Halloween Tales From Orkney: Parties and Parades

A feature of Halloween through the years has been the holding of parties, mostly, but not exclusively, for children, and of parades.

Organisations for children and young people were often the producers of such events.

In 1935 hundreds of people attended a Halloween fancy dress parade of the Kirkwall Brownies, Girl Guides and Rangers in the Town Hall. It had to be done twice because so many people wanted to see it that they had to divide it into two showings. The costumes of the Brownies represented what was current at the time for example ‘The Bisto Kids’. But there were also the standards of ‘Red Riding Hood’, ‘a realistic scarecrow’, and ‘Spanish ladies’. One Girl Guide was dressed as a Yo-Yo. The Rangers went for costumes representing themes such as ‘Poverty and Plenty’. There were prizes for the best costumes and the night ended with games, dancing and food. 1

It wasn’t just for the bairns. In 1947 The Cosmo Ballroom was the scene of a ‘brilliant function’. It was organised by the Kirkwall Townswomen’s Guild and raised money for A.I.W.C (Calcutta Branch) [All India Women’s Conference]. Couples danced the night away to the Kirkwall Dance Orchestra. The night included a Fancy Dress Parade with 400 people crowding the dance floor to watch it. Once the judges had made their choices the dancing continued. In the corner of the hall a tent had been erected where David Dunnet, suitably disguised, told fortunes. Half way through the night as the dance band took a well earned break, Gordon Peace played the bagpipes. Finally a clapshot supper was served and the dance finished after midnight (12.30). 2

Orcadians even continued this tradition wherever they have emigrated to around the world.

In 1912, a Halloween party was held in the Transvaal, South Africa, in which there was a grand opening march of 300 children, ‘the dresses of which being exceptionally pretty and correct’. ‘The ancient customs were fully observed and many of the old fashioned country dances of Scotland were executed in perfect style by the older bairns. ‘3.

In 1891, The Orkney and Shetland Society of New York, held a Halloween Concert and Dance at its headquarters at Bradbury Hall, Brooklyn. 4

References Orkney Herald and Advertiser:

  1. 30th October 1935
  2. 4th Novebmer 1947
  3. 12th March 1913
  4. 2nd December 1891

Included in this short article is reference to The All India Women’s Conference which was founded in 1927 by Margaret Elizabeth Cousins (née Gillespie, also known as Gretta Cousins; 7 November 1878 – 11 March 1954) was an Irish-Indian educationist, suffragist and Theosophist, who established All India Women’s Conference (AIWC) in 1927. She was the wife of poet and literary critic James Cousins, with whom she moved to India in 1915. She is credited with preserving the Indian National Anthem Jana Gana Mana based on the notes provided by Tagore himself in February 1919, during Rabindranath Tagore’s visit to the Madanapalle College. Wikipedia

Click on this link for information about the All India Women’s Conference

2019 Halloween Parade with Kirkwall City Pipe Band image credit Nick Morrison