Lost Rapper Teams:
Beltane Rapper

by Phil Heaton

Beltane were an Edinburgh based team formed in spring 1977 by Neil Thompson basically from members of the Lothian Morris Men. Beltane was always intended to be rapper team only and continued to be so until they finally gave up in the mid Eighties.

The name Beltane was taken from the Scottish Gaelic sun festivals, concerned with the death and rebirth of the Beltane fires at summer and winter festivals. The name has an obvious link with the ritualistic aspect of sword dance. The sashes displayed the Beltane sun from the Peebles Beltane Festival.

A major stimulus for the team's formation and its consequent concentration on the dance from Winlaton came from a trio of interconnected circumstances—

...the public house frequented by the Lothian Morris Men, the Central Bar in Leith, was owned by Willie Hackett, an ex-miner from the Newtongrange Colliery just outside Edinburgh.

Miners from Winlaton moved to Newtongrange Colliery in the early part of the last century and both Neil Thompson and Steve Arcari remember seeing an old photograph of rapper dancers from Newtongrange in a local hotel near the Colliery.

...Neil Thompson contacted Jack Atkin who danced with both the Winlaton White Stars and later the Blue Stars and who taught most of the residents of the village, and had a son and daughter who lived in Edinburgh.

...As a result of the contact, Beltane went to Winlaton to show their own dance (initially taught by George Rowe) in the summer of 1977. Jack Atkin walked through the Winlaton dance after complimenting them on their own dance. He showed them a new uncollected figure which they incorporated into ‘their’ Winlaton with Jack's approval.

They were often featured at the Edinburgh Folk Festival and occasionally crept over the border and took delight in showing off their real Winlaton.

Apart from their snazzy velvet breeks, Beltane insisted on dancing at the proper speed as taught by Jack – usually kicking off at around 160bpm and pushing up.

They performed at Dancing England in 1986 but shortly afterwards.... alas...