"Don't give us dull facts
and figures; make it amusing and readable - local colour and anecdote.
Side-track, if you will, but let it be chatty." - The Candid Friend.
IT is possible that after
perusing these pages a hyper-critical reader may find fault with the
collaborators for including such a lot of matter and information that at
first sight has no apparent relativity to the games that are the raison
d'Ítre of this volume.
Our answer to this is,
that, in our opinion, in order to give some reason for the existence of
these gatherings and games, it is necessary to study - all too briefly in
our limited space and time - the antecedents and habits of the clansmen
amongst whom these annual festivals survive with such amazing and
creditable tenacity to-day. It has been found impossible to separate the
history of the Highlander as a soldier or a sportsman, or a peaceful
residenter (I believe that is the correct appellation) in the mountains,
from his status as an athlete in these pages.
It must be remembered that
athletes and sportsmen are two different characters. They are frequently
combined in one person; indeed it is difficult to find a true athlete who
is not a "sportsman" in the accepted terms of those who have acquired the
cachet of a public school or the imprimatur of a leading university.
With what combative
feelings do we take up a London newspaper, and find one page headed "All
the sports." We look up and down its columns and can see not a single
mention of a sport in it. In winter-time at all events, it is mainly of
cup-ties: how so-and-so has sold his services from one club to another in
the game called Association Football: how one hundred thousand young men
watched some such game, when quite half of them would have been far more
healthily employed in some game themselves, or having a five-mile walk in
the country instead.
This is, of course,
entirely apart from the betting and other undesirable commercialities that
turn athletics into athleticism, and make men seek the gain and not the
Perhaps you find a column
devoted to golf (which came from Holland) where professionalism is
rampant. Strangely enough, this is not a game at all, because it can be
played alone: it is certainly not a sport, but merely a pastime, which
supplies to middle-aged persons that excuse for a walk that was never
brought home to them in other days. One wonders what they did without it.
It will always have its crazy votaries, young and old, but how few good
golfers are also good shots, keen fishermen, or hunting men, i.e.,
sportsmen. Your average racing man and dog-breeder is a sporting man,
quite a distinct class.
Let us turn from all this
to the quiet seclusion of some Scottish glen, where, a few days before the
great meetings, a handful of hard-working farm hands are practising with
the caber or the shot. Do you think that bookmakers are dreamt of in their
philosophy? Could anything be more incongruous with its surroundings than
a deafening din of "3 to 1, Starkey!" or "Evens Maitland," while these
honest Highlanders were tossing the caber before Royalty in the arena at
Or again, how would it
sound, just as The Mackintosh, at Inverness, walked up with Colonel
Farquharson, to hear "I back McGregor for the stone" or "5 to 2 The Black
Watch for the Tug-of-War"?
We doubt if betting
prevails at the Highland Gatherings, and it is pleasant to think that the
noisy undesirabilities of, say, the hound-trails in England, are not
tolerated over the Border, where your true athlete, whether competitor or
spectator, does not need the pandemonium of yelling bookmakers to call him
to the contest. He wants to see the best men win, at the performance of
the various feats, and not merely draw their money at the end.
We have to thank a great
number of persons who have been of indispensable assistance in our search
for accurate information as regards the games we have chronicled. In the
Braemar district, there were the secretary and the treasurer, Messrs.
Grant and Ewan, Mr. James Mackintosh, Mr. G. B. Lowe, Mr. Adamson, Mr. and
Mrs. Donald Grant of the Invercauld Arms Inn at Crathie, Mr. John
MacPherson, who is also a contributor, Dr. Leslie Stewart and Mr. W. A.
Hartley, W.S., both visitors from Edinburgh, Mr. Richard David of Arbroath,
the proprietors of the Arbroath Herald, Mr. Smith of the White Hart Hotel
in that town, and a host of other kindly friends.
At Inverness we were given
the full run of the files of the Inverness Courier, as well as the
personal help of the proprietor, Mr. Evan M. Barron, Mr. Grant, and two
members of the staff, whose deaths, I regret to say, took place not long
after our meeting, viz., Mr. L. A.. Boyne and Mr. James Macrae. They were
particularly helpful on the field, on both days of the festival. In many
respects they were like David and Jonathan, and it may be safely said that
if their extreme courtesy and utility to a stranger like the writer counts
for only a portion of their personal attributes, their loss must be
Major David Ross and his
assistant secretary, Mr. Wotherspoon, were also unsparing in their efforts
with information and facilities for gathering details impossible
elsewhere, in which accuracy was of paramount importance.
H.R.H. the Princess Royal
has not only contributed a masterly foreword, but presented us with her
signed portrait for reproduction. The Marquis of Huntly, Lord Lovat, Sir
Hector Munro, and The Mackintosh have all most kindly sent their
portraits, while one of the most pleasing and typical of the pictures is
that of Sir lain Colquhoun, Bart., D.S.O., of Luss, congratulating Archie
Cameron on his victory in the hill race, when the latter was over sixty
years old. In the background may be seen Sir lain's piper, Macfarlane,
providing appropriate music at the same time.
Sincere thanks, too, are
tendered to the owners of the copyrights of "Letters of Queen Victoria"
and "Pages from a Private Diary" (Sir John Murray), "The Legends of the
Braes of Mar" (Lewis Smith & Son), "Men of Muscle" by Chas. Donaldson
(Messrs. Carter & Pratt) and "The Book of the Braemar Gathering" (Arbroath
The works of Taylor, the
Water Poet, quite justify an incursion into matter of his, other than what
is quoted in this book, if one can tolerate the somewhat gory and gruesome
half century of which he wrote. The title of "Hell, Hull, and Halifax,"
anyhow, suggests possibilities of peculiar interest.
Amongst those who have been
good enough to supply illustrations are Messrs. Bisset of Ballater, the
Topical Press Agency, Sport & General, A. C. Milne of Brechin, Whyte, and
Paterson, both of Inverness, and Messrs. Vandyk Ltd., of London.
It is now just over two
hundred years since the death of King George I. One year after his
accession in 1714, the standard was raised at Braemar to oppose the House
of Hanover, and reinstate the House of Stuart. Within a few minutes' walk
of the scene of that historic event, the twenty thousand crowd at Braemar
now annually raises its unanimous voice to welcome our good King George V.
Let us hope and pray that
never, even in another two hundred years, will it be necessary for the
loyal subjects of our Sovereign to raise the standard, seen at Balmoral
with such pride and patriotism last September, by the writer, to defend
the House of Windsor against the hordes of Moscow, or any other foreign