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Caledonian Tour of Europe


26 July 2019

Caledonian Tour of Europe

Caledonian Tour of Europe

The Caledonian Corps travelled to Scotland, France and Belgium as part of our Centenary tour between the 24 June and 11 July. It is safe to say that we had an amazing time and shared some incredible experiences during our time overseas.



On our journey through Scotland, we experienced true Scottish culture as well as taking in the vast environment that surrounded us. All of us will have taken different positive memories and insights from this journey that will live with us for a long time.

66141372_10215749242457414_6048647965315170304_o copy.jpgDuring this time, we explored and performed in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Balmoral, Aviemore, Inverness, Urquhart Castle (Loch Ness), Fort William, Balloch (Loch Lomond), Glasgow and Stirling. At each location we had the opportunity to independently explore the attractions with castles and museums frequently occurring in our itinerary at the expense of several flights of stairs. We learned about the importance and relevance of each location that we performed at and how they are connected to Scotch and our repertoire. We think that most people would agree in saying that the venues we visited were breathtaking.

Our performances were met by enthusiastic crowds of tourists and Caledonian Corp groupies. All of us became more comfortable playing for such big crowds as the tour progressed. The dancers were very well received, their hours of tireless practise was clearly evident as they added colour and movement, further enhancing our performances. They performed a variety of traditional dances, adapting extremely well to dancing on all kinds of surfaces; from muddy grass to slippery gravel. Our piping and drumming soloists have also grown in confidence and adaptability, performing to a high level entertaining the enthusiastic crowds. Our performance at Balmoral was recorded and circulated on Facebook, with almost 100 000 views to date, making Rhys Davies and Nick Burt internet stars.

For a few of us, it was our first time overseas or in Europe. The experience was somewhat surreal at times, with the memories of sitting on our tour bus, driving through the countryside with mist covered mountains all around and a moss green blanket wrapped over the cliff faces. For lots of us we just couldn’t get over how green the place really was.

To meet the students at Robert Gordon’s College was very interesting and to be able to learn about the way their school system worked was also something new and exciting. We were continually comparing it with our own school lives. We were shown around the school and its facilities and learnt about the Colleges’ long history. The band had the opportunity to play with the Robert Gordon’s College pipe band for the S6’s (Year 12) Graduation Ceremony, as the dancers came together to perform a mass Sword dance and Highland fling. That evening, we had the opportunity to listen to a Grade 2 Band in full practice for their upcoming competition at Inverness, which we also competed in. The visit to Robert Gordon’s College was a highlight for many students in both the band and dance corps, providing one of the best experiences on tour. Mr Graham even offered the pipers the opportunity to play a set of 3/4 marches with the Grade 2 band, which was an amazing experience.

The European Pipe Band Championships was a new experience for all of us. It was our first time playing in a Pipe band competition and it was loud and very busy. Although we didn’t place very highly in our grade, we still had a great time and the opportunity to perform was brilliant. There were approximately 150 bands in attendance, and we were able to watch some of the very best in the world, including the Grade 1 and Grade 2 bands which had immaculate performances. For many of us, it won’t be our last competition. The dancers also had a great day at the competition with some excellent results across the board and lots of happy faces at the end of the day.

We adapted to our Scottish environments quite well by becoming well acquainted with the daily Tesco run for 3 Pound meal deals for lunch, experiencing many of the local delicacies. Constantly packing and unpacking our belongings had become a habit for us by the end of the tour, as we never stayed any longer than 2 nights at any location. This has helped us to improve our organisational skills.


France and Belgium

When we arrived in Paris, there were a few people who were relieved to be sleeping back in a hotel. This is not to say that there was anything wrong with the hostels, they were generally excellent, however a lift to higher floors was a welcome return!

Just like Scotland, the group had the opportunity to learn about the history and culture in both France and Belgium, with some shopping opportunities included. We did most of our France touring in small groups to make it easier to get in to the attractions. To say that the architecture, artwork and surroundings were spectacular, would be an understatement. The museums and art galleries in Paris have some of the biggest and most recognised pieces of art we had ever seen. Each artwork had such detail and complexity, it was really amazing to think about how humans could accomplish such feats. With our Big Bus Paris tour, river cruise and Eiffel tower experiences, we got to see Paris from all angles, some more interesting than others.  

Our final day on tour was by far our busiest as we travelled from Paris to Belgium. We were fortunate to visit Villers-Bretonneux where the Australian War Memorial and the Sir John Monash Centre are situated. It was a powerful experience as we held a short ceremony at the Cross of Sacrifice and performed in the main courtyard of this impressive centre. The performance was moving to many audience members as well as the students present due to the importance of the tunes that were played and the significance of the venue itself. We could not get over the scale of the memorial as it sat on the hillside, surrounded by farm land. It’s strategical significance in the trench war was all too evident. The numerous books inside the memorial listed the names of the fallen soldiers. It was really difficult to fathom the scale of destruction witnessed in this place just over 100 years ago. Ulyssia Rothwell and Hugh Whittle played solo pieces, with Clodagh Goggin and Alis Davies laying a wreath on behalf of the students of Scotch College. Hugh spoke at the ceremony, explaining exactly why we were visiting Villers Bretonneux as part of our Centenary Tour. It really was amazing to listen to and a truly thought-provoking experience for us all. 

Whilst in Belgium, we played in the town square underneath the Cloth Tower in Ypres (Ieper to the locals). The Menin Gate was the main reason for our visit to Ypres. Our performance at the Menin Gate, in front of close to one thousand people, is something that will live with us forever. Will Petterson had the honour of playing the lament, The Flowers of The Forest, for the Ceremony. Ethan Miotti led the band in Amazing Grace, as another wreath was placed inside the memorial by Sophie Fielder and Sarah Bosboom on behalf of Scotch College. Our involvement in this ceremony was an experience that will live with us for the rest of our lives. We were truly fortunate to perform at a venue of such incredible importance and significance to the Australian people and the founders of Scotch College. 

- Ulyssia Rothwell, Ethan Miotti and Ben Craven