Highland fling: Celebrating 90 years of Java-Scot relations

Sara Veal

The exact arrival of the Scottish in Java is shrouded in mystery, due to lost records, but what is certain is the informal founding of the Java StAndrew Society in 1919, via the arrival of two Scottish pilots (later Sirs), Ross Macpherson Smith and Keith Ross, who made the first flight over the archipelago from London to Australia in around 28 days.

Since then, amid natural disasters and dramatic political shifts, the society has stood its ground, faithfully providing Scottish expatriates – and anyone else interested – with an authentic taste of the motherland.

This year signifies the 90* official year of Java-Scot relations and was marked in highland style at the societys main annual event, the Java St. Andrew Society Ball, held in honour of the eponymous Scottish patron saint.

On Saturday, Nov. 28, 2009, the Grand Ballroom at the Four Seasons Hotel, Jakarta was transformed into two Scottish castles, complete with towers and portcullis, for the ball, hosted by Chieftain James Shon and wife Elaine.

Since 1971, the society has elected every March a Chieftain as its head, an annual, once-in-a-lifetime office.

The Chieftain and his partner are responsible for the societys events throughout their tenure – such as organising the hotels, menu and flights, and even slaving overa pot of bubbling fudge to make authentic Scottish “tablet”, in the chieftains wifes case.

Elaine Shon notes that although many traditions at the ball would have initially seemed curious to newcomers, the nature of activities easily included all, especially the Ceilidh dancing.

“Everyone loves it., everyone loves to see the Scottish traditions, everyone loves to see -guys in kilts, Indonesians are really interested to see the dancing… there is so much of Scotland, the way they dress, the way they eat,” says the English Shon, an “adopted Scot”.

“And there is correlation between Indonesians and the Scottish… The Indonesians have batik, familys also important”

Almost 400 guests of all nationalities attended, including the EU, Norwegian, Australian and British Ambassadors, many of the Scottish men in tartan kilts bearing their clans colours, their wives in ball gowns with sashes to match, to enjoy a long night of traditional Scottish merriment, from bagpipes and dancing reels to “haggis slaying”.

The ball opened with an introduction by master of ceremonies and former chieftain Alistair Speirs, from Now! Jakarta magazine, and Chieftain Jim Shons welcome.

The nights entertainment included performances from the British International School Choir, the Java St Andrew Society Dancers, The Perth Highland Pipe Band, a Ceilidh Band flown from Scotland, the Perth Highland Pipe Band, also flown in especially, and the local Sayagi Band.

Most importantly, there was sumptuous Scottish fare, with several meals to punctuate and fuel the revelry from early evening to early morning.

Naturally, the Chieftains “slaying of the haggis”, in recognition of the humble national dishs egalitarian charm (both nutritious and cheap), was the nighf s culinary centerpiece.

The ceremonial slaying of the sausage-like dish, made with sheeps heart, liver and lungs, is preceded by a recitation of Scottish national poet Robert Burns “Address to a Haggis”, which starts Tair fa your honest sonsie face. Great chieftain o the puddin-race!”

Once appropriately extolled, the haggis took on a new role as the star of the Feast of St. Andrew, flanked by “neeps and tatties” (mashed potato, carrot and sweet potato), and doused in whisky.

The Supper Menu, enjoyed at midnight, consisted of mushroom and lentil soup, while the Sunrise Menu at the Chieftains residence, was a full Scottish breakfast, comprising bacon, Lome Sausage, black pudding, eggs, baked beans, tomatoes and hash browns.

Guests also had the chance to win goodies, from the door prize of the title of Lord or Lady of Lochabar and therefore the deeds to a small plot of land in Scotland, to the sought after first prize of two return tickets to the UK donated by Qatar Airways.

The guests certainly seem to have appreciated the Shons* efforts, with more than 100 demonstrating admirable staying power, lasting until the 4 a.m. breakfast.

Adwi. a 2004 Glasgow University graduate, said he most enjoyed “getting together with so many nationalities”.

British Ambassador to Indonesia Martin Hatfull agreed.

“My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed die St Andrews Ball. It was a great event and a wonderful celebration of a very special part of the United Kingdom.”

The events principal sponsors were Qatar Airways, AsiaServa Indonesia, The Royal Bank of Scotland, Asian Tigers Lane Moving and Storage, which pulled off the twin-castle theme, and the Menara Peninsula Hotel.

As well as a night of great fun, the ball was also a key fundraiser for the Java St. Andrews Societys causes.

Next March, when the current Chieftainship ends, the money raised throughout the year will be invested in the education of Indonesian university students, “as its very trackable,” Shon says.

The Java St. Andrew society has many scheduled events ahead, all of which are open to the public, even nondrinkers, despite the Scottish penchant for whisky, such as Bums supper on Jan. 25, 2010, to commemorate the life of the poet

There are also two upcoming golf tournaments pitting the Scots and the English against one another, and regular quiz nights throughout the year.

For more information, visit  www.javastandrew-society.com.

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