The 2023 Bundanoon Highland Gathering makes a huge return

By: Alaistair Saunders

It’s taken 5 attempts to hold our 43rd Brigadoon Gathering, beaten by Covid 19 for two years and in 2022 defeated by the horrendous weather, but once again old mother nature had the last say, it rained, just a fine Scotch mist, but heavy enough to be uncomfortable. Mother Nature may have tried but nothing was going to stop Brigadoon from going ahead as 11,000 visitors participated in a wonderful day to celebrate all things Scottish.

The Chieftain of the day was The Rt. Honourable the 15th Earl of Loudoun, the honourable Simon Abney-Hastings. Simon Abney-Hastings is an Australian Earl who is the current holder of one of the oldest Scottish noble titles, Earl of Loudoun. Earl of Loudoun is named after Loudoun in Ayrshire, Scotland. The Campbell’s of Loudoun are the oldest branch of the house of Argyll. The Earldom was originally granted to the 1st Earl of Loudoun, John Campbell – Lord Chancellor of Scotland, by King Charles 1st in 1633 and has since passed down to Simon Abney-Hastings though the laws of succession when his Father Michael, the previous Earl of Loudoun passed in 2012. The Title is one of the oldest Scottish noble titles and it carries with it the right to carry the Golden Spurs (the emblems of knighthood and chivalry) at the Coronation of a British Monarch.

Photo: Jeremy Tonks.

Our special guest for the day was His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd) Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia accompanied by his wife Her Excellency Mrs Linda Hurley. They enjoyed Brigadoon so much in 2019 (when he was Chieftain) that they couldn’t resist returning to enjoy another day of Brigadoon. The Street Parade was sight to behold with 1,000 participants, starting at 9.15am and featured 28 pipe bands, with some joining the more experienced pipe bands to gain confidence and self-esteem and they were wonderful. There were three newly formed pipe bands participating, our own Bundanoon Pipe Band, Presbyterian Ladies’ College Pipes and Drums, Sydney, and Granville Boys High School Pipe Band, Sydney. It was a wonderful experience for all of them accompanied by decorated children’s floats and marching Clans.

At 10.00am, the Chieftain of the Day officially opened the gathering. During the opening ceremony, spectators are treated to a massed pipes and drums display with 550 bandsmen and women participating. The sheer magic of this moment with traditional Scottish music and the swirling of a myriad of coloured tartans has to be experienced to be believed. As usual we had all our favourite events, Games, Scottish Country Dancing (you can even join in to the Dashing White Sergeant) Scottish Highland Dancing (Joy Reiher School of Highland Dance) Southern Highlands Kennel and Obedience Club, Bonnie Bairns and of course our Fiddlers Tent a very comprehensive and enjoyable list of events, something for everyone. A family friendly fun day out.

Bundanoon Stones

The Earl of Loudoun presenting an award.

The Clans attending were Clans attending Brigadoon 2023 were: Clan Donald, Clan Buchanan, Clan Henderson, Clan MacNeil, Clan Cameron, Clan Davidson, Clan Malcolm, Clan Young, Clan Farquharson, Clan MacEwan, Clan Edmonstone, Clan Gregor, Clan Campbell (15th Earl of Loudoun), Clan Fletcher, Clan MacLennan, Clan MacCallum, Clan Maclean, Clan Hope and Clan Sutherland. The Pipe bands performed individually throughout the day at 3 locations situated around the oval for the entertainment of the public. This is a time when the pipe bands can go out and let their hair down and play to entertain without having to comply to competition rules.  

The Kilted Warriors were lifting the Bundanoon Stones. Modelled on the MacGlashen Stones. The stones used for the current competition are 115kgs, 120kgs, 125kgs, 140kgs and 165kgs. The stones are laid out five metres apart lightest to heaviest with each competitor having to lift all five stones on top of a wooden barrel four feet in height. The person who can lift all five stones on top of the barrels in the fastest time is declared the champion of the day. The history of the stones goes back over one thousand years to the highlands of Scotland when a boy was considered to have reached manhood when he could lift two stone in weight from the bare ground onto the top of a stone dyke or fence as we know it. Most villages took part in this exercise and the stones varied from village to village. In the late 1970’s the lifting of the stones was brought back to life in Scotland with the introduction of the MacGlashsen Stones.

Bundanoon Stones Results 2023: 1st Sean Gillen- Brigadoon Champion, 2nd Tyler Helm, 3rd Andrew Fraser and 4th Macauley Tinker. Australian Highland Heavy Weight Championships involved an outstanding field of heavy weight competitors. Events included the Caber, Stone Putt, Weight for Height, Weight for Distance and Hammer throw – five events fiercely contested to produce just one overall champion. Australian Highland Heavyweight Championship results: 1st Terry Sparkes- Brigadoon Champion, 2nd Macauley Tinker, Joint 3rd Kurt Livens & Lance Holland- Keen and 5th Jamie Muscat.

Massed bands.

The closing ceremony is really quite spectacular lasting about 30 minutes (a real mini tattoo) with the finale of the Lone Piper and the Chieftain closing the gathering for another year, Brigadoon then fades back into the mists ready to reappear on 6 April 2024. Bundanoon is a comfortable 2-hour drive from Sydney and Canberra and the South Coast, which makes it the ideal location for travellers who just want to pop in for the day or for others who wish to stay and enjoy “Brigadoon” and the hospitality and culture of the Southern Highlands. With such an influx of people coming into the area, local businesses and the hospitality trade in particular have thrived to the point where there is hardly a room available and in most cases all accommodation is booked a year in advance.

The Bundanoon Highland Gathering is a non-for-profit registered charity. Once all our costs are taken into consideration and after appropriating a management budget for the following year all surplus monies are distributed back into the local community coffers. The committee ensures that it recognises the commitment of those local volunteer and charities groups who give countless hours of labour to the gathering by disbursing monies raised on the day on a proportional basis to each organisation. To date Brigadoon has disbursed about $1.4 million back into the local community.

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Main photo: Brigadoon Clans. Photo: Melissa Venture.

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