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History of the South Coast Highland Gathering

Umbogintwini primary school was looking at raising funds for a swimming pool. Betty and Clifford Leesam stepped in and started the first South Coast Highland Gathering in 1964. This was such a success that it has continued to being one of the most successful gatherings in South Africa. After some years the gathering was moved to Kingsway High School and eventually into the hands of the Lions.

It was a forerunner for its time, as it was the first gathering to have market stalls. They also had highland games such as tossing the caber and tug of war. In the first year of the gathering, a way of funding the food stalls, the pupils of Umbogintwini School had to bring a different food item to school for a week. Even the egg day was successful.

The programme was typed up on Reneo Stencil and then duplicated on the Reneo Machine. All the food was prepared and rolls buttered the night before the gathering

The Queen’s piper was invited to judge at the SCHG in 1967. There was a lot of correspondence to and from Buckingham Palace in regards to this. The Colonel advised Betty to correspond with the Queen as to what John Nichol’s, the Queen’s piper, itinerary was while he was in South Africa.

This was such a thrilling event that the Mayor and all dignitaries lined up on the apron where the plane landed welcome him as he disembarked from the plane. Hundreds of people turned out at Louis Botha airport to welcome him. The Natal Mounted Rifles band were also there to welcome him in their full regalia playing Flower of Scotland.

It was the first time that a large number of bands travelled to a gathering. The Daiziel’s were kind enough host the band members in their holiday flats. On the Sunday morning after a festive celebration evening at the Jubilee Hall in Umbogintwini (and probably a few hangovers) the ladies would arrive at the flats and make bacon and eggs for breakfast for all.

The highlight for these out-of-town bands was the function at Jubilee Hall in the evening which was hosted by the Umbogintwini Caledonian society. Hot Dogs and mince rolls were on sale, which had been made by the ladies. The winning band would take centre stage and play some tunes, to everyone delight had their dancing shoes on. The evening was danced away with a lot of the traditional Scottish folk dances, with some good old Elvis songs in between. The young, the old and children all enjoyed.

Sunday lunch was hosted at the Dalziel house, and what a spread that was. Lots of laughter, pool played, until it was time to be transport to Durban station. With the Pipers playing on the platform, which brought much merriment to all, and as the train began to slowly leave the Station, many of the pipers nearly missed boarding train. With a last-minute leap from the platform onto the train, we would all stand and watch the train disappear, along with the now feint sound of the bagpipes ….