Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

John Honey's Hornpipe

Scottish Country Dance Instruction

John Honey's Hornpipe (H8x32) 3C (4C set) Lewis N Derrick 1987

1-6 With hands joined on the sidelines, the 1st and 2nd couples set to partners, then dance right hands across once round
7-8 The 1st couple cast off one place on their own sides while the 2nd couple dance up one and cast out to own sidelines in top place
9-12 The 1st couple cross over in second place passing left shoulders (no hands) and dance round their first corners to end in the middle facing one another down and up; the 1st woman slightly below the 2nd couple and the 1st man slightly above the 3rd couple
13-14 The 2nd and 3rd couples set to partners across while the 1st couple set to one another up and down
15-16 Giving both hands and using setting steps, the 2nd and 3rd couples change places with partners, retaining nearer hands to end 2nd couple facing down and 3rd couple facing up while, giving both hands and using setting steps, the 1st couple change places up and down, both making a full turn to end back to back, with the man facing up towards the 2nd couple and the woman facing down towards the 3rd couple
17-20 The 2nd couple with the 1st man, likewise the 1st woman with the 3rd couple, dance three hands round to the left; opening up so that all end on opposite sidelines in the order 213
21-24 With hands joined on the sidelines, the 2nd, 1st and 3rd couples, set to partners and then, giving both hands and using setting steps, change places to end in the middle facing down
25-28 With nearer hands joined, the 3rd couple, followed by the 1st and 2nd couples, lead down the middle for four steps then turn in towards one another to face up
29-32 With nearer hands joined, the 2nd couple, followed by the 1st and 3rd couples, lead up the middle to places

Repeat having passed a couple

(Dance Crib compiled by the deviser, Lewis N Derrick 2020)


Dance Notes

At the end of the circles (bars 17-20) the 2nd woman and the 3rd man will be slipping out to the sidelines on their own and the 1st woman and 1st man should attempt to take their hands on the sidelines (i.e. 'rescue them') as soon as possible!

(Dance Notes by the deviser, Lewis N Derrick)


Dance Information

This dance, John Honey's Hornpipe, was devised to commemorate divinity student John Honey, who in January 1800 single-handedly rescued five men from the wreck of the Janet of Macduff in St Andrews Bay.

Suggested tune: The Muir Town House.

Devised November 1987; first published 1989; republished electronically 2020.

Copyright 1987, 1989, 2020 Lewis N. Derrick.


John Honey (1781-1813) became famous as a nineteen-year-old student of the University of St Andrews. On 5 January 1800 he was attending a service at St Salvator's Chapel when the congregation received news that a small ship, the Janet of Macduff, had run aground east of the town harbour. Five men were stranded in the sea and, at the time, there was no lifeboat stationed in the town. A crowd had gathered, but the sea was stormy and rescue attempts failed.

However, Honey, apparently determined not to let the men drown without attempting a rescue, stripped off his clothes, had fellow students tie a rope around him, took a knife, and entered the water. After a false start when his friends thought he would be unable to reach the men and pulled him back ashore, Honey struck out once more, reached and boarded the sinking boat and brought from it a rope back to the shore, to serve as a lifeline to allow the men to escape. However, the crew were too weary to make the journey to shore alone, so Honey made five more trips to and from the boat, taking each man to safety in turn, before collapsing of exhaustion on the shore.

John Honey is commonly misunderstood to have died during the rescue attempt. In fact he survived to receive the Freedom of the Cities of St Andrews, Perth, Forfar and Auchtermuchty. His commendation from the magistrates of St Andrews reads: "...is the only gift that this corporation can bestow upon you, for your wonderful and unexampled exertions in rescuing from the jaws of death the master and four seamen of the sloop the Janet of Macduff, wrecked in these sands of St Andrews, and who, but for your humane and unparalleled exertions, at the imminent hazard of your own life, must have inevitably perished."

He went on to become a Perthshire minister, but died at the age of 32 following a prolonged period of ill-health thought to have been linked to injuries he sustained on his final trip, when struck across the chest by a falling mast.

John Honey
The John Honey Window Located In St Salvator's Chapel, The University Of St Andrews.


Dance information from The McGhie Scottish Country Dance Books, Volume 4, The McGhie's Seat And Other Scottish Country Dances, reproduced here with the kind permission of the deviser, Lewis N Derrick.
Dance information licensed under this Creative Commons Licence 3.0.
Text from this original John Honey article on Wikipedia.
Image copyright Lordrosemount at English Wikipedia / Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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