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Rothesay 20th August
20th August, 2005
It was such a beautiful morning with a forecast for a warm sunny day so we decided to stay in Rothesay and visit the Bute Highland Games. Neither Clive nor I had ever attended a Highland Games. We just happened to be in Rothesay on the one day in the year that the games is held. It would have been churlish not to go.
First thing this morning, the guys on Hebridean Flame said that they had a few provisions which they hadn't used on their trip and they would willingly pass them on to us. We thanked them expecting to get a half packet of sugar and some tea bags and maybe a couple of beer cans.
When it arrived, well; three bottles of wine, most of a case of beer and cans and packets of food by the score. We won't have to shop again before we get back to Fosdyke! So thank you to Raymond Brown, Eddie Lafferty, John McIntosh, John Rigby and Keith Scott. We are ever in your debt.
So, having waved goodbye to our benefactors, and having found stowage for all this largesse, at about 12.30 we wandered out into the sunshine and joined the crowds walking up from the high street to the football ground which had been transformed for the day into a Highland Games arena.
Everybody seemed to be out, many decked in their Scottish best, kilt, worn with jacket with shiny buttons, sparkling silver belt buckle, hairy bespangled sporran, sgean dhu, the works. The rest were, of course in the British national dress, tattered jeans and t-shirt with rude slogan! We paid our £5.00 each and joined the throng.
We first roamed the tents and sideshows, the tombola, where for the outlay of just £1.00 I took away a bottle of Kronenberg and a very nice French blend of Chardonnay and Marsanne. I was in profit already. Because of this early success, I thought that I should invest £5.00 in the raffle for a bespoke kilt in the new Bute 'heather' tartan (that is not 'new beaut' heather tartan). As I walked away I thought 'If I were to win I'd get a kilt valued at £350 and then how much will I have to spend on jacket with shiny buttons, sparkling silver belt buckle, hairy bespangled sporran, sgean dhu and the rest?' And with my legs, how often might I wear it. It would be fun though.
In the centre were three stages on which traditional dancing, the highland fling and the like, were being performed and judged. To the left on our side of the ground there were various types of Scottish wrestling going on. At each end the pipe bands were performing. Round the edge they were running races and up at the southern end of the field the 'big boys' were doing things that big boys do; throwing the hammer, putting the shot, heaving the weight and eventually tossing the caber.
There were new Bute (and these were 'new beaut') records for hammer and 'heaving the weight' which got resounding applause. They came pretty close to beating the shot record and the caber tossing was just fantastic.
The hammer, as you will know, is a sort of giant lollipop. The boys wear these strange boots with knives sticking out of the toes a la Rosa Clebb. They stand facing away from the direction they are throwing and they swing this lollipop two or three times around and throw it over the shoulder.
Heaving the weight is also done backwards. They have to heave the weight over a bar, like a pole vault bar. Again they face away from the bar, tuck kilt in knickers and then swing the weight a few times between the legs and then heave up and back over their heads. Bizarre. I can't even pick up a 56lb weight!
But the really interesting bit was the caber tossing. They had a choice of what appeared to be three different length telegraph poles which had been tapered at one end. And they all agreed to try the 'heaviest' first. Mad fools. As it was, none of the contestants could actually toss it and get it to flip. They could actually pick it up and balance it and then, Heaven knows how, throw it. But not quite hard enough.
The contest rules are not as a Sassenach might expect. It's not how far you throw it, it's accuracy. With a telegraph pole!
The caber is stood on end with the help of other contestants. It is then up to the competitor to slide his hands down the pole, get them underneath the tapered end, lift and balance the pole and then heave it so it hits the ground with the untapered end and flips over. Points are awarded not for distance but for the alignment of its final position, as close to '12o'clock' as possible. And most scores were within 5 minutes to 12 and 5 past, with the winner at one minute to. It's impossible and so addictive to watch.
These 'heavies' as they were referred to, were competing for the Duke of Rothesay's Trophy. It turns out the Duke of Rothesay is none other than Charlie Windsor. He does get around.
The pipe band contest was ok. The dancing was a bit far off to see but look skilful and athletic. Running is running and Scottish wrestling looks like a pub brawl. There was another contest which was fun too. That was the pipe major competition for deportment and swinging and throwing the mace. Two kids were brilliant and then about eight adults tried.
The finale was the pipe bands marching through the streets with winners leading and the trophies carried proudly in front by supporters.
It was a great day. You should have been there.
This evening we had kippers for tea and the white wine which I won at the games.
We discussed where to go next on our voyage and, considering the time we have so far taken and my desire to be home for mid-September, I proposed that we cross from Glasgow to Edinburgh by the Forth and Clyde canal. This will involve removing the mast and lashing it on the deck for the crossing and restepping it when we get to Grangemouth. It will reduce the voyage by two weeks or so but we will have still done a circumnavigation of England, which sounds good to me. Investigations will continue into the feasibility of this plan.
The way the barometer is dropping, it may be the only solution.