WHEN Glasgow teacher Jean Milligan was named Scotswoman of the Year in 1973, we heralded her as the “First Lady of the Dance… a most successful ambassadress for Scotland, inspiring thousands of people in all quarters of the globe with a love and enthusiasm for dance.”

This remarkable woman was, alongside Ysobel Stewart, one of the driving forces behind the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society.

Glasgow Times: Scottish Country Dancers in 1954

Born in Glasgow in 1886, Jean was a pupil at Glasgow High School for Girls where her father was Rector. Archivist Alan Macpherson and researchers Alastair MacFadyen and Florence Adams explain on the Royal Scottish Country Dance website: “Jean Milligan’s love of dancing came from her mother, who was an enthusiastic and accomplished dancer and from whom Jean often sought advice in later years.”

Glasgow Times: Jean Milligan

Jean became involved with the Beltane Society, formed in Glasgow in 1912 to promote Scottish culture amongst the younger generation. When that society folded at the outbreak of World War One, Jean continued classes, with national dances and drills. From this grew the SCDS, which was formed in Glasgow’s Athenaeum in 1923.

Glasgow Times: Jean Milligan at the 1973 SWOTY event

Jean became Assistant Instructor of Physical Education at Dundas Vale Training College 1909. She joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) and served at the military hospital in Valetta, Malta during the First World War. She became Head of Department of Physical Education in September 1917.

Glasgow Times: Jean Milligan at the 1973 SWOTY event

Jean retired in 1948 but continued to play a pivotal role in promoting the society and Scottish dance around the world. She met the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, acted as Dance Supervisor for the Scottish Film Council, and appeared in the film Mr. Menuhin’s Welcome to Blair Castle, made by the BBC. She died in July 1978.