There are things to do everywhere!

6 Jun

So I finally got around to writing another post. My problem, once I get home is I can’t think of anything to write about. This blog is supposed to be about travelling and I don’t know about you, but like most folks I don’t think of “Travelling” when I move about in areas that I’m familiar with.

 

Then it dawned on me that just because I’ve been on BC Ferries hundreds of times and Victoria is just this city I’ve hung around in for years, doesn’t mean that any one reading this blog would have the slightest idea what this place is like, how pretty it is, how diverse the province is or what are the things that make this place interesting. Then I went to a cultural event that made me realize all of us can be tourists in our own familiar areas.

 

I have lived in British Columbia since 1959 and on Vancouver Island since 1977. In every place I’ve lived there are events of all sizes and sorts, rodeos, festivals, happenings.

 

One of the many Clans set up to educate the public.

What prompted me to make this realization and to write this particular blog was the Annual Highland Games in Victoria. As I said, I’ve lived on the island for years, the vast majority of both of our families did or do live there and thanks to my Mother, a Scottish war bride, I have a Gaelic inheritance, yet I had never had the chance to attend.

 

This year, everything came together and I finally got to go.

I have to say, it was worth it.

 

It was a 2-day affair and since the weather was looking good for the Saturday, off we went. The place was full of tartans, kilts, and bagpipes. The events scheduled included, sheep dog trials, Single Malt Whiskey school, Tug-o-wars, Haggis tasting, Falconry and Medieval Weaponry displays, Pipe and Drum bands, and Band Major competitions. You could look up the history of your family name or clan affiliation and find what tartan you were entitled to wear. But the biggest draw was the Highland games. A Gaelic/Celtic (the word Gaelic is pronounced Gahlic) tradition that oral history tells us is older than Christianity.

 

One of the many dogs showing their stuff. “That’ll do dog, that’ll do!”

The gatherings were essentially war games designed to select the best warriors in each family tribe or clan.

The first Games in Scotland were organized and designated as a sporting event and held in the 11th century. During the reign of King Malcom III (1058-1093), a fairly flat meadowland, the Brae O’Mar, along the river Dee, was used for a royal contest to find the swiftest and strongest in the kingdom.

Games were held throughout Scotland until the Battle of Culloden in 1746. After Bonnie Prince Charlie’s defeat by the English, the Act of Proscription banned playing of the bagpipe, wearing of the kilt, gathering together of the people, and the carrying of arms under the penalty of deportation or death. That effectively squelched a good part of the Highland culture, and literally destroyed the old clan structure.

After the repeal of the Proscription, in the latter part of the 18th Century, Highland Societies began forming, and in 1781 the first society Gathering was held at Falkirk. The success of this venture led to the Gathering of the Clans and the Highland Games, as we know them today. By the end of the 1820s the games were once again being held throughout Scotland.

 

One of the birds showing off their talents, oh, and the handler too.

The Victoria Highland Games are the oldest cultural event in the city going back to the founding of Victoria when Scottish influence was at it’s strongest, this year celebrating their 149th gathering.

 

Though there were many things to do on this occasion, the big draw was the Heavy Events. The most well known is of course the Caber Toss, but it’s not the only athletic activity.

 

There is the Stone Put, an event that is split into 2 versions, the Braemar Stone and the Open Stone. The Braemar, uses a rock that weighs in at 20-26 pounds cradled against the neck and is thrown with one hand, from a standing position, whereas the Open Stone uses a 16-22 pound rock. This version again requires the rock to be cradled against the neck and thrown with one hand, but allows any technique, usually either gliding or spinning.

 

The Scottish Hammer Throw is similar to the modern version with one large difference. The round metal ball, weighing 22 pounds is fixed to a shaft about 4 feet in length, made of wood, bamboo, rattan or plastic. This is whirled around the head and thrown over the shoulder for distance.

 

The Weight for Distance is broken down into 2 events as well. The Light version uses a 28-pound rock; the Heavy uses a 56-pound rock. The rock is thrown one-handed using a spinning technique and is thrown, obviously, for distance.

Throwing the Weight for Distance

 

The Weight over Bar or Weight for Height uses a 56-pound weight with an attached handle. It’s thrown with, again, one hand over a horizontal bar. The bar is generally started at 10 feet and each athlete has three chances to make the height. The bar is continually raised until only one competitor makes it over. The current record is 18 feet 10 inches and is held by an amateur named Csaba Meszaros. (The games attract a wide assortment of participants, not necessarily from a Scottish background).

 

The iconic Caber Toss is the most well known of all the games and it actually has the least rules. The caber varies in length, weight, taper and balance which all effect the successful toss, but the object is to make the caber fully rotate once then land as closely as possible resembling the hands of a clock pointing to 12 from the throwers position.

 

Getting ready to pick up and balance the Caber.

We sampled the Haggis, (better than my Mother ever made), watched the sheep dogs do their thing with both sheep and ducks, listened to the various pipe bands, marveled at a Drum Major who looked more military than the soldiers attending the affair, laughed at the Haggis Throw, enjoyed the dancers whirling across the stage, looked up my clan (Campbell) and shouted out support for the athletes at the games.

The best Drum Major I’ve ever seen!

 

If you come from a Gaelic background, would like to be Scottish, enjoy watching amazing feats of athletic prowess or thrill to the sound of bagpipes swirling, then attend one of the many Highland Games that happen every year all over North America. You won’t regret it!

 

As I watched and marveled at the prowess of the athletes, and enjoyed some of my family’s culture, it occurred to me that many of you would be interested in these things.  Just as I write about the things I see and do in Mexico, I will do the same for B.C. Maybe it will prompt some of you to come and visit.

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6 Responses to “There are things to do everywhere!”

  1. Ethel Pratt June 6, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

    I really enjoyed reading your blog.

    • Alexis Thuillier June 6, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

      Thanks Ethel, it’s nice to get feedback from my readers. Glad you like it.

      • Diane and Jay June 27, 2013 at 9:05 am #

        Hi …You have convinced us! Won’t be this summer tho but one of these yrs!

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