Scottish Country Dance
Scottish Country Dance
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Mary Shoolbraid Brandon was born April 6, 2015 into a dancing family. Three generations of her family before her taught dancing in Fife, on the east coast of Scotland. In particular, Mary was inspired by her mother, Mamie, describing her as "that rarity, a gifted dancer and teacher who could make anyone dance." Appropriately, Mary’s dance written for her mother, "Mamie’s Jig," is a favourite of beginners everywhere.
Mary came to Vancouver, British Columbia in the early 1960s, fresh from taking her Teacher’s Certificate in St. Andrews. She found Scottish country dancing well established under the leadership of Mrs. Bingham, but no official Branch of the RSCDS existed in Vancouver. Mary immediately became an active member of the Provincial Society committee (an umbrella group representing the local SCD clubs). Seeing the importance of attracting young people to dancing, in February 1963 she promoted the idea of an SCD festival for children, and met with the Superintendent of Schools in Vancouver to discuss the idea.
Subsequently she became Chairman of the Festival Committee, and organized a number of successful festivals which must have introduced hundreds of Vancouver schoolchildren to SCD. In 1963 Mary was the main organizer of Miss Milligan’s visit to Vancouver. Miss Milligan made a strong impression, and strongly encouraged the Vancouver dancers to form a Branch of the RSCDS. Afterwards, Mary wrote to Miss Milligan, "We benefited tremendously, and the help and encouragement we received will, I trust, have far reaching results." Mary carried on the liaison with Edinburgh, and a year later the Branch was formed, with Mary a member of the first Branch committee and also the teacher of the Basic Class.
Over the next two years Mary was a leader in almost every aspect of the Branch’s work. In August 1964 she organized a major performance at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in honour of Mrs. MacNab. She started the first Demonstration Team classes in January 1965; under her leadership, the Demonstration Team traveled as far as Seattle to perform. She organized children’s classes at seven Community Centers in Vancouver. Also in 1965, she taught a teacher candidate class, with all seven candidates successful. In July 1965, Mary was appointed as Senior Instructor for the Branch, and in that capacity she looked after all the day-to-day running of classes, parties, and balls.
Mary left Vancouver in late 1966 for her marriage to David Brandon and new life in Los Angeles. She and David became leaders in the Los Angeles Branch, which David had helped to found. Later, after moving to Hawaii, they founded the Hawaii Branch. After David’s retirement, they returned to Los Angeles and continued their active dancing and teaching.
Mary tutored many teacher candidate classes and traveled several times to Japan to instruct candidates there. In 1987, Mary received the RSCDS Scroll of Honour for her major achievements in Vancouver, Los Angeles, and Hawaii. Subsequently she was appointed as one of the first RSCDS examiners in North America.
Mary has published two books of unusual and popular dances, Memories of Fife and Dances with a Difference, including dances with original tunes by her musician brother Murray of Salt Spring Island. Several of her dances, for example "Mamie’s Jig," "Sandy Butterly," and "The Balgeddie Reel," often appear on programs.
Mary retired from dancing and moved to Santa Barbara to enjoy the terrific sunsets. Mary Shoolbraid Brandon died late night on March 10, 2016 just shy of her 91st birthday. She is survived by her brother, sister-in-law, stepson and stepdaughter.
Dances Mary taught include Balgeddie Reel, Cellardyke, Double Sixsome, Falls of Clyde, Fife Ness, Lundin Links Strathspey, Mamie's Jig, Mary Stewart's Strathspey, Pittenweem, and Sandy Butterfly.