Scottish carry on … and be yourself
Good on you for being yourself - words that put a smile on Pixie’s face when he walks along the streets of Bendigo.
They are the kinder reactions to the kilt-wearing life-long Bendigo resident born John Leys Biggs more than half a century ago who travels Victoria proudly wearing a great kilt in the contemporary and distinctive official Bendigo tartan.
And Pixie will be at Scots Day Out again this year, assisting with the early morning set and then soaking up the Scottish atmosphere that permeates Rosalind Park.
“Many times there has almost been an accident when cars suddenly brake or do a U-turn to allow the driver or passengers to make a smart remark while snapping a photo,” he said.
“If it’s not ‘good on you’, they’ll ask ‘what’s the deal – been to a party?’ with a few extra words thrown in.”
For Pixie, wearing a kilt is the celebration of his heritage. “It’s how people in Scotland dressed hundreds of years ago.
“The kilt was their total wardrobe. Scots would work, eat and sleep in the kilt for weeks at a time, use it to dry themselves after bathing in a river and just put the kilt back on again.
The now densely populated blocks of Flora Hill were his bushland playground as a child, growing up with no knowledge of his Scottish ancestry.
He even rejected encouragement from his mother to learn the bagpipes. Today, you can’t keep Pixie away from the sound of pipes or the sight of dancers and clans gathering to celebrate Scottish culture and tradition.
“My mum’s ancestors came from around Glasgow and Aberdeen where many had been church ministers,” he said.
“They all came here during the gold rush, first to Ballarat and then around Bendigo.
“My granddad had a dairy near the railway line in Williamson St and had his home and stables in Garsed St.”
Pixie has since amassed an encyclopaedic knowledge of Scottish history and the transition of the kilt from rough woven and dyed cloth to the modern tartans used today.
As he relates, Scottish tartans almost disappeared after the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 – Scots agitating for independence from England and the return of the Scottish throne – 300 years ago.
By 1745 the clan system had been dismantled and weaponry, tartan and pipes were outlawed in a disaster for the highland culture. Ironically, it was through efforts by members of the Highland Society of London in 1782 that Scots were once more allowed to don the tartan.
“When I wake up in the mornings, there are days I choose to wear the kilt just like other people decide on jeans or shorts or even a suit . . . there are some times I wear a suit but they are pretty rare,” Pixie said.
“On other days I look in the wardrobe and decide to dress as a pirate or a medieval juggler.”
For more than 20 years Pixie has taken the stage at festivals and fairs with his brand of entertainment.
As Loki the Pixie, his act would feature activities of the old medieval courts including storytelling, juggling and firestick twirling.
“Everyone just called me Pixie so one day in September 2007 I went to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Office where they told I only needed one name under deed poll. Ever since I’ve been just Pixie,” he said.
Pixie is also part of a Viking re-enactment group based in Melbourne and performed as a juggler in last year’s Timeless Festival at Ballarat’s Kryal Castle, uninhibited by the need to use crutches following a motorcycle accident in 2008 that obliterated his femur and required extensive surgery.
He is also handy at field archery, representing the Bendigo club at national and state championships, taking out Victorian traditional long bow championship in 2011.
“I love the many Scottish gatherings. Scots Day Out in Bendigo has a real atmosphere and the shade in Rosalind Park makes it a great spot to soak up all the history on show,” Pixie said.
“I rarely miss heading to Maryborough or Daylesford or Geelong where there are also big highland gatherings but Bendigo is my hometown – sure it’s changed a lot over my lifetime – and a great place to celebrate all things Scottish.
“There are people who are really interested in why I wear the tartan kilt so often. I explain the history and my family’s Scottish heritage.
“Some might think I’m a bit weird but look at all the body piercing and tattoos around today – am I? I’m just being myself,” Pixie said.
“Scots Day Out allows everyone to be just that.”
Picture source: Twitter