As promised, a post on the Inveraray Highland Games.
I had a most extraordinary time in Inveraray, mostly due to this lady here:
Her name is Mae Wilcock, and she’s standing beside the little cottage she lets from the Duke of Argyll. She told me all about her life in Inveraray and gave me directions to climb the nearby hill [Dun Cor Bhile] and find the lookout tower on top. She told me about her adventures absailing down the castle wall for charity 30 years ago or so when she was 67. [The current Duke’s grandfather was Duke in those days].
Mae is 93 and FULL of the old boot, as my grandpa would say.
She taught me what ‘wedding furniture’ means. [As in, “I saw the Duke’s wedding furniture when I changed his nappies as a babby…”]
Every single bus that drove by slowed down and waved to Mae. She was wonderful.
Mae doesn’t bother to go see the Games [“Ye seen one, ye’ve seen ’em all, aye?”] that are held on the Duke and Duchess’s property, but she pointed me in the right direction, so in I went.
[I’d also like to point out that I was standing beside the Duchess and her little girl as the parade went by, but didn’t know it until afterwards, when I saw her picture in the program.]
The games, as you might expect, were action-packed.
There were, quite literally, piping competitions the entire day.
The wee dancers danced.
Many hearty people ran footraces. Bicycle races were held [on a grass track!] People wrestled. Locals took off their shoes and socks and raced for bottles of whisky. But really? We all know why I was there.
Men in kilts.
Specifically — the heavies.
It was a fantastic sunny day. Large men threw weights over poles, swung weights around their heads, and of course tossed giant pieces of lumber. It was perfect. Here’s a wee taste…
So, the heavies putted a 16 lb stone AND a 27 pound stone. No namby-bamby shot-puts for these guys. The stones come straight from the River Aray.
That’s it in the upper left hand corner.
I’ve been to Highland Games before [in Nairn, actually], but I somehow missed that the boys have to anchor themselves down with giant spikes in the toes of their boots in order to stay in place while whirling the hammers around.
That’s it, flying off in the upper right. The hammer’s only 16 pounds. Unless it’s the 22 lb one. [They warm up with the 16’s].
I have to show you this guy. He was AWEsome. He was from Iceland and he wore Icelandic flag socks and had elastics in his beard. His name was Heidi.[It’s possible I am misspelling this, but I do NOT care to look it up].
He wasn’t very tall, but he could fling heavy things with the best of ’em!
Okay, I know what you are waiting for. It was, after all, the World Caber Tossing Championship.
[I _know_! Total accident that I picked the right games to go to. Kilted serendipity, man.]
All the heavies had to toss a warm-up caber three times just to get in to the qualifying round.
To toss a caber correctly, you’ve got to pick it up vertically, cup your hands beneath it, run like hell and fling it, end over end. It must land in the 12 o’clock position, or it doesn’t count.
Everybody made it past the first round.
Check out the air this guy got in the first round:
Then they had to toss a longer caber in the qualifying round. Three times each. A few didn’t make it through. [Heidi did!]
And then it came down to it. The mondo caber. More than 20 feet tall. Weighing more than 140 lbs. All remaining heavies took part in the first throw of the final round. About half of them succeeded. Then half-way through the second throw…the caber broke! They had to bring in a new caber.
It was decided there would be two more throws in the final round.
And nobody succeeded in tossing it.
Not one. The whole group went through, and no one was successful. It came down to the last toss. Last year’s champion, Scott Rider, had left his team back in Glasgow [where he is competing in the Commonwealth Games in shot put] to defend his title. Let’s have a look at his last toss, shall we?
Can you see the height that thing went to?
So Scott successfully defended his title. [One of the other guys also managed a good toss in the final round, but Scott got it on overall points].
I ran into Mae a little bit later, at the end of a very hot afternoon. She was castigating a woman for bringing her dog in a coat to the Games on such a hot day. The woman tried [in vain] to make Mae understand that the coat was soaked in water, and was intended to keep the dog cool.
“Some people should just not be allowed to own a dug,” Mae said to me, as the woman slunk away. “And some treat their dugs just like babbys, aye?” She shook her head. “They’d be better off with a good man between their legs!”
My theory is that Mae WAS watching that caber toss, after all…