Scots piping up at Osborne Park

By Luke Voogt

Bagpipes will blare and drums will beat when the Geelong Highland Gathering rolls into Osborne Park on Sunday.

Locals can see the swing of claymores, haggis throwing, Scottish terriers, The Black Watch and almost anything else Celtic they can think of.

“This is a gathering, a meeting of friends, to enjoy and participate in all things Scottish,” said Maurice Marshall, Geelong Highland Gathering Association chieftain.

The gathering made its Osborne Park debut last year, drawing the largest crowd for the event since 2014, Dr Marshall said.

The new venue attracted “very favourable comments” while its proximity to North Geelong Railway Station suited many of the gathering’s patrons from Melbourne, he said.

The Geelong Highland Gathering dates back to New Year’s Day, 1857, when the event first took place on the plains of South Geelong.

Comunn na Feinne Society ran the gathering until it lapsed in 1927. But the former City of Newtown resurrected the gathering in 1958 to celebrate the municipality’s 100-year anniversary.

“This year’s Geelong Highland Gathering will be the 63rd in the modern era,” Dr Marshall said.

Since 1995 Geelong Highland Gathering Association, a voluntary, not-for-profit, cultural group, has organised the event.

This year’s gathering will again see music adjudicators from across Victoria and Australia travel to Geelong for the Victorian Pipe Band Championships.

The gathering also features the South Pacific Heavy Scottish Games Championships, where the strongest of Celtic warriors will throw, heave and lift all manner of burdensome objects.

The 42nd Highland Regiment Australia re-enactors will march onto the field with muskets and the sombre black kilts that led to their namesake unit’s nickname ‘The Black Watch’.

The group recreates the drill, musketry and tactics of the famous Scottish regiment that policed the highlands and fought in the Napoleonic Wars.

Highland dancers will strut their stuff while swords will clash as the warriors of Glen Lachlan College of Arms demonstrate their martial prowess.

The gathering also includes clan and heritage associations, whisky tasting, vintage cars, haggis and other Scottish foods, and Scottish dogs.

A Scottish faire market will sell food, souvenirs, clothing and other Celtic items, with a free jumping castle and petting zoo for the kids.

And, in arguably the highlight of the gathering, Geelong RSL Pipes and Drums will join a mass of bagpipers and drummers at day’s end for an epic final performance.

The massed pipe bands will step off in a powerful and fitting finale of traditional Scottish tunes.

The 2020 Geelong Highland Gathering, begins at 9am on Sunday at Osborne Park, North Geelong.