When Mrs. Heggarty of The Grange, the largest of the three houses in the village of Ault Hucknall, invited a demonstration team of Scottish Country Dancers to a party she can have had no inkling of where it would lead for one of her guests. Jenny, who would live in that tiny village on the edge of Derbyshire for all but two of her ninety-three years, was present at that party, and captivated by the dancing.
A scholarship to Chesterfield Girls’ Grammar School and teacher training at Matlock had led to the Headship of Devonshire Infants’ School in Sutton in Ashfield until it closed and she became a supply teacher.
And then she was asked to the party at The Grange…
She joined a W.I. Scottish dance class in nearby Rowthorne before moving on to Mrs. Beckett’s class in Mansfield, and her first experience of teaching dance came after Mrs. Beckett’s retirement from the `Mansfield Ladies’. Along with her great friend Joan Watkinson, later to become Branch Chairman, she joined the RSCDS Nottingham Branch and trained for her Teacher’s Certificate under Margaret Donaldson. Miss Milligan was her examiner for the Full Certificate, and she paused before signing it…
MM: “Is that your baptismal name?”
JB: “Yes, Miss Milligan.” Indeed it was; she was never a Jennifer!
Skill and spatial awareness on the dance floor allied to mental agility led her on to devise her own dances, for which she has long been recognised, perhaps the best-known being the 4 x 24-bar reel `Nottingham Lace’ which is danced all over the world, and the strathspey `James Senior of St. Andrews’, published in Book 42 of the RSCDS collection. She was a major contributor to the collection `Nottingham 10.30’ and her own local publications include the `Oaks of Sherwood’ book, the `Culzean Castle’ collection and the `Gauldry Group’. After over a quarter of a century as Principal Teacher at Nottingham Branch she was presented with a Branch Award before retiring at the end of the 2006-7 season, and received a letter of thanks from Irene Bennett, then Chairman of the RSCDS.
For many years Jenny and Joan attended RSCDS Summer School in St. Andrews, always following it up with a Scottish holiday. In her retirement Jenny continued to take an active part in the annual local tradition of well-dressing as well as making clothes, knitting jumpers on four needles and solving Sudoku problems until failing eyesight, old age and infirmity took their toll, and she died peacefully in her sleep at the end of February 2023.
Her funeral, in the ancient and intriguing Parish Church of Saint John the Baptist, Ault Hucknall was well attended by her family, her carers and members of the Scottish Country Dance and well-dressing communities.