This weekend, dignitaries including Scotland's culture minister will gather in the unlikely surrounds of Glasgow's Hard Rock Cafe.

However, it won't be the Rolling Stones or Guns 'N Roses that Christina McKelvie and others are there to hear but accordion music.

On November 26, 1923, a public meeting was held in the Buchanan Street building, then the Atheneum. Efforts to attract attendees had been bolstered with an advert in The Herald.

As it was, around 17 Glaswegians gathered in the hall, with a shared purpose - to enjoy one of Scotland's most celebrated traditions and ensure its survival.

From those humble beginnings and over a period of 100 years the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society (RSCDS) has grown into a global organisation with 73 branches in Scotland, 37 in Canada, 11 in Japan and even one in Hawaii.

One branch in New Zealand covers the entire country while the Paris group is "growing like mad."

Scottish country dancing is, according to the Society, one of the country's best exports, with figures showing RSCDS’s members outside Scotland boosted the country's economy by more than £2.3M last year.

That sum doesn’t count the local economic impact of society members renting halls for dances and classes and hiring caterers and bands.

While it might conjure up unwelcome memories of sweaty-palmed pairings in the school gym hall, society leaders say it's never been more popular. One of the best-attended branches is at the University of Glasgow.

READ MORE: Best ever Herald subscription offer: Ten reasons to sign up 

Like TV's Strictly Come Dancing, it has moved with the times. Partners are free to dance with whoever they want, says William Williamson, chair of the Society.

The Herald: The Royal Scottish Country Dancing Society was formed in Glasgow Picture: RSSCDThe Royal Scottish Country Dancing Society was formed in Glasgow Picture: RSSCD (Image: Royal Scottish Country Dancing Society)

"We've got this strapline of Fun, Fitness and Friendship and that is really the essence of what it does," he says.

"Everyone can dance with whoever they like. It's that magic of the dance and the music and the inclusivity and the Scot wanting people to join in. It's a great export."

That first meeting of the society was organised by Michael Diack  (June 26, 1869 - February 2, 1946) a Scottish musician, who oversaw the teaching of music in the Glasgow area. 

He founded the Glasgow Bach Choir in 1906 and made English translations of choral works by classical masters.

READ MORE: Want a happier life?  Study Gaelic, finds study of thousands of graduates

In 1923 he suggested a meeting with founders Ysobel Stewart, who wanted to publish a book of Scottish country dances for the Girl Guides movement and Jean Milligan, who was keen to encourage more men to take it up as part of the PE course at Jordanhill College. 

Glasgow's Paterson's Publications, which was formed two years later, agreed to print a first book of dances to get the society up and running.

"They had dances like the Petronella, The Flowers of Edinburgh, Strip the Willow and the Duke of Perth and those are dances that people still do today," says Mr Williamson.

The Herald:

"As the society was growing, ex-pats would take the music all over the world. But it's all about the Scot going abroad to live there and taking their music and dance but not keeping it to themselves and saying 'Come on and join us. That's the great thing.

"Obviously the Americas and Canada are big and Australia and New Zealand is big.

"We've got three huge branches in Japan which I've visited in the past and it's all Japanese people and we've got a  lovely branch in Buenos Aires."

In 1951 under George VI and the future Queen, the group became the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. 

Most of the dance steps are preserved in books, images an original short film of dancers in the Borders dating back to 1930.

READ MORE: The Gaelic speaking Czech flying the flag for 'forgotten' SNP hero 

"I've danced since I was at school here, says Mr Williamson, a long-time member, who lives in Dumfriesshire.

The Herald: William Williamson enjoying a dance Picture: RSCDSWilliam Williamson enjoying a dance Picture: RSCDS (Image: RSCDS)

"It brings people together and it doesn't matter what age you are.

"It's a real leveler, the dance floor. It doesn't matter if you are a rocket scientist or someone who works on the land and you make life-long friends.

"We have branches all over the world and I often ask myself, why would folk in Buenos Aires want to learn Scottish Country Dancing?

"Other countries have traditional dancing but it tends to be trailed out for the tourists and it's stuck in a particular period, whereas, ours has developed and folk turn up to classes in their jeans and in their shorts.

"It's a living tradition, which means there are still people composing music and tunes and devising dances." While dancers will generally dress up in kilts and ball gowns for a ball, jeans and trainers are perfectly acceptable for less formal occasions.

The Herald: Broadcaster Kirsty Wark sent a message of congratulations to the Society on its centenary year Picture: Heather YatesBroadcaster Kirsty Wark sent a message of congratulations to the Society on its centenary year Picture: Heather Yates (Image: Heather Yates)

He says pupils in secondary schools still learn dances like the Dashing White Sergeant for the Christmas dance, albeit in smaller numbers and the society is working hard to ensure the tradition continues.

Earlier this year, a university society that promotes Scottish country dancing came under fire for insisting that only male and female pairs can attend its "highly esteemed Martinmas and Candlemass reeling balls" at Fingask Castle.

The St Andrews Caledonian Society - dubbed CalSoc, was accused of promoting a discriminatory policy and a "dust-covered" relic on a bygone era. Mr Williamson says inclusivity is at the heart of the SCDS.

"It wasn't a case of changing any rules, it's always been inclusive," he says. "People can dance on any side of the dance they want.

"Our main thrust now is to look ahead," he added. "Almost think, like they did after the First World War, we've got to think, how do we make this relevant in 2023 because it is such a wonderful pastime."

He says ceilidh dancing has huge benefits for older people, physically and cognitively. 

"We have got people dancing in their nineties and it keeps them fit and healthy," says the society's chair. "There is a huge benefit, both physically and mentally, remembering all the dances.

"I was at a dance event recently and there were 22 dances in the programme and there were people in their eighties dancing every single dance. 

"It's kept them fit, it's kept them sharp. Various universities have looked at this and have said that it's one of the best all-round regimes there is."

He says that while membership is growing, with 10,000 world-wide the society is looking at how it can boost numbers in some areas of Scotland where country dancing " doesn't do so well".

READ MORE: Meet the American YouTuber helping future generations learn Gaelic 

"We are training teachers all the time," he says. "The university groups are doing well again so that's encouraging."

Malin Altenmüller 29, has danced for most of her life in her home country of Germany, where traditional Scottish dancing is popular. She is now a member of the Glasgow Society, after moving to the city in 2016 to study at Strathclyde University as part of the Erasmus programme.

The Herald: Malin Altenmüeller (middle) dancing at Glasgow Music FestivalMalin Altenmüeller (middle) dancing at Glasgow Music Festival (Image: Malin Altenmüeller)

"There is a real community in Germany," she says. "and when I came here it seemed like a good opportunity to meet people.

She acknowledges that it's a very different thing to be forced into country dancing at school and choosing to do it for pleasure as an adult.

"There's a real sense of community and you know you can go dancing anywhere," she says. "I've been on work trips and taken my dance shoes.

"Ceilidhs are still really popular and the [branch events] are a really similar atmosphere.

"Quite often there is live music, particularly here in Scotland and I enjoy that a lot. It definitely keeps me fit. There's something for every level." Her favourite is the Cranberry Tart.

On Sunday, a blue plaque will be unveiled on Buchanan Street to mark the spot where the Society was formed and a flash mob of Scottish country dancers will entertain Christmas shoppers. A civic reception will also be held later at Glasgow City Chambers.

"We've weathered the storm," says the Society's leader. "Various fashions have come and gone like line dancing but we are still there."