What fun. A long day of seeing things I may never see again – piping bands, Highland dancing, caber tossing. When I got home tonight, I was so tired I could barely walk straight. Happy tired. The sound of pipes still playing in my ears.
The Highland Games began in the 11th century when King Malcolm Canmore organized a foot race up Craig Connish in Braemar to find the fastest courier for his court. Soon other Kings and Chieftains copied the idea, and the games expanded to include dancing and piping contests so the best entertainers could be hired. Games of strength were introduced to find the strongest men for bodyguards. In the 1700s, the rulers of England did their best to destroy the Clan system for fear of uprisings from the Scottish people. The playing of bagpipes and wearing of the kilt, among other things, were banned by Act of Parliament! But the spirit of the gatherings was kept alive by the Highland regiments until by 1848, Queen Victoria herself was attending. Now there’s a royal tradition of attendance at Braemar. How things come around.
My favorite activities at the games today were the Highland dancers and what they call the "heavy events" – putting the ball, throwing the Scots hammer, caber tossing. It’s so cool because all the heavy events use weights and objects that were used in everyday life on the farms – activities that people had to do in real life. The caber toss originates from crofters transporting newly-felled tree trunks (cabers). To get them across the river, they would try to toss them into the center of the stream and make the trunk turn end over end until it landed on the other bank. There’s evidence that Henry VIII participated in caber tossing.
Women now participate in the heavy events, and I have to say, I found this annoying. First of all, they just weren’t exciting to watch because they weren’t as good as the guys. And I came to Scotland to watch big burly boys toss logs, not girly girls. Is it really necessary for women to do everything the men do? :) But it was amazing because there were competitors from all over the world – even two guys from the USA! Bands came from such disparate places as North Carolina and the Netherlands.
I got lucky at the Highland dancing competition. A dancer and her mother were sitting right next to me, and the girl got up and started practicing! Got some great photos of her. Even the wee ones participate in the dancing and there was the cutest little blond boy – looked like he was only three – up there dancing with everyone else. He slipped part-way through his dance, got up, and kept right on going.
At the end of the day, all the piping bands get together for a mass march through town, but I had to leave before it started to catch my bus. I was so disappointed. And then the most perfect thing happened. When I got to my bus stop, I noticed there were lots of people standing around, sitting on the curbs, waiting for something. And I realized the bands were going to march right past my bus stop! Sure enough, after only about 20 minutesm I heard the sound of the pipes coming down the hill. All of the bands marched right past me! The people loved it, cheered and clapped. And as the last band marched away, my bus pulled up.
And that, my friends, is what they call a perfect day.
GUEST WRITER'S BIO
Vicki Speegle is an award-winning screenwriter whose feature script LOVED ONES was in development at Amazon Studios and was a finalist for best screenplay. Her screenplay DEAREST was a finalist for the 2011 Sundance Screenwriters Lab, and her television pilot THE WAKES OF WILBUR POE recently placed in the finals of Slamdance.
Vicki grew up the daughter of a gay single mom turned pastor in Akron, Ohio, where she helped take care of her two younger brothers, an experience that provided fodder for a number of short stories and scripts. Her infatuation with storytelling began at the age of five when she sent a love letter to Donny Osmond, and since then she has worked an eclectic mix of jobs to support her writing habit, including 4 years in the U.S. Navy tracking nuclear submarines on a tiny island called Adak, Alaska, assistant to a very eccentric New York City artist, and a brief bout as the world’s worst waitress. Vicki studied music performance and education at Akron University before making the move to New York University, where she earned her BFA in Film & Television Production. During her studies at NYU she interned as assistant to the editor for Ken Burns’ production of THE WEST. She wrote, directed, and produced several shorts, including her thesis film OLDER, which went on to screen at the Tribeca Underground Film Festival and won 2nd place in the Pioneer Theatre Short Film Slam in New York City.
After graduating from NYU, Vicki joined Rigas Entertainment as assistant to the Director of Development, helping in the development of feature films with directors Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty) and Maggie Greenwald (SongCatcher). In 2005 Vicki began shooting a documentary about her mother’s struggle to reconcile her faith as a pastor with her advancing Alzheimer’s. The project is currently in post-production and has garnered the support of GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation). In 2007 Vicki’s screenplay LOVED ONES placed in the top 5 of the Bluecat Screenplay Competition and won Screenplay Live at the Rochester Film Festival. Her works have placed in several other competitions, including Women in Film, Chesterfield, and American Zoetrope. Vicki’s credits include a teen comedy for Applause Films and radio scripts for Wynton Marsalis, Director of Jazz At Lincoln Center.
Vicki lives and works as a writer, filmmaker, and web producer in New Jersey. She is still waiting for Donny’s response.