord Baden-Powell. (125) It was a dramatic scene, a night gathering around the symbolic camp fire. The Prince wore a vestment of Empire: his scout uniform 'was covered by a campfire robe of soft camel's hair and decorated with the head and claws of a tiger embroidered in silk'. Scouts from many parts of the Empire performed. Then followed the climax:

 The programme had been exhausted, but yet something was expected to
 happen. It was too dark to distinguish many faces, but the kilts were
 seen to be moving. There were preparations for an eightsome reel.
 Several sets entered the ring, and four pipers and two drummers
 provided the music. The Scots were enthusiastic. In the darkness it
 was difficult to discern the dancers, but the news quickly spread
 that the Prince of Wales had joined the Aberdeen Scouts in the reel.
 His Royal Highness had discarded his robe and hat, and, to the
 delight of the boys, he took part in the dance until the end. When
 the music of the pipes ceased and he returned to the platform, the
 Scouts cheered with all the enthusiasm of youth.

Another event, in which local tradition, heavily coloured by nostalgia, was transmuted into imperial pride, was the Peebles Beltane and March Riding Festival, held regularly in the 1930s, at which romanticized re-enactment of medieval history was accompanied by rousing patriotic speeches. The speeches and ceremonials were always followed by the dancing of the 'Eightsome Reel' on the streets. (126) So an ancient pedigree was implied for the dance, whether or not it existed in fact.

From its origin as a dance of the upper classes, then, the 'Eightsome Reel' took on a public ceremonial role associated with British rather than specifically Scottish patriotism. It was associated with royal visits: when the Duke of Gloucester came to Scotland in 1937, the 'Eightsome' opened the ball celebrating the occasion. (127) Such events were carefully staged, but they seem to have been successful in establishing the 'Eightsome' in the public mind as a dance of national celebration. In 1911, Aberdeen students celebrating the election of Andrew Carnegie as Rector of their university danced an 'Eightsome' by torchlight. (128) In 1919, the 'Eightsome' was danced around the bonfires celebrating the end of the First World War in Edinburgh. (129) Again in 1945, it was prominent in impromptu dancing on Princes Street. (130) The climbers who greeted the New Year in 1939 by dancing the 'Eightsome' on frozen snow beneath Ben Nevis were typical of Scots of their generation. (131)

More recent fictional images of the 'Eightsome Reel'

Over its century and more of life, the 'Eightsome Reel' has probably been danced in every village hall and castle in Scotland. If the dance itself is a combination of opposites, the elegance of the quadrille fused with the energy and passion of the reel, so is its reputation in post-war British culture. On the one hand, it has been perceived as a celebration of Scottishness and the passion popularly associated with the Celtic race. On the other, it has been seen as an intricate and highly rule-bound ritual, baffling to outsiders, and belonging to a social elite. Both these views of the dance may be illustrated by memorable scenes of the 'Eightsome Reel' on film.

In Whisky Galore! (1949), the 'Eightsome Reel' is a vibrant expression of the Scottish spirit, second only to the 'water of life' itself. (132) The seven thousand cases of whisky rescued from the shipwreck of the SS Politician magically restore a community that has been suffering for want of a 'wee dram'. But the full restoration of life and energy occurs in a pub scene in which the townspeople throw themselves into the

'Eightsome'. Through the dance, the film celebrates their triumph over the forces of law and order, embodied in the pompous English Home Guard commander.

A similar conflict between Scottish energy and English inhibition is dramatized in the scenes of dancing in Tunes of Glory (1960), which pits the tempestuous whisky-drinking Major Jock Sinclair (Alec Guinness) against his new commanding officer, Colonel Basil Barrow, who prefers lemonade. (133) Sinclair is passionately attached to his regiment and its traditions, especially piping and dancing, encouraging his men to dance with tremendous verve but no discipline at all. Barrow, the Englishman, tries to reform the regiment by having the men turn out at dawn and dance the 'Eightsome Reel' according to the book. Soft-soled plimsolls are to be worn, and there shall be no shouting, no swinging, and no arms above the head. Under Barrow's direction, the dance is a lifeless travesty of itself, preparing us for a later scene in which the heuching and birling (fast spinning turns) break loose again.

