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               One source says that the reel's origin began outside a locked Tulloch Church in a (N/E) Highland village of Tulloch, Scotland where it was danced by a group of freezing parishioners trying to keep warm while waiting for the tardy clergyman to arrive, this led to the supposed first reel being called the 'Reel of Tulloch'. Later, new three, four, five, and six Hand Reels were developed by the London dancing master Thomas Wilson and many more were to follow.

     There are many types of Reels, most being group type lively dances such as the Scottish Reel, Virginia Reel etc. (The Strathspeys is a slow version of the reel). The clip on left is of the eightsome reel.

The Hey dance was a forerunner of the present day reel with the Quadrilles eventually replacing the reels in popularity. Today, reels are mainly done in competitions rather than a social gathering of yesteryear along with Hornpipes and Jigs. A few Reels are described below.

Great Western Reel:
     Two couples stand in a direct line, viz.: partners facing each other. The lady of one couple stands with her back to the back of the gentleman of the other couple; the figure begins by setting to partners, then hey, which is a straight right and left, or Highland chain; this is repeated two or three times. Then a lady and gentleman stop in the middle and set to each other, 4 bars; Highland chain repeated idem; the other two meet in center and set. This simple figure is tirelessly repeated until the music ceases.

Highland Reel:
     This merry dance was performed by two couples; but, being a favorite, the admission of many is not unusual. The company formed parties of three along the room, the lady's position being between two gentlemen, and fronting the opposite three; all then advanced and retired, each lady executed the reel with her right hand partner, and then with her left hand partner to places; hands three round, and back again; all six advanced and retired; after which lead through to the next three, continuing the figure to the end of the room. The figure may be formed with four in a line. This was the favorite dance of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Rustic Reel:

     The dancers face up and down, like the Spanish dance. All the gentlemen stand in a line up and down the room, every two gentlemen facing each other; who have two ladies on either side of them, facing as they do; thus there will be two sets of six dancers, facing each other alternately, all the way down. The top gentleman will balance to the lady on the bottom gentleman's right hand and urn her, while the bottom gentleman will do the same with the lady on the top gentleman's right; they will both execute the same figure with the respective ladies on the left of the gentlemen; the two lines of three in each will join hands and chassé up to each other and pass through their lines; those meeting the next set below, will do the same figure with them until they reach the bottom of all: those who who go up, of course, do the same as they go up; all commence at once. The gentleman, with his two partners, can retire from the dance at his pleasure. It only answers for a finale at a ball. It may be danced to any lively Scotch reel tune.

Scotch Reel:
     was a true national dance of Scotland, and was generally performed by the nobility before her Majesty at her state balls. This was certainly the most lively and characteristic dance known at the time. The music was generally played by a piper (now CD's ... lol), such as at her Majesty's balls, and was played very fast. When a band was provided instead of the piper, one-half the band would play while the other would wait their turn, the reason being was that the Scotch were indefatigable when dancing the reel; they seemed almost intoxicated with it, they snapped their fingers, throw their arms and feet in the air, screech out, and made such quick and difficult steps that the eyes have trouble to follow them. The figure was danced by two ladies and two gentlemen forming a hue of four, the ladies in the center. They began with a chain in passing in and out of each other, until the two gentlemen return to their places, the ladies finish facing the gentlemen; then they set (or Balance) before each other, the gentlemen would exhibit all their skill, the ladies dancing as quietly as possible; after eight bars or this set they begin again the chain and set, and this they do as long as they can, in fact they never seem tired, and seem to acquire fresh strength each time they come to the Balance.

Virginia Reel (Click Here)


Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

Tulloch n/a n/a Country / Square

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Music Titles

n/a n/a Baddeck Reel
            Birch Reel
            Black Mountain Reel [MP3]
            Captain Byng
            Chicken Reel (1910 - Daly)
            Cowboy's Reel

Music: CD Compilations

Father's Reel
      20 Best Jigs Reels & Hornpipes [CD] Fiddler's Reel
      Celtic Dances: Irish Jigs & Reels [CD]
Glasgow Reel
      Ireland: Airs-Jigs-Reels-Hornpipes [CD]
Golden Wedding Reel
      Irish Jigs & Reels [CD] Halfpenny Reel
      Jigs, Reels and Drinking Songs [CD] Kiley's Reel [MP3]
      Riverdance: 35 Jigs & Reels [CD] Lady Gardiner's Reel
            Mother's Reel [MP3]
            Old Time Wedding Reels [MP3]
            Opera Reel
            Rakes Of Mallow
            Rattlin’ Bog
            Set of Reels
            Temperance Reel
            The High Reel
            Virginia Reel

Night Clubs



n/a n/a England

Films / Movies


Ballets / Stage

n/a n/a n/a


            $ Irish Dancing Magazine (12 issues)
            $ Irish Sword Magazine (2 issues)

Other Related Dances of the time...

