Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Reel Of The 51st Division (5-Couple)

Scottish Country Dance Instruction

Reel of the 51st Division (5-couple version)
J.E.M. Atkinson   RSCDS Book 13
Reel   5 x 32 bars   5 Couple Repeat   5 Couple Set   Lengthwise Set

  1-2   1s 3s set;

  3-8   1s 3s cast two places, meet, take left hands and lead up to face first corners;

  9-12 1s 3s set and turn first corners by the right, finishing 2M1L1M4L 4M3L3M5L in line on the first corners' diagonals;

13-14 2M1L1M4L 4M3L3M5L balance;

15-16 1s 3s turn by the left;

17-20 1s 3s set and turn second corners by the right, finishing 4M1L1M2L 5M3L3M4L in line on the second corners' diagonals;

21-22 4M1L1M2L 5M3L3M4L balance;

23-24 1s cross down by the left to own sides in 3rd place WHILE 3s cross down by the left to own sides in 5th place;

25-32 2s4s1s5s3s 10 hands round and back.

(MAXICRIB, Scottish country dancing instructions compiled by Reuben Freemantle)


Dance Notes

This is a simple adaptation for 5 couples of the more elegant 3-couple version of the dance.

  3-4   2s 4s step up.

  7-8   Although the original instructions imply right hands for the lead up, left hands make a more comfortable transition to the next figure.

17-22 4s must remember that they are now second corners in the other half of the set.

23-24 This is the same modification as in the more elegant of the 3-couple versions to make the progression correct for this 5-couple version of the original (see Reel of the 51st Division).
4s must step up, smartly.


Dance Instruction Videos

Reel Of The 51st Division (5-Couple) - YouTube Scottish Country Dancing Instruction Video

Dance Information

One of the most popular Scottish country dances of all time, the Reel of the 51st Highland Division is a modern Scottish country dance written while in a 'Prisoners Of War' camp in the winter of 1940 during the Second World War, by Lieutenant J.E.M. 'Jimmy' Atkinson of the 7th Battalion The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Lt. Peter Oliver (4th Seaforth Highlanders) and Lt. Col. Tom Harris Hunter (51st Division Logistics Group RASC).

Captured, together with the vast majority of the British 51st (Highland) Division while defending the retreat from Dunkirk in 1940, Atkinson spent the rest of the war as a POW in Germany. His idea of a reel with a St Andrews cross in its key formation was intended to symbolise Scotland, and the Highland Division, in adversity.

Atkinson's letter home with instructions for the dance was intercepted by the German security service, the Abwehr, who spent the rest of the war trying to break the code! However, another version of the dance reached Scotland where it was published while Atkinson was still a POW and became instantly popular.

Also known as the Laufen Reel after Laufen Castle near Salzburg, the 51st Country Dance, the Reel of the 51st Highland Division, and St Valery's Reel, it is often danced in a set composed entirely of men.

The 51st Highland Division was the first contemporary Scottish Country Dance to be published by the R.S.C.D.S.

The tune 'The Drunken Piper' is a favourite highland reel composed by Alex. McLeod.

Royal Regiment Of Scotland Tactical Recognition Flash Image
Royal Regiment Of Scotland Tactical Recognition Flash


Dance Information licensed under this Creative Commons Licence.
Text from this original Reel Of The 51st Division article on Wikipedia.
Image Copyright Hammersfan.
Additional search terms: Fifty First, Regiment.

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