Tuesday, September 10, 2013

We Attended the "Gathering"…with the Queen

Saturday we attended the Braemar Gathering with twelve other senior missionaries.  The “Gathering” is the premier Highland Games in Scotland and features the finest pipe bands, Highland dancers and athletes in a beautiful setting in the village of Braemar.  Thousands of people attend each year.  Because of the unusually warm summer the heather was nearly gone so the hills were not as beautiful as normal.

The Braemar Gathering has a rich history, dating back 900 years but its modern roots can be traced to 1832 when the Braemar Royal Highland Society took responsibility for organizing the Highland Games. Royal patronage began with Queen Victoria in 1848 and continues today with regular attendance by many of the Royal Family and Her Majesty the Queen.  This year, the event was attended by Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, and Prince Charles.  Traditionally, members of the Royal Family attend a church service at nearby Crathie Kirk the day after the Games.  This year the Queen took up residence at Balmoral Castle (her summer residence) at the beginning of August and is expected to stay until October before returning to London. 
The Royal Family drove onto the field.  We were about 30 yards away as she drove by.

The Queen, Prince Philip on her right, and Prince Charles on her left.  They stay for about an hour to watch some of the games.
The “Gathering” was originally the gathering of the clans to compete in various events.  Today the events include competing pipe & drum bands all in varying colors of tartans.  The games are essentially a “track & field” event.  Athletes take part in various races (100 meter, 440 meter, mile, and two mile runs) on a grass track and the day also includes the arduous “hill-run” – a run ascending up a hill rising in altitude of 1,000 feet and back down.  There were 65 individuals - men and women - competing this year. 
One of the races...below is a high jumper

 In addition to the races, the events include the Scottish games which are tied to the Highland tradition.   The athletes also demonstrate their prowess in “tossing the caber”, “putting the stone”, and “throwing the hammer”.  The Inter-Service Units of Her Majesty’s Forces compete in the tug of war.  This was fierce competition between the military unites.  Throughout the day there is also a competition to find the best Highland Dancers.
The tug of war - teams of 8 men pulling to win the "tug".  These were all difference military units competing against each other and you could tell they take this completion very serious.  The "officer" is out there coaching his team to "pull".

Tossing the Caber comes from the historical need to lay a log across a stream to allow the clan members to cross.  In this completion, the caber is a tree trunk about 18-19 feet long and weighing about 145 - 165 pounds.  The competitor picks up the small end of the log and balances it and then runs forward and tosses it to allow the big end to hit the ground and the entire log to fall forward. - end over end with the small end pointing away from the competitor.  The perfect "toss" is to have the log land at the 12 o'clock direction.  If it doesn't fall forward there is no score.  Points are deducted if the log lands to the right or left of the 12 o'clock direction.

The weight toss is to "toss" a 56 pound weight with one hand over the bar.  The bar is raised until a winner is declared.  The bar reached a height of 16 feet on Saturday.
Tossing the hammer is a big ball on the end of a stick and they see how far it can be thrown.  There is also "tossing the stone"...this is tossing a big rock weighing 16 pounds to see how far it can be tossed.
There were 15 different pipe & drum bands competing throughout the day so the sound of bagpipes was nearly continuous.  When played well, they are enjoyable to hear.  Twice during the day they “massed” the bands together and they all marched around the field.  It was quite a sight.
A pipe band preparing to perform

Another band performing on the field - I love the sound of a good pipe band

They "massed" the bands together - all 15 of them to march around the field.  The Drum Majors lead out the procession.

Followed by the bands...it was quite a sight to see and to hear.  15 bands all playing the same thing and the drums all playing together to keep them all in step.

A drummer

A piper

Another band marching off the field

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