The Winnipeg Branch

The Winnipeg Branch is one of approximately 170 branches throughout the world that are members of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society head-quartered in Scotland.

Dance classes for all levels, taught by teachers accredited by the RSCDS, are held from September to April. In addition, there are several socials during the year as well as ceilidhs and other activities. To see a full schedule of events, visit the Events page.

Branch History

The founders of the Winnipeg Branch were David Williams and Archie Nixon. They met at summer school in St. Andrews, Scotland in 1958 and again in 1959. Archie was born in Winnipeg but living in Stockholm, Sweden, and David was born in Winchester, England. When they discovered they were both going to be settling in Winnipeg later that same year they decided to start a Scottish Country dancing group. They ran an ad in the Winnipeg Tribune in September 1959, and got enough of a response to start a group, starting with about 20 dancers. Classes were from 8 to 11 pm once a week.

Numbers dwindled to only four in the winter of 1960, then rebounded again.

David wrote to Headquarters requesting that our group become a recognized Branch. David already had his teaching certificate, and Archie was able to complete his when Miss Milligan visited in 1961. In January 1963 there was a large influx of new dancers, and on May 11, 1963, with two recognized teachers and 60 dancers, our application for branch status was approved.

The following year, 1964, the newsletter, The Light and Airy, was begun, thanks to Shirley Taylor, and continues to this day. That same year was the beginning of monthly socials.

In 1965 the first Spring Ball was held at the Royal Alexandra Hotel. That year there were two weekly classes held in one night ‐ a basic class and a more advanced class. As these were held in the same building the two classes were combined for the last hour.

In 1966 the Honorable Eric F. Willis and Mrs. Willis became the branch's first patrons and attended the second Ball.

In 1967 the Branch put on a Scottish Fancy at Tech-Voc Auditorium. This was a production of songs, dances and poems depicting the folklore of Scotland, directed by Margaret Bowie.

The Fort Garry Social class began in January 1969 at St. Paul's Anglican Church on Point Road in Fort Garry and continued until Covid-19 in 2020 forced changes to classes offered.

The Branch participated in the annual Winnipeg downtown parade, with a float of dancers performing on a tractor-pulled flat wagon.

For several years Branch members from Winnipeg and Minneapolis met at Itasca State Park in Minnesota for a weekend dance workshop.

Margaret Bowie single-handedly organized the first British Pavilion for Folklorama in 1970 and the Branch hosted Mug Pub the following year, which lasted for several years, until 1989.

In the early seventies, the branch grew to 120 members.

In 1981, a committee was formed with the objective of creating a Scottish Country Dance Band. Band members were chosen and the group took the name Scotch Measure. Original members were Helen Bowman (fiddle), John Bowman (fiddle), Jane Hawkes (piano), Jim James (double bass) and Jay MacLeod (drums). Ken Nattrass joined the band on accordion in the fall of 1982 and in 1985 Adam Laird took on the position of pianist as well as band leader. In 2001 Ron Krug joined the band as pianist when Adam Laird retired. Other band members over the years included Cathy Shewchuk Nosaty, Archie Sharp, Curtis McRae, Bert Mayes and Marlene Wachko. The band provided much-loved live music at Branch socials and workshops for many years, as well as playing at other venues across Manitoba and Canada.

On October 5, 1984, Queen Elizabeth visited Winnipeg and the Branch participated in the Royal Manitoba Festival, a huge televised gala in front of a live audience of 15,000 at the Winnipeg Arena, with music by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. Participating dancers were Yvonne and Egon Brockhausen, Cheryl and Doug Durnin, Archie Jardine, Mary and Mike Kubasiewicz, Robin Lynch, Lynn and Peter McClure, Quinton McNaught, Gerry Mayes, John Oliver, Norma and Archie Sharp, and Shirley Tinsley, all organized by Maureen Burnham. During the finale, the Queen came up on stage and some of our dancers got to speak to her and shake her hand!

During 1987 to 1990, Cheryl Durnin taught a teen step dance class, held at St. Paul's Church. Class members performed at Mug Pub.

During the 1990's the Branch continued to grow, and we supported three classes per week during the fall and winter months at St. Paul's Anglican Church. Dance socials, held every couple of months, were always special occasions, with Scotch Measure providing live music. Each class took their turn to host and supply delicious contributions of food. In 1999 the Branch published a recipe book entitled "Food for Dance" based upon these contributions, and it allows us still to recall with great fondness these events and individuals who submitted their "famous" recipes.

In 1997 Scotch Measure produced a CD called Skip-Change. Three dances had a local connection.

In 1998 the Branch presented a performance of the Allwyn Suite at the Winnipeg Centennial Concert hall accompanied by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. Margaret Zadworney and Christine Wallace were the teachers for this event, with Bramwell Tovey conducting the orchestra.

In 1999 the Branch participated in the Opening Ceremonies for the Pan Am Games. Princess Anne was in attendance.

In 2003/2004 Branch membership was 89 dancers.

For many years, the Demonstration Team provided demonstrations of Scottish Country Dancing to various cultural events, personal care homes, etc. In 2011, the Demonstration Team presented Mug Pub Remembered, a well-attended program featuring popular entertainment from past Mug Pub shows.

In 2012, the Branch participated in the Bicentennial Celebration of the Selkirk Settlers, presenting a pageant depicting the journey from Scotland to Manitoba through music, song and dance, held at Lower Fort Garry. The then-current Lord Selkirk was an honoured guest to the celebrations.

