Year Inducted: 1997
Over the past 40 years, Rae MacCulloch has found and developed talent that may otherwise never have been discovered. The vast majority of Highland dancers from this area are directly attributable to her great talent as a teacher.
With her dedication and perseverance all her students have been greatly appreciated by people throughout Glengarry and by people much further afield - in fact on a world-wide basis. They have entertained on the most prestigious stages in North America, in Scotland, in China and in Puerto Rico. In early August they will be going to Spain to entertain and also to Utah. Communication is no problem and music proves to be the universal language.
Rae was born in Montreal to parents Donald Archie Grant and Josephine St. Jacques, both of whom were from the Alexandria area. In the Grant family there were three great athletes, Joe, who is inducted in the Glengarry Sports Hall of Fame, Alex, one of Glengarry’s all-time great athletes and Donald Archie, a member of Alexandria’s Ottawa District hockey champions in 1913.
Instead of following the athletic family tradition, Rae and her three sisters become interested in dancing with Rae specializing in her first love, tap and concert dancing.
Eventually Highland dancing became more important and with diligent practice Rae mastered the intricate steps and became interested in teaching these ancient traditions to a younger generation.
Later Rae became Mrs. Alex MacCulloch and her new Glengarry residence widened her field of opportunity in teaching the art of dancing. A Montrealer by birth with Glengarry parentage, Rae was the first to accept the challenge of restoring Glengarry’s credibility as the home of future highland dancers. Her first classes began in 1955 with her dance studio in the kitchen of her sister, Sybil Cameron’s Glen Roy home. She also travelled to Bonville, St. Andrew’s, Martintown, Avonmore and Vankleek Hill for classes. Later classes were held in the Alexander Hall. Rae teamed up with Rev. Father John McPhail of St. Finnan’s cathedral to provide dance numbers for his St. Andrew’s concert. From there, Ron Clare and his band was instrumental in providing Rae with opportunities for her students to entertain with the growing popularity of tap and other stage dances as well as Highland traditions. Rae’s love for the performing arts began to bloom.
At the Highland Games the MacCulloch dances began the custom of presenting the massed Highland fling in a circle around the infield, a pattern that has been adopted by most games in Canada and the U.S. In 1972, the Rae MacCulloch dancers took their first major trip when they toured Scotland with the Glengarry Pipe Band. Bookings also came from CFCF TV in Montreal, CJOH TV in Ottawa, CBC In Halifax and the John Allan Cameron show. On New Year’s Day of 1976, Glengarry dancers were parading the streets in Pasadena, California in the Rose Bowl Parade, as were members of the Glengarry Pipe Band. Two days later they were performing at Disneyland with the RCMP musical ride and the Princess Pat’s band.
An appearance in Union Square, Los Angeles as part of the L.A. - Bicentennial observance followed.
In October of the same year the dance troupe was invited to Washington and Philadelphia to help celebrate the U.S. Bicentennial. Thus began the first of successive trips abroad in the next 20 years. What a travel experience for those young dancers, made possible by the dedication of Rae MacCulloch. This, at a time, when Rae and Alex were raising their young family, Heather, Gregory, Jamie, Deborah, and Lindsay. Credit goes to husband Alex in the role he played with this success story. He handled all the paperwork and worked as closely with the dances and their parents as did Rae. His pride in the dancers was a strong support as he was the “strength” beside Rae. No wonder the parents of the dancers were able to let them go so far away without worry - they were going with their second family.
Rae’s vision continued to be forward as she milled over the thought of staging a concert at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. She was backed by the pipe band executive and the Brigadoons when they approached the Arts Centre. Thus the first concert put on by local amateurs was staged in the prestigious Opera House of the National Arts Centre in October, 1976 to a capacity crowd of over 2,200. What a show it was! So successful that eight more performances followed at the N.A.C. The shows continued every second year at all Centrepointe Theatre from 1989 to 1995 with the MacCulloch dancers entertaining at each one.
Rae and her dancers have travelled to Disney World, Florida many times along with the Bridadoons to entertain during the March Break. For a Glengarrian hearing the music and seeing the Glengarry dancers on stage here in the brilliant sunshine makes goosebumps appear! Rae has with justified pride carried the Glengarry heritage banner far and wide and she continues to promote the heritage and culture of this great county. Each January, to celebrate the birth date of Robbie Burns, Rae gracefully fills the traditional role of hostess entertaining with dinner, music, song and dance at the Bonnie Glen.
A visit to Rae’s home is a stroll down memory lane. Among Rae’s cherished souvenirs are tributes from such dignitaries as ambassadors, premiers, presidential, representatives, political figures, including Prime Minister Jean Chretien and scores of personal friends. Pictures, plaques, and trophies adorn the walls and shelves. Today, Rae still maintains a dance studio in her home, run now with the assistance of daughters, Heather and Deborah, and sister Sybil. Thus, the MacCulloch Dancers continue to be a family affair.
Rae, remember, you are an asset to the community and your name is synonymous with Highland Dancing. The young minds you have influenced and the graceful dances you have taught speak louder and longer than all the words used.