NORTH UIST HIGHLAND GAMES
By CHANTAL COOKE
The North Uist Highland Games is a jumbled but quaint combination of pipes, dancing children, caber tossing and home-made cakes.
As you arrive and park your car on the grassy hill overlooking the games the sound of pipes greets you – as half a dozen pipers practice their pieces before performing in front of the judges. You’d think this would create a cacophony of chords, but instead, as you walk from your car down the small hill, you are drawn along from one pipe skirl to the next.
Once at the showground there is plenty to see – although you do have to fight your way past a cordon of cars manned by pushy mothers brandishing hairspray, tartan and sandwiches. But once you’ve managed to find a suitable spot you can enjoy watching the teams of dancers perform, all wearing traditional kilts and puff sleeved blouses.
The bagpipes are everywhere – in fact they are in every corner of the showground; accompanying the dancers, playing the complicated pibroch, delivering a toe tapping jig, or (in the youngsters’ corner) sweating nervously as they take their turns in front of the stern faced judges. Piping is serious business here.
In the centre of the arena sporting activities compete for attention. But it’s difficult to beat the spectacle of men in kilts Tossing the Sheaf (or in this case a large metal weight) and the Caber. As they fling the large weight over the pole above their heads I can’t help but gasp as it looks certain to fall back to earth and land on their heads. Fortunately this doesn’t happen and all the competitors survive to compete in the far trickier event of caber tossing.
A caber is large tree trunk, typically 19 feet 6 inches (5.94 m) tall and weighing around 175 pounds (79 kg). The thrower has to lift it, run with it, and toss it – so that the top of the caber lands pointing at the thrower and the bottom end is furthest away from him. It was hugely entertaining and although only one person got anywhere near attempting an actual toss – the crowd loved it.
Then to round off a day of watching other people work hard, there was the tea tent and its trays of home baking. No highland games would be complete without a slice of homemade cake.
About the Author:
Chantal Cooke is an award winning journalist and broadcaster with a passion for the planet. In 2002 she co-founded the award winning radio station PASSION for the PLANET and in 2009 Chantal was awarded London Leader in Sustainability status. Chantal also runs a successful communications agency – Panpathic Communications.