Highland dancers from the Neufield Highland School of Dance entertain at Petrolia’s St. Andrew’s Society Thursday.
There are few traditions which have lasted as long as the St. Andrew’s Society Dinner in Petrolia.
For 143 years, men in the community have been getting together to greet old friends, share some laughs and celebrate their Scottish heritage. About 200 people filled the Royal Canadian Legion in Petrolia for the annual merriment Thursday.
Dr. Bob Green has been attending the dinners since the 1950s. He says the get togethers started when foreign drillers began returning to Petrolia at Christmas time.
Green says the men come home for four to six weeks and part of that time was spent at local hotels with other drillers, eating fine food, sharing stories and a little something to drink. “It would last for a better part of a week,” says Green “sometimes much longer than that.
“There was no organization; it was a happening…they just did things as they wanted to, they would usually have several banquets not just one and they were often held at the hotels which held which had excellent cuisine sometimes at the Iroquois…the menus included smoked oysters and oysters on the half shell – all kinds of exotic things. It opens your eyes to the amount of money floating around town at that time.”
Green says over the years a “committee” would organize the event. While names of several communities were listed in the minutes, Green said usually one or two businessmen met for a few moments to figure out who would give the toast and what would be on the dinner menu. “The rest of the evening would be for merriment.”
Today, the hall is filled with music as Highland Dancers take to the floor and there is lots of laughter in the room. And Piper Tom Rankin – a past president of the local St. Andrew’s Society – says it is a celebration of Scottish heritage open to just about anyone.
Green agrees saying it is a “tight-knit group. Anyone who has come to dinner and thinks they have input into the society is a member.”