This was a lovely ceilidh for Emma’s 18th birthday. Lots of very enthusiastic and energetic young people – Emma said half her friends had been to ceilidhs before and half had never heard of them. Anyway, they were all very up for it, and we all had a great time. We’d been tightening up two of the sets, and generally the music felt tight as we rollicked through the old favourites, ending as usual with the Drops of Brandy. Here they are doing the dreaded basket!

Nice food, and a birthday cake in the shape of a keyboard, black notes in chocolate (Emma’s off to college to study music, specialising in percussion. Hmm. Maybe we need a drummer …).

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RAMSEY DRILL HALL September 2017

This was a Rotary Club fundraiser for Macmillan, held in the 1940s themed Drill Hall on a disused RAF station – complete with regimental crests, NAAFI, corrugated iron roofs and yacht varnish.

They were an extremely enthusiastic and friendly lot, so no trouble filling the dance-floor. Here they are doing the Virginia Reel:

And a bit of stripping the willow in the Drops of Brandy:

We tried our new arrangement of the slip jigs for the Drops of Brandy set – it gave a lift to tunes we’ve played for decades – still needs a bit of work maybe.

Mike led a rendition of Schottische Fran Norbetten which we’ve just learned, one of a few listening tunes we played between the dances.

We appreciated the welcome we were given, and the very nice vote of thanks at the end. The food was tasty, the beer was fine, and they raised a good deal for Macmillan judging by the enthusiasm of the pound coin rolling for a bottle of Scotch! A very pleasant evening.

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A very pleasant double 60th birthday celebration at the Grad Pad, on a warm summer’s evening.

They kindly invited us to join their dinner before the dance. Andrew did particularly well with the dairy-free option – smoked salmon on a watermelon base! Here are our abandoned instruments ….

The dancing was excellent – some dances the best we’ve seen! Here are the plucky group, doing the grand chain.

And here’s the equally plucky bass player – we don’t often feature him in the pics, so it’s his turn!

We were tickled by the young daughter of two of the guests, who adopted us for the evening, much to our amusement. Here she is replacing Hazel on the dulcimer. Mike knows something’s different …

And having a go on the hammers with Hazel’s guidance ….

We finished off as we often do with the Drops of Brandy, Happy Birthday, and our usual polka out. 

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It’s always good to return to one of our longest-standing gigs, the Victoria Park summer street party. The weather was lovely this year, the barbecue delicious, and the community in proper party mood, including the oldest member, still perky the day after his 92nd birthday.

Greg tackled the traditional challenge of the space hoppers straight off as they were clearly keen, they valiantly bounced in and out, round and round and up and down to the Hogmanay and Woodcutter’s jigs. Greg awarded a prize for the highest hop this year (one of our CDs), though a perspicacious younger participant pointed out that having the biggest space hopper played a part …

We then moved into the more conventional repertoire. Here they are tackling the Dashing White Sergeant.

We should add a word of admiration for local duo Jed and Elizabeth, who performed their really impressive songs before the ceilidh started. Thanks as ever to the barbecue chefs and the whole Victoria park gang for their spirit, plucky dancing and hospitality. Mind you, Andrew did get a bit of critique of the authenticity of his Blaydon Races! Still, we got to play a pipe set – Swindon and Proudlocks – with the whole band. 

And later, it’s always nice to get a few words of appreciation from the organisers. Here’s a message from Zoe:

“Once again your band was the highlight of our Victoria Park annual party. Many thanks for your considerable talents.”

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A wedding celebration in a garden marquee in Great Shelford. Lively dancing by the bride and groom and their guests, leading to a formidably fast Drops of Brandy. Here they are circling left in the Cumberland Square Eight.

The official photographer, Stephen Lake, was kind enough to send some shots of the band – do visit his site at

Here’s a rare shot of the whole band, with Greg in calling mode. 

And Greg in fine fettle, leading the tune set on the fiddle.

Andrew’s flying fingers on his Castagnari:

And Hazel’s dancing hammers:

Between the dances, at least one of us (who shall remain nameless) enjoyed the chocolate fountain – only the second we’ve seen at a wedding gig!

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It’s unusual to have an afternoon ceilidh, but this 40th birthday party was just that. A proper tea dance, and we were well supplied with tea throughout (and scones, tayberry jam, cream ….).

We set up in front of the gear for the rock band playing after us. Here’s Hazel and her dulcimer with the rock panoply behind her. Maybe we do need a drummer ….

The dances went well – small sets but enthusiastic. They were rendered a little surreal by small children with large inflatable tigers, penguins and tortoises wandering lethally through the sets, and one tiny girl talking solemnly into a toy phone.

Here they are doing the Cumberland Square Eight.

