Lynella dancers still on their toes after 70 years

Dancing school at Disneyland
Dancing school at Disneyland

Generations of local youngsters have learned Highland dance thanks to two land girls Evelyn McLaren and Ella Winne who set up their own dance school in Duns during the war.

The Lynella Highland Dancing School celebrates its 70th anniversary next week - and with over 80 pupils it is still proving as popular as ever.

Both Evelyn and Ella were in the land army based in Duns in 1944 and enjoyed regular Sunday concerts at the town’s picture house.

“Walking home one night after watching a dancer perform from Edinburgh, Miss McLaren discovered to her horror that there was no dancing school in the town,” said Katrina Fairbairn.

“To her “a town without a dancing school was like a town without a church”. She put up a postcard in her friend’s shop and 50 people turned up to the first meeting.

“The Lynella school was born - the name derived from ‘Lyn’ (Evelyn) and ‘Ella’ (Ella).

“Generations of Borderers and a good number of champions have been taught to dance.

“However, it may not have been the case as Evelyn and Ella always planned to return to Edinburgh, but in the end they bowed to pressure from their pupils. Miss Winne died in the 1980s leaving Miss McLaren to continue to run the dancing school until 2001 when Susan and Sharon Lillie (themselves former pupils) took over.”

Miss McLaren died in 2008 aged 89.

Today Susan runs classes in Kelso with over 40 dancers and Sharon runs classes in Eyemouth with a role of around the same number of pupils - all ranging in age from three years to 22 years and at various different levels.

Dancers have enjoyed considerable success at competitions in the UK including the World Highland dancing championships at Cowal, Dunoon, held every August and Canada as well as gaining awards in dancing exams which are taken annually with the British Association of Teachers of Dance.

The dancers also regularly showcase their talents at displays around the area and make up part of the Borders team which competes in the Scottish Area finals in Oban in May each year - representing the Borders as part of the team for 2015 will be Corrine Murray (Kelso), Bethany Smail (Kelso) and Joanna Sutherland (Kelso) - in juvenile; Skye Chatburn (Kelso), Kirsty Bell (Kelso) - junior; and in the adults Rebecca Fairbairn and Amy McQueen (both Eyemouth).

The dance school has also been represented in Marle, France for Eyemouth twinning, Azerbaijan and China.

Some of the dancers have also auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent in 2008, but were unsuccessful, and last November attended Disneyland Paris as part of the Scottish celebrations.