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February 28, 2011

WATERLOO’S BATTLE LINES DRAWN AT BUNDANOON


David Ellis

"WE'LL have a wee skirmish to begin," says Robert Whittaker with just the hint of a twinkle in his eye.

"Some shots will be fired and then there'll be our famous 92nd Gordon Highlander bayonet charge – we have to teach a lesson to our favourite enemy, those perfidious French!"

Is this some new battle-front that's somehow escaped our attention? Something disastrous far away, or possibly closer to home?

The answer is both No and Yes.

Because Robert is talking about his "wee skirmish" taking place in the sleepy little NSW Southern Highlands village of Bundanoon – and not in some eon past, but in April of this year.

And dastardly as it may sound, it won't be enough to have the locals dialling 000 or calling out the troops – although it's already created enough interest to suggest that little Bundanoon's population of a couple of thousand will swell to 12,000 or more on April the 2nd to witness this "wee skirmish."

Robert Whittaker is a member of a unique group called the 92nd Gordon Highlanders (1815) Australia, a diverse collection of business executives, pensioners, teachers, truck drivers, students, housewives and sportsmen and women who dress in the uniform of the time, and play-out a "skirmish" as it would have been in the 1815 Battle of Waterloo – with the 92nd Gordon Highlanders very much to the fore.

And they'll be doing it as part of this year's Bundanoon is Brigadoon, one of the world's largest gatherings of all things Scottish, that'll see that re-enactment of a skirmish at the Battle of Waterloo, as well as such peculiarly Scottish events as the caber toss, kilted dash race, a raw egg tossing challenge, the lifting of the Bundanoon Stones of Manhood, a water-toss with water-filled balloons, massed pipe bands and Scottish dancing, lone pipers and a solo fiddler, country dancing, the Wollongong Conservatorium Flute Ensemble and a sword play and theatrical fencing display.

And a heart-stirring street parade of pipe bands, marching Clan societies and decorated floats.

Newcastle's famous Highlander Celtic Rock Band with their unusual combination of bagpipes, fiddles, electric and acoustic guitars, percussions and vocals will also perform the national song Flower of Scotland during an opening concert on the main stage from 8.45am…. and what else to bring a tear to the eye than their rendering of Auld Lang Syne at the end of the day?

But for many it will be the 92nd Gordon Highlanders who'll be the centre of much attention, not only with their re-enactment of the "wee skirmish" but with a re-created "company street" complete with a mess tent/kitchen, headquarters, surgeon's tent, sutlers hut (a military supply hut,) sleeping tents – and men, women and children "camp followers" (those who followed armies and sold goods and services not provided by the army) in period Georgian dress.

They'll also have a display of historic fire-arms, swords and bayonets, give demonstrations of muzzle-loading techniques, provide a military geneology service with service and medal lists, and answer questions about military life during the time of the Battle of Waterloo.

And if all this leaves you feeling thirsty or peckish, there'll be plenty of opportunity to slake the thirst and sate the appetite at this 34th Bundanoon is Brigadoon, with over a hundred stalls selling everything from soft drinks and ice-creams to Scottish shortbreads, Scots pies, drop scones and gingerbreads, butterscotch, home-baked Abernethy Biscuits, confectionery – and blood pudding and haggis.

And finally as the sun sets in the western sky, the mists descend once again and the crowd leaves in the gloaming – or readies for the traditional evening knees-up of the Ceilidh for dancing in the local hall – just as in the Lerner and Loewe musical, mythical Brigadoon will fall once again under a magical spell to sleep again for another year…

And next morning Bundanoon will wake once more to its peaceful and picturesque self of just 2000 lucky souls in this idyllic NSW Southern Highlands setting – with residents no-doubt comfortable in the knowledge that their railway station name-board will have just as magically been transformed back to BUNDANOON, after having been mysteriously re-lettered BRIGADOON for a day just 24 hours before…

ENTRY: $18 adults, $5 children, $40 family (two children/two adults,) $15 concession (Pension Card must be shown.) Details: www.highlandsnsw.com.au/brigadoon

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PHOTO CAPTIONS:


[] IT'S everything Scottish at Bundanoon is Brigadoon….

[] HERNIA-making stuff – tossing the caber.

[] 92nd Gordon Highlanders (1815) President Chris Whittaker in uniform with Tower Musket and bayonet.

[] A member of the re-enactment group in the dress of a Battle of Waterloo "camp follower" civilian trader.

[] EVEN CityRail gets in on the act: Bundanoon railway station becomes Brigadoon for the day.

 
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