In the romantic comedy Indiscreet (1958), the 'Eightsome Reel' connotes upper-class exclusiveness. (134) It is danced in the Painted Hall of the Royal Naval College, London, and occurs just after the heroine (Ingrid Bergman) has recognized the American hero (Cary Grant) for the poseur he is. He has been making love to her under the pretext of being an unhappily married man, when in fact he is not married at all. This 'Eightsome' is rich with dramatic irony. He is fatuously happy, while she is seething. He capers, he smirks, he trips up his partner, he goes the wrong way in the grand chain, he has to be pushed. This dance of society is too much for him, eager as he is to learn it.

In the postmodern world, a cultural icon like the 'Eightsome Reel' asks to be parodied, as it is in Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994). (135) At Carrie's high-society wedding, every bit of kitsch Scottish culture is in sight: the castle, the bagpipes, the kilts, the outsized cairngorm breeches, the sashes. The outrageous Gareth, overdressed for the occasion, throws himself into the dancing with frenetic energy. This 'Eightsome' is pure artifice, its garishness exposed by the unadorned truth of the funeral scene that follows. Romantic Scottish nationalism has lost its charm.

In the earlier twentieth century, however, the 'Eightsome Reel' had become redolent of a proud national past associated with a proud imperial present. According to Eric Hobsbawm, a common function of 'invented traditions' is 'establishing or symbolizing social cohesion or the membership of groups, real or artificial communities'. (136) While the 'hearty social feeling' and social inclusiveness described by Scott Skinner belong largely to the realm of nostalgic memory, the 'Eightsome Reel' began its life as a ritualized expression of an actual community, based on exclusive membership of the upper class. Ironically, the aristocratic cachet of the dance probably helped it become an expression of Scottish identity.

The peculiarity of 'invented traditions', Hobsbawm writes, is that 'insofar as there is [...] reference to a historic past, the continuity with it is largely factitious'. (137) The pedigree created by D. G. MacLennan, referring to 'a former Caledonian Reel', is indeed imaginary. Yet, as has been shown, the 'Reel of Eight' which provided the framework for the 'Eightsome Reel' was also an early nineteenth-century dance, albeit one based on an imported dance form. Like Donald Mackenzie with his 'Caledonian Eightsome Reel', MacLennan gave romantic overtones to the 'Eightsome Reel'. Yet his personal history is a reminder of the importance that hereditary succession held in genuine Highland culture. MacLennan was descended from a line of Ross-shire pipers. (138) His older brother William was an outstanding piper and dancer, who died at the age of thirty-two while touring Canada. D. G. MacLennan continued the family tradition through the dancing academy he ran from 1896 until 1949 and the book of Highland and Traditional Scottish Dances he published in 1950, when he must have been well over eighty. (139) As his 'Tribute' to his brother William included in the book implies, the younger and less talented brother felt that the baton had been passed on to him. (140) Like MacLennan's life, the 'Eightsome Reel' itself has become a 'lived tradition'.


Thanks to the staff of the following institutions for their help and support: the National Library of Scotland; the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society; the A. K. Bell Library, Perth; the Dundee Central Library; and the Mitchell Library, Glasgow. Thanks also to Catherine Taylor at the Aberdeen Public Library for supplying information about Aberdeen music publishers, and to Edwina Burridge at the Inverness Reference Library for information about the music publishers Logan and Marr. Costume historian Ivan Sayers of Vancouver kindly gave his expert opinion on the dating of the Skye Eightsome. Bill and Atsuko Clement sent helpful information about The Blair Atholl Eightsome Reels.

Special thanks to Alastair MacFadyen and Mats Melin for helpful comments on an early draft of this article.

A partial summary of this article appeared in the Scottish Country Dancer [magazine of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society], 3 (Autumn 2006), 14-15.


(1) J. F. and T. M. Flett, Traditional Dancing in Scotland (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1964), chs 1 and 2 passim.

(2) J. F. and T. M. Flett, 'David Anderson of Dundee and his Ballroom Guides: III', The Thistle [newsletter of the West Point Grey Scottish Country Dance Club, Vancouver], 31 (1967), [3-5] (p. [3]). This article was subsequently published in The Reel [newsletter of the London Branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society], 97 (1967), 3.

(3) J. F. and T. M. Flett, 'The History of the Scottish Reel as a Dance-Form', Scottish Studies 16 (1972), 91-119 (pp. 98-100).

(4) Francis Peacock, Sketches Relative to the History and Theory, but More Especially to the Practice of Dancing (Aberdeen: Chalmers, 1805), p. 86<> [accessed 10 February 2009]; James Boswell, The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (London: Penguin, 1984 [1786]), p. 255.

