Category Archives: Bagpipes

Toddish McWong goes to Vernon BC and meets Betty McChan and Dan McHuang.

Toddish McWong goes to Vernon BC and meets Betty McChan and Dan McHuang.


2010_January_Vernon_NewYearsDay 036Toddish McWong meets Betty McChan:  Todd wears the Ancient Fraser Hunting Tartan – the first kilt he ever wore, while Betty wears her father's jacket made from the Chan plaid.

I come to Vernon at Christmas time with my girlfriend and we spend lots of time with her parents and their friends.  Soon after my arrival on December 26th, Bill (my girlfriend's father) tells me that he met a Chinese guy from the Kelowna Pipe Band – that I have to meet.  It turns out that the Kelowna Pipe Band played with the Okanagan Symphony, and the Chinese guy playing the drums stuck out sooo much, that Bill had to go talk to him.  In the next few days, Dan Huang and I will play lots of telephone tag.

Over the next few days, my girlfriend and I celebrate Christmas with her parents.  We visit with their friends.  We go for walks in Kalamalka Park with the doggies.  We celebrate with two of our best friends in Vancouver who come up on December 28 to celebrate New Year's with us… and her birthday.  

2010_January_Vernon_NewYearsDay 083Todd and Deb walk the dogs in Kalamalka Park

Our friend Randall, an opera singer, comes to visit.  We talk about music, opera, and living in Europe.  The next night we visit some other musical friends and have a singalong – we play classic rock and folk songs.  Good thing I brought my accordion.   

My friend Craig and I go skiing at Silver Star.  We take it easy because it's the first day of the skiing season for both of us.  I share that when I was in grades 5, 6, and 7 – my parents brought me and my brother to learn to ski by taking us out of school for a week in February.  We ski green and blue runs + one black diamond run called Chaos.  We meet a Scottish woman, who is amazed that I organize the largest Burns Supper in Vancouver.  She asks me to recite something by Burns.  I launch into a very fast version of the first verse of “Address to a Haggis.”  She laughs in enjoyment.

On New Year's Eve, I receive a phone call from somebody at CBC Radio, for “On the Coast”.  They want to ask me questions about Auld Lang Syne, because it is originally a Scottish tradition – and apparently I am an expert in “All Things Scottish” (their words).  Luckily it's about things I know such as the lyrics are attributed to Scottish poet Robert Burns, and when to join and cross hands with people in a circle while singing Auld Lang Syne.  I add in that Hogmanay (Scottish New Year) is a lot like Chinese New Year because people make a lot of noise to scare off bad ghosts or spirits, and both Chinese and Scottish people want to pay off their debts before the new year begins.  Oh… and they also like to eat and drink a lot, and visit friends.

After 7 days, I
finally see and talk to some Chinese-Canadian people. And… they both have
Scottish connections. 

2010_January_Vernon_NewYearsDay 039 Some of Betty's newsclippings when she was 10 years old and a Highland Dance champion!

Betty Chan is a former Highland Dance champion,
teacher and judge!  We actually met a few years before, when she had emailed me about the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner, and came to attend the 2006 dinner. 

It's a great meeting, as Betty tells us stories about her Highland Dance competitions when she was a child of 10.  In the late 1950's and early 1960's, she was a champion Highland Dancer.  She taught Highland Dancing for a number of years, and even became a member of the judge's panel of the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing. She has since retired.  Back
around 2002, at the Chinese Cultural Centre Museum and Archives, I
first saw an archival issue of Chinatown News with a picture of Betty.

Betty was so good, that there were many media stories written about her.  Even a “Chan plaid” was made up for her.  When Betty went to show us the “Chan plaid” she brought out her father's jacket which he had made in Hong Kong.  She insisted that I try it on.  It's a good fit, and an honour to be wearing it.  Her father Ernest Chan was the first Chinese Canadian to receive the Order of Canada. Betty tells me that I look dashing in her father's Chan plaid jacket!  Wow!

The other guests arrive with extra won ton wrappers.  We fold some pork won tons, we sit down at the table… and after 7 days in Vernon, I finally have
some Chinese food as Betty served us a wonderful won ton soup!  It has bbq pork, water chestnut, siu choy – my girlfriend says is “absolutely fabulous” and “out of this world!”

2010_January_Vernon_NewYearsDay 047 Todd Wong, Dan Huang and Dan's wife Allison who plays bagpipes!

Dan Huang is drum sergeant of the Kelowna Pipe Band.  After days of telephone tag, we had set up a meeting.  Dan shared how he started playing in a pipeband- because his wife played the pipes, and the band was short of drummers – so he gave it a try, having grown up playing violin, piano and other instruments.  The band kilt is the only one he wears, and many people ask to have a picture taken with him, because the sight of an Asian guy in a kilt playing drums in a pipe band is quite unique in the Okanagan.  

