When I learned that Terry Chater had died, I was stunned. Whilst I knew he was ill, I never realised how frail he had become. I then started thinking about the first time I saw him when I went to a dance and he was enjoying himself, lost in the rhythm of the music and whooping in his own inimitable way. It helped to make me relax and start to enjoy the event as well. He was such a presence at functions and seemed to live for dancing.
The first time I really spoke to him was at Askwith, when he came down with his young dancers for the Proficiency Tests. At the end of the day, the weather was awful, fine rain, foggy and very, very dark. He was unsure of the way back to the A1, so I led him to the link road and all was well.
When I became the Adjudicator’s Scribe for the Leeds Branch Children’s Festival, I started to learn of the amount of work Terry, together with his wife Betty, put in week for week. A stickler for doing things right, the encouragement he gave young dancers for years was amazing, and it showed when they danced. A high standard was his aim, and mostly he got it. The Gateshead Festival was proof of that, and sadly when the attendance of children started to decline, there were times that some of the Leeds Friday Class (which Brenda taught) would help out to fill the gaps in the team. Always immaculately turned out in appearance, he produced impressive teams who often won and were a joy to watch.
The effort he put into the Children’s Appreciation Days in Darlington made it well worth turning out for and making the journey up there. The atmosphere in the halls where youngsters danced was infectious enthusiasm. The sheer exhilaration of garrulous children going down the middle and back, at about 30 mph or more, always sparked a wave of laughter from teachers and parents alike – and if you happened to look across at Terry, you could see he was quietly chuffed with the way things were going. When he asked the dancers if they would like to “do it again”, the screams of “Yeeeeeeesssssssssssssssssss” were deafening, and I think, his main reward.
A member of the Leeds Branch for a long while, he was an impressive Standard Bearer at the opening of the Leeds Branch White Rose Festivals. His stature and the size of the Standard were evenly matched, and his pride whilst performing this duty was there for all to see. What days they were, and the evening dances couldn’t be bettered, always enhanced by his “Whoop” from time to time.
There were other things that pleased Terry – FOOD for instance! On the days when The Children’s Festival took place, we used to gather at a local hostelry for a meal before attending the evening Branch dance. The first time this happened, there were about nine of us with at least four wearing kilts. The faces of the other diners were a picture. It must have seemed to them like a Gathering of the Clans, with this huge man in all his glittering gear complete with bonnet doing full justice to his Jacobite tartan. We would have dinner and then, for me, what followed was the best part of this section of the day – Terry ordering his pudding! ! ! He would have apple (rhubarb, plum, or the like) pie or crumble with (his weakness) CUSTARD. It got to be such a regular occurrence over the years, that the waitress used to manage to get in just before Terry could, “extra custard?”, which would be brought in a gravy boat. It never ceased to amuse those at the table, but to Terry, it was heaven.
His energy and commitment to dance were evident to most people who met him, and it was a concern when his health started to deteriorate. Major surgery on his heart was performed and he recovered splendidly, but it was terribly sad when dancers realised that things were getting difficult for him to remember. The thing I admired was that this condition did not stop him from dancing, and his personality was such that, if when dancing, he lost his way and you put him to rights, he always had a quip to pass off what had happened, and he would make fun of it and carry on
The fact that he is no longer with us will take some getting used to because his presence on the dance floor will be hard to follow. For all his size, his grace, power and control were evident. There will always be a space unfilled at a dance for those of us who knew him – and knowing him was a privilege.
Rest in peace with Betty, Terry. I don’t think you will ever be forgotten.