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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Athletics meets Scottish dancing in Maryborough's splendid New Year's Day

Athletics meets Scottish dancing in Maryborough's splendid New Year's Day

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Athletics meets Scottish dancing in Maryborough's splendid New Year's Day

By Carolyn Webb
Sydney Morning Herald
2 January 2016

If you couldn't get to Edinburgh for its famous  New Year's celebrations, Maryborough in western Victoria was the next best thing on Sunday.

Scots are notoriously tough, so from 10am when many of us were still asleep or sipping some "hair of the dog", locals were holding the 156th annual Maryborough Highland Gathering.

It went for 12 hours.

Pipers played Scotland the Brave, oh, about 500 times, in the parade down High Street and in Princes Park, the site of the carnival.

Girls in kilts danced the highland fling and a stall sold tartan berets handknitted in clan colours.

The Gathering doubles as an athletic carnival, including the men's 120m Maryborough Gift, and a women's 120m sprint, the Necklace.  
The crowd oohed and aahed from the exquisite 1895 grandstand as strongmen played obscure games like caber tossing (flinging a pole 180 degrees).

Another event involved throwing a 25kg kettle bell over a 2.5m bar; and another hernia-buster involved lifting up to 155kg stones on to 44 gallon drums.

The day's ambassador was Harold Hubble, 86, a ground manager who has helped mark out the running tracks since 1960.

He has a 1934 photo of himself, aged 3, dressed in a mini kilt and sporran, standing next to his father's cousin, "Uncle Jim" Hubble, then the drum major of the Maryborough Highland Pipe Band.

Passionate: Assistant groundsman Harold Hubble, 86, has missed just one Maryborough Highland Gathering in his life, in 1967.  Photo: Jason South

Harold's mother, Anne, never got to see the sports: she was stuck at home, cooking for a stream of visiting friends and relatives.

Young Harold would roam the grounds all day, shooting sideshow ducks, watching Jimmy Sharman's famous boxing troupe and giggling at the La La Tent – a strip show.

Today, he loves reuniting with old friends, including a man he was a telegram boy with in 1945, who he meets here once a year. The ringing of bagpipes still thrills.  "We used to live for New Year's Day, when we were kids. I still feel the same, I still enjoy it."

Harold has missed just one Gathering in his life – in 1967 when his wife, Elva, dragged him to Torquay for a beach holiday. He spent the day glued to a local radio broadcast from Maryborough, pining for the Gift and the pipe music from Maryborough.

"I said, 'Geez I should be there, and I will be next year' and I have been ever since."

Runners racing at Princes Park, Maryborough, part of the Maryborough Highland Gathering on New Year's Day. Photo: Jason South

Central Goldfields Shire mayor Geoff Lovett said the Gathering was a huge day for Maryborough, with up to 4000 visitors from Victoria and interstate adding to the 8000 population.

The area's original settlers were Scots, and after gold was discovered in 1854, homesick miners formed the Gathering three years later. Their descendants still cherish it.

"It's in the town's DNA, the Scottish tradition, " Cr Lovett said.

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