And…. it turns out that Dan and I are actually related.  His maternal cousins are my paternal cousins.  So we are not actually related, as we don't share a common ancestor.  But, he brought a picture of his ancestors circa 1940.  Dan showed me his great-grandfather, his 6 wives, then pointed out the 1st born child (his mother) and the 2nd born son standing beside his young wife – who was my dad's oldest sister!  What a small world!

2009 Year of Gung Haggis Fat Choy from Royal BC Museum in Victoria to Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh

2009 was an amazing year for Todd Wong and Gung Haggis Fat Choy

2009 opened with a life-size picture of Todd Wong included in “The
Party” exhibit at Royal BC Museum, and by November 30th – Todd was
encountering a life-size picture of himself at Scottish Parliament in
Edinburgh for the exhibit This is Who We Are: Scots in Canada.

It was an exciting year for the Joy Kogawa House Society, as the long sought dream of a writer-in-residence program became a reality.  Montreal Arab-Canadian author John Asfour became the inaugural writer-in-residence and helped writers at Kogawa House as well as hosted events at the house, Vancouver Public Library's Central and Carnegie branches.  By Christmas time author Joy Kogawa was enjoying her first Christmas season living in the house (temporarily) since she and her family had been forced to move in 1942 when they were sent to Internment Camps during WW2.

On November 28th, I set foot in Scotland for my first time ever.  Since first wearing a kilt in 1993 for the SFU Robert Burns ceremonies and hosting the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner since 1998, I no longer have to say that I've never visited Scotland before.  It was a short but exciting trip as I attended the closing night reception at Scottish Parliament for the exhibit This Is Who We Are: Scots in Canada – co-hosted by the Scottish First Minster and Presiding Officer.  I also visited Edinburgh Castle and many things Robbie Burns, as I made my way to Alloway in Ayrshire to visit the birthplace of Robert Burns at Burns Cottage.  It had only just re-opened to the public and I had a special tour by manager of the Burns National Heritage Park.

This is a review of some my my favorite stories and events from 2009.

January 1st, 2009
A life-size picture of Todd Wong aka “Toddish McWong” is included in Free Spirit exhibition at Royal BC Museum.  The exhibit closed on January 14th 2009.

Photo Library - 2907 by you.


January 20th

VisitScotland comes to Vancouver to celebrate Homecoming Scotland with Toddish McWong and Gung Haggis Fat Choy
and brings special limited edition of 37 year old Famous Grouse whisky to auction off at the 2009 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner.

Raise Money for your Favourite Charity with Limited edition bottles of The Famous Grouse up for Auction


January 20th
Georgia Straight news article
 

Georgia Straight: Why Canada will never have an Obama, except maybe Todd Wong


January 22nd

Westender: Gung Haggis celebrates Canadian interculturalism – article by Jackie Wong


January 25th Robbie Burns Day 250th Anniversary celebration at Burns Statue in Stanley Park


250th Anniversary of Robert Burns recognized with poems at statue in Vancouver's Stanley Park

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January 25th Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner
The
2009 Gung Haggis Fat Choy: Toddish McWong's 250th Robbie Burns Birthday
Chinese New Year's Eve Dinner was a big success – worth 2 ceremonial
haggis.

DSC_3928_103489 - Mayor Gregor Robertson doing the honours by FlungingPictures.

February 4th
Louis Lapprend makes a youtube video of the 2009 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner event


Gung Haggis Fat Choy 2009 Dinner highlights on Youtube

February 15th
Seattle Gung Haggis Fat Choy, Sunday February 15th.

3rd annual Gung Haggis dinner in Seattle Washington, hosted by Bill McFadden of the Caledonian and St. Andrew's Society of Seattle.  Bagpiper Joe McDonald and Todd Wong travel to Seattle to perform and MC the event.

March 15th

Gung Haggis Pipes & Drums & dragon boat paddlers… brave the snow in the Vancouver Celticfest St. Patrick's Day Parade

2009_March 104click here for Flickr photo set


April 6-11th Tartan Week in Vancouver


Tartan Day and Scotland Week celebrated by SFU's Centre for Scottish
Studies with Michael Russell, Scottish Parliamentary Minister for
Culture!

