Finally Saturday 14 February rolled around – the eagerly awaited Paeroa Highland Games and Tattoo. Tartan, tartan everywhere in all sorts of guises including small girls’ frilly dresses and thankfully very few red hearts considering the date.
After finding a parking spot with some difficulty and seeming miles away from the event, we were just in time to join Clan Johnston for the Clan March. Which wasn’t really very far, just out of the grounds and across the main street (always a thrill to hold up all the traffic!) to a small park, a few speeches, a pipe band rendition of whatever then a slow walk back. But fun!
Clan Johnston only had a few representatives, as did most of the 14 other Clans present. As we have now ‘done’ several Highland Games over the past 15 months we now know this to be the norm, much seems to depend on where the main Clan officials are located. Our other Clans – Cochrane and Lamont for me, Menzies and Buchanan for Dave – were not there alas, although I did take a Cochrane sash just in case. Later we discovered that the Committee President was a Buchanan. Dave wore his Bruce tartan kilt, it’s not one of his clans but some years ago he was offered an excellent deal for a full outfit right down to formal jacket, shoe buckles, silver coat buttons and lace sleeve insets, so didn’t hesitate.
Clan Johnston gained four new members that day. I spent part of the time sitting at the back of the tent with Penny as it was so hot, and every few minutes a new person would wander by and start asking questions and examining all the books and other things on display. Dave had a wonderful conversation with a man who in days gone by would have been a bitter enemy – a Maxwell! (He disappeared just before I took this photo).
Neither of us were feeling 100%, while I think our natural immunity has been boosted by all the travelling and people we have met, our French friends passed on an Aussie cold which must have been a new variation! So I gave many of the traditional Scottish events a miss, and also the Tattoo that night although Dave did go for a time.
Some more photos:
Apart from all the traditional Highland Games events such as tossing the caber, hammer and wheat sheaf, piping contests, axemen, Highland Dancing etc there were several innovative events. A Junior Highland Games was held for the third time, also a fashion show “Tartan in the Park”, the latter judged by local resident and Silver Fern Maria Tutaia. There were Highland cattle, a Highland Bar which served the Paeroa Fling (Drambuie over ice, a dash of lemon and L&P!) and various Scottish shops.
There were several special guests: ’Twisty Willow’ (a Kiwi couple with a love of Celtic music), an awesome Scottish tribal music group Clan Celtica which sent shivers up my spine (such enthusiastic drumming!), and Alec Calderwood who read the poems of Robbie Burns in what I was told was a lovely Scottish accent.
The Waikato/Bay of Plenty Scottish Country Dancing group gave an exhibition which had me longing to join them. I miss our Christchurch dancing group, which has kept going despite a drop in attendance following the earthquakes.
The Games programme notes that “Originally highland dancing, piping, drumming and the tests of strength were performed by adult males. However all over the world in recent years have seen younger people including females dominating the Scottish Highland Dancing scene, becoming active participants in piping, drumming and taking part in the athletic events such as caber tossing, hammer hurling, tug of war and racing. In Scotland, Junior Highland Games are becoming more common with all the equipment downsized accordingly.” We have noticed these things before but I have not put them into words. Scottish traditions will never die in countries far away from Scotland, and particularly in NZ with its huge number of early Scottish immigrants and fourth or fifth generation descendants.