There is no place like home, and after a whirlwind of visits to the wonderful Caledonians throughout the country, it was time to pay my respects to the Societies in the Eastern Cape.
Past Lady President Rose Thompson accompanied me on the road trip to Port Elizabeth on a cold, rainy Friday morning, stopping off to see an old friend in Port Alfred along the way.
Chief and Lady President of Port Elizabeth Scottish Society, Ivan and Frances Dickson, were our hosts while we enjoyed an exciting weekend of activities.
At a Cocktail Party at the home of Past Chief and Lady President Bruce and Sandra Strang, the cool weather prompted a cosy huddle round the diningroom table with lots of fun, laughter and good food with the Committee members.
The following evening I had the privilege of installing the Chief and Lady President for their second term of office as well as enjoying my Official Welcome. There was plenty of time for socializing along with an excellent programme of Piping and Drumming, some a cappella songs by Eric Kirk and a delightful meal.
Hie-ing off to SAMREC on Sunday morning, we were treated to an informative talk by Michelle Bradshaw (also a Caledonian Committee member), as she attached a ‘pinger’ to one of the penguins to be released into the wild. Valuable information is later collected from stations located under the sea in the bay, which detect the movements of the bird over a period of time. The tide was out as we followed the crowd to the beach and ventured out on the rocks to watch three little penguins march boldly out to sea and freedom.
Senior Chieftain Cathy Stewart joined us for a light lunch and to watch the penguins being fed before we made our way to the home of Past Federation Chief and Lady President Andrew and Dawn Sked for a sumptuous afternoon tea.
Our next port of call was Knysna where we spent a delightful couple of days with Past Federation Lady President Morag Cruikshanks. The magnificent scenery along the way prompted a stop at the Storms River Bridge for an ice-cream, and beautiful weather gave us an opportunity to share some good fellowship and lovely sight-seeing with our hostess.
On the Waterfront, my attention was caught by a bronze statue of the English Bulldog ‘Bondi’. A gift from the people of Maputo to the Royal Naval Ship HMS Verbena in 1928, Bondi visited Knysna three times aboard the ship which was stationed at Simonstown, and died there in 1931. Buried on Thesen Island, the grave was tended by passing seamen for many years. In 2004 sculptor Karel du Toit unveiled the statue of Bondi on the Waterfront where visitors are encouraged to scratch his head and make a donation to the Animal Welfare Society.
Just a few days back home and a very successful 24th East London Highland Dancing Festival took place at the Clarendon Girl’s Primary School. Convened by Jeanette Hubbard and adjudicated by Shona Robinson of Gauteng, it once again displayed a high standard of dancing.
At lunch time on the same day, the MOTH’s Residents Association held its Annual Potjie Competition. A popular event supported by service clubs and other friendly organisations provided a delightful opportunity for social interaction and a chance to sample some of the delicious array of interesting dishes.
The Battle of Britain commemoration Parade took place at the East Cemetary in East London on Sunday morning, 13th September, led by the combined Caledonian Society and Buffalo City Pipe Bands. The Address was delivered by Rev. Des Plint who is also Chaplain of the East London Caledonian Society and a member of their Pipe Band. A fly-past by three vintage aircraft took place at precisely 11 a.m.
Meeting at the MOTH Hall afterwards, we were joined by stalwart past members of the East London Caledonian Society Pipe Band for a time of reminiscences and sharing. Amongst them, ex- Pipe Majors Bill Hartley and Don McCarlie as well as Alistair Geddie, also a piper, all of whom served in the Band from the 1940’s.
The following week, members of the East London Caledonian Society Committee and Ladies’
Group together with Past Chiefs and Lady Presidents met at the home of Senior Chieftain Maureena Middleton for a lovely evening of friendship and chatter, away from the usual formality of business and agendas. Honorary Piper Robert Rankin gave the assembly just the right flavour with his rendition of some well-loved tunes and a happy evening soon passed.
Next evening, the East London Caledonian Society welcomed me in grand style with a fabulous, well-attended Ceilidh. The Pipe Band and Highland Dancers strutted their stuff; well-known local artistes Brian and Colleen Smith entertained us on the piano and keyboard; Shaun Davy on the violin and Rob Rankin on the bagpipes provided an interesting and unusual duet, and there was lots of dancing and a number of items from the floor. A fitting finale indeed, to a spectacular year of office.
As the door slowly closes on my personal adventure, I am excited to have had the opportunity to witness another door opening in the Eastern Cape when a small piping contest between East London, Grahamstown , Port Elizabeth and other local centres was launched by Chris Terry in Grahamstown recently. Musicians in this region look forward to positive spin-off from this initiative which is planned to take place three or four times a year.
In closing, I should like to thank everyone for the incredible support, friendship, hospitality and warmth of welcome I have received from you all wherever I have travelled during this past year. My treasure-house is packed with precious memories of shared joys, loving fellowship and many other gifts that will always remain a very precious part of my life.