April 20th
Al
Purdy Party at Joy Kogawa House with Shelagh Rogers, John Asfour &
3 nominated poets for BC Book Prizes: Daphne Marlatt, George Stanley
and Nilofar Shidmehr

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May 19th

John Asfour, Kogawa House writer-in-residence gives reading at
Vancouver Public Library with Marcus Youssef and Adrienne Wong of
Neworld Theatre

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May 22nd – Todd and Deb go kayaking on Mayne Island

Kayaking in the Gulf Islands: we visit Belle Islets Chain

and visit

May 30th – Final event for Kogawa House inaugural writer in residence John Asfour with Gary Geddes, Ann Erikson and Shelagh Rogers

Another Magical Evening for final event of Historic Joy Kogawa House's inaugural writer-in-residence program

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June 20/21

Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team has a great weekend at Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival

2009_June 060 click for Flickr pictures

July 18th

Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team places 4th overall at Richmond Dragon Boat Races


July 24/25

Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team heats up Vernon Races

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August 8th


Todd Wong elected to board of The Land Conservancy of BC

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October 10

Gung Haggis paddlers compete at Ft. Langley Cranberry Festival Canoe Regatta: 1st in B Final 5th in A Final

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November 29
Todd's first day in Scotland
I start off in Glasgow, visit a Haggis exhibit at Kelvingrove Museum, take the train to Edinburgh and attend the official Homecoming Finale ceilidh on the Golden Mile.

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November 30
Toddish McWong arrives in Scotland for inaugural visit and reception at Scottish Parliament for “This is Who We Are”

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November 30

CBC Radio interview from Scottish Parliament – On the Cost with Stephen Quinn
“Vancouverite Todd Wong has been celebrating Scottish culture in this
city for years with his Gung Haggis Fat Choy celebration. Now he's in
the home of the Highlands. Stephen caught up with Todd to find out what
he is doing in Edinburgh this week. Listen to the interview.(runs 6:58)”

December 4th
Todd Wong visits Robert Burns Cottage in Alloway Scotland.  After extensive renovations, Burns Cottage is reopened to the public on Nov. 30th.  Todd Wong has a special tour with Caroline Green, manager of Burns Heritage Park.

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December 21st
Christmas Party at Kogawa House

This is the 1st Christmas season, that author Joy Kogawa has spent at her childhood home, since they were removed and sent to WW2  internment camps in 1942.  Friends and family of both Joy Kogowa and Kogawa House attend. 

December 31st
Todd does a short CBC Radio One interview for On the Coast – answering
questions about the Scottish origins of singing Auld Lang Syne.

To be continued

Toddish McWong returns to Canada after 7 days in Scotland

Toddish McWong's inaugural 7 day visit to Scotland

I am now back in Canada.  It was an incredible learning experience for my first trip across the Atlantic to one of the most important cultural and historical ancestral homes for this country called Canada.  Canada is probably the most Scottish nations outside of Scotland.  Our first prime minister, many of our explorers, BC's first premier, Vancouver's first mayor – were all born in Scotland.

And yet… Scotland is a country that is learning from Canada.

My trip was initiated because a life-size picture and video-interview of me were used in the photo exhibit This is Who We Are: Scots in Canada.  I have written about the exhibit here: Toddish McWong arrives in Scotland for inaugural visit and reception at Scottish Parliament for “This is Who We Are”

Here  are my pictures from the exhibit and the reception at the closing of the event on St. Andrew's Day

 Scotland - This is Who We Are: Scots in Canada

Scotland – This is Who We Are:…

Seven days were spent exploring the towns of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Ayr.  I attended the reception at Scottish Parliament for the exhibition This is Who We Are, and I explored Canada-Scottish historical connections at the National Museum of Scotland and Edinburgh Castle.

I also visited many exhibits about Scottish poet Robert Burns at the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow's University of Glasgow, Burns Cottage in Alloway and the National Burns Historic Park, near Ayr.

Here are pictures from my 9 hour layover in Amsterdam, and my first two days exploring Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Amsterdam enroute to Scotland

Amsterdam enroute to Scotland

Todd's first day in Scotland

Todd's first day in Scotland:
A little bit of Glasgow and Edinburgh

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Welcome to Scotland – Gee that train looks very Harry Potterish!

It's been a busy few days in Scotland.  I first arrived late on Saturday night, after a 9 hour layover in Amsterdam's Schipol airport.  I took the train to central station and went for a walk through the touristy bits – where I also discovered both Chinatown and the Red Light District. 

2009_Amsterdam 045Dragon City Restaurant in Amsterdam.  I also discovered restaurants named Asiandam and Cafe Slutery Oost-West, and Eat Mode- Asian Fusion Kitchen.

2009_Amsterdam 052 It must be Chinatown.  The sign says China Town Supermarkt!

