Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Black Bitch Reel

Scottish Country Dance Instruction

BLACK BITCH REEL (R4x32) 4C set Heather Knox West Lothian 60

1- 4 All 4 couples set, 1s and 4s cast in 1 place while 2s and 3s dance nearer hands joined with partner to 1st/4th place
5- 8 1s+4s dance LH across finishing in prom hold with partner. 1s facing 2L, 4s facing 3M
9-16 1s+2s and 4s+3s dance RSh reels of 3 across. 1s and 4s finish in centre, BtoB with partner, facing own side
17-24 1s and 4s ½ turn corners nearer hands, corners join free hands in centre in St Andrews Cross and all set, corners drop hands in centre and all turn to end in original places
25-32 1s cross RH, cast behind 2s, dance down between 3s, dance down behind 4s and cross LH to 4th place own side (2s+3s+4s step up 31-32)

(MINICRIB. Dance crib compiled by Charles Upton, Deeside Caledonian Society, and his successors)


Here is the original crib for Black Bitch Reel, by Heather Knox, published in the West Lothian 60 Book (for dances devised by members of West Lothian branch to celebrate their 60th Anniversary).

Keith Rose's Crib Diagrams


Dance Information

This dance, Black Bitch Reel, was devised by Heather Knox to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Linlithgow Scottish Country Dance Club in 1990.
Linlithgow is a town in West Lothian, Scotland. It was historically West Lothian's county town, reflected in the county's alternative name of Linlithgowshire. An ancient town, it lies south of its two most prominent landmarks: Linlithgow Palace and Linlithgow Loch, and north of the Union Canal.

The name Linlithgow comes from the Old British "lynn llaith cau" meaning "lake in the damp hollow". Originally "Linlithgow" referred to the loch itself, the town being known as just "Lithgow" (hence the common surname). Folk etymology associated this name with the Gaelic liath-chù meaning "grey dog", likely the origin of the black bitch on the burgh arms.

The burgh's coat of arms features a black bitch chained to an oak tree on an island, and those born within the town are known as "black bitches". In his account of a tour of Scotland, published in 1679, an English gentleman, Thomas Kirk, described the arms of the town as "a black bitch tied to a tree, in a floating island."

A more recently recorded legend relates that the bitch was a black greyhound whose master was sentenced to starve to death on an island in the loch. She used to swim from the town every day with food for him. When this was discovered she was chained to a tree on a different island to suffer the same fate as her master. The townspeople took the animal's loyalty and bravery as symbolic of their own. The local pub named "The Black Bitch" is reputed to be one of Scotland's oldest pubs.

Black Bitch pub sign
Sign For The Black Bitch Of Linlithgow Pub


Dance information licensed under this Creative Commons Licence 3.0.
Text from this original Linlithgow article on Wikipedia.
Image copyright JThomas under this Creative Commons Licence 2.0.

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