Australian Celtic Festival Newsletter – June 2020

Letter from the Festival

The Australian Celtic Festival has been held annually at the nationally acclaimed Australian Standing Stones in Glen Innes for nearly 30 years. In that time, it has gone a long way from just being an invitation to the varied Celtic clans to get together and celebrate their history and is now one of our region’s most anticipated and superior events.

Our Festival is not just a music Festival, though that part is paramount in any Celtic celebration. Our Festival incorporates dance, artisans, literature, food, fashion and historical Celtic traditions from jousting to strongman events emulating a medieval village vibe. We strive to capture that historical feel inside the backdrop of our special megaliths.

The Australian Standing Stones are based on an ancient pastime. Usually they signify a transformation, a response to a community’s growth and greater connection to its land.

Our claim to be the first megalithic site built in 3500 years and the only one in the southern hemisphere is quite an achievement and set our path for growth, understanding, commemoration and education.
The Australian Celtic Festival has acknowledged eight Celtic nations – Asturias, Brittany, Cornwall, Galicia, Ireland, Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales – and each year focuses on different nations in rotation. The Celts spread over a much vaster topography than just the UK, France and Spain. We pride ourselves in welcoming all those with Celtic and non-Celtic roots from all over the world. We hope to develop and further acknowledge this as our festival heads into the next five years. It is this sharing of knowledge, of piecing together our similarities and the kaleidoscope of talent that attracts visitors to our region and assists in building a varied festival experience every year while exploring various paths in established festival traditions.

This month’s newsletter has our regular feature from The Australian Standing Stones Management Board Chair, Judi Toms D Urr. Judi talks about our unique registered district tartan, its colours and what they represent. Australian Celtic Honours also get a breakdown in meaning and good news regarding the announcement of the official return of the flag-lowering ceremonies at the Australian Standing Stones. This will be a special one as the Isle of Man celebrates Tynwald Day. It was an honour to receive a personal letter from the president of the London Manx Society, Alastair Kneale, whose trip to Australia to help celebrate Ireland and the Isle of Man this year was cancelled.

He was thrilled to acknowledge our upcoming Tynwald ceremony and we include his correspondence in this month’s newsletter, plus some poetry to boot. We really hope to see a supportive turnout on Sunday, July 5 at the Australian Standing Stones. There will be more information on the ACF Facebook page regarding this celebration closer to the event.

Concluding this month’s Australian Celtic Festival newsletter is Garek Fysch, Chair of the Caledonian Society of Glen Innes. Garek puts the mystery of ‘Whiskey’ or ‘Whisky’ to rest while making me very thirsty in the process. To all the friends of the Australian Celtic Festival, I hope you enjoy the stories and start counting down the days until our 2021 celebrations.

The Australian Celtic Festival celebrates Ireland and the Isle of Man, April 29 to May 2, 2021.

Rhonda Bombell
Tourism & Events Officer


Glen Innes is immensely proud to have its own registered district tartan. All necessary documentation was sent to the Scottish Register of Tartans, which registers tartans from all over the world. The official ‘Certificate of Registration’ is housed at the Glen Innes Highlands Visitor Information Centre.
The Glen Innes tartan was thoughtfully compiled by two local men – Alexander (Lex) Ritchie, OAM, T En E and Peter Bruce, D Ua.

The design is based on the Earl of St. Andrew’s tartan and the colours represent various relevant aspects of Australian Celtic history.
Light blue – the clear daytime skies of New England.
Royal blue – the sapphires of New England.
Dark blue – the night skies that frame the Southern Cross.
Red – the link of blood with our Celtic forebears.
White – fealty and steadfastness to our Celtic tradition.

A large range of items made with the Glen Innes tartan are available for sale through the Glen Innes Highlands online shop.

Feature Article – Australian Standing Stones Management Board

The Australian Celtic honours
The Celtic Council of Australia (CCA) awards Celtic honours for meritorious service to Celtic affairs, with the recipient having the right to use the distinctive post being nominal. Nominations may be submitted by any member of the community and can be sent to the CCA at any time. Further information is available by contacting the CCA.
The honours currently awarded comprise the following:

  • Duine Uasal (D Ua) Irish – honourable person – awarded for honourable service to a single Celtic community or on a particular occasion or whom the CCA wishes to honour (green pin/ribbon).
  • Duine Urramach (D Urr) Scots Gaelic – noble person – awarded for distinguished service to one of the communities or on a particular occasion or to the CCA (blue pin/ribbon).
  • Cyfaill y Celtiad (CyC) Welsh – friend of the Celt – awarded for distinguished service to the whole Celtic community or the CCA or for very distinguished service to a part of the Celtic community (red pin/ribbon).
  • Tus Enorys Ewn (T En E) Cornish – right honourable person – awarded for most distinguished service to the Celtic community (black pin/ribbon).
  • Chairn Tustey Ceiltagh (C Tu C) – Manx – leader of Celtic learning – awarded for successful leadership in the Celtic community (yellow pin/ribbon).

Flag-lowering ceremonies will begin again at the Australian Standing Stones in July.
The first flag-lowering, July 5, will provide the opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge Tynwald Day on the Isle of Man. As one of the feature nations of the 2021 Australian Celtic Festival, it will be an early taster celebration.
Tynwald refers to the Manx parliament, believed to be the longest continually running parliament in the world.

The Isle of Man has a triskelion on its flag. The design was changed to an armoured one in 1395 by Sir William le Scorpe, Lord of Mann, and has remained so ever since. The toes are set so they form an equilateral triangle. When properly flown, the legs run clockwise. The national motto mean ‘Whichever way you throw it, it still stands’.