The Bulldog pub was toooo full, so I went to The Blarney Stone where I met an Englishman named Robin.  I drank Kilkenney and he drank Guinness.  I told him about our 1st Thursday Kilts Night where we recieve a pint of Guinness.  He told me it was his birthday, I asked the waitress to give him a free birthday beer.  Instant friends + the guy from Boston beside us.

Here are pictures from Amsterdam

Amsterdam enroute to Scotland

Amsterdam enroute to Scotland

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I flew into Glasgow late on Saturday night.  After all the locals breezed easily through customs, I was left with two people from China to fill out landing forms. (What are these?)  I was the last person through, and the service was very kind.  I changed some money, and took the bus into town where I soon found a hotel.  My plan was to check out the local nightlife.  But my shoulder and back were really hurting.  I had injured it on the weekend, then reinjured it again on Thursday.  This was part of the reason why I now was on holiday.  If I can't work… I'm going to Scotland for Homecoming.  I quickly fell asleep after taking more Motrin.

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Sunday morning.  I go to Kelvingrove Art Gallery down the street.  But
first I check into Beanscene – a local equivalent of Starbucks or
Blenz.  Inside the cafe I am greeted by a picture of Johnny Cash. 
There is a poster of Norah Jones's new album.  I am in the right place.

2009_Scotland_1 006 Todd eating Stoats porridge – a good Scottish breakfast that is having a revival.

I order up porridge and coffee.  I meet a local man who tells me about some of the local sights to see, after we discuss Johnny Cash.  He also tells me that Glasgow's Chinatown is nearby. 

2009_Scotland_1 008

Next I meet a Chinese woman who is teaching architecture (or is it art) at the local Art Institute.  Ju-Li is from China and has lived in Scotland since 2004.  She has just married a man, who has had to go back to America, because he doesn't have a UK passport, even though his grandparents were from Scotland.  This man who's ancestors left Scotland for a better life in the USA, is trying to get back into Scotland to be with his Chinese bride.  We both laugh at the absurdity of it.

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Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is amazing.  It's also part museum.  The Main hall on my left has lots of taxidermied animals.  There is an elephant, a giraffe, a moose, an ostrich… even a platypus and a cheetah. Suspended from the ceiling is a WW2 Spitfire fighter plane.

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It is a thing out of a Christopher Robin or Narnia Chronicles book or movie.  Upstairs I discover exhibits on Wild Bill's Wild West Show – when it came to Glasgow, as well as Robert Burns and dinosaurs. 

2009_Scotland_1 024 Supposedly the legendary Haggis is the taxidermied concoction above, set beside a culinary haggis for eating.

There is even a taxidermied haggis!  (photos to show after I return to Canada).

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2009_Scotland_1 035 The Burns exhibit features a picture of Burns as Latin American revolutionary Che Gevera- no doubt reflecting on Burns universality for freedom and equal rights.

I had really wanted to visit the Hunterian Museum, which is showing Zig Zag: The Paths of Robert Burns as part of the Homecoming Scotland events.  But it is at Glasgow University and consequently closed – forcing me to return to Glasgow on Monday.  Anyways, I spend the afternoon at the Kelvingrove, where a Doctor Who exhibit is downstairs. 

2009_Scotland_1 046 People do wear kilts and play bagpipes in Scotland!

I get lost trying to find the train station to Edinburgh.  I get distracted by the sound of bagpipes, as I find myself on Nelson Mandela Walk.  Policemen lead a parade of pipers.  About 12 bobbies (policeman) in reflective yellow jackets escort 16 pipers.  I think these are the first kilts I see in Scotland.

2009_Scotland_1 049 Winter Shindig in square at Glasgow.

I discover the Winter Shindig that takes up an entire square.  There is
a stage for as one of the finale events for Homecoming Year.  But
nobody local seems to know who the band is.  There is a large outdoor
ice rink, and a ferris wheel.

2009_Scotland_1 054 These guys wore the biggest ugly-est sporrans I have ever seen.  They made it themselves, and they carry all their magic tricks to promote the Glasgow Science Centre.

I meet two young men wearing kilts.  They have HUMUNGOUS sporrans which are FILLED with THINGS.  They work for the Glasgow Science Centre.  They show me some of their tricks and offer to set my hand on fire.  It was cool… and it did not hurt.  Okay… I sort of knew the secret, and they confirmed it with me.  One of them took a video – very cool… look carefully because it appears that after the flash – a pigeon flys out of above my hand. (video coming after I return to Canada).

2009_Scotland_1 053 Click for video to see a pigeon fly out of a burst of flame from my hand! Courtesy of the wild and kilted guys from the Glasgow Science Centre.

