The Mackay Scottish Bluewater Fling- Celebrating Mackay’s Scottish heritage

When John Mackay, the leader of a party of predominately Scottish explorers (and the first white men to visit the area), first saw the Pioneer River, the lifeblood of the tropical North Queensland city that would later bear his name, he described it in his diary as ‘picturesque….and unlike anything we had previously seen’. Over 160 years later, that same river is once again the beautiful blue backdrop to another Scottish party – the annual Mackay Scottish Bluewater Fling.

The Bluewater Fling is a free, outdoor, family-friendly community event that celebrates Mackay’s Scottish heritage. The event showcases local and visiting performers including pipe bands from across Queensland, Celtic rock bands, soloists, and Highland dancers. A number of stalls selling Scottish wares and foods and an on-site licenced venue also helps to keep the crowds entertained on the day.

This year’s Fling will be held on Saturday 31 August, at the Bluewater Quay, the ‘town square on the river’, in Mackay’s central business district. Given the idyllic tropical location and winter date, the only thing more certain than having perfect weather at the Bluewater Fling, is having a good time! The entertainment starts with a massed bands at 1.30pm and performances continue until 4.30pm. From there, performers and supporters move to a local indoor venue for the free ‘Fling Afterparty Ceilidh’, where it has been commented that the party really gets started! Live music and ceilidh dancing continues until late into the evening.

Passion for the pipes and drums

One of the highlights of the Bluewater Fling’s programme, the massed bands parade across the Forgan Smith Bridge, which spans the iconic Pioneer River (purported to be one of the bluest rivers in the country, thanks to its sandy base). The Bluewater Fling is an opportunity for pipe bands from North and Central Queensland to come together and share their passion for the pipes and drums. Bands confirmed to be attending this year’s Fling include Townsville Memorial Pipes and Drums, Townsville and Thuringowa Pipe Band, Veterans and Families Pipe Band, 3RAR Pipes and Drums and the Rockhampton Highlanders Pipe Band…but there is always room for more!

The Bluewater Fling is hosted by the Mackay and District Pipe Band, who have been bringing the rich sound of the pipes and drums to the people of Mackay since 1926. In honour of the previously mentioned founder of their home city, John Mackay, the band wears the crest and ancient tartan of Clan Mackay. The band is made up of fifty musicians, tutors, students and supporters from across the Mackay area, ranging in age from children to nonagenarians.

The event is the brainchild of Deborah Orr, a thirty-year veteran of the band and for many years, the band’s Pipe Major. The first Bluewater Fling was held in 2016 and after its runaway success, the band decided to make it an annual event. It continues to grow every year and has expanded to include other events over the course of the weekend, including a meet-and-greet on the preceding Friday night and said rambunctious ceilidh on the Saturday night.

All pipers, drummers and Scottish enthusiasts are hereby invited to play and/or join in the festivities at this year’s event! Individual pipers and drummers are always welcome to join in the massed bands brackets. Register your interest by email to: [email protected]

For more details on the event, head to  If you need any further convincing on why you should make the trek to come play with us in our beautiful region, watch our video:

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