Dancing School

Peter "Struy" MacDonald recounts events at a dance school that he attended in Glenmoriston (taken from "The Highlands" by Calum MacLean, written in 1959).

“Further down the strath at Crelevan near Struy lived Peter MacDonald and his son Charles – the latter named in honour of Price Charles Edward Stuart. Peter was a native of Glenmoriston and had first come to the strath as a gamekeeper but rose to the position of estate-manager. All the schooling he ever had was in the little primary school at Dalchreichart, Glenmoriston, but that could not deter a man of his ability. He was a veteran of the Boer War and had been decorated for valour. Peter had a lovely speaking voice and spoke the purest Gaelic and sang well too. He was full of the traditions of his native Glenmoriston and from his mother had inherited a good deal of the traditions of the now desolate Glenquoich, for she was born there. He was one of a large family. He gave a most interesting account of dancing schools and masters in Glenmoriston 70 years ago (ie c. 1880s/1890s). The dancing masters were itinerant and when they came to Glenmoriston and held classes during the winter evenings in the local school, the youngsters over a certain age all wished to avail themselves of the tuition. The fee for a dozen or so lessons amounted to something like 30 shillings, which in those days was a very considerable sum, and for members of large families it often meant that they had to do without footwear for the winter, if the tuition fees were to be paid. Of course, Peter, like so many of the other youngsters in Glenmoriston at that time, would go barefoot all winter rather than miss the dancing classes. The fees were paid and Peter went to the classes in his bare feet. They were there taught the Highland solo dances and other country dances popular at the time, but the dancing-master was as equally insistent on a high standard of deportment as on graceful and correct dancing. No dancer could rush across the room to grab a partner, no dancer could enter or leave the company without conforming to the rules laid down by the master, but in those humble surroundings the master had the barefoot youngsters of Glenmoriston bowing like so many Spanish Grandees.”

Peter Struy was an uncle of Hamish "Cluanie" MacDonald who lived in Fort Augustus. He was a descendant of one of the Seven Men of Glenmoriston who sheltered Prince Charlie after the '45 and was the keeper of a cuach that the prince had given to his ancestor. Unfortunately, the cuach disappeared after his death. Calum MacLean interviewed Peter as one of a series of recordings he made for the School of Scottish Studies and sometime in the future the recording of this piece should be available on the internet from Tobar an Dualchais