22nd March 1928 – 10th April 2020
A Square Dance Lifetime
Irene inadvertently started Tudor Squares in early 1982. She had experienced American Square dancing first through her love of Folk Dancing at the local club in Hemel Hempstead.
The club leader would only ever do one or two American squares and always the same few. Irene and Jack with a group of friends started a series of monthly dances solely for Square Dancing with the help of Ian McConnell. Dancers from Ian’s club, Country Roads, supported this idea and Susie Kelly happened to be one of Ian’s Roadies, thus making her first contact with Irene. Irene’s group organised themselves into a sub committee of the Hemel Folk Dance Club and started considering teaching beginners.
Using Bob Ruff’s recordings Irene set about teaching this new group of dancers the rudiments of Square Dancing. After a while, feeling that she was getting out of her depth, she recommended that an experienced Caller was now needed. This was how at Christmas time in 1986 Susie became their caller and affectionate friend to Jack and Irene, even though at this point she wasn’t really very experienced.
Over the years Irene and Susie worked together to thoroughly teach the Mainstream program, before moving on to the Plus Program in 1988. This was when the group named themselves Tudor Squares. Irene chaired the Committee meetings with efficiency and enthusiasm, her love of dance being her inspiration.
At first the club met only on a Monday calling Basic through to Plus using two rooms in a school.
Irene then decided to start a Basic/Mainstream group on a Thursday leaving Susie with the Plus on the Monday.
For the next progression Susie found enough dancers who wanted to learn the Advanced programme, bringing together dancers from both Tudor Squares and New City Squares on a Friday at the mid point between the two clubs in a hall at Linslade.
Once the group had learned the A1 and A2 programmes the group moved to Hemel Hempstead officially under the name of Tudor Squares. Although Jack and Irene enjoyed the challenge of dancing the higher program, Irene wasn’t interested in expanding her skills to teaching and calling the Advanced program.
With the support of various consecutive committees Irene succeeded in her aims and the club became the club with the most dancers in the UK. She suggested several social activities such as an annual coach outing to Historic houses and gardens as well as the seaside. The walkers enjoyed a visit to local beauty spots including a pub lunch.
A summer Barbecue and dance was held in Jack and Irene’s garden and later in Linda and Chris Gill’s. There were two or three evening socials each year for Club members the aim of which was to get all the dancers from all the programmer dancing together and each program held a Saturday special dance once a year. Irene was the prime mover in all these activities.
In the year 2002 Irene took an active part in a new National effort to Recruit, Promote and Maintain dancers throughout the UK. Known as the RPM committee they spent nearly 3 years encouraging UK clubs to recruit and keep new dancers and ensured that there was financial support to help if it was needed. Irene continued to think up ideas to further this aim thinking of famous people who might encourage dancers to try Square dancing, even suggesting ways to get on the TV to get more publicity.
With the start of the C1 section at the end of 2007, Tudor Squares became the only club in the BAASDC offering dancing from Beginners through to Challenge, and Rounds.
In 2012 they moved from their home in Hemel Hempstead to a flat in a retirement village in Milton Keynes. This was on one level and self contained so there was no need to go out shopping in the event of bad weather.
Being closer to their daughter Rosemary countered being further from Catherine. Once there, Irene started a Square Dance group in the village. This continued to meet every Tuesday until the virus caused all social events to stop, even continuing to meet during Jack’s last illness while she nursed him in the flat for several months.
To celebrate Jack’s life she organised a dance and party where all who were able contributed towards the evening’s celebration. Her 90th Birthday two years ago was celebrated with her insistence on planning every detail herself. She has seemed to be tireless.
Irene was an example to all her friends in Square Dancing and even more in her family life where she loved to plan Family parties and weekends away in a hotel, gathering around her all those she loved so much.
Her Square Dance family mourn the loss of an extraordinary lady who enriched many lives with her leadership and loving friendship.
Susie and Simon
Photos taken checking out the retirement presents at the Farewell party dance from Tudor Squares