Allemande Courant Lancers Rustic Reel
Alman English 'hey' Le Boulanger Sarabande
Barn Dances Danse de Canaries Mazurka Scottish Reels
bergomask German, The Minuet Sean Triubhas
Branle(Brawl) Fling Morris Slip Jigs
Brittania Two-step Galliarde Pantalon Step Dance
Buffoons Great Western Reel Passepied /Paspy Strathspeys
Ceilidhs / Céili Highland Fling Pavane Square Dance
Cinq pas Heel and Toe Polka Polka Sword Dance
Clog Dance Hornpipes Quadrilles Tap
Contredanse Irish Hey Redowa Trenchmore
Cotillion Jig / Gigue Rinnce Fada (long dance) Virginia Reels
Country Danse La Russe Roger de Coverly Waltz

Various Reels

3, 4, 6, 8 or 16 hand Reels Fairy Reel Hullachan Reel Scottish eightsome
Antrim Reel Foursome Reel Hullachan Roundabout Shetland Fourhand
Axum Reel Glasgow Reel Morris Reel Solo Reel
Cross Reel Glencar Reel Northumberland eightsome The Treble Reel
Cumberland Reel Great Western Reel Reel of Eight Virginia Reel
Dorset Four Hand Reel Hampshire 5 Hand Reel O’Tulloch Westmoreland 3 Reel
Duke Reel Highland Reel Rustic Reel Westmoreland 5 Hand
Easy Reel   Scotch Reel  

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


Henry Ford n/a Duke of Edinburgh
Thomas Wilson    

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...

Title Author Date Publisher
Sketches from The History and Theory Peacock, Francis 1805 Aberdeen & Co.
A Handbook of Irish Dances: with an essay on their origin and history O'Keeffe, J.G. 1902 ( in Dublin 1902)
24 Early American Country Dances, Cotillions and Reels Morrison, James E. 1976 Country Dance & Song Society
$ Swinging Sporran: A Lighthearted Guide to the Basic Steps of Scottish Reels and Country Dances Campbell and Martine
1982 Harper Collins
$ Between the Jigs and the Reels Macaoidh, C. n/a Drumlin Publications



Poets / Writers

n/a n/a Alexander Montgomerie (Polwart 1580)

Misc. Research Words that may be related ... to help your searches

Celtic Clogging Tap Dance -
Druids Step Dance Square dance    

Terms ... (paraphrased from Francis Peacocks Book) ... 1805
1. Kemshóole, * or Forward Step:
This is the common step for the promenade, or figure of the Reel. It is done by advancing the right foot forward, the left following it behind: in advancing the same foot a second time, you hop upon it, and one step is finished. Cèumsiubhail, from Cèum a step, and siubhal, to glide, to move, to go on with rapidity.

2. Minor Kemkóssy, † Setting or Footing Step:
This is an easy familiar step, much used by the English in their Country dances. You have only to place the right foot behind the left, sink, and hop upon its then do the same with the left foot behind the right. Single Cèum-coisiche, from Cèum, a step, and Coiseachadh, to foot it, or ply the feet.

3. Single Kemkóssy, Setting or Footing Step:
You pass the right foot behind the left to the fifth position, making a gentle bound, or spring, with the left foot, to the second position; after passing the right foot again behind the left, you make a hop upon it, extending the left toe. You do the same step, by passing the left foot twice behind the right, concluding, as before, with a hop. This step is generally done with each foot alternately, during the whole of the second measure of the tune.

4. Double Kemkóssy, Setting or Footing Step:
This step differs from the Single Kemkóssy only in its additional number of motions. You pass the foot four times behind the other, before you hop, which must always be upon the hindmost foot.

5. Lematrást, ‡ Cross Springs:
These are a series of Sissonnes. You spring forward G 3 toward Lèum, a leap, a spring, and Trasd, across with the right foot to the third or fifth position, making a hop upon the left foot; then spring backward with the right, and hop upon it. You do the same with the left foot, and so on, for two, four, or as many bars as the second part of the tune contains. This is a single step; to double it, you do the Springs, forward and backward, four times, before you change the foot.

6. Seby-trast, ∥ Chasing Steps, or Cross Slips:
This step is like the Ba lotte. You slip the right foot before the left; the left foot behind the right; the right again before the left, and hop upon it. You do the same, beginning with the left foot. This is a single step. From Siabadh, to slip, and Trasd, across.

7. Aisig-thrasd, § Cross Passes:
This is a favorite step in many parts of the Highlands lands. From Aiseag, a pass, and Trasd across.
You spring a little to one side with the right foot, immediately passing the left across it; hop and cross it again, and one step is finished; you then spring a little to one side with the left foot, making the like passes with the right. This is a minor step; but it is often varied by passing the foot four times alternately behind and before, observing to make a hop previous to each pass, the first excepted, which must always be a spring, or bound: by these additional motions, it becomes a single step.

8. Kem Badenoch, a Minor Step:
You make a gentle spring to one side with the right foot, immediately placing the left behind it; then do a single Entrechat, that is, a cross caper, or leap, changing the situation of the feet, by which the right foot will be behind the left. You do the same beginning with the left foot. By adding two cross leaps to three of these steps, it becomes a double step. G 4 9. Fos-

9. Fosgladh,* Open Step:
Slip the feet to the second position, then, with straight knees, make a smart spring upon the toes to the fifth position; slip the feet again to the second position, and do a like spring, observing to let the foot which was before in the first spring, be behind in the second. This is a minor step, and is generally repeated during the half, or the whole, measure of the tune. An opening.

10. Cuartag,† Turning Step:
You go to the second position with the right foot; hop upon it, and pass the left behind it; then hop, and pass the same foot before. You repeat these alternate passes after each hop you make in going about to the right. Some go twice round, concluding the last circumvolution with two single cross capers. These form Cuairt, a round, a circumvolution. These circumvolutions are equal to four bars, or one measure of the tune. Others go round to the right, and then to the left. These, also, occupy the same number of bars.
March 26, 2013