In the year 1742, some influential inhabitants of Aberdeen represented to the Town Council "that the town was at great loss for want of a right dancing master to educate their children". After a certain amount of thought, the Council resolved to advertise for a suitable person, and two candidates presented themselves to show their qualifications to the Magistrates, in front of a crowd of gentlemen and ladies in Trinity Hall.
James Stuart, of Montrose, was found to be better at dancing and teaching, and he was employed; but it seems he was unsatisfactory, for in 1746 the council resolved to advertise again for "a person of sober, discreet and moral character". They soon got a letter from Mr. John Dawney, dancing-master in Edinburgh, recommending as suitable a Mr. Francis Peacock. Apparently he suited the council, and on Valentine's Day of 1747 they made Mr. Peacock, then twenty-three, the official and sole Dancing-Master of Aberdeen during his good behaviour, agreeing to pay him seven shillings sterling per student per month, together with some money to organise the music.
Mr. Peacock seems to have liked Aberdeen, and very promptly married a local young lady and settled down. He taught the inhabitants of Aberdeen to dance; he became a prominent member of the Musical Society; he published books of music, and composed; he painted miniature portraits; he took care of business, became a man of means, was much esteemed in Aberdeen, and built himself Villa Franca, a country house.
Francis Peacock remained the dancing-master of Aberdeen for fifty years. He died in 1807 at the age of eighty-four, giving his name to Peacock's Close, where he had his school. Two years before he died, he had published a manual for teaching dancing, some of which the University of Aberdeen has very public-mindedly republished on its website. Mr. Peacock condemns affectation and gives advice on dress:
In short, any thing rather than gaudy cloaths; for these, at best, are but the trappings of folly, and will never recommend a man to the esteem of people of sense.
An advertisement at the front of the book recites his experience and tells who his tutors were. It also reveals that proceeds from its sales were destined not for Mr. Peacock himself, but for the Aberdeen Lunatic Hospital. How it sold I do not know, but surely it was well.
The above information about Francis Peacock's life is from Aberdeen Street Names, G. M. Fraser, 1911. The dates he gives, from the Council Register, don't quite agree with what the University has, I don't know why.
Why am I telling you this? Because it may please you as much as it pleases me. Here is another extract:
I may here observe, that there cannot be a greater proof of the utility of Dancing, than its being so universally adopted, as a material circumstance in the education of the youth of both sexes, in every civilised country. Its tendency to form their manners, and to render them agreeable, as well in public as in private; the graceful and elegant ease which it gives to the generality of those who practice it with attention, are apparent to everyone of true discernment.
The Lunatic Hospital - now the Royal Cornhill - still exists. As for the question of why city councils no longer employ dancing-masters, in Scotland or anywhere else - well, things have changed, and perhaps they may change again.