(5) Thomas Wilson, The Danciad; or, Dancer's Monitor (London, 1824), p. 200 <> [accessed 2 December 2008].

(6) Elizabeth Grant, Memoirs of a Highland Lady, 2 vols (Edinburgh: Canongate, 1988 [1898]), II, 47.

(7) Peacock, p. 83.

(8) Thomas Wilson, The Complete System of English Country Dancing (London, [c. 1815]), p. 139 <> [accessed 2 December 2008].

(9) Peacock, p. 87.

(10) Barclay Dun, A Translation of Nine of the Most Fashionable Quadrilles, Consisting of Fifty French Country Dances, as Performed in England and Scotland [...] to Which Are Prefixed, a Few Observations on the Style, &c. of the Quadrille, the English Country Dance, and the Scotch Reel (Edinburgh, 1818), p. 26 <> [accessed 2 December 2008].

(11) Capt. Gronow, Reminiscences and Recollections (1810-1860), cited in Philip J. S. Richardson, The Social Dances of the Nineteenth Century in England(London: Herbert Jenkins, 1960), p. 64.

(12) Perth, A. K. Bell Library, MS, 'A List of Country Dances According to Mr. William Seymour from Kilbride, Which He Teached at Blantyre Farm' (1805).

(13) The Companion to the Reticule ([Edinburgh?], [c. 1830]), p. 1.

(14) Privately owned MS, 'Frederick Hill's Book of Quadrilles & Country Dances &c. &c, March 22nd, 1841', p. 12.

(15) Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, MS 3860, 'Contre-danses a Paris, 1818', p. 29.

(16) 'Contre-danses a Paris', p. 31.

(17) Allan's Reference Guide to the Ball-Room (Glasgow: Mozart Allan, [c. l910]), p. 74.

(18) Privately owned MS, Kate Hughes, 'Dancing Book' (Dundalk, 1867 and ff.) <> [accessed 19 November 2008]; The Globe Guide to the Art of Dancing (Glasgow: Globe, [c. 1900]),p. 36; J. B. McEwen, The Ball Room Exponent and Guide to Fashionable Dancing (Glasgow: [c.1902]), p. 41.

(19) R. and J. Lowe, The Ball-Conductor, Containing Directions for the Performance of (Quadrilles [...] Country Dances, Reels, etc., 2nd edn (Glasgow: J. Lumsden, 1822), p. 28; W. Smyth, A Pocket Companion for Young Ladies and Gentlemen, 2nd edn (Edinburgh: J. Glass, 1830), p. 42; [J. Smyth], Ball-Room Guide, or, Drawing-Room Companion, Containing All the Most Fashionable Dances as Practised at Mr. John Smyth's Juvenile Assemblies (Edinburgh, [c. 1850]), p. 8; W F. Gillies, Manual of Dancing: or, A Companion to the Ball-Room (Glasgow. Mackill, [c. 1881]), p. 63.

(20) J. P. Boulogne, The Ball-Room, or, The Juvenile Pupil's Assistant (Glasgow: Edward Khull, 1827), p. 41.

(21) De La Cuisse, Le Repertoire des bals, ou, theorie-pratique des contredanses (Paris: Cailleau, 1762), pp. 19, 22.

(22) Giovanni-Andrea Gallini, Critical Observations on the Art of Dancing, to Which Is Added a Collection of Cotillons or French Dances (London, 1770), cotillon section.

(23) For example, James Fisher, 32 New Minuetts, Cotillions, Allemands and Hornpipes for the Year 1785 (London, 1785); Campbell's Fourth Collection of the Newest and Most Favourite Country Dances and Cotillions (London, [c. 1790]); and Gherardi, A Third Book of French Country Dances or Cotillions Entirely New (London, [c. 1790]).

(24) Thomas Wilson, The Quadrille and Cotillion Panorama, 2nd edn (London: R. & E. Williamson, 1822), p. 4 <> [accessed 2 December 2008].

(25) R. and J. Lowe, p. 27.

(26) 'Frederick Hill's Book', p. 24.

(27) A New Most Excellent Dancing Master: The Journal of Joseph Lowe's Visits to Balmoral and Windsor (1852-1860) to Teach Dance to the Family of Queen Victoria, ed. by Allan Thomas (New York: Pendragon, 1992), pp. 128-29.

(28) A New Most Excellent Dancing Master, pp. 27-29.

