Jack Seton Obituary

Jack Seton, with his wife Isa and son Ian, emigrated to New Zealand in 1950 and settled in Hastings. He became a bailiff and, later, a probation officer in the Justice Department attached to the Hastings Magistrate’s Court. His 25 years in the Glasgow Police certainly stood him in good stead.

He was soon in great demand by local societies as a percussionist and was teaching drumming to pipe bandsmen both locally and nationally. A deep love of the culture of his homeland led to his membership of the Hastings and District Scots Society, the City of Hastings Pipe Band and the Pipes and Drums of the Hawke’s Bay Regiment.

In 1951 he formed and became the first tutor of the Hastings Scottish Country Dance Club. Jack became involved with the establishment of the Hastings Highland Games, the largest Scottish gathering in New Zealand, and still a premier event on the country’s Scottish calendar. For several years he led the grand parade and organised massed displays of Scottish country dancing. At these times his home became ‘open house’ to bandsmen and dancers from throughout the country.

By 1952 he had travelled the length and breadth of New Zealand seeking out groups of Scottish country dancers. As a consequence a district association of groups in the Hawke’s Bay and Wellington area was formed in 1953 and elected Jack their first president. Other local associations were established and less than three years later, in January 1956, a New Zealand Society was formed. Once again Jack Seton was the first president. He held this office for five out of the next ten years and that of Immediate Past President or North Island Vice-President for the intervening years until 1963. His association with Scottish country dancing in New Zealand has spanned a full 36 years.

Jack, with a small committee of three, organised the first Summer School in Napier over December-January 1954-1955. From this small beginning, and retaining the friendliness and family participation of the first school, Summer Schools in New Zealand have developed with unbroken continuity right up to the present. Jack attended many Summer Schools and club dances throughout New Zealand, as well as Australia. He had an enviable attribute, a warm and friendly manner which rapidly put people at ease. This, along with his great sense of humour, made him the most outstanding Master of Ceremonies I have ever met.

Jack was an extremely talented drummer and tympanist and in 1960 formed a small Scottish country dance band, another first in New Zealand. This became the inspiration for the dance Seton’s Ceilidh Band, currently very popular in Great Britain. His band performed at many Scottish country dance socials and balls during the 1960s and went on to make the first recordings for Scottish country dancing in New Zealand.

On his election as President of the Wellington-Hawke’s Bay Association of Scottish Country Dance Clubs, Jack wrote a message to all country dancers. Two statements epitomise his philosophy in so far as Scottish country dancing was concerned.

Firstly, ‘During my four years in New Zealand, I have become a millionaire in friendship and … will soon become a multi-millionaire, all through Scottish country dancing.’ Everyone who met him will agree with this sentiment and will never forget the reciprocity implicit in his friendship. As he was fond of saying, ‘Ye canna buy it’.

Secondly, ‘There is no country richer in songs and dances than Scotland. It is our aim, aye our trust, to foster and preserve what can only be described as our sacred heritage, those lovely dances that time has added luster to and not dimmed like other cults.’

Jack Seton was an outstanding ‘son of Scotland’. He did indeed regard his Scottish heritage as a sacred trust and spent his days in his adopted country fostering the culture of Scotland with dedication, vigour and amazing success. At his funeral service it was said of him in the words of St Paul, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.’

How true! He was an inspiration to us all, a friend without peer and a man of stature whom I was greatly privileged to have known. No one man deserves more fully the accolade. ‘Well done thou good and faithful servant.’

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From “60 Years of Scottish Country Dancing”, compiled by Glenys Kelly, 2011


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