Early Round History

The Round was originally the idea of Jane Schofield (afterwards Fosbrooke), the younger sister of Kenworthy Schofield, who with Rolf Gardiner had been instrumental in founding the Cambridge Morris Men in 1924. It was from the first intended as a university club with the hope of attracting more undergraduates to country dancing.

Jane and three of her close friends, Katherine Skinner, Doris Ellis and Mary Lloyd came up to Newnham from St Paul's Girls School in October 1926. At the same time Godfrey Thomerson, Yorath Cann and Bertie Hughes came up from Christ's Hospital with scholarships to Trinity. I came up to Sidney also in 1926 and knew something about folk dancing and had connections with Jane's family. John Oliver from New Zealand was already living in Cambridge and in 1927 he and Robert Saunders became undergraduates at Emmanuel. We all very soon became close friends keen on all forms of folk dancing. At that time the Morris Men met for practice on Thursday afternoons and afterwards Conway Waddington and his wife, Mary (?) Lascelles known as Lass, had a country dance class or party at St Columba's Hall to which we all went. These were the only folk dance activities not organised by the EFDS. On Saturday evenings there was a country dance party in St Columba's Hall organised by the EFDS committee to which the EFDS stalwarts like Mrs Burnaby, Miss Gaskell and Mrs Bertram Hopkinson with three or four of her daughters came as well as all of us, some other Newnhamites and quite a lot of schoolteachers and other young townees. The EFDS also organised classes for country dancing, morris and sword dancing on other weekday evenings to which our party and other keen people went. These were taught by EFDS staff like "Sinner" (Miss Sinclair), and May Gadd, and "Barney", Miss Barnett, who later married Arthur Heffer.

This was all good fun and we all got on well together but after a bit we younger ones wanted to organise other things particularly with a view to attracting more undergraduates but we found the EFDS committee unenthusiastic and we gradually came to feel that they were too old and hidebound for us. (The chairman of the committee was Mrs Burnaby, wife of the bursar of Trinity and probably hardly more than 30.!) So it was that in the summer of 1928 Jane Schofield had the idea of starting a university club primarily for undergraduates not under the aegis of the EFDS committee and while on holiday with Kenworthy and his wife Joan, discussed it with them at length. They poured cold water on the idea in quantity and it was even mentioned to Douglas (director of the EFDS) and Helen Kennedy who were strongly opposed to it.

Not deterred, when back in Cambridge in October she discussed it with us and we were all keen on the idea, none less than I. However I had some reservations about whether we could make it a success so for a few weeks I played devil's advocate. In the end, being convinced that despite the opposition of the EFDS we could make a success of it, we all went to work with a will to organise a party at the end of that term. We had a number of meetings of about 10 of us and decided that, since we wanted to attract undergraduates and perhaps some dons, who had never done any country dancing, we would have a programme of very simple dances and about a week before we would arrange a class, for those who wished to come, at which the dances would be taught.

We then decided on the name and had invitations printed which we sent out to all the dons and undergraduates we thought might be interested. Most of the Morris Men were interested and Arthur Peck and Joseph Needham were enthusiastic. I do not think we had any formal meeting in that term, Michaelmas 1928, but had sessions in my room at 24 Parsonage Street or in Jane's room in Newnham. Somehow we got cards printed and sent these out to everyone we could think of inviting them to a Country Dance Party in, I believe, the Masonic Hall on Friday 30th November and saying that the dances would be taught at a practice meeting in St Columba's Hall, I think on the Friday before it, Nov 23rd. I think it was Arthur Peck who taught the classes and Nancy Rookes played the piano, as she did at the Party the following week.

There must have been about 100 at the Party because we know that 50 Newnhamites signed up for it and there were probably 20 more from Girton and 30 men. We did not charge anything for either the Dance or the Class because Mrs Schofield, Jane's mother, who supported Jane's idea from the start had offered to meet all the expenses, which are given in Jane's hand below.

It was a great success and when word of it reached Douglas Kennedy he gave up his objections and said that he would like to come to the next Party planned for the Lent Term which was arranged to be on Wednesday 13th February to suit him.

Before the first party we did not have any organising committee but since it had proved such a success we had an informal meeting in Newnham at the very beginning of the Lent Term 1929 and decided to have a meeting of as many people as we could get to come to St Columba's Hall after the CMM practice and before Conway's country class on Thursday 14th January, so that we could formally constitute the Club with a proper committee and two organisers to make the arrangements for the Parties and classes. We called a meeting of those principally interested and elected Joseph Needham as chairman. I think it was at that meeting that we decided on the name, The Round, for I well remember Joseph saying that our motto should be Ducdame, Ducdame, Ducdame, "an incantation to call fools into a circle". We established the rules, and I believe the Roundel and elected two organisers, who were I think Mary Lloyd and Godfrey Thomerson. I believe the subscription was originally two shillings but a few years later it was five shillings.

For the Dance on 13th February 1929, to which Douglas and Helen Kennedy came we made posters displaying the Roundel which we coloured, and when we had coloured a few, Barton Worthington mischievously picked up the cork of the Indian ink bottle we were using and dabbed it on one of them making the eccentric black blob which became a feature of the Roundel.

During the next few years the Round went from strength to strength having a Party preceded by a class a few days earlier each term. At the Michaelmas Term 1929 they decided to enter a country dance team for the All England Festival at the Albert Hall and for this the girls made Cambridge Blue frocks with skirts that were complete round, i.e. making a horizontal disc if you could spin fast enough.

And so it went on fully accepted as part of the Country Dance world, so much so that on May Day 1931 we had an evening party at Cecil Sharp House.

After the War somebody suggested that they should have a weekend in Radlett, where we had a largish house and could easily put up and feed twenty or more people. So eleven joined us for the weekend 9th-11th August in 1947 and then a party of 15 for Jan 2nd-5th 1948 and another of 13 in April. In January 1949 we had a party of 22, in January 1950 a party of 12 and in 1952 of 30. I believe it was as a result of these parties that the Old Round was formed.

Joe Coales

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