(29) Ellis A. Rogers, The Quadrille (Orpington: Rogers, 2003), p. 21.

(30) John Prebble, The King's Jaunt: George IV in Scotland, August 1822 (London: Collins, 1988), p. 306.

(31) G. M. S. Chivers, The Original Caledonians: An Admired Highland Set of Quadrilles Arranged for the Piano Forte or Harp (London, 1823).

(32) Cited in Rogers, pp. 169-70.

(33) Gillies, pp. 25-27.

(34) 'The Caledonian Ball', The Times, 20 June 1882, p. 5; 'The Royal Caledonian Ball', The Scotsman, 25 June 1890, p. 8.

(35) Roger Hutchinson, 'History of the Skye Games', in The Isle of Skye Highland Games <> [accessed 16 November 2008].

(36) Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, The Scottish Country Dance Book 2 (Edinburgh: RSCDS, [c. 1924]), p. 28.

(37) Burke's Peerage <> [accessed 20 February 2009].

(38) 'Scots Country Dances: Their Growing Popularity', The Scotsman, 5 November 1945, p. 3.

(39) James Scott Skinner, The People's Ball Room Guide (Dundee: People's Journal, 1905), p. 18 <> [accessed 28 October 2009].

(40) Angus Fairrie, The Northern Meeting 1788-1988 (Edinburgh: Pentland, 1988), pp. 147-48.

(41) An t'Eileanach [pseudonym], The Skye Gathering, Portree, 1890 [poem] (Inverness: Northern Chronicle, [1890]), p. 14.

(42) [Advertisement], The Scotsman, 11 October 1902, p. 7.

(43) Fairrie, p. 148.

(44) Fairrie, p. 133.

(45) The Skye Eightsome: Selected and Arranged for the Pianoforte, with the Correct Instructions for Dancing by George Lowe (Inverness: Logan & Company, [c. 1898]).

(46) [Advertisements], The Scotsman, 4 November 1859, p. 1; 23 September 1863, p. 4.

(47) Fairrie, p. 133.

(48) [Advertisement], The Scotsman, 11 October 1907, p. 1.

(49) [Advertisement], The Scotsman, 11 October 1902, p. 15.

(50) For example: reports of Northern Meeting in The Scotsman, 24 September 1887, p. 5; 21 September 1888, p. 3; 23 September 1904, p. 4; and of the Breadalbane Gathering, The Scotsman, 19 August 1904, p. 7.

(51) J. F. and T. M. Flett, 'David Anderson of Dundee and his Ballroom Guides: I', The Thistle, 29 (1966), [3-5] (p. [3]); subsequently published in The Reel, 93 (1966), 2.

(52) D. Anderson's Ball-Room Guide, rev. edn (Dundee, [c. 1891]), p. i.

(53) Flett, 'David Anderson: III'.

(54) D. Anderson's Ball-Room Guide, new, enlarged, and complete edn (Dundee: [c. 1886]), cited in Flett, 'David Anderson: III' (The Thistle, p. [3]).

(55) D. Anderson's Ball-Room Guide ([c. 1891]), p. 82.

(56) D. Anderson's Ball-Room Guide, rev. edn (Dundee, [c. 1894]), cited in Flett, 'David Anderson: III', (The Thistle, p. [4]).

(57) David Anderson, The Universal Ball-Room and Solo-Dance Guide (Dundee: [c. 1899]), cited in Flett, 'David Anderson: III', (The Thistle, p. [4]).

(58) Hugh Thurston, 'Our Dances No. 73: The Eightsome Reel', The Thistle, 52 (1972), [4].

(59) David Anderson, The Universal Ball-Room and Solo-Dance Guide, rev. edn (Dundee: [c. 1902]), p. 82.

(60) Grahame Macneilage, How to Dance the Eightsome Reel, Scotch Reel, Reel of Tulloch, Strathspey and Reel Steps (Alloa, [1900]), pp. 12-14.

(61) J. Grahamsley Atkinson, Jun., Scottish National Dances: A Practical Handbook with Illustrative Diagrams (Edinburgh, 1900), pp. 48-49.

(62) Atkinson, p. 44.

(63) Allan's Reference Guide to the Ball-Room ([c. 1910]), pp. 73-80.

(64) John N. Macleod, Pocket Companion to the Ball-Room (Kirkcaldy, 1897), p. 64; McEwen, p. 41; Globe Guide to the Art of Dancing, p. 37; Allan's Reference Guide to the Ball-Room (Glasgow: Mozart Allan, [1890-1900]), p. 75.

