Vince Spillane - Deceased

Vince Spillane - Deceased

I started to dance on NYE 1975. I started to call in March 1976. One of my friends, Jeremy Weedon, who was also a caller, lived in Sydney and recommended that I go to Vince's dance.

I suspect I first met Vince in March 1977. There was an immediate mutual respect and liking between the two of us. Vince was a controversial figure in NSW square dancing. He was one of the 'bad boys' - there were four of us. Arthur Gates, Barry Wonson, Vince Spillane and me.

There was a committee run club in Sydney that hired a different caller each month - the same caller would not be employed more than once in a calendar year. When they had made enough profit they would employ a caller from interstate. The NSW Callers' Association was upset and sent a letter demanding that in future only NSW callers be hired. The club agreed and only employ the four bad boys - who were not association members - on a four month roster/cycle.

Vince claimed to be the first square dance caller in Australia. He told me he started to offer square dance lessons at his ballroom in 1948, prior to Joe Lewis visiting our island nation. Vince was one of many people in Sydney who ran his own ballroom. As square dance was popular in the USA and he followed dance trends, he felt he should be offering this as well.

Vince released two tunes on the Ocean label.

Vince started and operated many square dance clubs in Sydney. Over time he gave some of his clubs away. When I first met him he had three clubs operating. Two were at Ryde - the Promenaders (his advanced club for experienced dancers) and the Buffaloes (his beginner/entry level group). He also ran a once a month dance called Cloud Nine - you can't get any higher.

Vince did not agree with a lot of what the NSW Callers' Association was trying to do and never joined. This caused him to alienate a large number of NSW Callers. Vince was in constant communication with callers in the USA and had a reputation for creative choreography. He created many dance calls - two that I remember are Boomerang and Spinalong.

Vince was an advocate of callers running an apprenticeship system rather than caller schools. His apprentice was Manfred Hoelwek.

Once people discovered I had fallen into the clutches of Vince, they felt a need to tell stories showing how evil he was. Vince, of course, had different interpretations of these incidents. I can relate some of them if you want me to but I don't know this airing of dirty linen is what you are looking for.

Vince was not perfect and would sometimes say the most inappropriate things while on stage. His wife, Myee (who was delightful) would be at the back of the room and I would see her shake her head in horror.

Vince went to Primary schools to run dance classes.  He was both popular and successful with this in the Manly area. An annual event for many years was his dance demonstration on the Corso where 200 school students would put on a dance demonstration with him calling.

I found Vince very professional. He would take two sets of sound gear to each dance - just in case something broke.

I found him generous, humorous and wise. I learnt much from him and am honoured to consider him one of the small number of people who have had a significant impact upon my life. I enjoyed dancing to him and consider him one of the truly great Australian callers.


Written by David Cox