Of cromachs, cabers and the Kiltie Dash
Heartfelt thanks to all of you who sent good wishes our way for a break in the weather on Saturday for our local Highland Games. Whether it was because of all those positive vibes, or because the rain gods have been concentrating on the eastern seaboard of North America over the past few days, we did – miraculously – have a mostly sunny afternoon. Not a soggy kilt in sight.
The pipe band arrived on the field looking as splendid as ever,
and although they had to stand to attention for the Chieftain’s Salute through the one downpour of the afternoon, the rain was brief enough not to trouble anyone.
This is a small gathering: there is no agricultural section, which means no cattle or sheep being shown and no tent full of prize-winning scones and chutneys and gardens-on-trays, as we had in the local show where I grew up. The emphasis at these Games is on the field. Piping competitions go on at the corners of the field, and highland dancing takes place on a specially erected platform. There are cycle races, a hill run, sprints and heavyweight events like putting the stone and tossing the caber.
This year, to my delight, our younger son chose to enter the Kiltie Dash. Whereas the other races are pretty serious and attract competitors from athletics clubs all over Scotland, this short sprint is open to anyone in a kilt. Only about half a dozen souls had the gumption to enter, two of whom were wearing nasty picnic rugs wrapped sarong-style over their jeans. (Outrageous travesty of our national costume! They should have been disqualified, in my opinion.) Our wee boy was the smallest entrant by far – especially once some of the heavyweight competitors joined in – and needed a last minute pep-talk from Daddy to keep up his courage.
For a moment the commentator got rather excited as he saw my husband climbing into the ring. Was the Chieftain of the Games entering the Kiltie Dash? No such luck, only his wee son. He soon managed to restore son’s natural bubbling enthusiasm. With the help of a generous handicap, our wee boy ran a very creditable race and, more to the point, he enjoyed it.
By the way, if you should be wondering about the cromach of the title of this post, my husband is holding one in the picture below as he unwraps son’s prize of a sweetie. A cromach is a shepherd’s crook, with a curved handle often carved from horn. Many are works of great craftsmanship. They are still used by shepherds but are also sometimes carried as a sort of informal baton of office by the high heid-yins (people in authority) at Highland Games, or just used by men out walking. My husband was given his for his twenty-first birthday, and treasures it.
(Prince Charles seems quite fond of his too: there are any number of photos of him looking pensive in a kilt at Balmoral, cromach in hand.)
After the excitement of the Kiltie Dash, it was time to let off steam at the funfair. Water-zorbing looks the most tremendous fun, and is especially silly in a kilt.
Several members of our extended family joined us, and we met plenty of friends and acquaintances as we pottered about the fair and the side stalls in the course of the afternoon. All in all, it was another very enjoyable, sociable – and sunny! – Games.
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