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The Home Defence

from the series Almonds and Sunday Dresses

The Home Defence


by Margaret Sullivan and Nelcia Marshall Robinson

When we were growing up, there would be fetes for children, which began at around 2.00 pm, and ended at 6.00 pm.  Either the village steelband, or orchestra would provide the music.

The big people’s Dance would begin from 8.00 pm and what an event it was. The next day the talk would be on which girl Tom brought, and how Jane was a Wall Flower, because no one asked her to dance. Sometimes a fight would break out, and the village ‘Bad John’ might be either locked up, or he and his victim would be wrapped in bandages. Invariably, the cases would be dropped, before they reached Court.

The highlight Dance of the Year was the Police Dance, followed by the Nurses’ Dance.  Now, the Police Dance was very prestigious and a girl who was invited by a member of the Force, had ‘arrived”.  It was an orderly Dance, free of brawling, and one for which you dressed as Lords and Ladies, and established the respect for the Police.

The Home Defence must have been a fore-runner of the Police Force, or the Regiment in the war days. The story is told of the Home Defence putting on a Dance at a building in Arnos Vale. The band was in peak condition, and the hall packed with patrons enjoying themselves. One woman was in such ecstacy, that she said – “This music is so sweet, I could die”. Hardly had she finished speaking, that the wooden floor caved in. It had collapsed under the weight and movements of happy crowds of dancers.  Many were injured, including that lady.

Formal Dances are rare, as modern music has lifted people into a jump and wave mode, that does not lend itself to formal wear.

The absence of formal dances is a great loss, as a sense of courtesy is missing, an appreciation of elegance and beauty is waning.  Little Lords and Ladies are not being formed. The challenge is out to the Home Defence to reintroduce and defend these important social skills that are critical to the sustainable development of our society.