Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Keppoch's Rant

Scottish Country Dance Instruction

KEPPOCH'S RANT (S8x32) 3C (4C set) David Rutherford RSCDS Book 17

1- 8 1s+2s circle 4H round to left for 3 steps, 1s cast to 2nd place as 2s dance up, 1s+3s repeat this Fig circling to right
9-16 3s+1s set, dance ½ R&L and cross RH
17-24 2s+1s+3s circle 6H round and back
25-32 2s+1s+3s turn partners RH and turn LH

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

Keith Rose's Crib Diagrams

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Keppoch's Rant - Scottish Country Dancing Instruction Video

Dance Information

Keppoch? Now there's a word that I have not heard before. I am reminded that there still exists an abundance of Scottish history and culture with which I am still insufficiently acquainted. What do I find? Keppoch seems to be a derivation of the Gaelic word Ceapaich, which translates simply as "a plot of land". My further findings tie Keppoch to Clan Donald, in that the MacDonalds of Keppoch earned historic renown as a branch of that clan.

It all seems to go back to one Alasdair Carragh (in Gaelic: pillar of strength), although he was more frequently known by the less salubrious surname Carrach, which means "scruffy". Alasdair seems to be closely associated with the founding of the Keppoch MacDonalds, and was a grandson of King Robert II, the first of the Stewart kings, who brought about what I have seen described in historical references as "evil consequences" and "a heritage of woe on Scotland" because of his many conjugal relationships. They resulted in Robert siring 21 offspring who in turn were said to be responsible for numerous subsequent problems in maintaining a royal line of succession. Worth noting is that the current Chief of Keppoch challenges the accuracy of these past historic references and is in the process of having them rewritten.

All of which is to say that a history of the Keppochs is highly complex but may well be somewhat fanciful. Despite the foregoing, the MacDonalds of Keppoch were staunch supporters of Scottish independence over the centuries and spilled much blood at Bannockburn and Culloden plus a host of battles in between.

Now let's get back to the dance...

Puzzling to me is that while one might expect Keppoch's Rant to be a lively dance, it is in fact a strathspey. I am a little bemused as to how that can be. My trusty OED (Oxford English Dictionary) defines a rant as a "high-flown, extravagant, or bombastic speech or utterance".

To rant is "to rave or talk foolishly". My Dictionary of Scots Dialect includes the word "ranty" to mean lively, cheerful, or gay. These are words to describe a strathspey? Could it be that the Keppoch MacDonalds, much like the Robertsons whose strathspey is also described as a rant, are in fact a far more sober, restrained group of Highlanders than we might expect?

The Barry Pipes Canon 062- November, 2013.

(Dance information from set and link, RSCDS Toronto Newsletter - What's In A Name? The Barry Pipes Canon 2005-2018, reproduced here with kind permission. Copyright Barry Pipes. All rights reserved)

MacDonald Of Keppoch
Mac Donald Of Keppoch, Robert Ronald McIan (1803-1856), Illustration, c. 1835
From The Highland Clans Of Scotland, 1923

Image copyright Robert Ronald McIan (1803-1856). / Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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