Geelong Highland Gathering - third Sunday in March
Geelong Highland Gathering 1857 - 2011
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 was held on New Years Day each year and was organised and promoted by the local "Commun Na Feinne" Society formed in 1856.
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.
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.
Initially, 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. 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.
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.