Additional Info

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Share

Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Autumnal Rambles Among The Scottish Mountains
A Fortnight on Deeside, Kirriemuir, Clova, &c.


Having heard at Glammis that the Clova Gathering was to take place next day, and being anxious to witness the games there, we resolved to join another party in runing a conveyance, that we might be there in good time. The distance is about twenty-one miles. The morning was cold, but otherwise fine. We had a smart phaeton and pair of horses all to ourselves till we reached Kirriemuir, about four miles. Here we had to tarry nearly an hour, as our fellow-travellers, all of the fair sex excepting one, had to busk themselves for the occasion, and as we made our appearance while some of them were in bed.

The Clova Gathering is a grand annual event, and occasions a holiday in Kimenrair and all that district. This is a very large manufacturing village, and, if it continues to progress as of late Sirs, it may soon aspire to be called a town, there is here a splendid school-house, the offspring of a munificent bequest, where the blessings of an excellent education are easily accessible to all. Where new buildings have been erected, due attention is paid to appearance and sanitary laws; but the old streets are remarkably narrow, angular, and confused, so that driving through them is anything but a sinecure. After meeting much civility at the house where our fair friends were preparing for slaughter, and partaking of their kindly proffered morning cup, we started for Clova. Carriages of various descriptions crowded the road, which gradually became more Highland, till in many places we had to turn out, for safety to ourselves and ease to the horses.

This is the country of the Ogilvies, whose magnates possess several fine mansions along the South Esk, up which we had now to proceed for many miles. This river, with its tributary the Prosen, were in fine trim for the angler, and are celebrated for their trout. Near their junction, we left the braes of Angus, and fairly entered the Grampians, among which we had resolved to perambulate for the succeeding fortnight. The kilt was now the prevailing garb, but more    dress, and in compliment to the occasion, than as the customary attire, as a manufacturing population is more partial to weaving the philabeg than wearing it. Chi passing a few cottages, a pretty numerous band of plaided and kilted Celts were drawn up in military style, and as the carriages drove past we were treated with some fine airs by an excellent band. The Generalissimo of this troop was a personage of no ordinary pretensions. He was a portly gentleman, arrayed in a complete military dress, such as was worn by officers of distinction in the times of the Covenanters. A prodigious cocked hat and feathers adorned a head completely bald, and his boots, which came far above his knee, were of such enormous width, that walking in them would have been wholly impracticable. He was mounted on a handsome grey pony, which at first shied considerably at its grotesque burden, but afterwards behaved with becoming decorum. This gentleman was the hero of the day, attracting universal admiration, and, though consenting to make somewhat of a ludicrous exhibition for the occasion, we were told that he was by no means destitute of education or intelligence; that there was a method in his freak, as it might lead to favour in high quarters, he being a tenant of the gentleman who principally patronises this Gathering.

As we proceeded, the road became more and more crowded, till at length we reached the completely Highland and interesting church and village of Clova. Like most of these villages, it is of a very straggling character, scarcely any two houses being placed together in a similar exposure. There is a tolerable inn; but on this occasion it would have been ten times over filled to suffocation, so that all the houses in the clachan, besides several spacious tents, were crammed with such as had come from a distance, and were clamorous for breakfast. In such a scramble it was every man for himself. After considerable patience, and not a little coaxing, I got a plentiful repast in a comer of the kitchen; and it was well I was so lucky, for it so happened that I was destined to eat no more till breakfast next morning.

As the games were not to commence till noon, many strayed in all directions. While my friend went fishing, I, among many others, climbed the hill, at the base of which the village is situated, to visit Loch Brandy, from which issues a stream, rejoicing in the same exhilarating name. They who breakfasted and started early reached said loch, but the bagpipe and other musical instruments recalled the greater number of us before we were gratified with a view of it, which, from its position among lofty rocky eminences, must be well worth seeing. As we descended, the scene below was of a truly lively and interesting description. The Celts, having been marshalled in marching order, filed off, headed by die band, and that martial leader formerly noticed, who ever and anon returned, with all the grace and dignity of a Wellington, the salutes with which he was greeted.

The scene of action was about a mile from the village, where there was a fine level field duly prepared for the sports of the day. A considerable portion of it was enclosed with ropes, to prevent the multitude from crowding in upon the competitors, and there was a wooden stage for the accommodation of the dancers. On this, in the first instance, the aristocracy, male and female, were comfortably seated, when not induced to retire to their carriages by the slight showers which occasionally fell during the exhibition. Among these were Ogilvies innumerable, of both sexes, Lord Grlammis, &c. &c. Not a few. tourists were obviously prowling about among the crowd, while we were all kept in due subordination by the presence of a corps of rural police. The vale of the Esk i$ here particularly romantic. The mountains are lofty and precipitous, and, farther up, the narrow strath seems nearly shut in by almost perpendicnlar rocks, its remoter recesses being concealed by the windings of the glen. The main source of the Esk is a small loch of the same name, in a district so wild and rugged as very seldom to be visited by any but devoted anglers.

The games consisted of those commonly practised on such occasions—throwing the heavy and light hammer, short and long race, putting the stone, tossing the caber. After this came dancing, and the whole was wound up by a sack-race. The short race seemed about 300 yards, and was well contested by three competitors. The long one, to the top of a steep hill about a mile off, was the reverse. Nine started, all of whom, excepting three, soon gave in, having sacrificed their wind and strength to a display at the outset. At the winning post, it was evident that the two who reached it had agreed to make it a job; as, when yet a good way from the top, they seemed to be walking hand in hand. On returning they declared it was a drawn match! the first instance of a drawn 8teepU-cha8e that I ever heard of. In throwing the hammer, there was no wheeling round, as used to be the custom, and by means of which it may be thrown considerably farther. The objections to this practice are substantial. By not wheeling, the competitors foot the mark more accurately, and victory is often^ decided by a few inches. Besides, in wheeling, the hammer frequently takes an unpremeditated direction, thus endangering the lives of the lieges. The putting-stone seemed too heavy for the display of much science. It was 28 lbs. weight, and, of course, this prize could only be won by a very tall and strong man. Had there been also a lighter stone, 18 lbs. or so, very probably the man who gained the prize for the other would have been worsted by activity and science. Tossing the caber had nearly foiled all the competitors, only one man having succeeded in turning it cleanly over, and he only once after many trials. The caber is a pole about fifteen feet long, five or six inches in diameter at the heavy end. It is poised in front on the two hands, and the object is to make it throw a somersault, or complete evolution, over the heavy end of the pole. The reels were pretty well danced, but the dancers being all kilted, display a savage appearance. The sword-dance was the most worth seeing. Two broadswords are laid across each other, and the dancer, rafter gracefully bowing to them, dances over and around them in all directions, snapping his fingers, and carefully avoiding coming in contact with his partners, which would be reckoned clumsy, or, in French style, a betise. The tune universally played to this favourite dance is "Gillie Callum", simple and peculiar; but admirably adapted for aiding the dancer in his varied, difficult, and somewhat hazardous evolutions. The sack-race was the most amusing of the whole. He who tumbles very seldom wins the race, if there is one man who can keep his feet, however slow his progress. This closed the field sports for the day. In the evening, there was to be a grand ball in a building seemingly erected for such entertainments; but of this I can give no account, as we had adventures of a different kind to encounter.


Return to Book Index Page