History

Geelong Highland Gathering 1857 - Current

The Geelong Gatherings of today are part of a comparatively modern sequence, which were 'recommenced' in 1958, but whose origins date back nearly one hundred and fifty years to the first Gathering in 1857.

The original Highland Gathering as they were and have always been known - in contrast to other such events of the era which were commonly referred to as Scottish or Highland Games - were held on New Years Day each year and were organised and promoted by the local "Commun Na Feinne" Society formed in 1856.

 

As is popular knowledge, there was a significant population of migrant Scots in Victoria in the mid eighteen hundreds, and the Geelong Gathering, staging all the popular sports as well as piping and dancing, was a top event on the Victorian Scottish calendar, attracting all the best pipers and dancers even a century ago.

The Commun Na Feinne Society also formed its own pipe band which was a foundation member of the Victorian Scottish Union in 1905, 'seceding' the union in 1924 to be a foundation member of the Victorian Highland Pipe Band Association the first such Association, specifically for pipe bands in the world.

In its initial period of presentation, the Geelong Gathering was staged on the "plains of South Geelong" east of Bellarine Street, and later on the Commun Na Feinne's own recreation reserve (now long taken over by domestic housing in the area) and continued as a regular fixture over seventy years until the great depression of the 1930's which saw the commencement of the decline in attendances and the folding of the society.

The Geelong Highland Gathering also has a long association with Indigenous people dating back to the first gathering in 1857. "The Highlanders in Geelong had a great deal of interaction with the Aborigines and, from the time of the Second Highland Games, in 1858, the Aborigines were part of the competitions etc. It became the habit that, on the eve of the Highland Games, the Aborigines would stage a Corroboree to which the local townspeople would go and, the following day, the Highlanders then held their "Corroboree" (i.e. the Highland Games) which involved the Aborigines as both spectators and as competitors," according to local Scottish historian Cliff Cummin.

The Commun Na Feine Society in its crest (and later on a medal) depicted a Highlander in full regalia on one side and an Aboriginal warrior facing him on the other in a spirit of equality.

Commun Na Feine Medal

When in 1958 the former Newtown Chilwell City Council made the decision to revive the event, as part of the municipalities centenary celebrations, the Gathering was relocated to its present site in Queens Park, nestled in the magnificent parkland surroundings of the meandering Barwon River. Since 1995 the Geelong Highland Gathering has been organised by the Geelong Highland Gathering Association which is a voluntary, incorporated, not for profit, cultural organisation.

The Geelong Highland Gathering is one of the most popular, and comprehensive displays of Scottish culture, livestock, merchandise and musical folklore (and forms part of the late summer Victorian circuit of Highland Games) in Australia.

In 2010, the Geelong Highland Gathering returned to the third Sunday in March - Sunday, March 21 - and for the first time in 53 years, it was held at Fyansford Common.

At the AGM in 2010 the Association lost nearly all of its executive committee as they refused to nominate, quoting difficulties dealing with COGG and their exclusion from the use of Queens Park. A skeleton committee vowed to continue, rebuild and hold a gathering in 2011. Finally, in December fof 2010 after extensive advertising a new committee was fully established. Having only just over four months to organize a Highland Gathering proved a challenge to the committee. Even determining a location was difficult, with Fyansford still under water from spring floods, which prior committee members had made clear to COGG officers as being a risk in the past. Regardless, the new committee settled on the showgrounds as the only viable location left open to them.

The 2011 Geelong Highland Gathering was going to happen. Unfortunately, the Gathering had already lost the 2011 Victorian Pipe Band Championships as these had been granted to another organisation for the next five years. Regardless, the committee moved forward and organised a wonderful gathering that was considered a great success with 16 competing pipe bands, three dancing groups and heavy games.

In 2012 the Gathering was held at the Showgrounds again and for 2013 the Committee has successfully moved the Gathering to Deakin University Waurn Ponds Campus on the first weekend in March 2013. This will make for an event with similar ambience to Queens Park, with plenty of shade and free parking.

Geelong Highland Gathering Sponsored By

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