Dancing appears to have been an ‘evil’ in the eyes of the 19th century kirk in Orkney.  In the Session minutes of the Stromness UF Church, 17 March 1815, dancing is viewed dimly.

“…that members of this Congregation attending riotous and drunken meetings, called for the express purpose of drinking and dancing, commonly called by the name of Banquetings, should be called before the Session and dealt with according to the demerits of the offence, as may be thought proper after hearing the particular circumstances. […]

That it is absolutely necessary for the welfare of the Church, as well as every other Society, that captious persons given to doubtful disputations, who may make themselves too busy in brining in unnecessary complaints of this nature, should be warned, admonished, instructed, and guarded against this practice by members of Session unto whom the complaint is made…”

1815 was the year Pringle of Scotland established, the still-well known knitwear brand; the wars with France were finally won (admittedly, after the date of this minute); Hackness Martello Towers were built in Hoy; and, the Ardbeg and Laphroaig distilleries were established.  Perhaps the latter two were not seen as source of celebration by the Stromness congregation.

The Stromness congregation were not entirely without mirth.  They did take some heart in singing, but only prescribed Psalms.  A petition was handed to the Session on 3 April 1817, signed by 15 members:

“disapproval of having any tunes introduced in the Congregation that are of a quick, giddy, and light manner in their performance, and that have so many repeats in them.”

So, slow, sombre and heavy was the order of the day.

[Image: Victoria Street, Stromness]