Vale Anita Ellis Kemp

April 13, 2010

Picture for Magazine C

 On Tuesday April 13 2010 I sadly attended the funeral service held for Anita, Ellis Kemp, beloved wife of Barry and mother to Vanessa & Stephen.  Anita born 12/10/44 passed away on 7/4/10.  She was a valued committee member of the Adelaide Outlaws Square Dance Club. 

During her eulogy Barry read a letter Anita had penned especially for the service, in which she requested a square dance be performed in her memory.  Her wishes were granted when a square formed up in the Heysen Chapel Centennial Park and danced to her favourite call, “Light the Candles”.  Thank you James Read for calling the square and to the assembled dancers for fulfilling Anita’s wish.  Rest in peace; Anita, you will be greatly missed

Left:   Anita & Barry
             (Brisbane National Convention)

Speewa’s 2010 Easter Weekend

April 11, 2010

Click on each image to enlarge click on the enlargement for bigger still.

Panorama of The BarnC

The Barn on the right Des's home on the left.

Having spent a pleasant weekend, dancing with Wild Frontier Square Dance Club in Berri SA (see on Wednesday 31st March, we left Berri caravan park early and headed off to Speewa via Mildura and the Murray Valley Highway for the traditional Speewa Easter dance.  We arrived, caravan in tow at Des Devereaux’s abode, Speewa Punt Road, at around 3.00 PM to be welcomed by Des and his early arrivals.

 Des on tractorC














                     Des on his beloved Fergie

“The Barn” on Des’s property has been used as a square dance venue since 1968 making this Easter dance number 42.  The following is an extract of a newspaper cutting pinned to a notice board in “The Barn”.

For those who remember the early years.  ‘The Barn’ was just that!  Creaking floors, draughty walls, leaky roof, lots of dust and anything else that associated country to the city dwellers.

From humble beginnings the Barn at Speewa today serves as an example of what a small group of dedicated dancers can achieve by putting fun and friendship above perfection.  Whilst the amenities have improved, the wonderful country atmosphere that puts a smile on everyone’s face is as strong, if not stronger today than it has ever been.  Just another reason why so many of us return year after year.

And as many thousands of dancers, be it local, interstate or overseas can testify, Speewa Easters are a must on the Square Dance calendar.  Like all other times, the dance is for everyone, no matter what level you dance.

For many of us, going to Speewa is like going ‘home ‘ and the people and personalities are like an extended family.  The atmosphere has to be experienced to be appreciated.  The birthday night itself was no exception.  It saw about 150 dancers get together and have fun, renew old friendships or just enjoy the social occasion.”

Rural viewLRC

These days, the barn is used but once a year for the traditional Easter dance, requiring a dedicated few to spend a lot of time cleaning up the dust that has settled over the intervening year.  Whilst  the Barn and its facilities cannot reflect their peak of yesteryear, the tradition,  friendly country atmosphere, and Des’s enthusiasm make up for any deficiencies in this regard.

                            Des's rural  property

Now for those of you that have never been to Des’s and danced in his Barn, the paddock where he parks the caravans also contains many trees, stumps and other obstructions.  Entry to the paddock is also fairly narrow.  And so with many onlookers, Des proceeded to direct us into our spot.  Left hand down, easy as you go, hard right, keep coming, as you are, whoa; forward a bit, straighten up, back up, hard right, hard left and so the instructions flowed.  Amazing, we actually parked with our caravan intact, with no dents on it or the car.

We then joined the audience and watched Des guide Tony and Heather Smith into their parking spot.  Their van is 26 foot long and weighs two and a half ton. I might add that whilst Des is yelling out instructions there is a lot of interjection from the bystanders like stop; stop; stop, or no way it wont fit, but Des  (as is his way) just ignores them and continues on. Very entertaining to watch; again, no scratches or dents, mind you we had to trim a few boughs off the adjacent tree so they could open their roof vents.

Happy campersC

Happy campers enjoy happy hour (or two or three)

Thursday saw the arrival of more caravans and camper vans.  Happy hour which was more like happy 4 hours started at about 2.00PM  South Australia had a large TAWS contingency Chris & Allan,  Heather & Tony, Rosa & Howard, Sheila & Tom,Fay & Barry , Helen & Roger, Joyce & Aubrey and later that day, Pauline & Mick , a total of 8 caravans.

