Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Gourock Highland Games

The weather forecast threatened rain, even thunderstorms. But from the time we woke up, to the time we'd dressed and breakfasted, the hourly had changed from 85% chance to 45%. Still dubious, we grabbed our jackets and umbrella and headed out the door to begin our hesitant trek to Gourock to celebrate the opening of the Highland Games Season of 2016.

An easy 40 minutes from our B&B in Paisley, we arrived at the games with barely 15 minutes to spare. Unsure of exactly where the venue was, we had our windows down, and you could hear it...a mile away...the sweet drone of the pipers was carried to us on those sweet Scottish zephyrs as a rallying cry, a call to all the Highlanders to gather from near and far.


And not from the weather (though the day did start out quite brisk). Bagpipes have always been a form of music that speaks to my deepest soul. When bagpipes play, I weep. It's a cause and effect you can set your watch by. And my gracious... six hours straight surrounded by that glorious sound! I was in heaven. And vacillating between a quivering lower lip, silent waterfalls, my entire body quaking with pent up excitement, head to toe thrills, and full on ugly crying, my emotional range had run a veritable marathon by nightfall.

We revelled in all things Scottish...the strong man competition, the Scottish dancers, the Angus beef, the drum majors, and the pipes. Oh, the pipes! At any given time there was nothing short of four different melodies going. Between the bands competing, the pipers that were playing for the dancers, and those either warming up or entertaining the crowd, I didn't go a single second wanting for the sweet music of the Highlands as the never ending recognizable melodies added the most perfect soundtrack to our day.

Fun fact: I walked down the aisle to meet the love of my life at my wedding to bagpipes.

Watching the junior competition, then the senior. The drum majors of all shapes and sizes (the youngest looked about 7 or 8 and all of 40" tall, wee little thing!) took the field one by one, and the drum lines twirled their fuzzy little mallets that impressed us all. Highshool bands, police bands, bands of renegades, bands of smart laced hipsters, bands of misfits, they were all represented and gave quite rousing performances, every one! My favorites seemed to be bands of diversity. Where old timers played alongside college kids and youngsters of 10; men, women, girls, and boys. All united under the gloriously melancholy drone...the song of the pipes.

Even using the event-a-loo (porta potty) was a nigh-on spiritual experience, as one band warmed up behind the loo line, and another practiced in front. I almost didn't want to come out. But then the smell won out and broke my solitary reverie...

To conclude the games, a fitting crescendo to the day as all of the dozens of pipe bands (I counted 55 entries in the competition) marched onto the field together for a mass rendition of Scotland the Brave. And I didn't breathe the entire song. Goosebumps stood at attention. Waves of tingles rippled up and down my spine. And the few last drops of water left in my body rallied their way up and out my tear ducts, running over my cheeks following well-traveled paths.

While neither one of us have much of any Scottish blood to speak of in our family trees, when we immerse ourselves in this energetic, lively, convivial culture, we only wish we could honorarily adopt ourselves into a ancient Highland clan...

If only to be able to wear a family kilt with pride, and not as a poser.

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