Did I say I get lost trying to get to the Train Station?  People have been so helpful.  But unfortunately I end up at the Central Station where I ask for Edinburgh, and the ticket seller hears Hellensburg.  Fortunately I don't get on that train, and go back for a refund.  Eventually I find myself on a crowded train to Edinburgh where I spy a man wearing a rugby shirt that says “Famous Grouse.”  As Famous Grouse was a whisky sponsor at our 2009 Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner, I have to go ask about his like for Famous Grouse.  Surprise!  There is an empty seat beside him, which he offers me.  We have a good time talking about rugby, Famous Grouse, as I explain the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner to him, and the lady across from me.  His name is Roy Dewar, the lady is Hellen.  Roy buys me a Tennent's beer for our 50 minute train ride.

2009_Scotland_1 066 A friendly Scot buys me a Tennant's beer to celebrate my first full day in Scotland.

It's Sunday in Edinburgh.  I check into my lodging at Salisbury Centre – a holistic health centre, run by a woman whose auntie is a friend of mine in Vancouver.  For the evening, I decide to walk into town in search of Homecoming events.  I discover the free Caille (traditional dancing) event at The Hub.  The band is called Whiskey Kiss. 
2009_Scotland_1 084 Whiskey Kiss played the St. Andrew's Day Ceilidh to celebrate the Homecoming Finale – click on the picture for video.

They are led by an  accordion player.  I like the band instantly – even though he plays button accordion.  They have a comely lass playing fiddle and a braw fellow on the drums.  A fellow also plays on the penny whistle flute and bagpipes.  But the big surprise is the additional of a dj who adds in ambient sounds and scratches – very cool.  I love their versions of Van Morrison's Blue Eyed Girl and Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire.  But they also lead traditional country dances that include The Canadian Bar Dance, and The Virginia Reel.

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How to start a ceilidh.  Everybody waits on the dance floor while the
ceilidh leaders gives dance instructions, then the band gets going, and
the dance leaders start the dancing off!  Too much fun!

2009_Scotland_1 083 People are dancing and really having lots of fun! – click here for video
 
2009_Scotland_1 085 This is a great little video of the dancing – look for the big guy in a kilt – he's not afraid of a little kilt swirl!  Also look for the Asian woman who seems to really be enjoying herself!

Another surprise, there are Asians dancing.  Most turn out to be students from university.  They are from Taiwan or China. 

2009_Scotland_1 088 Sarah is a student at University of Edinburgh!

I chat with some of the young Scots and ask then if they think that St. Andrew's Day should be a national holiday.  They agree, but say that St. Andrews' events are slow to catch on. 

2009_Scotland_1 094 Young Scots enjoy the Ceilidh, and actually wore kilts!

The patron saint of Scotland is certainly not as big as the patron
saint of Ireland – St. Patrick.  I meet a young Scots woman whose
kilted boyfriend is missing a sporan… and kilt socks.  He is actually
originally from Bulgaria… but he loves Scottish music and Scottish
women – okay… just one woman in particular.

Stanley Park Remembrance Day ceremonies at Japanese Canadian War Memorial

Japanese Canadian War Memorial hosts Remembrance Day Ceremonies2009_Nov_Remembrance_Day 012 by you.
Mounted police, and beat policemen and firemen attend the Remembrance Day ceremonies at the Japanese Canadian War Memorial in Stanley Park. – photos Todd Wong.

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I really like this photo of two people walking to the memorial ceremonies.  After WW2, the Japanese communities in both Canada and USA became the most inter-racially married.  This little girl definitely had Asian features but with light coloured hair.  Many of my friends of Japanese ancestry also have mixed race heritage, or their children or grandchildren do.

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The ceremonies were led by a Church minister and Major (retired) Roy Kawamoto.

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Vancouver City Councilor Geoff Meggs laid the wreath for the City of Vancouver.

After the service he shared with me that historian Stanley Fukawa had told him him:

“the JC volunteers from BC had been unable to enlist in this
province. They marched, paraded and trained, hoping that their
demonstrations of patriotism would win public sympathy for giving them
the vote. They were ignored. (Less than a decade earlier, they had been
forced to defend their Powell St. community from a racist mob.)
Undeterred, they travelled to Alberta, then short of its quota of volunteers, and won admission to the war in that province.”

http://www.geoffmeggs.ca/2009/11/11/hundreds-recall-sacrifice-of-japanese-canadian-soldiers/

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Major (Ret) Kawamoto told me that during WW2, had been arrested for defying the order of evacuation for Japanese Canadians.  He was 12 years old at the time, put in jail, then sent to Greenwood internment camp.