We did a couple of dances we hadn’t done for a long time – Allelulu (with Greg gamely leading the line), and the Bridge of Athlone. 

The pipes had a bit of an outing too – one of the families had a Northumbrian connection, so David and Andrew played Air Moving, Because he was a Bonny Lad, and Holmes’ Fancy. And we did the Blaydon Races, with all the verses and the dancers joining in the chorus in good voice. Here’s Andrew calling it.

All over by 7, and home with the sun still shining. 

And – they appreciated it! 

“Hi Hazel,

I just wanted to thank you again for playing at our party on Saturday. Lots of the guests commented on how much they enjoyed the ceilidh and I really appreciated the way you catered for an audience that mixed adults, children and balloons! “

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A return to Anstey Hall in Trumpington, Cambridge, to play for wedding guests in the marquee. Fairly spirited dancing in spite of the obligatory merriness. Here they are stripping the willow in the extended Virginia Reel.

We played a fairly standard set, though Greg was moved by the sight of a kilt to call The Dashing White Sergeant, which went quite well after a false start.

A quick break for quite tasty scotch eggs, then back to the fray. The very lovely bride and groom seemed to enjoy it all, so our efforts were not in vain. We wish them a long and happy married life!

And an early finish, unusually for us, the packing-up of the PA only interrupted by the owner of the hall telling us we’d have sounded better without it …

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Another great ceilidh at the genome campus. We’ve lost count – over twenty anyway – they were still sequencing the fruit fly probably when we began with them way back in the eighties. The campus is now a space age university, with security so tight we had to be inducted on arrival. Not sure we got the answers about appropriate footwear entirely right …

Very enthusiastic and diverse audience of research scientists and friends, as always – and old friends from previous years. As usual, an inverse relation between the number of phds and the number understanding Greg’s instruction to rotate the set of four through 90 degrees (to be fair, most audiences struggle with this …).

Here they are stripping the willow in the Virginia Reel.

John the piper piped in the haggis and delivered the Address to a haggis, as in previous years, his performative elucidation of Burns’ Scots dialect as expressive as ever, particularly the Crocodile Dundee flourish of his sgian dubh!

The supper was very tasty, as ever – haggis, neaps and tatties, sticky toffee pudding with whisky custard. 

We heard a couple of new jokes from Greg. We enjoyed – “There are many versions of the eightsome reel – and this is no exception.”

Andrew gave a spirited rendition of Paddy McGinty’s Goat in the Belfast Duck hornpipe; then fell victim to a violent fit of the giggles calling The Willow Tree, after joking that the dance formation of the willow tree bore an uncanny resemblance to the real thing. 

The crowd danced till midnight, finishing with the Drops of Brandy. It gets faster every time. No time for Auld Lang Syne …

And a very nice couple bought two CDs! Happy Burns Night! And thanks as ever to Neil – lovely to see you again.

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HORRINGER, January 2017

A return visit to the sprightly Nordic Walkers group! Very sprightly as it turned out – their oldest member at 91 completed the dipping and diving sequence in the Waves of Tory with time for a swing, which we haven’t seen for a very long time!

Here they are, stripping the willow in the Drops of Brandy.

The group had calculated they had more women than men so had provided party hats for those dancing as men and masks for women, in case of confusion – a novel solution!

Greg’s jokes took on a slightly surreal twist, while his instruction to turn heads not bodies in the reverse charge in the Cumberland Square Eight sounded like something out of The Exorcist, whose author had died the day before ….

Here”s Mike, no doubt enjoying an infelicitous moment in one of the walkthroughs …

And David coaxing sublime bass notes from his Fender …

So, a good evening, all in all. Spirited dancing, excellent fish and chips, and a kind gentleman bought one of our CDs. 

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The staff’s Christmas bash, masterminded by Matt Blaney in the very lovely Radegund Hall. Overlooked by the Nine Muses stained glass panel, we did our best to boost the festive cheer. They all danced with considerable gusto, including the Head, Mark Patterson, so it all went with a swing (literally!). Here’s a lively basket in the Cumberland Square Eight.

We did the Belfast Duck, and Andrew remembered another verse of Paddy McGinty’s Goat (the version his grandad taught him).

Andrew’s partner Jenny, deputy principal at the school, treated the band to a tasty mix of little pork pies, shandy and chocolate puddings, which kept us happy for the second half.

David and Mike nailed a thumping rhythm section for the Waves of Tory (the Redheugh Library Jig/Trip to Carlisle, and the slipjigs for the Drops of Brandy.

And we were delighted to see a surprise guest – the immortal Dick Brading of the Cambridge Crofters, stepping his way through the dances like a young’un. 

Merry Christmas!

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