That evening Des put on a special meal as a fund raiser for Beyond Blue, which is the charity he supports.  By that time we had around 30 residents on Des’s propert, also many other dancers arrived from Hilltop Resort Motel (a fancy name for an up market motel / caravan park).

On a humorous note, I found that the toilet flush was leaking all over the floor in the toilet /shower room.  Fed up with mopping the floor and unimpressed by the ice cream container catching some of the leak, I decided to fix the problem with a new rubber seal I picked up in Swan Hill.

Unfortunately the simple replacement job was thwarted because I could not undo a seized plastic thread, so I stated to undo the water supply pipe to remove the toilet cistern when Bob (another newcomer) asked: “What are you doing?”  He had in his hand another rubber seal.  He also tried to free the seized plastic thread to no avail.  In essence what should have taken us 10 minutes to fix took us both an hour and a half.  We ended up with everything dismantled except for the toilet bowl (we joked if we had a sledge hammer we could have removed that too).  Des poked his head in but disappeared (likely in disbelief).  Eventually we got the job done and once again I mopped the muddy floor – in fact all we seemed to do was mop the floor (the water from the shower came out in big lumps which splashed around the room).

Friday saw the arrival of more vans bringing the final total up to 17 vans one tent and one couple bravely staying in one of the “heritage” on site cabins as they “always have done” (likely for the past 20 years or more).  That night, the dining room was packed out for dinner –  good country fair – steamed fish vegetables and a variety of desserts including  bread and butter pudding my favourite.

 Friday night dinner MRC

Friday's evening meal

Peter Humphries kicked off the night with 9 or 10 squares up on the floor.  We danced until around 10.30 PM and then crashed.

Friday night dance1C

Friday night dance2C

Saturday Des’s happy campers all assembled in the dining room for breakfast, a light repast of bacon eggs tomatoes coffee, and toast with lashings of butter.  Thus fortified many happy campers went off to do some shopping in Swan Hill (our beverage cupboard was getting a bit low) or went further on to the markets about 50 km past Swan hill.  The campsite was deserted by midday.

Dancing on the boatCThat evening 50 or 60 dancers assembled at 5.30PM outside the pioneer village in Swan hill to be ushered onto a paddle steamer where Peter Humphries had set up his speakers fore and aft on the bow and stern decks (that was for you nautical types for us city slickers he had speakers on the sharp and blunt end of the boat).


We all set off for a 1 hour cruise dancing on the decks as we paddled accompanied to a nice splash splash splash sound along the river.  We had two squares on the fore deck and two squares on the aft deck with continual calling by Peter.  Dancers dropped out of the squares for a rest and a relax whilst other dancers filled in the vacant spots.  It was a most pleasant way to square dance, mind you the boat was not always level and it took some time to adjust to a moving dance floor.  Peter chose some appropriate river songs and we danced past the Swan hill Caravan Park with many onlookers on the river banks to the strains of Big Wheel Turning – I just hope some of the caravaners there could see what fun we were having and enquire more about our activity (I’m always on the lookout for new dancers).

Dancing on the boat 2CWe then drove back to the Speewa ferry where lights, a marquee, servery tables and a large bonfire had been set up.  There were many, many more people at this venue than were on the boat, it looked like more than 100 people had brought along their own tables and chairs to sit down for the evening meal. 

Dinner scene 2C

We camped next to the River Murray at the Speewa Punt

 Tractors at dinnerC

Fergie taxies

The area was parked out and three people had arrived on tractors, there were also many families with children, the atmosphere was wonderful, a fairyland of light and sound, a truly nostalgic farm country atmosphere.  Des’s crew did a magnificent job serving up roast beef and vegetables.

 Dinner is servedC

Your roast dinner is served!

 Dinner scene 1C

Peter had some appropriate music playing on his sound system and the wine (and beer) flowed like water. After many servings of pancakes and toppings, Peter played some music for the younger generation (Birdie dance, Nut-bush city limits etc) and they even did a bit of line dancing.

