Culla Bay

Culla Bay, the dance by Ann Dix, is named after the stunning, white sandy beach on the Isle of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides.

 

Ann Dix’s good friends, and fellow Strathreelers, Joan Desborough and Patsy Patterson shared many memories of their time dancing together from when they met in the early 1970s – and it was Joan who was the instigator for Ann taking up Scottish country dance teaching. Joan taught the Gerrards Cross class for 25 years, which Ann with her then husband, Malcolm, attended for over 15 years. When Joan took time off after the births of her children, Ann took the class.Up until that point Ann had not been keen on the RSCDS or teaching dancing, but it was then that she became interested in both.

 

The Strathreelers undertook demonstrations and entered local competitions. In 1975 they had a particularly successful year, winning the Slough Arts Festival, Richmond, Hertfordshire and Birmingham Highland Games. In 1977 and 1978 they went to Edinburgh Arts Festival, where on both occasions they won the Cussons trophy.

In 1978, the Strathreelers expanded, finding a team of 20 dancers for an English Folk Dance and Song Society Festival in the Royal Albert Hall in London – time for lots more glove and shirt dyeing to match the coloured dresses.

In 1983, the team were asked to provide dancers for a Military Pageant in the Old Wembley Stadium in London. The photo below shows the 8, four couple sets that were put together from around London. On this occasion there were just too many dresses, gloves and shirts to dye!

Ann & Sheila 1
Ann & Sheila 2

Ann wrote Culla Bay for her good friend Sheila Jupp, whose maiden name was “Macaulay”.  They are seen in these photos dancing Culla Bay together at Sheila's 64th birthday party. (Sheila is wearing the green skirt)

 

Born in Glasgow, Sheila moved at the age of one to St Albans, where she went to school and then college. During the Second World War, Sheila and her brother Iain were evacuated to Benbecula to stay at the Macaulay croft with their grandmother and uncles, as their father thought they would be safer there than in St Albans. While there, Iain and Sheila attended Balavanich School, but also helped with the harvest, peat cutting, clearing the byre and milking the cows. They also collected seaweed on the shore - and their perspective on life grew from their time in the Hebrides. Sheila had very fond memories of her time on the island returning often to visit family and to celebrate life events including her 80th birthday.

Sheila was, as described by her family, a fearless lady and she loved dancing, in fact she was still dancing 5 or 6 times a week well into her eighties. One of the formative members of both the St John’s Scottish Country Dance Club and the RSCDS Berks/Herts/Surrey and Border Branch in the 1970s, Sheila was very active in the clubs in the South East, as well as travelling all over the UK to enjoy dancing and her love of music – Sheila was a regular visitor to the Shetland. Accordion and Fiddle Festival. Many bands, musicians and teachers will have fond memories of being hosted by Sheila in her home over the years after day and weekend schools, and she was well loved in the Scottish country dance world.

The original tune for Culla Bay, The Macaulays of Benbecula is dedicated to Sheila Jupp by accordionist and band leader, Frank Reid.

Frank started life as a Highland Dancer and pianist moving on to the accordion at age 14.  He played with other Scottish dance bands until forming his own band at the age of eighteen. As well as playing all over the UK, Frank has been one of the sterling musicians in the London area, playing regularly at St Columba’s Church in Pont Street, London for the ever popular “Summer Tuesdays”. Frank recently moved up to Glasgow with his wife and fellow band member Sheena, but that hasn’t stopped them returning to London for those popular dance evenings.

 

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