Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

The Wild Geese

Scottish Country Dance Instruction

THE WILD GEESE (J8x32) 3C (4C set) RSCDS Book 24

1- 8 1s+3s set advancing and Balance-in-Line (Man above Lady), turn partners RH and 1s cast to 3rd place while 3s lead up to 1st place
9-16 3s+1s set advancing and Balance-in-Line (Man above Lady), turn partners RH and 3s cast to 3rd place while 1s lead up to 1st place
17-24 1s lead down and back to 2nd place
25-32 2s+1s dance R&L. 213

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


The Wild Geese
Anon   RSCDS Book 24
Jig   8 x 32 bars   3 Couple Repeat   4 Couple Set   Longwise Set

  1-2   1s 3s set advancing;

  3-4   1M1L3M3L balance in line in the centre of the set;

  5-8   1s turn by the right halfway and cast to 3rd place WHILE 3s turn by the right ¾ and lead up to the top;

  9-16 3s 1s repeat from new places, finishing in original places;

17-20 1s lead down;

21-24 2s step up WHILE 1s lead up to finish in 2nd place;

25-32 2s1s rights and lefts.

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


Keith Rose's Crib Diagrams


Dance Instruction Videos

The Wild Geese - Scottish Country Dancing Instruction Video

Dance Information

Also see the derivative dance The Wild Geese Tamed by Reuben Freemantle.

Many of us are familiar with that popular jig, The Wild Geese, from RSCDS Book 24. I just wish that I could determine the name of its devisor. We are of course very aware around Toronto of the ubiquitous Canada geese that are well known for fouling parks and recreation areas wherever they decide to congregate. Could these be the wild geese celebrated earlier in Book 24?

A more likely possibility has to do with Irish military history. For centuries, Irish mercenaries have been found fighting the wars of other countries. Even Hannibal's armies crossing the Alps to surprise the Romans from the rear included Celtic warriors from Hibernia. In time, the French learned the value of including Irishmen in their armies, and a ready supply of recruits always seemed to be available to become part of "The Irish Brigade". . . dubbed in Irish Gaelic Na Gianna Fiaine - The Wild Geese.

Origin? Well, French smuggling vessels bringing wines and brandies to the Irish coast would illegally carry military recruits on their return journey. The customs paperwork described them routinely as wild geese. Foie Gras in the making perhaps?

When the Stuart monarchy was driven into exile in France in the mid-17th century, sure enough, many of the soldiers that "emigrated" with them were Catholic Irishmen, ready to die in support of their king. So it should be no surprise that Irish mercenaries, or "wild geese", were to be found among Bonnie Prince Charlie's army in 1745. At that time, however, they were more likely to be called Irish piquets. The French word piquer is well-known in military circles through its English version, picket, meaning "a small ad hoc unit of soldiers doing guard duty", for example.

So with The Wild Geese, we may have yet another Scottish country dance with an Irish background.

The Barry Pipes Canon 030- January, 2010.

A Flock or Gaggle of Wild Geese
A Flock Of Wild Canada Geese


Dance information from Set&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.
Image copyright D. Gordon E. Robertson licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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