Gather Round

It was a kilt lovers paradise at the Braemar Gathering last weekend. There was action galore – running races, tug-of-war, highland dancing. But best of all were the big boys. They were all at least seven feet tall, great beefy sides of flesh with names like Thor, Killer or Hamish McHammer. They threw huge stones, tossed cabers and hurled heavy objects over high bars.

At times I feared for their lives. With nothing but a kilt for protection, these boys were swinging heavy blobs of metal back and forth between their legs, working up the momentum to fling it over the high bar. Watch out for your danglies, boys! I wanted to scream, Or the highland tradition stops with you!

The caber toss is equally freaky. According to my googling, the caber is about 17 feet long and weighs around 150 pounds. And these blokes just pop 'em on their shoulders and toddle along before throwing them into their air.

I can't imagine anything more difficult, but after a few hours of watching the sport you start to take on that armchair expertise. When one hefty fella messed up, the crowded groaned in frustration. "He waited too long!" I declared, finishing my third sandwich with a little belch. "He should have let go much earlier! Jeez."

All of this excitement took place beneath a perfect sky with lush heathery hills all around. Seeing the Highlands in September makes you fall in love with this beautiful country all over again, you could just hump the hills in delight. At the Gathering, the stands swarmed with kilted folk, whining kiddies and grotty backpackers. Next to me a crumbly Englishman in a tweed jacket nudged his wife and muttered, "Heh heh heh," every time someone fell over.

There were also a strong Down Under contingent, as we discovered during the Two Mile race. On the final lap, a scrawny man with a mullet came powering up on the outside. The announcer howled, "It's the wildcard entry Daniel McBlah all the way from Melbourne Australia, he's moving ahead of the pack!" Heads popped up from random points around the stands, whooping in unison, "GO YOU AUSSIEEEEE!". I'm sure back home they would have shunned this man for his lack of arse and questionable hairstyle, but today at Braemar he was a national treasure!

Speaking of apparent national treasures, The Queen shows up at the Gathering every year. By 3PM we were roasted and grumbling, but determined to wait. Seeing Her Majesty was the one thing the sentimental wrinklies in our family wanted us to do while we we're over here. One horribly digital-zoomed lemon-suited blob later, I had done my duty.

her majesty a la distance

I was not amused by how Not Amused she was by the proceedings. Crikey, Lizzie. How can you not even muster polite applause when a hulky dude tosses a tree? I can understand the drone of yet another pipe band sending one to sleep, but come on! How can one not appreciate all that kilt candy?

You hide behind your lens, but I know you are undressing me with your eyes.    weirdo.

Admittedly, the candy was of varied quality.

About Shauna Reid

Ahoy there! I’m Shauna, an author, copywriter and content mentor. I love telling stories about life and helping others to tell theirs.

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20 thoughts on “Gather Round

  1. Another triumph Miss Shauny

    Och Aye!

    When I was doing the pub thing in London, we became obsessed with the World’s Strongest Man competition (a natural progression when one has access to free cable).

    We grew especially fond of a young lad by the name of Magnus Von Magnussen – that name just screams virility.

  2. Oh my god Shaunilicious! You’re off adventuring! How incredibly exiciting! And of course you’re writing about it all with your lovely acerbic style. The Door Watcher entry – priceless!

    Well, I am just leaving a note to say that I am both deeply envious of your jaunting, and deeply pleased to be reading you! Hope you’re having a wonderful time.

  3. Them Cabers are damn heavy. I had a stint at tossing one last year at the Bundanoon Scottish festival. After 3 or 4 attempts at getting the hulking bastard to flip over I realised it ain’t as easy as it looks. The worst is having yer kilt fly up when you loose balance and end up on yer back.

  4. Now that’s a contest. Jump. Run. Take turns running. Run up a hill. Throw a hammer. Throw a stone. Throw a tree. Make noises by blowing into a sheep’s stomach. Then dance. What the hell else is there? Whisky, maybe. Did they have any contests involving whisky?

    (And do they know about the threat of EU noise regulations?)

  5. Your entry cracked me up everytime!! I have to refrain from reading them at work (like the “breathing lady” in your “past life” 🙂 The highland always has a special appeal to me (all the mist, woods, castles and myths…) and your account makes me want to pack up right now and go there 🙂 Keep writing! I couldn’t wait for the next one!

  6. Momo wins the 7000th comment prize! She wins my Undying Love And Affection, as commemorated with a 9 carat stick pin from Germani Jewellers and the WNP? Boardgame from Crown and Andrews!

  7. Ah. You forget my sporran-owning status, kiddo! I was a spectator at the Highland Games in Orange for many, many years – as well as a player in a pipe band. Snare drum? Yep. Black Bear, Scotland The Brave – you name it. As long as it has the two bar roll to get me into it, it was all good.

  8. Sarah: isn’t the problem with World’s Strongest Man competitors that they have a tendency for heart explosion while on the job? I’m sure I read that somewhere…

  9. Wow, it’s brave heart all over again, what with all the heroic men endangering their danglies!

    I will fondly think of you humping the lush heathered hills in delight…

    And, of course, I agree with all your other ardent fans, the ‘queen’ arrow was perfect.

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