Event celebrates Scottish culture

Anyone who has a hankering for haggis or feels like tapping their toes to some Scottish tunes will get the chance to experience authentic Scottish at a cèilidh – a dance party with live music – next month.

A cèilidh is a traditional Scottish or Irish social gathering that usually involves dancing and playing Gaelic folk music. Cèilidhean, the plural of cèilidh, have also been popular in the Scottish and Irish diasporas in North America.

The Westman Scottish Association, who is putting on the cèilidh at the Riverview Curling Club on April 1 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., has been active in the Wheat City for several years. Sarah-Jane Speers, the president of the association, said they are actively seeking out new members.

“We are trying to reach new members, new volunteers and get the next generation engaged in it,” Speers, whose grandfather and uncle also served as president, said. “I’d like to keep the association going for as long as possible, and we can’t do it without members and volunteers.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the association had to put its events on hold. Now, Speers and the other members are looking forward to a return to the communal gathering that is such a part of Celtic culture.

“We’ve really felt the loss of our events over COVID,” Speers said. “So we thought, let’s put a cèilidh together. Let’s have a Scottish party.”

Several people had reached out via the association’s Facebook page to ask about the possibility of learning traditional Scottish dancing. There are four distinct styles of dancing that originated in Scotland – Highland dancing, Scottish country dancing, step dance and cèilidh dancing.

“A couple people from the public had reached out … and had asked about learning some of the country dancing, such as line dancing … they wanted to learn how to do it,” Speers said. “So we thought, well, let’s just put a cèilidh together and we’ll teach everybody that doesn’t know how to do them, because they are a lot of fun.”

As far as refreshments go, there will be drinks for sale and traditional Scottish food, including Scotch pies, which are usually small, double-crust meat pies filled with minced mutton, beef or lamb.

While a lot of Brandon’s early settlers hailed from Scotland, Speers said that over the past few years, a fair number of families from across the pond and north of England have also come to the Wheat City.

“They moved here and then their grandparents are still in Scotland … so there are quite the Scottish roots set down here in Brandon,” she said, adding that you don’t have to have any Scottish background to come out and enjoy the event.

After the cèilidh wraps up, the association will set it’s sights on planning for Brandon’s multicultural festival, which is set to take place this summer. Although Speers said the board is still ironing out the details for their involvement, they’re hoping the event will help grow their membership base, which will in turn lead to more events in the future.

Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun