The MacLennan Group History

The MacLennan Scottish Group was formed in 1979 by a dancer (the late Iain MacLennan Brown - click here) and a musician (the late Pipe Major Bryan Bredin - click here), with the aim of promoting Scottish music and dance. The Group was unusual in that it laid stress on a balance between the dance and the music. The musicians were always full members of the group,rather than invited along to provide an accompaniment for the dancers. The integration of music and dance has always been a crucial part of MacLennan performances. One of the group's primary aims was to promote Scottish music and dance by visiting festivals in other countries. The Group was established to perform at its first Festival, the Europeade in Antwerp, in September 1979, and at that time the first of a wide variety of contacts with Flemish dancers and musicians in Belgium was forged. These early contacts have been maintained for more than twenty years, along with friendships established in more recent times. Through the years the group Countries visited by MSG has visited numerous festivals in many countries including regular appearances at the annual Europeade festival. The map highlights the countries visited by the group. Click here for a full list of the countries and festivals visited.

From its inception, the MacLennan Scottish Group took the line that it was very important to be able to reciprocate the generous hospitality it had received at so many festivals, and it therefore established its own Festival. This is held annually, at the end of May, in the South London/Kent area. For more information on the MacLennan Festival, click here. The membership of the Group has, inevitably, changed over the years, as people have grown older, had children, or moved away from the London area, but in many cases contacts have been maintained and former Group members return to help with the Festival and attend celebrations, such as the party held in September 2000 to mark the 21st Anniversary of the first trip to Belgium and the 30th anniversary party held in September 2009.

Pipe Major Bryan Bredin

Bryan Bredin, together with Iain MacLennan Brown, founded the MacLennan Scottish Group in 1979. For many years he led the musicians in the Group. Sadly, he died on 19 September 2000. He is very much missed: his musical contributions were invaluable, and his understanding of the Group's repertoire and the requirements of Scottish dancing, whether country, highland or step, was complete. More than that, though, he was the life and soul of any party, in the UK or abroad.

Iain MacLennan Brown

1941 - 2019

Iain was a proud Scot with a passion for Scottish dancing. He was born in Greenock and danced at school. On moving to London in the 1960s, he went dancing at The Royal Scottish Corporation Hall in Fetter Lane. There he met Irene Nicholson, who became his partner in life for 51 years. He qualified as a teacher through the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing, and taught classes for children and adults in Sidcup. Iain was a demanding teacher and expected high standards. He trained dancers for examinations and competitions. In the 1970s he and Irene danced with the Strathreelers, a close-knit team that performed demonstrations in their distinctive colour co-ordinated costumes.
Through his friendship with the piper Bryan Bredin, Iain realised his ambition of leading a team of dancers and musicians to European festivals and hosting a festival in Sidcup. The MacLennan Scottish Group gave its first performance in 1979 at the Europeade Festival in Antwerp, and three years later organised an International Folk Dance Festival of its own. The festival is now an annual event and the Group continues to perform on the Continent, where its choreographed displays of country and highland dances to the accompaniment of pipes and drums are very popular. When Iain stepped down as a dancer and choreographer with the Group, he continued to serve on the Europeade Committee, helping to organise an annual festival in a different European location each year for hundreds of folk and traditional dancers and musicians.
Both the MacLennan Scottish Group and its Festival are testimony to Iainís vision, enthusiasm and determination. Their success over the years is due to the hard work of many people, but without Iain they would not have existed. Many Scottish dancers in the Southeast are grateful to Iain for teaching them to enjoy dancing well, and for the good times and friendships they have experienced through the Group. We extend our sympathies to Irene, who gave steadfast support to Iain and the Group, as well as dancing with the London Branch Demonstration Team.

Photo of Iain is by Irene Nicholson and obituary is by Andrew Kellett.
Both as published in The Reel, issue 311.

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