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Bagpipes and Badger Bags: Scottish Tartan Festival at Ardenwood

Macintosh Pipe Band Drummer, ink & watercolor
Macintosh Pipe Band Woman, ink & watercolor in small WC Moleskine

When the Scottish Tartan Festival came to Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont, Cathy and I arrived at the start of the festivities to sketch. We were greeted by a royal retinue of people in full costume. They stayed in character all day, acting out scenes from Scottish history. Along with the re-enactors there was a bagpipe band, booths for clans, beer, food, craft vendors, demonstrations of kilt wrapping, and pole-tossing competitions.

Macintosh Pipe Band, ink & watercolor in small WC Moleskine
Macintosh Pipe Band Woman, ink & watercolor in small WC Moleskine

I’d filled my last handmade sketchbook and didn’t have time to bind another so I was using a small watercolor Moleskine and my fountain pen. I wasn’t used to such a small page and it was a bit of a struggle with a too thick line on a very small page.

Sporran: Furry man purses worn with kilts
Sporran: Furry man purses worn with kilts (two sketchbook pages assembled in Photoshop)

All of the men in kilts were wearing frontal fanny packs made of fur or leather called “Sporran” (roll those r’s). I had to take a photo (pasted into sketchbook above) of one gentleman’s sporran made from an actual badger! People were very friendly and happy to explain things to us and didn’t mind us sketching them.

Macintosh Bagpiper and Drummer
Macintosh Bagpiper and Drummer

I was fascinated by the bagpipes and drew them repeatedly until I understood what I was seeing. They looked like brown corduroy vacuum bags with a bunch of pipes sticking out of them. The bags are lined with leather or Goretex but used to be made from sheep or goat stomachs.

Bag piper contestant
Bag pipe contestant

There were judging stations set up around the park where young pipers performed and judges carefully rated their performances. This guy (above) left before I’d finished drawing him but I like the sketch anyway. Most of the pipe band members appeared to be of retirement age. I asked one when he started playing bagpipes (glad my kids never wanted to learn bagpipe!). He said that he started in his 50s and most of the band had started playing as adults too.

Pipe Band and Dancer
Pipe Band and Dancer

There were some lovely young dancers performing on the stage while the pipe band played but I was so intent on drawing the pipers I nearly missed seeing the dancers.

I thought it was interesting that ALL of the bagpipers wore earplugs.

Next time I’ll post my sketches of the people in period costumes.

5 replies on “Bagpipes and Badger Bags: Scottish Tartan Festival at Ardenwood”

All the bagpipers wore ear-plugs – that’s terrific! I love the sound of the bagpipes – over a lake from a long distance, but there’s some sort of racial memory there that does call us. We have plenty of Scotch descent people around Geelong and an annual festival. Our youngest son is a thrower and sometimes competes at it with the hammer. Your quick sketches really do take us there and the sporrans too!


How cool to find out you have Scottish heritage. I know next to nothing about the culture so it was really delightful to get to meet so many of the participants at the festival who were so happy to tell us all about everything. Jana


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