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My friends Grace Eiko Thomson and John Endo Greenaway introduced me to Mona Oikawa an associate professor at York University in Toronto.  When I told Mona that I would put the pictures on my blogsite “Gunghaggisfatchoy.com”, she asked surprisingly “You're Gung Haggis? I check the website many times!”

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Japanese-Canadian bugle player and Scottish-Canadian bagpiper.  Maybe their ancestors fought against each other in WW2, or as allies or comrades with each other in WW1.  No, they didn't play at the same time.

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The bagpiper wears the Ancient Fraser Tartan and belongs to the 78th Fraser Highlanders.  The bugler is with the 58th Field Artillery Regiment.  When I told the bagpiper that I wore the Ancient Fraser Hunting Tartan, he smiled and said “Ahhh… Gung Haggis Fat Choy.”

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Terry Fox Run in Richmond BC – Great weather and community fun!

Terry Fox Run in Richmond BC always has a great community support
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Miss
BC and McNair High School cheerleaders encourage Terry Fox Run
participants and give high-5's as they cross the finish line at the
Richmond run site at Garry Point Park on September 13th, Sunday.

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Volunteer Lindsay Pagnucco holds up one of the many Terry Fox Run t-shirts on sale near the registration tent.

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Bagpipe Noel Chalmers, Dr. Andrew Wang and Terry's Team member Todd Wong

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Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie walks with the crowd to the start line.

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Platform party for the 2009 Terry Fox Run in Richmond
BC: Terry's Team member Todd Wong, warm-up leader, Mayor Malcolm
Brodie, John Yap MLA, Dr. Andrew Wang (Terry Fox Lab), Councilor
McNulty, Miss BC Sandra Gin, Noel Chalmers (bagpiper).

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Dr.
Andrew Wang of the Terry Fox Lab in Vancouver gave a brief but
excellent talk about how the monies raised are used at the Terry Fox
Lab for cancer research – describing some of the important research
that they do.

Gung Haggis Fat Choy, a scholarly take as alternative to the “Scottish Discursive Unconsious”

Gung Haggis Fat Choy making it's way into the lexicon of journals about Scottish culture:
Dr. Leith Davis writes about Toddish McWong for Scottish on-line journal – The Bottle Imp


Dr.
Leith Davis of SFU Centre of Scottish Studies, writes that “Gung
Haggis Fat Choy” bucks the trend of “Scottish Discursive Unconscious.” 

She writes: “In his contribution to the recent volume on
Transatlantic Scots
, Colin McArthur comments on what he calls
the “Scottish Discursive Unconscious,” a restricted range of “images, tones, rhetorical tropes, and ideological
tendencies, often within utterances promulgated decades (sometimes even a century or more) apart”…

“Vancouver, British Columbia, serves as a good test case for McArthur's comments. Like so many Canadian cities,
it has been home over the years to a large population of Scottish immigrants….
 
“There are indeed traces of the Scottish Discursive Unconscious at work in Vancouver….

“Gung Haggis Fat Choy takes many of the features of traditional Burns nights and gives them a non-traditional twist…The “Address to the Haggis” morphs into the “Rap to the Haggis,” featuring Joe MacDonald and Todd Wong with a
synthesized beat maker in the background. The “Toast to the Lassies” in 2009 was a rap-poem delivered by a
lassie with an all-male chorus. In addition, Asian elements are added, such as a “bamboo clappertale” about Robert
Burns and his teacher by Jan Walls and music by the Silk Road Music Ensemble. Haggis wontons and other delicacies
suggest a culinary as well as cultural fusion. Gung Haggis Fat Choy does not stop at mixing together those of Chinese
and Scottish heritage. Rather, its aim is to provide a celebratory venue in which those from all cultures can be
comfortable. The 2009 dinner opened, for example, with a blessing from Musqueam elder Larry Grant, a reminder,
perhaps, that we are all immigrants here at some time in the past.

Where traditional Burns suppers of today include very little poetry, apart from snippets of the bard's most
famous works, Gung Haggis Fat Choy keeps the spirit of Burns's creativity alive by featuring readings from
Asian-Canadian poets and donating money to the Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop, Ricepaper magazine and the
Joy Kogawa House. Kogawa was one of the first Asian-Canadian writers to reach a national popular audience
with her 1981 novel Obasan.

Read the entire article at:

http://www.arts.gla.ac.uk/ScotLit/ASLS/SWE/TBI/TBIIssue5/Diaspora.html

Tartan Day and Scotland Week celebrated by SFU's Centre for Scottish Studies with Michael Russell, Scottish Parliamentary Minister for Culture!

April 6th is Tartan Day the whole world over.  And now there is Scottish Week.