The Australian Standing Stones Management Board, in conjunction with the Glen Innes Caledonian Society, look forward to hosting you at 5pm, July 5, at the standing stones. Come along and learn a little more about Tynwald Day and the Isle of Man. Join in with a toast and savour some traditional fare.

The second flag-lowering will take place on July 25 and acknowledges Galicia and its patron saint, St. James. According to tradition, his body was discovered near Compostela. Today, the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela is the mecca for many people completing the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St James).

Galicia is in the north-west corner of Spain.
The Galician flag is based on the colours of the ancient mediaeval flags of the kingdom of Galicia. It depicts part of the blue cross of St Andrew over a white field and incorporates the coat of arms of Galicia. The chalice and the golden crosses sit on a blue shield in the middle of the diagonal.

All flag-lowering ceremonies take place at the Australian Standing Stones site in the Centennial Parklands in Glen Innes at 5pm.

Judi Toms D Urr
Chair, Australian Standing Stones Management Board

from Isle of Man Tynwald Day by Alastair Kneale

Tynwald Day (Manz: Laa Tinvaal), the national day of the Isle of Man (Mannin) is held on July 5. It is when the government of the Isle of Man meet at Tynwald Hill to read a summary of the laws passed over the last year. The reading is given in Manx Gaelic and English. The artificial hill, which is thought to have started as a Bronze Age burial mound, is made up of four circular platforms. It is said to have been a meeting place for Celtic midsummer assembly. Hence there is a large Celtic cross on the site representing the sun god, Lugh. This past is still remembered by the laying of the rushes on the processional walkway to the hill in homage to the Celtic sea god Mannanan.

Tynwald is the parliament of the Isle of Man, is of Norse origin and more than 1000 years old. It is the oldest parliament in the world with an unbroken existence. The Norse governed the island from 800AD to 1265AD. In 1079, Godred Crovan, the Norse-Gaelic ruler, invaded the Isle of Man and held power for 16 years. It is believed that under his rule the Tynwald parliament was established. The name Tynwald is derived from the Old Norse word Þingvǫllr, meaning ‘the field of the thing’.

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in many ceremonies and festivals being cancelled in 2020. Not least being the wonderful Australian Celtic Festival at Glen Innes. Another event cancelled this year has been the most famous motorcycle race meeting in the world, the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (TT). Nevertheless, like the Australian Celtic Festival, the TT will be in full swing in 2021.

Tynwald Day this year will go ahead, albeit in a considerably modified form. In order to comply with social distancing guidelines, there has been a necessary reduction in the number of people who can take part in the ceremony, but essential elements of the it will remain. Tynwald Day is on July 5, but this year the ceremony will take place on Monday, July 6, to allow people to take the day as a holiday.

Laa Tinvaal Soney Diu – Happy Tynwald Day to everyone at Glen Innes and we will see you at the Australian Celtic Festival next year.

Lesh yeearreeyn (with best wishes),
Alastair Kneale
London Manx Society
(Yn Chesnhaght Manninagh Lunnin)

There is poem about Tynwald Hill by William Wordsworth. Not a Manx man, but he visited the island in 1833. The Isle of Man post office recently issued a set of stamps celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of William Wordsworth. Extracts from his work are featured on each stamp.

Tynwald Hill by William Wordsworth

“Once on the top of Tynwald’s formal mound
(Still marked with green turf circles narrowing
Stage above stage) would sit this island’s king,
The laws to promulgate, enrobed and crowned;
While, compassing the little mount around,
Degrees and orders stood, each under each;
Now, like to things within fate’s easiest reach,
The power is merged, the pomp a grave has found.
Off with yon cloud, old Snafell! that thine eye
Over three realms may take its widest range;
And let, for them, thy fountains utter strange
Voices, thy winds break forth in prophecy,
If the whole state must suffer mortal change,
Like Mona’s miniature of sovereignty.”

‘WHISKEY’ or ‘WHISKY’? by Garek Fysch

The Irish spell whiskey with an ‘e’ between the ‘k’ and the ‘y’ while the Scots leave out the ‘e’. Watch out for spellcheck! Canada, India and Japan follow the Scottish spelling while the US follows the Irish example, with a few exceptions. Many theories have been put forward to explain the different spelling of whiskies, from differing translations of uisge beatha, the original name for whisky, between Irish and Scottish Gaelic or personal taste – no pun intended.

Until the late-19th century, most of the world spelled whisky without an ‘e’ – even the major Irish and American distillers. In 1860, the UK government passed the Spirits Act, which allowed whisky blenders, for the first time, to create blends of both grain whisky and single malts. Irish distillers were producing around 70% of the world’s whisky at the time and objected to the creation of blends.

Blending grain whisky and single malts allowed Scottish whisky blenders to create a style of whisky that was very similar to Irish whiskeys but cheaper to produce. The Scots soon made steady inroads into Irish whiskey’s global market share. In response, Irish distillers banded together to produce a book in 1879 that denounced the use of grain whisky in blends; arguing that such blends “cannot be whisky, and it ought not to be sold under that name.” The book, titled Truths About Whisky, spelled whisky without an ‘e’.

The issue was eventually settled by a 1908 royal commission, which issued a report the following year where it concluded that blended whisky could still be called whisky. Over the course of the late-19th century, many of the big Irish distillers began to spell whiskey with an ‘e’ in order to differentiate their whiskey from its Scottish competitors. The American spelling of whisky went through a similar evolution. Whether spelled with an ‘e’ or without, it remains one of the world’s favourite refreshments.

Garek Fysch
Chair Caledonian Society Glen Innes

Other News and Updates

Next month we’ll have more updates for you on the 2021 Australian Celtic Festival – Year of Ireland & Isle of Man as well as more featured articles from our guest editors.

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