Thursday, 15 March 2012

The adventures of Chris in Macquarie Street

Yesterday, Wednesday 14 March, Chris Gulaptis MP, spoke twice in the chamber (see below). 

The Member for Clarence is yet to get his portrait on the parliamentary website. Why? He's never been known to be camera shy. 

1. At 8.13pm he spoke to support the Government Information (Public Access) Amendment Bill 2011. That was a rather simple, straightforward task. After all, the bill was being given bipartisan support.

2. At 9.04pm he was on his feet again, making a Private Members' Statement on the Maclean Highland Gathering. Again, no big challenge.

Mr Gulaptis commenced his speech with an acknowledged of the efforts of the Lower Clarence Scottish Association for its continued support of the Maclean Highland Gathering.

He then went on to add:
Maclean is of course renowned for being the Scottish town in Australia. Maclean's Scottish character originates back to the 1830s and 1840s in Scotland following the Jacobite's defeat at Culloden, the Highland Clearances, potato blight famine and prevailing disastrous economic conditions. The only future lay in emigration. In Australia John Robertson pushed through Parliament the Free Selection Act legislation, which provided for anyone to take up land from 40 to 320 acres for a down payment of 5 pence per acre with three years to pay. Some 450 Scottish families settled in Rocky Mouth. Surveyor-General Alistair Maclean ordered the town to be properly laid out. That was done in 1862 and named Maclean after the Scottish-born Surveyor-General. Many of its new streets were named after places in Scotland—Argyll, Morvern, Clyde, Oban and the like. Commerce and hotels sprang up under Scottish businessmen, such as Alexander Cameron, Samuel MacNaughton and John McLachlan. Churches were an intrinsic part of Scottish life and elders of the Free Kirk erected their church in 1868. It remains the oldest church still in use in the Clarence.

In 1886 the Murray Brothers, natives of Thurso, and local sawmillers, sponsored the first local Highland gathering in Maclean, and with the exception of the war years it continues to this day. This year at Easter will be the 108th Highland gathering. The Lower Clarence Scottish Association was formed in 1893. It has now existed continuously for 119 years. A pipe band was formed in 1898 under Donald Mathieson—formerly from Inverness—and has continued to this day. The primary function of the association is to organise the annual Highland gathering held at Easter each year. It is a major function of State and national significance in Scottish circles. The association has always required a chieftain as its head, and usually the chief remains in the post for many years. The current chief is Chief Peter Smith and the immediate past chief was Reverend Kenneth Macleod, he being a native Scot and probably the only Gaelic speaker currently in the Lower Clarence. The current secretary, Robert McPherson, OAM, and previous secretary, Norman McSwan, have held the secretarial portfolio for at least 57 years between them. Current senior chieftain is Roger McLean, junior chieftain is Graham Anderson, and Treasurer—for some 34 years—is John McPhee.

At this year's gathering 25 inter-district bands from Sydney, Brisbane and New Zealand will attend the gathering in a competition arena and there will be sports and fellowship. Competitions commence on Good Friday in drumming and solo piping, and on Friday night the main street is closed for a street festival with bands, dances, massed bands, a civic welcome and a concert in the Civic Hall. Easter Saturday commences with a full regalia street march of visiting and local bands through the shopping centre. Activities then take place at the Maclean showground where drumming, piping, dancing and bands compete, and there is a full array of Highland games such as caber tossing, pole wrestling, tug of war and the like. The finale of the day is always a very stirring massed bands display—a fitting end showing what Maclean is all about.

In 1986 local bank manager Mr Graham Leach initiated the thematical idea of rediscovering the town's Scottish heritage. Thus the Maclean Scottish Town in Australia Association was formed. The association's committee has undertaken numerous tasks to benefit the town's Scottish identity, including erecting a Scottish cairn in a town park, a pioneers memorial wall, painting some 220 power poles with Scottish tartans, organised concerts for Tartan Day and Kirkin' o' the Tartan Services for Easter Sunday. There have been only two presidents of the Maclean Scottish Town in Australia Association—Howard Cowling for two years and Robert McPherson, OAM, for the past 24 years. Secretary for 24 years is Warren Rackham and Treasurer is Roger McLean. Hardworking member Nancy Bain, OAM, has also been on the committee since its inauguration. I commend the efforts of the Lower Clarence Scottish Association.

At 9.10pm his parliamentary colleague Craig Baumann (Member for Port Stephens and Parliamentary Secretary (Regional Planning)) [9.10 p.m.] " congratulate(d) the hardworking member for Clarence on advising the House of the upcoming Maclean Highland Gathering."

Mr Baumann added, "Many of us have Scottish skeletons in the closet and these gatherings and festivals are a great way to enjoy and celebrate that heritage. 

"I notice there is a tradition of developers naming streets after their children. It is good to see that in those days surveyors-general named towns after themselves."

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