Buninyong and District Historical Society Inc.


Reg. No. A0030085Y
Web Site http://home.vicnet.net.au/~buninhis
PO Box 98, Buninyong, Vic. 3353.


February 2006

Welcome to 2006 and to the activities of February. Our first meeting for the year is next Thursday, 16 February, at 7.30p.m. at the Scotsburn Union Church. Please note the special venue.

We have been invited by the Scotsburn Union Church community to hold our meting at the church and to learn about its history. The community will also provide supper, so please come along and support this meeting.

We will be in action over the Buninyong Festival Weekend. On Saturday 18 February I will be doing a walking tour at 10.00a.m., and we are opening up our buildings in the afternoon. Then on Sunday we will be open all day from 10.00a.m. to 5-00 p.m. So that means we need all hands on deck to lend an hour or two to the roster, which I will bring next Thursday. If you cannot come to the meeting, but can help, please give me a ring on 53417618 (evenings best)

The cataloguing team began work on Monday 6 February, but we devoted the morning to a 'spit and polish' of the Court Room. Lance and Judith Lewis applied vigorous polishing to the brass weights, which are not sparkling. After the recent Local Government Exhibition at the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, which displayed some of our photos and items, our attention was drawn to the problem of silverfish! We need to institute a regular spraying program for our collection.

Problems of properly caring for important artefacts - like the old Shire flags - made us realise the necessity of forming a management plan for our collections. Derick is going to draft some ideas in relation to the old butter factory area adjacent to the Gardens, and we thought that we could have a good discussion of these ideas at our April meeting.



Restoration was completed late in 2005, to the satisfaction of Heritage Victoria who helped with a grant. Congratulations to all our members who worked on this important project , notably Frances Wimell, Neil McCracken and of course Derick Leather.


Through Neil McCracken, we recently received from the Watkins family some very interesting objects associated with the Garibaldi Tent of the Independent Order of Rechabites. This was an important friendly society in the nineteenth century, which will be part of my presentation on friendly societies later in the year. We received two interesting wooden cabinets, a metal box and some documents. They had been stored in a garage for many years, so we had to put in a fair bit of effort cleaning them up. But they are fascinating objects.


St. Alipius Parish has commissioned architect Wendy Jacobs to do a Conservation Management Plan for St. Peter and Paul's Catholic Church in Buninyong, prior to any restoration works. Suzie Zades, a researcher for the plan, contacted us for information, and in turn found the original architect's plan for the church (1858) in the Public Records Office. She kindly gave us a copy, and has offered to speak to us later in the year about Point Henry.


We have added to our collection three research reports from history and heritage students at the University - one on the Grenville Recreation Reserve, one on the former Eagle Hotel, and one on the former National Bank. These are filed in the Committee Room in a box on the left hand shelves marked 'Research Reports'.


An enquiry about Royal Park led me to do some research which I would like to share with you in the article about the Buninyong Highland Society. This is appropriate, as we watch the completion of the new Sporting Arena near the Tennis Courts.


Buninyong and District Historical Society Meeting

16 February, at Scotsburn Union Church.

Buninyong Gold King Festival - the 30th year.

Saturday and Sunday 18-19 February. Check www.goldking.ballarat.net.au

Bungaree and District Heritage Rally

Sunday 5 March, starting at 10.00a.m., with the opening of the restored former E S & A Bank at 2.00p.m. Please support our friends from Bungaree.

Buninyong and District Historical Society Meeting

20 April, at the Buninyong Court House History Centre, 7.30 p.m.

Clan Mackenzie Gathering

Albury from 21-23 April. For bookings contact Lorraine Mackenzie, 03 5244 2764.

The Buninyong Highland Society.

Caledonian societies were originally based on Scottish clans, when the clan would gather for sports that provided training for warriors, and reinforced clan solidarity. After the Jacobite rising of 1745, the English government banned the wearing of tartans and the gatherings were illegal.

However the young Queen Victoria revived the gatherings when she visited the Scottish highlands with her husband Albert from 1840. In 1848 she took a lease on a house at Balmoral, near Braemar, and soon after purchased the estate. Albert designed a castle, which was decorated in tartans. The Queen loved the Highland customs, and approved the renewing of the tradition of Highland Games.

Many highlanders immigrated to Victoria in the 1840s, and brought their highland traditions with them. Margaret Kiddle in Men of Yesterday noted that the Western Caledonian Society met at Warrnambool for some years, and that a Geelong Fingal Society began in 1857, about the same time as the Ballarat Caledonian Society. (p. 459) The Maryborough Highland Gathering, claiming to be Australia's oldest continuous sporting contest, was first held in 1857.