(65) The Blair Atholl Eightsome Reels (Aberdeen: J. Marr, Wood, [c. 1890-1900]),

(66) Ivan Sayers (costume historian), personal communication, 4 February 2009.

(67) [Advertisement], The Scotsman, 16 September 1895, p. 12.

(68) [Advertisement], The Scotsman, 16 December 1871, p. 5.

(69) A. Cosmo Mitchell, A Guide to Ball Room Dancing (Aberdeen: Mitchell, [c. 1905]), pp. 62-64; William Robertson, The Pupil's Aid to Memory and Guide to the Ball-Room Dances (Brechin, [c. 1905]), pp. 11-12; Score Skinner, pp. 18-19; Mackay's Ballroom Guide (Stirling: Mackay, 1910), pp. 71-72; Donald R. Mackenzie, Illustrated Guide to the National Dances of Scotland (Glasgow: Maclaren, 1910), pp. 47--56; Allan's Reference Guide to the Ball-Room (Glasgow: Mozart Allan, [c. l910]),p. 74.

(70) D. G. MacLennan, Highland and Traditional Scottish Dances ([Edinburgh: MacLennan, 1950]), p. 40; C. W. Newman-Sanders, Scottish Dancing: How to Do the Eightsome Reel and Other Scottish Country Dances (London: Isaac Pitman, 1952), pp. 34-41.

(71) Atkinson, p. 55.

(72) Atkinson, p. 55.

(73) Macneilage, p. 12.

(74) MacLennan, p. 40.

(75) Mats Melin, A Sutherland Dance (Inverness: Highland Council, 1997), pp. 14-15.

(76) Kerr's Modern Dance Album for the Pianoforte (Glasgow: Kerr, [c. 1930]), p. 3.

(77) Flett, Traditional Dancing, p. 271.

(78) Flett, Traditional Dancing, p. 104.

(79) Atkinson, p. 48.

(80) Fairrie, p. 152.

(81) Macneilage, pp. 28-32; Atkinson, pp. 69-72; MacLennan, pp. 37-38; Mackenzie, pp. 25-32.

(82) Mackenzie, pp. 25, 29; Atkinson, p. 15; Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, The Manual of Scottish Country Dancing, rev. edn (Edinburgh: RSCDS, 2005), p. 27.

(83) Atkinson, p. 47.

(84) Macneilage, p. 28; Mackenzie, p. 28; MacLennan, p. 37.

(85) Atkinson, p. 46.

(86) Atkinson, p. 48.

(87) Macneilage, p 12; Atkinson, p. 42; Mackenzie, plate 7.

(88) Atkinson, p. 44.

(89) Atkinson, p. 7.

(90) <> [accessed 17 March 2009].

(91) Atkinson, p. 67.

(92) Transcriptions in Edinburgh, Royal Scottish Country Dance Society Archive.

(93) <> [accessed 28 October 2009].

(94) Christina Bates, Foreword to Cynthia Cooper, Magnificent Entertainments: Fancy Dress Balls of Canada's Governor Generals, 1876-1898 (Fredericton: Goose Lane, 1997), p. x.

(95) Fairrie, p. 139.

(96) Fairrie, p. 134.

(97) Fairrie, p. 133.

(98) Scotch Quadrilles by Scotchmen (Glasgow: Mitchison, [n.d.]), advertised as a 'Series of Popular Scotch Airs, arranged as Quadrilles, by popular Scotch authors'; Balmoral Castle Quadrille; or, a Popular Selection of Scotch Airs by Joseph Lowe, Teacher of Dancing to the Royal Family Arranged for the Pianoforte, Respectfully Dedicated by Permission to Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria (Edinburgh, [c.l855]).

(99) The Eightsome Reel Specially Arranged for Dancing (Glasgow: Paterson, [1909]); A. Cosmo Mitchell, The Eightsome Reel, Arranged with Full Instructions for Performing the Dance (Glasgow: Mozart Allan, [1912]); Allan's Ballroom Companion with Piano-Accordion Accompaniment (Glasgow: Mozart Allan, [c.1930]), pp. 48-49; Kerr's Modern Dance Album for the Pianoforte (Glasgow: Kerr, [c 1930]), pp. 2-3.

(100) Fairrie, p. 135.

