With less than a month to go before the kilts and pipes come out, Eric Richardson is busily organising a jam packed calendar of events for the much loved and ever popular Bonnie Wingham Scottish Festival. Elisabeth Masters had a chat with Eric, to find out what the festival’s all about.
What’s your involvement/role with the Bonnie Wingham Scottish Festival?
I am the President of the event, and my role is to oversee the whole show. How long has the event been running?
This year will be our 11th year, and it is certainly looking to be a great one! The uniqueness of the event is that it’s held in Central Park, making it a free, community event. We also have two new calendar events this year, which is very exciting.
What role did the Scots play in the establishment of Wingham?
The area was settled back in the 1840s by the Scottish Presbyterians. They settled in groups and led self-sustainable lives. They had to grow all their own food, and would have to travel all the way up to Port Macquarie to trade bacon for flour and sugar. Today, their grandchildren and great grandchildren still live in and around the area. Many families are still neighbours!
Do you get many visitors traveling to the festival?
We get a good mix of locals and visitors; lots of people come every year from all over Australia – often in caravans! I think they have come to look forward to it each year! Some clans stay in the motel and book for next year’s event before they leave; it’s been very successful. It brings lots of people in to the town and benefits the whole community. We run it as a free event so that everyone can come and enjoy our heritage and so that the community can benefit.
I hear the parade is pretty big; can we expect another big parade this year?
The parade is growing every year; this year is no exception! We have bagpipers, drummers, kilts and medieval warriors, so it’s going to be very entertaining.
What are the festival times and dates this year?
This year we have a full calendar of events running from Sunday 24th May with the Scottish Festival up until Sunday 31st May. We have a mix of both day and night activities, and our main event will be held on 30th May starting at 9:30am with the street parade, followed by the opening ceremony, Highland Games, pipe bands and dancing in Central Park and will finish at 4pm.
What are the main events encompassed by the festival this year, and where will they be held?
We’ve got a Scottish Concert at the Wingham Catholic Church on the 24th at 2pm and then on the 28th at 10am we will be holding a Genealogy Fair at the Wingham Services Club, where locals and visitors will be able to explore their ancestors’ history.
The Braveheart Poets Breakfast will be at the Anglican Church Hall on the 29th at 7:30am and will be a great morning of inspiring poetry, then the District Bus Tour will kick off at 10am from the Wingham Historical Museum. We also have a Shortbread Baking Competition, Golf Tournament and Social Bowls throughout the day.
At 5:30pm in the Library we will have our Mayoral Reception, then the big one – the Scots Night Out at the Wingham Services Club. This will be a great evening of dancing, quizzes, whiskey tasting, bands and lots of family fun from 7pm.
Saturday the 30th is, of course, our main day with the parade, markets and sports followed by our cocktail party at the Wingham Services Club from 6:30pm, followed by the Grand Scottish Ball at 7pm.
Our last day is Sunday 31st, which will start off with a Lay Thanksgiving Service and Blessing of the Banners and Re-enactment at the Riverside Reserve followed by a BBQ Breakfast at 8am. A Colloquium of Clan and Celtic leaders will be at the Tellers Restaurant from 10am.
For those new to Scottish heritage, a Colloquium is unique in Australia, and back in the 10th and 11th Centuries were where the Clans met in peace. We guarantee they are held in peace in Wingham! We then will be wrapping up the programme with a Luncheon and Ceilidh and Concert at the Wingham Services Club.
The Highland Games and markets will be held at Wingham Central Park on Saturday 30th May. What are the various sports/activities we’ll be able to experience at the games?
There will be plenty to see and do again this year; the medieval fights are back and there will be caber tossing, pipe bands, drummers, Scottish dancing, tug-o-war, Kilt Dash and plenty of market stalls. Last year we had somewhere between 5,000 – 6,000 people attend, and we are expecting even more this year!
Tell us a bit about the shortbread competition …
Once again the CWA will be judging the shortbread, and everyone is welcome to enter. There’s also a haggis competition, but that’s not as popular! We get lots of children and students entering the shortbread competition; the CWA sell the shortbread once it’s judged, so everyone can try it. Entries can be taken to the CWA on Isabella Street in Wingham between 9am and 11:30am on the Friday, and those wanting to participate can grab an entry form from the Manning Museum or at Bent on Food.
Who is the Clan of Honour at this year’s festival? Where can more info about this Clan be found?
This year we are fortunate enough to welcome Clan Donald, and Mr Lachlan N Macdonald will be representing them. You can find information about the Clan on our website, www.manninghistorical.org and you can download our full programme there also, which has some information about them.
Who are some of the entertainers that’ll be featured this year?
We have pipe bands coming, as well as our own Wingham Pipes and Drums.
What entertainment will be available for children throughout the course of the festival?
The kids tug-o-war is always popular, as is the Kilt Dash. We have also got the shortbread competition, as mentioned before, which a number of kids have been involved in, along with our haggis cooking competition! There will also be medieval re-enactments, which the kids enjoy, along with the Market stalls.
Where can readers find a programme of events, or more info?
Readers can come in to the Manning Valley Historical Museum in Wingham and grab a programme, or they can head online to www.manninghistorical.org and download a copy.