Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

The Whale Rock

Scottish Country Dance Instruction

The Whale Rock (S8x32) 3C (4C set) Lewis N Derrick 1975

1-4 The 1st couple turn once round by the right hand and cast off one place on their own sides; the 2nd couple step up on bars 3-4
5-8 The 1st couple turn once round by the left hand, and cast one place on own sides (woman up, man down), ending with the 1st woman between the 2nd couple all facing down and the 1st man between the 3rd couple all facing up
9-16 With hands joined in lines across, the 1st woman with the 2nd couple and the 1st man with the 3rd couple set, then, dropping hands, all dance back to back with the person opposite up and down the dance, re-join hands and set again
17-24 The 1st couple dance a diagonal reel of four with their second corners, passing their corners right shoulder to begin and ending on own sides in second place
25-32 With hands joined on the sidelines, the 2nd, 1st and 3rd couples set, then, dropping hands, all dance back to back with partners across the dance, re-join hands and set again

Repeat having passed a couple

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


Dance Information

This dance, The Whale Rock, was devised for James Alexander (Jay) Macdonald, Professor of Botany at St Andrews from 1961 to 1977, and his wife Connie.

The Whale Rock is a sea stack on the Fife coast near St Andrews. Its distinctive flora formed the subject matter of the introductory lecture in botany given at St Andrews by John Hardie Wilson in 1888.

Suggested tune: Miss Doreen Lambert.

Devised 1975 and revised (bars 17-28) 1987; first published 1989; republished electronically 2020.

Copyright 1975, 1987, 1989, 2020 Lewis N. Derrick.


James Alexander Macdonald FRSE FIB BSE (17 June 1908-26 April 1997) was a 20th-century Scottish botanist and plant pathologist. Friends and family called him Jay Macdonald.

He was born in Dingwall on 17 June 1908, one of five children, to Eliza Kelman and James Alexander Macdonald FRSE (1867-1937), HM Chief Inspector of Schools for the Scottish Highlands and a former rector of Leith Academy.

He was home educated by his mother at Kilmacolm then at Inverness Royal Academy. He then went to the University of Edinburgh to study agriculture but then decided to also study botany as a joint degree. He continued as a postgraduate in botany, gaining his doctorate (PhD) in 1935. On gaining his doctorate he began lecturing in botany at St Andrews University and was given his professorship in 1961. In the same year he became the joint founder and official keeper of St Andrews Botanic Garden.

In the Second World War he served as a flight lieutenant in the RAF in India and Malaya, mainly working in radar. In 1940 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposers were Robert James Douglas Graham, Sir William Wright Smith, Sir D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson and Alexander Nelson. He served as Vice President of the Society 1961-64.

In 1935 he married Constance (Connie) Mary Simmie, second daughter of James Duff Simmie of Inverness. They had one daughter, Anne MacDonald.


John Hardie Wilson FRSE (1858-1920) was a 19th/20th-century Scottish botanist and photographer.

He specialised in the disease resistance of crops and fruits, with a particular interest in disease-resistant potatoes. As a potato breeder he created Rector, Bishop and Templar.

He was born in St Andrews the second son of James Wilson FRHS, a horticulturalist and owner of Greenside Nurseries. He was educated at Madras College in St Andrews. He then had a horticulturalist apprentice at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh from around 1872.

In Edinburgh he undertook formal studies in Botany at Edinburgh University. He then studied Forestry in classes at the Botanic Gardens, winning a first class certificate. In 1886 he returned to St Andrews University to obtain a degree in Natural History. From 1887 he was a Demonstrator in the Botany class. He graduated BSc in 1888.

The Whale Rock
Rock And Spindle With The Whale Rock Behind, Fife


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.
Text from this original James Alexander Macdonald (Botanist) article on Wikipedia.
Text from this original John Hardie Wilson article on Wikipedia.
Image copyright Jim Bain under this Creative Commons Licence 2.0.

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