Past Times: Orkney wins dancing inter-county contest

From The Shetland Times, Friday 24th April, 1959

Orkney won the Nicolson Cup in the inter-county dancing competition in Lerwick’s Town Hall on Wednesday night. The margin was a 12-point one out of a total 126 points – and it was a well-deserved success which was applauded wholeheartedly by the large crowd of spectators.

But it was no disparagement to the inter-county dancers to say that the highlight of the evening was a demonstration by the judges, Billy and May Buchanan, ex-Scottish champions in both the amateur and professional fields. Rarely has an exhibition of any kind been greeted so enthusiastically by a Lerwick audience. Mrs Buchanan’s beautiful sequined gown was greatly admired by the ladies, and the twinkling footsteps appreciated by everyone in the hall, as they did the waltz, slow foxtrot, tango, and quickstep, and as an encore the cha-cha, ending up with a line of local dancers under tuition. The whole demonstration took less than twenty minutes – but it was a spell of sheer enchantment, and if the Buchanans ever pay a return visit to Lerwick it would be difficult finding a hall to accommodate all who want to see them.

Mr L. Hughson, representing Lerwick Dance Club, sponsors of the occasion, introduced the two teams. Orkney were represented by Mr and Mrs Ian Argo, Brian Smith and Jean Garrick, and Mr and Mrs Zander Donaldson. Shetland’s couples were Bert Leask and Audrey Bain, John and Mamie Williamson, George Irvine and Sheila Sutherland.

They danced the waltz, slow foxtrot, and quickstep, and after the cards had been checked Mr Hughson announced the result. He congratulated the Orkney team on their sixth successive victory, but thought it was time the trophy was back in Shetland.

Mrs W. K. Conochie presented the cup to Mr and Mrs Argo, and she received a bouquet from Miss Wilda Irvine.

Mr Sandy Heddle, representative of Rovers F.C., which looks after the Orkney end of this competition, thanked Mr Hughson and the Dance Club for the kind way they had looked after the visitors. He also congratulated the New Players’ band on another wonderful performance, and said he was very pleased to renew acquaintance with Billy Simpson, who had brought his charming wife with him on this occasion.

When introducing the Buchanans, Mr Hughson referred to their proudest claim – their 21-year-old daughter May, who, with her husband Jim Graham, is the present Scottish amateur dancing champion. The Grahams have represented Scotland in many international events, including the last world championships, in which they were placed twelfth.

After the exhibition, Mr Hughson thanked the Buchanans for their marvellous exhibition – he doubted if anyone in the audience had ever seen anything like it before in Shetland. The applause indicated the audience agreed.

Mr Buchanan pointed out that sometimes the demonstration depended on the reception given, and they had no complaints about the Lerwick reception. He, too, paid tribute to the excellence of the band.

Asked for their comments on the inter-county contest, the Buchanans declared that the teams were very evenly matched; as far as Mr Buchanan concerned, more even than the last time he saw them. All couples had made mistakes, but the judges considered that the standard of dancing was wonderful, considering there was no qualified teacher in the islands, and that there was no TV (at least not until recently in Orkney) to help them.


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