(101) James Stewart Robertson, The Athole Collection of the Dance Music of Scotland (1884; repr. [Inverness?], Highland Music Trust, 2008).

(102) 'Caledonian Ball: Splendour and Gaiety of Gathering', The Scotsman, 27 May 1939, p. 19.

(103) 'Clan Gathering at Blair Atholl', The Scotsman, 17 January 1914, p. 10.

(104) Wilson, Complete System, p. 267.

(105) Dun, p. 26; Edward Topham, Letters from Edinburgh Written in the Years 1774 and 1775 (London: J. Dodsley, 1776), letter xxxii.

(106) The Ball-Room Companion, Containing All the Fashionable Dances of the Day (Aberdeen: J. Daniel, 1879), pp. 19-20. Earlier versions of this description appear in other British and American manuals, including Charles Durang, The Fashionable Dancer's Casket (Philadelphia, c.1856), p. 186 <> [accessed 15 February 2009].

(107) James Moray Calder, The Edinburgh Highland Reel and Strathspey Society: A History, ed. by George A. Robertson (East Linton: Tuckwell Press, 2001), p. 41.

(108) Atkinson, p. 10.

(109) Murray Pittock, Scottish Nationality (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001), p. 86.

(110) Atkinson, pp. 6-7.

(111) Murray Pittock, A New History of Scotland (Stroud: Sutton, 2003), p. 263; T. M. Devine, The Scottish Nation 1700-2007 (London: Penguin, 2006), p. 295.

(112) Scott Skinner, p. 16.

(113) Grant, I, 48.

(114) Scott Skinner, p. 11.

(115) Devine, p. 290.

(116) Evelyn M. E. Murray. 'Presentation of New Colors to The Atholl Highlanders', The Aitionn [Clan Murray Newsletter] (Fall 2006) <> [accessed 16 February 2008].

(117) MacLennan, p. 21.

(118) 'The Royal Caledonian Ball', The Times, 7 July 1908, p. 12.

(119) 'The Royal Caledonian Ball', The Times, 15 May 1920, p. 17.

(120) 'Argyllshire Gathering', The Times, 16 September 1921, p. 11; 'Skye Gathering', The Times, 31 August 1934.

(121) Murray Pittock, Celtic Identity and the British Image (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999), pp. 113-14.

(122) 'Forfar County Ball', The Times, 25 September 1924, p. 13.

(123) David Cannadine, Class in Britain (New Haven: Yale, [c. 1998]).

(124) David Cannadine, Ornamentalism: How the British Saw their Empire (London: Allen Lane, 2001), p. 122.

(125) 'Round the Camp Fire: The Prince's Evening with the Scouts', The Times, 4 August 1924, p. 5.

(126) 'Echo of Border Romance', The Scotsman, 19 June 1930, p. 8; 'Peebles March Riding Celebrations: Lord Tweedsmuir's Goodbye: A Sacred Trust', The Scotsman, 20 June 1935, p. 10; 'Peebles Looks Back: A Glorious Tradition', The Scotsman, 18 June 1936, p. 16.

(127) 'A Colourful Assembly', The Scotsman, 30 April 1937, p. 10.

(128) 'Cablegram from Mr. Carnegie', The Scotsman, 30 October 1911, p. 8.

(129) 'Big Blazes on Neighbouring Hills', The Scotsman, 21 July 1919, p. 6.

(130) 'Celebrations in Edinburgh: General Rejoicing and Relief, The Scotsman, 16 August 1945, p. 2.

(131) 'Climbers on Ben Nevis', The Scotsman, 2 January 1939, p. 6.

(132) Whisky Galore!, directed by Alexander Mackendrick, written by Compton Mackenzie (Ealing, 1949).

(133) Tunes of Glory, directed by Ronald Neame, written by James Kennaway (United Artists, 1960).

(134) Indiscreet, directed by Stanley Donan, written by Norman Krasna (Warner Brothers, 1958).

(135) Four Weddings and a Funeral, directed by Mike Newell, written by Richard Curtis (MGM, 1994).

(136) Eric Hobsbawm, 'Introduction: Inventing Traditions', in The Invention of Tradition, ed. by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), p. 9.

(137) Hobsbawm, p. 2.

(138) Fairrie, p. 173 (the MacLennan family tree supplied by Fairrie omits D. G. MacLennan).

(139) [Advertisements], The Scotsman, 2 October 1896, p. 10; 7 May 1949, p. 1.

(140) MacLennan, p. 87.
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