Papa Stour

Dance done by seven men each with a sword (3’7” x 1” x 1/16” metal bar) padded at both ends with insulating tape to help the lock and to avoid hurting people. The dance is done in a plain running step and in the version without words is done as below.

The music link is given below.

The team runs on, led by the leader (who controls all the figures of the dance), swords held over right shoulder and end with the six-in-line holding swords in both hands horizontally at chest height, and with the leader facing the line. He taps the sword of each in turn (order 2-7). As he taps each sword, that person joins in with running step giving the point of his sword to the left hand of the person behind him in order (number two who is brought in first takes it from the leader). At the end when the sword of seven is struck he gives his sword point to leader and takes the sword point of six to close the circle, HILT AND POINT. They continue in the circle until the leader is ready for the next figure which is Arches. (Note the circle goes clockwise).

ARCHES. The leader starts this figure by raising his left arm and turning to the left. The sword behind the leader and seven is thus raised high and horizontal. The leader turns completely round so that he faces the same way as seven. While this is being done two runs under the arch made by leader and seven. As he does so, and as leader completes his turn, the leader also raises his right hand. Two passes under the arch and turns right to come behind seven, also raising his left hand. At this stage the swords look as in Diagram 1 with the leader's hands crossed at the wrist.

diagram 1 for Papa Stour Diagram 2 for Papa Stour

Three then continues under the arches now made by one, seven, and two and turns left behind the leader, raising his left hand high (and consequently two raises his right hand).

So it continues until four, five and six have passed under the arches in the same way turning alternately left and right. While this is being done, those who have already formed the arches and have both hands raised, crossed at the wrists are running forward to meet those still to go under the arches.
This continues until the leader decides to go to the next figure.

NOTE that as seven goes under the arch for the first time and for everyone else when they next go under the arches, it is helpful if they allow their own sword (i.e. that in the right hand) to trail over their right shoulder. The leader completes this figure by turning to the right as he goes through the arches and pulls everyone after him into the plain circle, hilt and point.

SINGLES. As they go round in the circle, when the leader is ready and all are balanced he warns the rest that “singles coming up”. Then he gives, starting as his left foot comes down the call “singles ready now” (each word as a foot goes down). As his next right foot comes down he jumps across the sword between him and seven. The details of the jump are – as the right foot comes down the left foot is swung above and over the sword, he hops on the right foot again as he drops his left foot to the ground; he hops on his left foot as he raises his right foot over the sword, and hops again as he completes the jump. The circle is still going round as he does this (but the speed is reduced). He is followed in turn by two, three … ... ... to seven.

The timing is as follows: before the start all are in step, then two starts his jump as his right foot comes down the time after the leader starts his jump. Three is one behind two and so on. Once all have jumped the sword we have a circle with the swords inside and hands behind backs.

The circle is given time to steady and get in step, the team is warned by the leader that “open coming up”. When all ready leader gives “open ready now”, starting on left foot. As right foot comes down after “now” leader puts right arm in air and turns under right arm, followed by two, three etc. (timing as in “Singles”).

NOTE In Singles, the swords must be kept low and not brought up as the next man jumps.

OVER AND UNDER The leader advances towards the sword held between five and four pulling the circle after him - see diagram 2.

Four and five raise their swords and the leader passes under it. After he has passed under, all except leader go down on the right knee, taking the swords down with him. The leader must also bring his swords down by bending down. He then jumps backwards over the lowered sword between four and five. The swords are immediately raised again. This will trap both hands of the leader. He is released by two repeating his move (releases his left hand) and then seven (releases his right hand). They are followed by three and then six. Five and four turn under arms to get back to the circle.

This figure is done at quite a high speed. After this figure the dancers circle hilt and point until they are steady for the next figure which is Doubles.

DOUBLES is the same as Singles, except that all do the jump simultaneously. Timing and calls as before otherwise “Open ready now” as the call for all to get back to plain circle hilt and point by simultaneously turning under the right arm. Repeated as leader thinks fit.

The leader then drops the sword between him and seven. Two raises left hand and turns, raising right hand and pulling three through arch to go behind leader as in arches, but here the arches are done across the stage, when seven has gone through he is followed by the leader who turns to the side six is on, runs up the side of the arches pulling everyone out of the arches.

The team are now back in the circle hilt and point, at the call BREAK, everyone drops the sword in his left hand, then turns out left (i.e. Left shoulder back) with his own sword up; when all are facing outwards, the swords are banged into the left hand of the person on your right to give a circle hilt and point with backs to the centre of the circle. Then all turn, left shoulder back, bringing right hand over to form circle facing in with hands crossed Right over Left.

We are now ready to form THE STAR.
Move the sword in your right hand to the person on your right along the swords, take the sword from the person on your left in your left hand and pass it under the sword originally in your left hand. You now again all have a sword in each hand, right over left. The above procedure is repeated to complete the star.

When the star is made, run round in a tight circle with left hands on the shoulder of the person ahead; the right hand is holding one of the points of the star. The leader then takes the star and displays it.

The dance is completed by each person retrieving his own sword and dancing off.

NOTES: This dance was performed at the Eistedfodd in Llangollen by the Eaglais à Chnoc Scottish Dancers in 1967. Due to time restrictions the following cut-down version of the play was used.

Brave gentles all within this boor,
If ye delight in any sport,
Come see me dance upon this floor,
Which to you all shall yield comfort.
Then shall I dance in such a sort,
As possible I may or can;
You, brethren mine, play my court,
That I on this floor may prove a man.


Since I have danced, I think it best
To call my brethren in your sight,
That I may have a little rest.


And you shall dance with all your might;
With heart and hand as you are knights.

Away with this! - Let us come to sport.
St. George of England,
Stout James of Spain,
Champion Dennis a French knight,
David a Welshman born and Patrick also, an Irish knight,
Of Italy, brave Anthony the good,
And Andrew of Scotland – King.


Mars does rule, he bends his brows,
He makes us all agast;
After the few hours that we stay here,
Venus will rule at last.
Farewell, farewell, brave gentles all,
That herein do remain,
I wish you health and happiness
Till we return again.

The full play can be seen at:

VIDEOS of the dance:
North British Sword Dancers -
Oakville Ale and Sword Dance Team -

Score for the dance – see Papa Stour Music
Aly Bain & Ale Moller : listen to the music.