Montreal Daily Star,
12 October 1956
Debutantes and Partners Rehearse for St Andrew’s Ball Highlight
By Ethel Tiffin
A stalwart young officer, who has danced Scottish reels with Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, and taught the art of the dance in Nigeria, Pakistan, India, Palestine and Egypt, as well as in Scotland and England, is putting debutantes and their partners through the rollicking intricacies of “Strip the Willow” and the “Petronella” in preparation for St Andrew’s Ball. The reels are a popular feature of the annual ball which will take place on Nov 30, in the Windsor Hotel.
Major McMurtrie’s interest in Scottish folk dancing dates back to his early days in the Highland Light Infantry.
‘We have a choice to either dance or to pipe,” he said in an interview. “I took dancing and I’ve been at it ever since. Even in the mess when there were no ladies present we dance reels. In fact, I’ve taught the Scottish folk dances in Nigeria when the temperature hit 115 degrees. . .it’s never too hot to step.”
The Royal family is “really keen” on Highland dancing, Major McMurtrie said. “The late King was an expert and Princess Margaret is an excellent dancer.”
Major McMurtrie recalled King George the VI as a perfectionist in Scottish dancing. He was quick to notice the slightest error or lack of graced or rhythm…He just didn’t miss anything.”
Attached to the Quebec Army Command on an exchange basis, Major McMurtrie is being assisted by his attractive wife, and Michael Wolstecroft of Notre Dame de Grace YMCA frequently lends a helpful suggestion.
Mrs CJG Molson and Mrs TG Lowrey, members of the Reels Committee for St Andrew’s Ball, also contribute greatly to the success of the undertaking.
It’s fun to watch a rehearsal and to see the dancers put through their paces by a competent instructor, improve within what seems like just a few minutes. Obviously dancing reels is not as complicated as it looks, but it isn’t to be dismissed as easy either. At the recent practice session at the armory the Eightsome Reel, the Dashing White Sergeant, Strip the Willow, and Petronella were danced.
Tunes are gay and familiar not only to the people of Scottish ancestry, and to citizens of the world who revel in the splendid airs of Auld Scotia. The Dell Among the Tailors, Fairy Dance and the Wind that Shakes the Barley are the tunes used for the Eightsome reel. The Dashing White Sergeant sparks the dance of the same name, while Frolicksome Paddy, Bonnie Blue Boy, Irish Whiskey, Drops of Brandy and Paddy O’Carrol are Strip the Willow numbers. The Persian Dance provides the music for Petronella.
The history of the St Andrew’s Society of Montreal dates back to 1834.