 Dinner scene 3C

Tucking in

The pancake queuC

The pancake queue

Serving pancakesC

The pancake crew

birdie danceC

Birdie dance

Reluctantly we broke camp at around 10.00PM.  I noticed that many cars leaving the ferry area went on past “The Barn”, likely back to Hilltop caravan park. Wimps!  They had had enough for the night; but not us stalwarts; we assembled in the barn for some serious mainstream square dancing. 

 Saturday marathonC

Saturday night's marathon dance

Saturday marathon 1C

These dancers are the stalwarts!

Now the tradition here at the Speewa Easter dance is that the first tip has 3 singing calls, the next tip has 4 calls etc.  We started off with about 5 squares, but, by about 12.30 AM when we struggled up for an eight call tip, we could not fill two squares, so we proceeded to dance a single hexagon.  We finished that tip at about 1.30 AM and Peter was quite happy we were not fit enough for another one.  We retired to our beds knowing we had crashed in style that night.

Sunday breakfast was a strange affair, not the usual rush.  Dancers straggled in from about 8.00AM with the last few just making it just after 9.00 AM when the kitchen volunteers were cleaning up.  Breakfast of sausages eggs & tomatoes went down well and helped with the revival process.

Easter Egg HuntC2.00 PM on Easter Sunday and we were all back into more dancing with Peter putting on a workshop.  How many positions can you Wheel & Deal from?  Most were from legal positions but some were less legal such as lines of three.  It was a comprehensive study of the move.  We also had fun learning Dip n Dive then doing an old time square dance (like they did in the 1950’s) which incorporated that call. Peter then looked at the complexities of all the circulate paths, including facing lines and other positions where dancers circulated in opposite direction including half circulate.  It was a fun workshop thoroughly enjoyed by the participants.  Those that missed out missed a great afternoon; for the many children present, Des and Peter’s partner Sandra went out scattering chocolate Easter eggs around the caravan site and they all participated in an Easter egg hunt.


 Peter HumphriesCWe all went home to our caravans for a long 2 hour rest before tackling the splendid dinner provided prior to the evening dance.  This evening The Barn was packed with square dancers.  The dining hall was filled to capacity and extra tables were set up on the adjoining dance floor to cope with the large numbers. 

 Peter did an excellent job catering for everyone’s taste, mainstream, plus, rounds and some modern dance  moves for the kids (and those young at heart).  What a fantastic finale to a fantastic weekend

On Monday, we regrouped early in the morning for one last breakfast.  Those that were leaving that day said their fond fair well’s whilst other dancers departing at a later date went about packing up whilst they reflected on a wonderful weekend which epitomized the true character of the wonderful square dance fraternity of which we are all a part.

Peter Humphries Speewas Regular Easter Caller

Just when I thought it was all over, Des arrived to tell us that “road kill” was on that night, his way of saying that those remaining were invited to finish off any leftovers.  Heather and Helen rounded up any spare fruit the SA fraternity could not take back over the border and made a magnificent fruit salad.  We all enjoyed our last supper (until next year) and then watched a slide show of Des’s passion: Ferguson tractors.

The last supperC

The last supper

Des Heather HelenC

Heather Des and Helen (our fresh fruit salad makers)

Monday dishwashersC

Yes! The dishes still had to be done before Des would let us go.

If you have never been to Speewa before, you have one more  chance to attend.  Next year (2011) will be Des’s 80th year and he wants to hold one more Easter dance.  If you are local to Victoria, from interstate or overseas and would like to experience true blue Australian hospitality and friendship “country style” then you must not miss this last event.  Des does not have a computer or a web site so, for more information or to register your interest in attending, you can contact us from this site, or go to Peter Humphries website at or the ContactUs page of and your mail will be forwarded on to the right person.  Accommodation on Des’s property is limited essentially to a few caravans, however, Hilltop Resort (about 5 kilometres from The Barn) features modern unit accommodation plus a caravan park with cabins and ensuite caravan or tent sites (see – but you must book early because Easter weekends will fill the place to capacity.

We hope to see you there next Easter.