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John Drewry

Scottish country dancing pioneer.

Born: July 14, 1923; Died: June 18, 2014.

John Drewry, who has died aged 91, was arguably the greatest innovator in Scottish country dancing since the foundation of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society by Jean Milligan and Ysobel Stewart in 1923, the year, coincidentally, of Mr Drewry's birth.

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In collaboration with other enthusiasts, Miss Milligan collected old dances which, in some cases, she amended, publishing them in a regular series of instruction books. The formations and steps of these dances were limited, and it was not until Mr Drewry appeared on the dance floor that new and challenging forms and dances were devised.

Born in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, in a 15th century thatched cottage, Mr Drewry first took up Scottish country dancing in Cumbria as a member of a ramblers group. He joined the RSCDS Carlisle branch and was awarded the society's teaching certificate.

It was Hugh Foss, another distinguished dance deviser, who encouraged him to begin to create dances during his sojourn in Cumbria.

His appointment to the biochemistry department of the University of Aberdeen in the mid-1960s brought him to the national heartland of Scottish country dancing and inspired him to devote more and more of his leisure time to devising dances of subtlety and distinction.

The first of his dances to be published by the RSCDS was The Silver Tassie, with its new figure the rondel. Miss Milligan, a hard lady to please, bestowed on Mr Drewry the affectionate title Mr Rondel when he attended her classes at summer school in St Andrews. In 1999, when he was awarded an RSCDS scroll for his contribution to Scottish country dancing, nine of his dances had appeared in RSCDS books, and since then the society has published four more, not to mention dances using the formations for which he is the creator: the rondel; set and rotate; corners pass and turn; and petronella in tandem.

To watch these figures being executed with skill and pleasure at a dance in the Younger Hall, St Andrews, during the annual RSCDS international summer school, must have given their deviser, sitting up on the balcony in his later, frailer years, much satisfaction.

Jean Martin, a former chairman of the RSCDS, recalls: "When devising a dance it was usually the pattern of the dance which came first, though occasionally it was a tune, a place or a particular situation which prompted John to put pen to paper.

"Along with gardening and photography, another of John's leisure interests was hillwalking, and he often found his inspiration in the Scottish mountains. That is how the reel Bratach Bana came about. John was camping at Strontian beside Loch Sunart, listening to a Scottish country dance programme on Radio Scotland, when the tune Bratach Bana was played. He told me: 'I like the tune very much indeed and as I listened I worked out the shape of the dance, walking it out on the shore.'"

Mr Drewry has left a legacy of more than 800 dances, including more recently devised ones such as Thomas Glover's Reel, written in 1998 to recognise the Scottish Samurai and for a visit to Japan; also Out of Africa, to celebrate the golden wedding of a couple, now living in Banchory, who spent many years in Africa.

This courteous modest man is remembered with affection and admiration wherever the dedicated lace up their pumps to take to the floor. His creations will continue to appear on dance programmes from Tayport to Tokyo.

He is survived by his sister Mary Hulse.

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