Scoot Dances:

Mr Martin's Reel - Plethen a Vr Martin

Given to us by  Mr Hedley Martin, Morval Nr Looe (1980) and Mrs Gwen Masters, Blisland (1997).

Hedley Martin was born in Camelford and brought up on a farm near Bude. He saidthat this dance was once known all over North Cornwall and performed at family parties, usually in a kitchen on the slate slabs. Young people would travel from farm to farm during festive seasons, such as Christmas, and drink cider, socialise and perform the dance as entertainment. He could remember the dance being done in fairly heavy clogs with iron scoots, like horseshoes, on the bottom. These were later transferred to hobnail boots which he described as having a plate on the toe end of the sole and a 'U' shape piece over the heel. Ladies buckled shoes were treated similarly, all of which was intended to make them last longer but also increase the noise of step dancing. Hedley would play the harmonica as he danced. The dancers would put their hands on each other’s shoulders in order to ‘hold up’ the musician as they played. Recalling the dances she did as a child, Mrs Gwen Masters from Blisland explained that she also performed some dances where she would stamp her feet, stating that, “There was all this stamping our feet that I remember doing, you know, sort of ended, ‘That’s That”. She said that dances from her moorland area always seemed to end with this double stamp. Although not directly referring to Mr Martin’s Reel, Mrs Masters’ memories do seem to support the popularity of heavy shoed dancing, certainly in North Cornwall. The ‘That’s that’ is reminiscent of the ‘stamp’ which is used in Mr Martin’s Reel to mark the end of each phrase.  Hedley had no name for this dance; thus, the dance became known as ‘Mr Martin’s Reel’. It is important to recognise that “reel” here refers to the dance going around rather than necessarily making the figure of eight shape normally associated with country dances. Similarly, it is not danced to the tune of a reel but a hornpipe with a pronounced double beat at the end of each four-bar phrase.


Formation: Dancers stand in a tight circle with hands resting on the nearest shoulders of dancers on either side.

Steps (TRAVELLING STEP) Using the ball of the right foot, kick the floor, and then step a pace to the right

with the right foot and follow by bringing the left foot to meet the right


1 — 4 The above step is repeated seven times to right then stamp on the left foot (i.e. last part of seventh step) and then on right foot.

5 — 8 Repeat above steps to the left.

9 — 10 Repeat the above steps to the right again, this time with only three shuffles, and then the ‘stamp stamp’ at the end.

11 — 12 Repeat bars 9 — 10 to the left.

13 Repeat the above steps to the right again, this time with only two shuffles and no ‘stamp stamp’ at the end.

14 Repeat bar 13 to the left.

15 — 16 Repeat bars 13 — 14

Repeat as often as wished, with the music gradually getting faster. As the music

speeds up the stamp step can be used to ‘brake’ for the change in direction.

Mr Martin had no specific tune for this dance and a selection of tunes was played to him to find one that he thought fitted the dance best. He took a particular shine to a tune from Robert Morton Nance’s manuscripts for the Cledry Plays (Morton Nance, Box 4, Royal Institution of Cornwall) called “the King of  Sweden” or “Marriage May Become a Curse”, because it had a strong double beat in every 4th bar which fitted the dance.

music score
Mr Martin's Reel (Marriage may Become a Curse)

Two versions of Mr Martin's reel choreographed by Hevva and Bolingey Troyl Band and Dancers.

See Mr Martin's Reel played as a session tune on the Cornish National Music Archive