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History

HIGHLAND DANCING IN THE AUSTRALIAN COLONY IN THE 19TH CENTURY.
(Historical information gleaned from notes formulated by the late Mr. D. Scotland O.A.M. B.E.M.)
 
In the mid-1830's the first Scottish immigrants arrived in Austalia and during the next two decades many more Highlanders and Lowlanders followed. Prior to this period there were only a small number of Scots in comparison including about 100 convicts transported from Scotland to Port Arthur Penal Colony, Tasmania.
During the 1850's many emigrated as a result of the clearances in Scotland settling in country and city areas within our vast States and Territories of Australia but, unfortunately, there are few records available as to who were the Highland Dancing teachers at that time.
 
The earliest evidence of Scottish societies holding dancing competitions was recorded in The Melbourne Herald in 1860. This was a report of the 'Grand Caledonian Gathering' - a two day festival from 30th November to the 1st December, 1860. Another early Highland Dancing competition organised within Australia was held on New Year's Day 1869 at the Albert Ground, Redfern, Sydney, as part of the Highland Gathering organised by the Duke of Edinburgh's Highland Rifle Brigade. There were four competitiors who performed the Highland Fling, Sword Dance, and Highland Reel.
 
By 1879, two new events had been added to the Dancing Competition, namely the Sailor's Hornpipe which was open only to bona fide sailors from ships in port and a Highland Fling for young ladies. Because of the interest shown, Agricultural Shows in many State country towns began to add a Highland Dancing competition to their program. These events were attracting greater numbers of spectators and, with cash prizes being given in the dance sections, it was creating greater competition.

HIGHLAND DANCING IN THE 20TH CENTURY.
(Snippets gleaned from former dancer, teacher, judge Mrs. M. Allen [nee Fairfield])
Interest in Highland Dancing technique was mainly by 'word of mouth' in Australia before the formation of the Australian Board of Highland Dancing. As a result, the experienced dancer became aware of the style wanted by a particular judge and tried to adjust the style and steps to accommodate the ‘point of view' of that judge. Original dances began to be lost with the embellishments that were added to give effect.
 
With the end of World War 11 there was a great resurgence of interest in Highland Dancing, not only by Australians themselves but also by the Scots migrating to Australia. It became obvious that unrest in technique and judging was prevalent in most States and Territories of Australia with strong desire for uniformity. We were indeed most fortunate that the same desire for uniformity was also evident about the same time in Scotland itself which resulted in the formation of the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing in 1950.

CHANGES AFOOT IN HIGHLAND DANCING IN AUSTRALIA.
In the late 1940's, a meeting was instigated by well-known teacher of the time, Mr. John Cousins, who emigrated from Scotland in the early part of the century, in an endeavour to bring teachers and interested persons of the day together with the hope of standardising Highland Dancing in New South Wales. It was in 1951, the inaugural meeting of Scottish National Dancing fraternity was held at Langridge's, 222 George Street Sydney. Mrs. Vera Lacey chaired the meeting with Mrs. Dorothy Kerr as minute secretary. A member of Parliament was present as it was felt to be an important event. From the 1952 British Ballet Organisation Australian (BBOA) Bulletin the following information was gleaned -
 
'The First Grade Syllabus was explained by Mrs. A. Wathen and demonstrated by Miss Dorothy Cowie to about fifty local teachers, and Madge Gannon of Bathurst and Stella Anderson of Crookwell, at our Annual Conference, held the first Monday in May, 1952. This syllabus was arranged under the Technical guidance of Mrs. Mabel MacInnes - one of Sydney's most widely known National teachers—who had recently visited England and Scotland and brought back a lot of data on the subject.. The First Grade Theory Book was compiled and made available to students of Teacher Members at 4/- per copy.'
 
In working out of this syllabus it was noted that several items were contra to what had been taught locally for many years, so it was decided at the meeting that it accept all decisions made by the Scottish Official Board of Highland (SOBHD) which had been formed on the 15th January, 1960.
 
The British Ballet Organisation, London became an affiliated member of the SOBHD with Miss Adeline Calder, (who was in attendance at the inaugural meeting of the SOBHD representing such body), and Miss K. E Garland being their two delegates. The first Highland examinations were held in Sydney, during 1952 conducted by the newly formed National Dancing Association under a section of the BBO. At the Annual General Meeting of such body held on the 13th May, 1956, it was decided that the National Dancing Association of Australasia should officially become affiliated with the recently named Australian branch of the British Ballet Organisation (BBAO). This amalgamation had the full approval of the BBO Chairman of that time, Mr. E. Kelland Espinosa.
 
When communications broke down in the 1980's following the passing of the Chairman of the BBO, many teachers of BBAO broke away to form Ballet Australasia Limited and hence, the National Dancing Association of Australia came under the auspices of such body in Sydney, July, 1989.
 
It was due to the foresight of persons in attendance at the 1951 meeting in Sydney, Australia, and later, other interested bodies from interstate that led to the formation in May 1960 of the Australian Board of Highland Dancing Incorporated