Australian dancer prepares for trip of a lifetime - Cowal Highland Gathering
27th - 29th August 2020

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Australian dancer prepares for trip of a lifetime

An Australian teenager is preparing to travel nearly 11,000 miles to fulfil her dream to dance in Scotland.

Champion Highland dancer Ashley Draper, from the Australian state of Tasmania, has won a scholarship to come and pit her skills against the best in the world at this year’s Cowal Highland Gathering (CHG).

Ashley has been dancing since the age of four, and has won several national titles back home in Australia.

Her dream has always been to come to the home of Highland Dancing and compete in the major Scottish dancing championships. Now that dream has become a reality.

Ashley has been named the recipient of the Gordy Wilson Memorial Highland Dancing Scholarship, which will pay for part of her airfare along with her entry fees to the competitions in which she takes part.

One of those – which may well prove the highlight of her trip – is CHG.

Ashley said she had always felt an affinity with Scotland because of her love for Highland Dancing.

“I’ve always wanted to come and experience Scotland and dance in the Scottish competitions, but it was always just a dream. I never expected it to actually happen,” she added.

“I’m so excited. It really is going to be the trip of a lifetime, and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it regardless of my competition results – although I’m training hard to ensure that I do my own country proud.

“I’m very grateful to all the people who’ve helped me get to this stage, and I just can’t wait to get on the plane.”

Ashley will be accompanied on her trip by her mum Karen, dad Dean and 13 year old brother Nicolas, who is learning the bagpipes.

Peter Gordon “Gordy” Wilson, in whose memory the scholarship was set up, was born in Scotland. He migrated to Australia in 1995, but never lost his love for his Scottish heritage.

His mother was a Highland dancer, so Gordy was extremely proud when his daughters followed in her footsteps.

He was due to watch them dance in Scotland in 2007. However Gordy – who was a policeman – was tragically killed in the line of duty in November 2006.

A scholarship was later set up in his name to preserve his dream of promoting Highland Dancing and the Scottish culture in Australia by supporting Australian Highland Dancers in their dream of representing their country at the World Highland Dancing Championships.

Coincidentally, Ashley’s own grandfather was a policeman in Tasmania for 40 years.

“There are several reasons why I feel a bond with Gordy and his family, and I’m very humbled to win the scholarship,” she said. “It gives me the chance to dance not just for myself and my own family, but also for his family and in honour of his memory.

“It will be wonderful to think Gordy’s friends and family will be cheering me on from somewhere. In fact, his parents and sister who live in Scotland are coming to watch me dance while I am there. I really look forward to meeting them, and hopefully will build a life-long relationship with them.


“I’m really looking forward to experiencing Highland Dancing in its home country and immersing myself in its history and culture, and the added bonus is that the trip is bound to have a big impact on my future dancing career.”

CHG chair Ronnie Cairns said Ashley will be a guest of honour at this year’s event.

“There are many thousands of Highland Dancers all round the world, but not many of them manage to get themselves to Cowal,” he added.

“Yet here’s a teenager from about as far away as it’s possible to get who – through her own talent, hard work and dedication – has turned her dream into a reality. I think it’s wonderful.

“I hope Ashley has a fantastic time at Cowal and during the rest of her trip to the UK, and that she takes home many happy memories of Scotland and the Scottish people.

“We’re gearing up to put on what promises to be a spectacular show, and will be putting the finishing touches to the schedule over the next couple of months. I look forward to welcoming Ashley and all the other thousands of competitors and spectators at the end of August.”

This year’s Cowal Highland Gathering – which takes place in association with charity partner Children’s Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS) – runs from Thursday 28 to Saturday 30 August.

For more information or to buy tickets, please visit the Gathering’s website at www.cowalgathering.com or contact the event office by emailing info@cowalgathering.com or phoning 01369 703206.