Gathering of the Scots

Scots of all sorts will be descending upon the quaint community of Perth-Andover, New Brunswick this coming weekend to celebrate their heritage. The 11th annual Gathering of the Scots will bring together folks of all ages and backgrounds for four days of events, activities, music, food and friendly competitions.

How long have you been involved with the Gathering of the Scots and in what capacity?
In 2002 I answered a challenge posted in the local newspaper of “Are you man enough for a kilt?” This was put to anyone who wanted to learn how to throw the Ancient Scottish Heavy Events as there was a new festival on the east coast, the Gathering of the Scots. I threw in their very first games and have participated as an athlete there every year since. I fell in love with the sport and decided to help out with the Gathering on the organizational end as the Athletic Director the following year, and I still currently hold this position.

Who is your average attendee?
The average attendee to the games would be someone between the ages of 1 and 101; be a man or a woman; be of Celtic descent, or not; speaks English or some other language…so, I guess what I am saying is the diversity of the attendees is too great to have a discernable average.

What can festival-goers expect this year?
On the athletics end of things we have the pros, masters, women, amateurs, youth, and juniors throwing the Ancient Scottish Heavy Events. We also have a lightweights hour where the kids (up to 12 years old) get to try their hand at a scaled down version of the events. Alongside the Heavyweights will be a Middle School rugby tournament.

How has the festival evolved over the years?
Our festival came from very humble beginnings starting mainly with a pipe band and a small group of inexperienced throwers. From this we have added to the number of bands and athletes participating as well as adding new things to keep the crowd interested.  On the Athletics side, we bring in top throwers from Canada and the US including 6-time Canadian Champion Greg Hadley. After a trip to Scotland one year I brought back the ever popular back-hold wrestling that was displayed by our enthusiastic juniors. Fly casting, rugby, sword fighting, Celtic dancing, kids tents, and workshops are just a few of the expanded activities offered at the Gathering. Last year we even hosted a National Championship, the Canadian Scottish Athletic Federation’s Master’s Championship.

Why is it an important event for the local community?
With a date in late May it is used as the kick-off event to the summer season in our town.  It is also a great way for the local Celtic community to get together and enjoy some traditional music, athletics, dance, and companionship. This year it is particularly important as the village of Perth-Andover was devastated by a flood in late April and is in much need of a fun event to take the collective minds off the devastation.

What kind of economic impact does it have upon the local community?
Anytime hundreds and even thousands of people converge on a small community the businesses thrive. Our festival is from Thursday through to Sunday and this means lots of food served, rooms booked, gas purchased, snacks, and crafts sold so everyone gets a piece of the action.

In your opinion, are we doing enough to preserve and promote Celtic culture in Canada?
In a word, no. There are organizations like your website, our festival, and provincial associations that do their part, but we lack in governmental funding in comparison to other ethnic groups.

Are young people still interested in Celtic culture?
I think there would be more youth involvement if we could develop a Celtic themed video game….Seriously though, some do get interested, but there are so many distractions for our youth. I put on many heavy events demos at schools in our area targeting the youth and many think it is great, but are too intimidated to try it.  I can’t imagine going through life without wearing a kilt.

What’s on tap for the festival for the years ahead?
We will continue to use the formula that has worked so well for us so far, expand, add new activities, entertainment, and food, new booths, and maybe some more Championships. We watch and listen to see what people want and then try to offer it to them with our usual Celtic twist.

May 24-27, Perth-Andover, NB