As a Highlander, I have never been one to say no to a ceilidh and the Ceilidh in the Castle was not an event I was likely to miss. The mid-week weather forecast threatened the end of the gloriously sunny weather and thus the outdoor location of this event. The backup venue, the Boys Brigade hall, is perfectly adequate but would not have been able to accommodate the 330 ticket-purchasers who would have been sorely disappointed with a humdrum hall when they were promised historic castle ruins. Fortunately, the grey skies cleared to give way to bright blue and the event proceeded as planned.
As I walked through into the large open clearing surrounded by crumbling walls overlooking the sea and saw hundreds of people dancing to the sounds of Luke Brady and Band, I suddenly understood why this was a sell-out event with people clamouring for tickets at the last minute. It truly was a magnificent sight and certainly a departure from the tiny dance space used for the weekly ceilidhs at Forgan’s. It was also wonderful to see so many people (both male and female) clad in kilts – a special shout out to the brave soul battling against the nippy North Sea breeze in merely a kilt and tank top.
Any ceilidh fan will tell you that the band sets the tone for the evening, and Luke Brady and Band did not disappoint. The songs lasted just long enough to exhaust limbs but not so long that people began dropping out of dances and the band knew to pick up the rhythm for the last few minutes to create that mad dash of dosey-does and pas de bas that is so characteristic of a good ceilidh. Three experienced members of the Celtic Society provided clear explanations of the dances for first time ceilidh-goers: one calling and two demonstrating. The sheer size of the venue, however, meant that often those standing furthest away from the speakers could not hear the instructions thus leading to some interesting improvisation – I’m sure I saw a man doing the worm as others danced around him in a circle.
An interval allowed weary dancers to pour themselves a glass of water and grab some baking from the table set up in the corner and enjoy a performance by the Celtic Society’s dance performance team. This experienced team was made up predominantly of 4th years and it was fitting that their last performance was in such a beautiful location and with such an appreciative audience.
The Ceilidh in the Castle commemorated the start of the 220th year of the Celtic Society, the oldest student run society in St Andrews, and this was certainly an event that proved the reason for its successful longevity.