October 26th, 2023Get ready for the Gathering…
Words: Eve Lamb. Image: Supplied
Organisers of this year’s Daylesford Highland Gathering are urging locals to get out in force and enjoy the long- running annual event.
Happening December 2, the Gathering is now in its 72nd year making it one of the town’s most long-standing annual events.
“It’s very popular in the district and I think the only longer running annual event for the town would be the agricultural show,” muses Gathering committee member Keith Pyers who himself has been with the
Gathering organising committee for 40 years.
Established in 1952 by Dan McKinnon, the Gathering has a proud history of bringing together those interested in Scottish culture from throughout Australia and internationally.
Daylesford’s Highland Gathering last year made a strong comeback after Covid’s interruption and this year it’s back with a vengeance.
Run in conjunction with the Victorian Pipe Bands Association, it promises a great spectacle with numerous highland pipe and drum bands, and dancers from around the state and further afield performing and competing throughout the day.
“Our Daylesford Gathering is the first of the new season of Highland gatherings so it’s very popular with the Scottish community and with the competing bands,” Keith says.
The day fires up with the morning parade through Vincent Street, itself a competitive event for bands and judged by top judges with the Victorian Pipe bands Association.
After that the full day’s entertainment takes over the town’s Victoria Park transforming it into a tartan microcosm of traditional dance and band performance and competition.
“We’re hoping to see a big surge in local attendance at Victoria Park,” says Keith, who himself boasts a 25 percent dram of Scots genetic heritage.
“And at the end of the day, around 4pm or 4.30pm, all of the bands come out onto the arena for the massed bands performance and it is a really brilliant spectacle.
“It’s very moving actually. The power of those pipes is something to hear.”
Keith says accommodation venues in and around Daylesford are typically heavily booked for the weekend and he’s urging local accommodation operators and other businesses to promote the
Gathering and let visitors know about its significance.
“The Scottish community and the history of Scottish settlement is very strong around western Victoria,” he says.
“The Hepburn Shire is named for one of the early Scottish migrants, John Hepburn, who came into the district.”
For anyone with even a trace of Scots heritage coursing through their veins – and there are plenty of such folk in the wider district – the skirl of the pipes can be undeniably stirring. But you don’t need Celtic blood to appreciate the entertainment on offer at the Gathering.
There’ll also be food and merchandise vendors and it’s a great chance for those with the ancestry to pick up some Scottish souvenirs or find out a bit more about their lineage with Clans marquees also present on the day.
“In recent years we’ve encouraged the Clans to attend and they’ll be setting up a tent section,” Keith says.
Secretary with the organising committee, Anne Heriot, has strong Scottish heritage. She also has very fond memories of competing in theDaylesford Highland Gathering dance events as a child.
“I used to be a Highland dancer from the age of four to 16, when we used to live in Melbourne and we’d come here every year for the competition. They are very fond memories for me,” Anne says.
She says it was wonderful to see the Gathering return last year after Covid, and says this year promises an even bigger turnout of bands.
“We’re expecting more than last year – 16 or more,” Anne said“And this time we’ve also got Ballarat Scottish Country Dancing coming to do some demo dances – reels and jigs.”
In a side-note likely to please all with a dash of Scots, Keith says the cost of a day pass “has not significantly moved in 20 years”.
More information can be found on the Daylesford Highland Gathering’s dedicated website.