The Centre for Scottish Studies, at Simon Fraser University, organized a conference on “Robert Burns in Transatlantic Context.”  I was invited by Dr. Leith Davis to perform on the Tuesday evening, and give a presentation on Wednesday afternoon, and attend the closing reception on Thursday evening.

Tartan Week in Vancouver was also the final stop for Scottish Parliamentary Minister of Culture, Michael Russell, who started his week at the Tartan Day parade in New York City, visited Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, then Vancouver again.

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Toddish McWong meets Michael Russell, Scottish Parliamentary Minister for Culture, External Affairs and Constitution,
Scottish Development International – photo T. Wong

Last year I was featured in a Vancouver Sun story about Tartan Day.  Vancouver Sun: The next celebration – Toddish McWong helps to spread the word about Tartan Day
 


Then I helped organize a proclamation by the City of Vancouver:
Tartan Day (April 6) proclaimed in City of Vancouver, April 3

On April 6th, we had an informal ceremony filmed by Global TV News, with the proclamation read by City Councilor Raymond Louie:
A Tartan Day dragon boat paddle practice… with bagpiper and proclamation reading

This year the major events were organized by Dr. Leith Davis, director of the Centre for Scottish Studies, SFU.

The week started out with a Tuesday evening of music and song for the “Musical Celebration of Burns in North America,” featuring Jon Bartlett and Rika Reubsaat, performing “Burns Songs in BC”, and also Kirsteen McCue and pianist David Hamilton performing Burns Songs by Serge Hovey.  This was really interesting because Kirsteen is from Scotland, and she explained that these were the musical arrangements that Burns himself had used, but were only discovered a few years ago.

The third set of the evening featured Gung Haggis Fat Choy performers.  After a poem by visiting Scottish professor Dr. Robert Crawford, Dr. Jan Walls explained about Chinese clapper songs.  Jan is former director of International Communication at SFU, and also a former cultural attache for the Canadian embassy in Beijing.  At this year's Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner, Jan performed a song about Robbie Burns to chinese clappers.  Leith was knocked out by Jan's performance.  This evening Jan performed the Burns poem “John Barleycorn.”

Leith's idea was to introduce all the travelling Burns scholars and conference attendees to a little bit of Gung Haggis Fat Choy.  She told them all that it was the “best Burns dinner” she has been to.  And she was amazed at how the Gung Haggis event incorporated and promoted cultural fusion.

MVI_0155 Todd Wong apologizes for being unable to “roll” his “r's” due to Chinese DNA which has no “r-sounds”in the Chinese language.

Leith asked for a performance of “The Haggis Rap” or “Rap To A Haggis”, in which bagpiper Joe McDonald and I rap the immortal Burns poem, “Address to a Haggis.”  I introduced it by saying that Joe and I had performed this on CBC national television, and our MP3 version had also been played on BBC Radio Scotland two years ago.  Meanwhile, Joe had found a haggis in the kitchen.  Gung Haggis dragon boater Debbie Poon followed Joe into the hall carrying the haggis.

MVI_0153 Joe McDonald pipes in the haggis for Scottish Week.

We closed off the evening by leading a singalong of Auld Lang Syne with the first verse and chorus in Mandarin Chinese.  Then dragon boaters Steven Wong and Debbie Poon helped lead some “volunteers” in a Chinese dragon parade, complete with two children carrying the Chinese lion masks.  It was fun, and lots of people thanked us afterwards with positive compliments.

On Wednesday there was a Community Research Forum on “Burns In BC.”

Jon Bartlett and Rika Reubsaat started the forum by talking about the history of Burns dinners in BC.  They were followed by Robert Barr who gave a history of the Vancouver Burns Club.  I followed with a history of Gung Haggis Fat Choy, its origins and its cultural fusion context.

I explained that BC is a young province.  While we are celebrating the 250th Anniversary of Robert Burns' birth, we only just celebrated the 150th anniversary of the colony of BC.  Vancouver is only 123 years old.  I explained that to me, the “Two Solitudes” of BC are the Scottish and Chinese.  Each arrived from an opposite direction, and lived in conflict.  I explained that if the Scots hadn't been in political power, there probably wouldn't have been a Chinese Head Tax or an Exclusion Act to keep the Chinese out of Canada.  To which many people applauded my statement.  I went on to say that many generations later, there are many Scots and Chinese intermarried, and sharing Scots and Chinese DNA, just like in my family.

I shared how I first wore a kilt for the 1993 Burns ceremony at Simon Fraser University, and how the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinners grew from 16 people in 1998 to 550 people in 2009.  A CBC television performance special was aired in 2004 and 2005.   And with the SFU Recreation Department, I helped create the SFU Gung Haggis Fat Choy Festival in 2005 with dragon cart races, and later with the human curling event.  It was a good talk that also included how I was chosent to play Robert Burns for the Celticfest's inaugural “Battle of the Bards” which I won against actors playing Dylan Thomas and W.B. Yeats.

