JEM ``Jimmy'' Atkinson, reel creator; born July 14, 1912, died January 13, 1997

CALEDONIAN toes the world over have cause to be grateful to JEM Atkinson. For Jimmy created the Reel of the 51st Division, a dance known and enjoyed by Scots everywhere. And he did it in a German PoW camp.

The then Lieutenant JEM Atkinson, who had been educated at Loretto, was serving with the 7th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. He was captured in June 1940 when the 51st Highland Division surrendered to Rommel after valiantly providing a rear-guard action to buy time for the Dunkirk evacuation.

On the march to Oflag VIIC, Laufen Castle near Salzburg, Jimmy passed the time by creating a reel based on the St Andrew's saltire divisional flash. His concept required development which was provided by the expert Lt LPJ Peter Oliver, 4th Seaforth, and Lt Col Tom Harris Hunter, RASC, at the reel club which met three times a week on the top floor of the prison block.

The men were forced, initially, to whistle musical accompaniment as the Germans had destroyed their pipes. Col Hunter had been chairman of the influential Perth branch of the Scottish Country Dance Society, the ultimate authority.

Col Hunter's wife, back in Perth, worked out the steps and immediately discovered that there was something special about this reel. Mrs Hunter was swamped with orders. The legend grew, and the dance quickly appeared in London, possibly danced by the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret in 1942. The then Queen Elizabeth, now Queen Mother, expressed the wish that the dance be included in the SCDS's definitive book. The reel was now established and soon went global. Atkinson recently confirmed he had danced it in Chile.

After the war, Jimmy worked on a family farm near Nairn and spent his last years in Haig Memorial House, Edinburgh, a retirement home funded by the Scottish Poppy Appeal. He happily lived to see a 30-minute documentary about his creation screened by BBC Scotland last November, as near to St Andrew's Day as the BBC could find possible.

He was always perplexed by his dance's enduring favour. ``I hope to have brought happiness to people,'' he once said shyly. A fine epitaph.