In 2013 our 50th Anniversary and 40th Workshop was celebrated at 17 Wing Air Force Base. This was well attended by many local and out-of-town dancers, along with guest teachers from British Columbia, Simon Scott and Robin Lynch (formerly a Winnipeg dancer/teacher) and the music of Scotch Measure. In celebration of the Winnipeg Branch's Golden Jubilee, Scotch Measure produced a new CD and music book called Prairie Gold. Each dance except one was written by a member or former member and many have a local connection. Throughout the fall and winter of 2013 four classes a week were held — a 10-week Introductory Class on Thursday, a Technique Class on Tuesday, the Fort Garry Social Class on Monday and the Demo Class on Wednesday. Dancers numbered 47 members.

In 2014, the Branch was involved with the United Kingdom Pavilion at Folklorama, participating in the stage show and organizing participation dancing. The Branch also participated in the Commonwealth Ceilidh in June 2014, a world-wide event organized by RSCDS Headquarters that celebrates Midsummer's Eve.

The Winnipeg Branch continued to hold annual spring workshops over the years, and connections with Saskatchewan dancers from Regina, Yorkton and Saskatoon meant ongoing friendships through dance were established. Many fondly remember the Fort Qu'Appelle weekend events, especially the ceilidhs. Looking to the east we also had regular yearly visitors from Thunder Bay, Dryden and Kenora. The Kenora group inspired John Drewry, our "famous" overseas teacher, to create The Kenora Reel and coach the visitors from Kenora to perform the dance — a tribute from John to the little group from Kenora lead by Alex Coats.

Over the years the Branch has participated in many cultural events, some outlined here in detail. Others included demonstration dancing at the Selkirk Highland Games; Multicultural Days at the Forks; the Winnipeg Beach boardwalk; the Philharmonic Choir at Pantages Theatre; the Lieutenant Governor's New Year's Levee at the Legislature; and Tartan Day Celebrations. Locations for classes over the years have included Westminster United Church, Knox United Church, Harrow United Church, Grosvenor School, St. Philip's Anglican Church, St. Paul's Anglican Church and Churchill Park United Church.

In 2015 we lost four pivotal branch members, Christine Wallace, a senior teacher for the Branch; Adam Laird, our original music director for Scotch Measure; Ken Nattrass, the current band leader at the time and Allan Blanchette, a certified Winnipeg teacher. It was a very tough year for the Winnipeg Branch and the families of these valued friends. After the death of band leader Ken Nattrass, Scotch Measure Band subsequently disbanded.

In March 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic caused a complete shutdown of in-person dancing until the Fall of 2021. We slowly eased back into dancing again, moving this time from St. Paul's Church to Churchill Park United Church on Beresford Avenue, where we continue to hold twice weekly general classes with a reduced membership of 41 members in 2023.

The highlight of 2023 was a workshop celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the founding of the Winnipeg Branch, the 50th Anniversary of our workshops and the 100th Anniversary of the founding of RSCDS in Scotland. This very special celebration at the Victoria Inn was organized by Jane Nattrass and her capable committee. Guest teachers for the Workshop were Linda Henderson from California and Jim Stott from Scotland. Also in 2023 teacher Cheryl Durnin organized Branch dancers to participate in the world-wide celebration of the Centenary of the Flying Scotsman (an express train between Edinburgh and London) by dancing The Flying Scotsman Jig at Via Rail Station, filming it and sending it to Headquarters where it can be viewed online with hundreds of other Branches' contributions. Another event presented by the Branch in 2023 was a Celebration of Scottish Culture in Winkler, Manitoba, also developed and organized by teacher Cheryl Durnin.


Branch Life Members — Peter McClure, Archie Sharp, Maureen Burnham, Margaret Zadworny, Monique Henderson, Glen Colquhoun, Jean Highmoor,
Honorary Life Member — Marg Krip
Special Certificate from Headquarters — Ron Krug
Scroll of Honour — Christine Wallace

Teachers over the Years

David Williams and Archie Nixon. Also, in alphabetical order: Allan Blanchette, Margaret Bowie, Maureen Burnham, Sheila Careless, Joyce Cormack, Cheryl Durnin, Margaret Fentam, Elizabeth Goosen, Jo Anning Hamilton, Monique Henderson, Marg Krip, David Kroeker, Robin Lynch, Gerry Mayes, Peter McClure, Quinton McNaught, Mary Nixon, John Oliver, Betty McLellan Redfern, Betty Trevenen, John Trevenen, Christine Wallace, Bill Young, Margaret Zadworny

Candidates (2024) — Sharyl Eaglesham, James Sutherland

January 2024

Mug Pub

Mug Pub plaque

Mug Pub was the British Pavilion at Folklorama from 1969 to 1989. Founded by Margaret Bowie, Mug Pub was jointly sponsored by the Winnipeg Branch and St. Andrews Society. From the outset the Branch was the major participant, staging the shows and setting up food and drink services. The St. Andrews Society provided security and many of their members volunteered in other areas. The Pavilion was open for a week each year and required over 700 volunteers to function. Many people with no involvement in R.S.C.D.S. or St. Andrews worked faithfully year after year at Mug Pub. Mug Pub had a long association with the “Bunch of Grapes” who presented a brilliant British music hall show.

Back in the years when Folklorama was only one week long, the popularity of the festival was such that almost every one of the 30 to 40 Pavilions had block-long line-ups an hour before the 6:00 p.m. opening. The longest line-ups were always at Mug Pub and continued every night for every show. To help alleviate the problem, the Beausejour Room was opened at the University of Manitoba in 1978, to take in 250 people from the lines where they could eat, drink, relax and be entertained until the main hall was emptied after each show. These people were then piped into the hall for the main show.

The Branch suspended operation of the Mug Pub pavilion in 1989.

To keep alive the memories of what was always the exciting and enjoyable highlight of the year, the Branch has initiated several Mug Pub evenings.