In the same year locals met in Buninyong to form a Buninyong Highland Society. The first gathering was held on 1 January 1858 on a flat piece of ground below the Presbyterian schoolhouse (now known as Birdwood Park). At 1.00 p.m. several hundred people had gathered, including many ladies. The President, Mr Findlay, was not present, but the secretary Mr Gunn did everything possible to conduct the proceedings in the proper manner, although the ground was 'indifferent' for the sprinters. Traditional games like throwing the heavy stone and tossing the caber - a stout sapling 18 feet long! (Star, 2 January 1858)

On 22 December 1858 the Society applied to the Buninyong Court for permission to fence a piece of common land between Hastie's Spring and Coleman's for Highland Games. The members were Donald Stewart, Peter Hedrick, Mr McDonald and Donald Gunn. (VPRS 296/2)

A Ballarat Caledonian Society was formed in November 1858 and its first sports were held on 1 January 1859 at the Eastern Oval. Donald Gunn was a judge (Withers, 1887, p. 307) This created immediate competition for the day, and from then on the Buninyong Games moved to Boxing Day. The second Buninyong Highland Gathering, reported in The Miner and Weekly Star, 7 January 1859, p. 6, was held in a paddock adjoining the Geelong Road about a mile from the township. D. Gunn was recorded as Secretary, and 800-1,000 people attended.

An advertisement in the Ballarat Star 5 December 1859 called for tenders for erecting a Grand Stand and arena on the Society's ground. Plans could be inspected at R.M, Harvey's office, and the Secretary was recorded as J. Goode. Meanwhile the Ballarat Caledonian Society was calling for tenders for a brass band of 10 members to play at the next grand gathering of the society on 2-3 January 1860.

In 1860 George Lorimer won the gold medal for best highland costume. (Photo in Buninyong Historical Society collection)

On 12 December 1867 Prince Alfred, the 23 year old second son of Queen Victoria, the Duke of Edinburgh, visited Buninyong, and was entertained at the Highland Ground. The President was Mr T. Purves. The Prince agreed to become a Patron. Five arches of welcome were constructed. The prince proceeded to the Highland ground, where the permanent grandstand was adorned "with a singularly handsome ducal crown, made of crimson velvet, which so struck the fancy of His Royal Highness that he asked for it as a memorial, whereupon it was eagerly presented."

After lunch, the prince watched Mr Coutts dance a highland fling, the 'Gillie Callum', and presented him with a gold medal. (Argus, 13 Dec 1867).

It was following this visit that the park became known as 'Royal Park'.

The games were held on Boxing Day 1870, and commenced with a procession from the Crown Hotel to the grounds, led by pipers and supported by the Sebastopol Brass Band who had been engaged for the day. (Star, 27 December 1870, p. 2) The reporter said many Ballarat faces were present, as well as 'Highlanders from throughout the colony'. A new event introduced was 'tilting at the ring' Mr A. McLean was secretary and treasurer, and Mr R.M. Harvey was President.

In 1873 the Games were held on Boxing Day. (Buninyong Telegraph, 22 December 1873, tender notice)

1882 Ballarat and Buninyong United Caledonian Society Annual Gathering took place at Buninyong on 2 January. (poster for games reproduced in Illustrated History of Buninyong. The President was Ben Hepburn, and vice-presidents were H.L. Bell and P. Hedrick. The program included the usual sports, best highland costume, pipe reels and dancing reels and jigs.(see Illustrated History of Buninyong, p. 55, for program.)

1889 Almost 5 acres of land gazetted for Caledonian Sports Reserve. (on Map of period)

1893 Buninyong Telegraph, 10 March - report on Royal Park, mentions Highland Society now defunct. Gazetted as "Public Park" (93/1782)

An item in the Ballarat Courier circa 13 July 1896, announced the first annual meeting of the Ballarat Caledonian Society, presided over by J.P. Murray. This was obviously an attempt to resurrect the defunct society.

1897 Buninyong Telegraph, 11 June mentions Foundation Sport Committee to raise funds to improve reserve at the time of Queen Victoria's Jubilee. Henceforth the ANA took over organization of the sports, and they had lost their Scottish flavour.

Residents recalled the Royal Visit and the Highland Games fondly. For example, a poem written by F.J. Giese in 1927:

Then our Caledonian Sport's ground. Sports days and early Dog Trap Creek races.
Our pipers and the pipes they played sounded both lovely and shrill
As we kiddies we primped there with our sweet smiling faces
With our mothers and fathers across old Bowen Hill

(Poem Early Days in Sixties and Seventies, in collection of Buninyong and District Historical Society)

Anne Beggs Sunter January 2006

Seal of the Buninyong Highlands Society, circa 1860

The seal was found by Laurie Moore in a second-hand shop in NSW. It has a gold miner and a highlander, surmounted by a pair of gold scales.

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