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The Gathering – A Crazy Scottish Culture Festival with Highland Games!

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After checking out the Drag Racing at Willowbank Raceway, I was lucky enough to be invited back to Ipswich (west of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia) to experience ‘The Gathering‘ – a Scottish Festival celebrating all things Scottish Culture.

Now before you think that Scottish Culture is just kilts and haggis, or Mel Gibson pretending to be Scottish to annoy the English, think again.

Yes, this festival is held on the other side of the world from Scotland (and on a warm winters day which is way warmer than a Scottish summer!) but people are proud of their Scottish heritage, even if they’re speaking with an Australian accent!

The Gathering - Scottish Culture Festival. Scottish Bagpipe Band

First of all, ever heard of the ‘Address to the Haggis”? That’s right, it’s someone who talks to a sheep stomach stuffed with other meat. It’s actually a poem written by Scottish poet Robert Burns.

He wrote it because he loved haggis that much and this was more or less a love letter to this ‘acquired taste’ Scottish dish. This poem is spoken at all sorts of Scottish events all around the world.

Address To The Haggis
I like meat, but I’ve never spoken to it! The Address To The Haggis

The words of the poem are below, including an English translation. No, it’s not a translation of the Scottish accent!

The Address To The Haggis

Scottish VersionEnglish Translation!
Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!
Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
The auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
‘Bethankit’ hums.
Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.
Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis
Good luck to you and your honest, plump face,
Great chieftain of the sausage race!
Above them all you take your place,
Stomach, tripe, or intestines:
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.
The groaning trencher there you fill,
Your buttocks like a distant hill,
Your pin would help to mend a mill
In time of need,
While through your pores the dews distill
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour wipe,
And cut you up with ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like any ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm steaming, rich!
Then spoon for spoon, the stretch and strive:
Devil take the hindmost, on they drive,
Till all their well swollen bellies by-and-by
Are bent like drums;
Then old head of the table, most like to burst,
‘The grace!’ hums.
Is there that over his French ragout,
Or olio that would sicken a sow,
Or fricassee would make her vomit
With perfect disgust,
Looks down with sneering, scornful view
On such a dinner?
Poor devil! see him over his trash,
As feeble as a withered rush,
His thin legs a good whip-lash,
His fist a nut;
Through bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit.
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his ample fist a blade,
He’ll make it whistle;
And legs, and arms, and heads will cut off
Like the heads of thistles.
You powers, who make mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill of fare,
Old Scotland wants no watery stuff,
That splashes in small wooden dishes;
But if you wish her grateful prayer,
Give her [Scotland] a Haggis!

The Gathering – Scottish Festival Video

Here is my sound and movement documentation of the day – if you love bagpipes, you’re in for a treat! You’ll see what goes on, including the ‘sporting events’!

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What I really enjoyed the most about The Gathering was the various Scottish Highland Games events. These were impressive just because the competitors were throwing around all sorts of heavy objects all over the place all day just to entertain the large crowd.

Let’s check them out!

Highland Games Events

Here’s a quick education of some of the Scottish Highland Games events that are going around. I’ve also included some photos to illustrate the concept if my shonky explanations are ‘clear as mud’ (that’s Australian Slang for ‘not very clear at all!). You’ll see some footage in the video above too.

The Hammer Throw

Much like the Olympic event, the Scottish version of the Hammer Throw involves hurling a weight across the field for as far as possible. However, instead of a flexible handle, the ‘hammer’ is a piece of spherical steel at the end of the wooden handle.

I laughed during the event when one of the organisers said ‘watch your head with this guy, he’s really bad!’

Hammer Throw - Scottish Highland Games
Scottish Hammer Throw

Stone Lifting

If you’re up for scoring a hernia (believe me, you don’t want one – I’ve had one and it’s like someone has punched you in the stomach for hours on end), have a go at some stone lifting.

Stone Lifting - Scottish Highland Games

The ladies were lifting awkward looking 80 kilogram balls, with the guys trying to hurl 105 kilograms over a bar.

Women's Stone Lifting

Makes me want to see the nearest chiropractor! Impressive though!

Caber Toss / Throw

Feel like hurling a whole tree across the grass? Well, that’s what this event is all about. The Caber Toss (or Caber Throw) involves trying to balance a large log in a vertical position, and throwing it as far as you can to make it land away from you.

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Caber Toss / Throw - Scottish Highland Games Event

Who needs a gym when you’ve got a log?

Weight For Height

This one looks hard and awkward at the same time. Slinging a 26 kilogram weight with one hand, backwards over your head, and clearing a bar.

Weight For Height - Scottish Highland Games Event

That’s Weight For Height – no, not a measurement applied to baby growth! A record was broken in this event where the highest clearance on Australian soil was broken – a height of 17 feet!

Other Events

There were other events going on at The Gathering to keep you amused when wandering around – including dancing and fencing.

Scottish Fencing

Plus all sorts of arts and crafts, including kilt making!

Kilt Looming

Now I’ve been to Scotland once during a wet, gloomy summer where I jokingly said to the locals I was visiting to work on my Scottish tan. However, The Gathering has given a a taste of Scottish Culture that I want to explore further back in Scotland one day.

Otherwise, if you’re in Australia around June each year, get your wee Scotty fix at The Gathering!

See more at Discover Ipswich!


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3 thoughts on “The Gathering – A Crazy Scottish Culture Festival with Highland Games!”

  1. Avatar Of Marlene Mcbean
    Marlene McBean

    Nice story and video. A shame though that the only dancing that appears in the video is of the Irish dancers who performed a short display over the lunch break. We see nothing of the
    seventy Highland (Scottish) dancers who were dancing in a competition all day.

  2. Avatar Of Gujarat Buddhist Tour

    the easiest words to define the Scottish festival are vibrant and diverse. the festivals are most bizarre and fun experiences that draw travelers from all around the world and also make the locals look forward to the year around.

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