March 25, 2013

Bundanoon becomes Brigadoon for a day - April 6


David Ellis

THE Scots have been doing it for centuries, the Icelanders for as long as they can remember, and on the other side of the world, it's been revered in Hawaiian history as a sign of royal strength.

We're talking about lifting stones. Not any old stones, but special stones that can weigh anything up to 165kg each, which is some lift. And in Hawaii's case, actually a stone slab that weighs around 3,000kg, and which legend said that whoever could move it would one day unite all of the warring islands into one peaceful nation…

And someone did.

Today strongmen around the world are still lifting stones, and this April 6 at Bundanoon in the picturesque NSW Southern Highlands – just half way between Sydney and Canberra – four of the strongest of Australia's strongmen will attempt to be the quickest to lift five stones ranging from 115kg to 165kg each onto the tops of wine barrels during the 36st annual Bundanoon is Brigadoon.

This wonderfully colourful, fun and event-filled day is now one of the world's largest gatherings of all things Scottish outside Scotland, a day when this pretty little village of just 2,500 country folk rises from the Autumn mist and welcomes an amazing (and amazed) 12,000 or more visitors to the skirl of the bagpipes of a score Pipe Bands.

And where the air is filled with aromas of fresh-baked Highland shortbreads and Abernethy biscuits, Scots pies and drop scones, gingerbreads and butterscotches, of blood pudding and haggis…

And where this year's Tartan Warriors – Aaron Monks, Luke Reynolds, Morgan Westmoreland and Jordan Steffens  – will vie to see who will become this year's Bundanoon is Brigadoon Champion by lifting those five Stones of Manhood onto their wine barrels in the quickest time, and judged by Australia's super-strongman, David Huxley (who apart from being a multi-times Tartan Warriors Champion himself, once pulled a 184-tonne Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet for a-near 100m along a tarmac at Sydney Airport…)

Lifting stones has been around for centuries: in Scotland a boy was welcomed into manhood when he could lift a special clan "testing stone" to the height of his waist, and in later life men challenged each other to lift mightier stones above their heads.

In ancient Iceland, fishing boat captains would carry a 100+kg stone aboard their vessels, requiring those seeking work with them to prove their strength by raising the stone to their chests…

And in Hawaii, legend had it that whoever could move the sacred near-three tonne Naha Stone on the Big Island Hawaii, would one day unite the warring islands: at just 14 years of age the boy who would become King Kamehameha the Great, not only moved the Naha Stone, but completely rolled it over – and 38 years later, in 1810 as King, he united the islands just as the prophecy had foretold.

If lifting stones is not your scene there'll be plenty else to enthral at this year's Bundanoon is Brigadoon: how about watching brawny blokes tossing around what at 6m long appear to be scaled-down power poles called cabers, and more playfully hurling water-filled balloons 40m or more for others to catch without getting a burst-balloon drenching.

Or others tossing fresh-laid eggs to be caught deftly enough a-near 60m away to avoid any gooey consequences… and more sedately with their bonnie lasses, demonstrating Scottish Country and Highland Dances.

Visitors can join in many of these events, toe-tap to a colourful Street Parade of those twenty Pipe Bands with its floats and marching Clans, and be amazed by a replica scene from The Battle of Waterloo by the 92nd Gordon Highlanders, complete with mess tents, kitchens, headquarters, a surgeon's tent, military supply hut and displays of historic firearms, swords and bayonets.

There'll be games for children and a 5-and-under Bonny Bairns Highland Dress Competition, a whopping 100 arts, crafts, Scottish and Tartan speciality stalls, and thirty Clans and Societies will answer visitors' enquiries about their possible Scottish ancestry… with the day ending with a Scottish dance night in the local hall.

And if you are visiting by train you won't be able to miss the local Bundanoon railway station: CityRail re-signposts it for the day BRIGADOON. Entry: adults $20, child $6, family (2+2) $45; details (02) 4883 7471 or


Photo Captions:

[] THE skirl of bagpipes will greet the 12,000+ visitors to this year's Bundanoon is Brigadoon in the NSW Southern Highlands. (Jeff McGill.)

[] NOW that's a stone…. (Alaistair Saunders)  

[] WHAT a hoot: tossing down-sized power poles. (Jeff McGill)

[] EVEN CityRail gets in the spirit of things: Bundanoon Station becomes Brigadoon for a day. (CityRail)

[] STALLS with everything Scottish for the young and old. (Jeff McGill)

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