Making Burns relevant in a global 21st Century, is what Gung Haggis Fat Choy events do.  The growth of copycat dinners in Ottawa, the Yukon, Seattle and Santa Barbara, demonstrate that Gung Haggis is reaching people in a positive way.  While promoting Burns, it also addresses multiculturalism and racism.

Thursday's Scottish Week finale is a reception for Michael Russell, Scottish Member of Parliament.

Jack Layton likes bagpipers following St. Patrick's Day parade for Vancouver's Celticfest

It's not everyday, you meet an important Canadian parliamentary leader in a pub on St. Patrick's Day…

- but Jack Layton was in Vancouver for Celticfest and the St. Patrick's Day Parade

2009_March 120 by you.Todd Wong, Jack Layton, Allan McMordie, Trish McMordie – photo T.Wong/T.Lam

We had spent 3 hours in the cold preparing and walking in the parade
with the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Pipe & Drums, and Gung Haggis Fat
Choy dragon boat team, carrying a parade dragon, lion head masks and
dragon boat paddles.  We were cold, and in need of warm food and
carbohydrate replenishment.  Jack Layton, federal NDP leader had been in the parade too.  He often
comes in August for Vancouver's Pride Parade. Jack said he was also in Vancouver to attend an event for Don Davies, MP for Vancouver Kensington. 

I've known Don for a few years, when he first introduced himself to me at one of Meena Wong's dim sum luncheons (coincidence: Meena had been an assistant for Jack Layton's wife Olivia Chow in Toronto). Jack's wife is Chinese-Canadian MP, Olivia Chow, and they are also friends of Canadian author Joy Kogawa. Wow… Jack and Olivia are a real inter-cultural couple on a national scale!  Very Gung Haggis!  I had dim sum with Olivia in 2007, at one of Meena Wong's dim sum socials with Chinese head tax activists, see: Dim Sum with Olivia Chow in Vancouver

I asked Jack, if he had Scottish ancestry, which he affirmed. It was on Robbie
Burns Day, January 25th 2003, he became
federal leader of the NDP (New Democratic
Party”). If Robbie Burns was the ploughman's poet, then Jack Layton must be the workers' parliamentarian.

Layton's views of social democracy, probably
best represent Robert Burns's similar views – more
than the other federal leaders. Burns was such a progressive thinker of the Scottish enlightenment, that many of his views were not published until after his death – they would have been considered “that radical”.  Remember that during Burns' time, happening around him was the American Revolution, and the French Revolution, as Modern Democracy emerged.  But 250 years later they fit very much into a social democratic world.   Layton's great-granduncle, William Steeves, was a
Father of Confederation. Layton's own grandfather
Gilbert Layton was a cabinet minister in the
Quebec provincial government, and his father
Robert Layton was a Member of Parliament and
cabinet minister. 

Just as Jack Layton was preparing to leave the pub, our bagpipers started playing some songs.  Jack took out his cell phone and started videoing them, then recorded a Happy St. Patrick's Day message.  Maybe this will appear on his web page.  I used my camera to record the action. 

Check it this video:

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Allan McMordie, Patricia
McMordie, David Murray –
bagpipers
Filmed by Jack Layton,

Gung Haggis Pipes & Drums & dragon boat paddlers… brave the snow in the Vancouver Celticfest St. Patrici's Day Parade

SNOW and bagpipers and parade dragons normally don't mix
- but the inaugural parade debut of the Gung Haggis Pipes and Dragon Boat Drummers smiles in adversity!

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Our brave troupe of paddlers, pipers and drummers… – photo T.Wong / J.McDonald

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Tzhe carries and the dragon in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery, with help from Stephen – photo T. Wong

2009_March 094 by you.
Snow and Wind did not deter our pipers and drummers: Front row Bob Wilkins, David Murray, Allan McMordie, 2nd row Barbara, Danny, Patricia, Drummers: Tony & Cassandra – photo T. Wong

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Mackenzie led our contingent as “paddle bearer” leading the pipers! – photo T.Wong

And when it was all over… Pipe Major Bob Wilkins congratulated Mackenzie on a job well-done.  In all his years of piping and parades, it never snowed on him before.  Bob said he “never had so much fun being miserable.”

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St. Patrick's Day 2009 Parade…

Here's a picture of the dragons on our car! – photo T.Wong

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Check out more pictures on
Toddish McWong's Flickr account