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.

Scotland and the Scots
Scottish Sports


A PASSION for out-door sports seems to be a natural characteristic of the inhabitants of all northern countries. In warm climates such diversions, which require some exertion of the body, are by no means general, if we except hunting, which, however, in such regions is rather a necessity than a sport. In the exhilarating atmosphere of the temperate zone, where the weather is cool enough to be at all times pleasant arid the blood tingles with a healthy circulation when a little more exercised than usual, out- door sports are common and enjoyed by all classes. In those parts of North America, in France, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Sweden and Britain, there are to he found pastimes peculiar to each, as well as many which appear to be common to them all.

In Scotland from the very earliest times such sports formed a prominent feature in the social history of the people. Every village had its haugh, every town its meadow; and on the long summer evenings, in that twilight which has done so much to develop Scottish character and muscle, the joyous shouts of the athletes were often to he heard. In the Highlands it was the general practice, when one chief visited another, for the retainers of both to meet in front of the castle or mansion and try conclusions with each other in feats requiring dexterity, strength or skill.. Sometimes the contestants waxed angry, and the tussle ended in hard knocks and bloodshed, but as a rule they were satisfied with peaceful victories.

The out-door sports peculiar to Scotland are simple, natural and conducive to health and strength both of mind and body. They may be said to have had no particular origin, but, like Topsy, "just grow'd," and any attempt to improve upon them or to carry them into covered quarters has invariably ended in failure. I remember, a year or two ago, seeing in Barnum's "Great Moral Show" a couple of really good Caledonian athletes, who, among the other attractions, gave bogus contests at hitch-and-kick, pole-vaulting, and one or two others. It was the most tiresome exhibition in the whole programme, and the champions were allowed to drop out as soon as their term of engagement was completed. Now, hitch-and-kick is really a beautiful display of agility and power, and never fails to find admirers when it is honestly conducted in the open air. But in the glare of the gaslights, in the heated atmosphere of the circus, and amidst painted faces, spangled dresses and the boisterous excitement of the ring, it fell flat and dreary. Another great superiority of Scottish sports over those of many other nations lies in their inexpensiveness. The German athlete, for instance, has his costly turn-hall, fitted up with apparatus and contrivances of all sorts. The English athlete has his racquet-hall, his cricket-grounds, and his boating conveniences. The American athlete builds a more or less elaborate club-house, encloses costly grounds, and runs on carefully prepared cinder-paths which are maintained in good condition only by continual attention and at considerable expense. The Canadian lacrosse player also requires extensive grounds, and even the more democratic snow-shoer, after he buys his shoes, gets rigged out in his uniform, pays his club's clues and responds regularly to assessments, finds his pleasure rather an expensive one. The Scotch athlete needs none of these extravagances. A boulder picked up from a field is as good an implement for putting as is the most carefully finished and smoothly rounded iron ball. A young tree, or a branch cut from an old monarch of the forest, serves for a caber, and any road is good enough for a running track. In fact, I often wonder whether our modern amateur athletes, with their expensively maintained and carefully prepared grounds, are real amateurs after all. It seems to me, in their case, athletics is as much a business as it can possibly be, and their language about the niceties of distance, their anxieties concerning records, their Paid trainers and handlers, and the inevitable charge of gate money, go far to prove it. I have often seen a group of men in Scotland, real amateurs, throw a stone for a trifling wager. The distances they threw were not measured, and I do not believe one of them cared a cent whether he threw his stone five feet or fifty feet, so long as he threw it further than did any of the others. This, of course, may be deemed a very primitive system, and so it is, but the true end of amateur sports, that of increasing the manly vigor and strength of the human frame, is fully gained by it. In America amateur athleticism is carried too far. For, besides making the athletes really become professionals, it causes many to over-train themselves and so fall victims to disease. I have noticed in the vicinity of New York out-door sports indulged in on Thanksgiving Day, when the young athletes, clad in their tights, appeared on their club grounds livid with cold and almost unable to speak. Surely there is no pleasure in this, nothing conducive to health, or even anything which tended to improve the athletic prowess of the trembling wretches who took part in the performances.

That the simple sports of Scotland are endowed with many qualifications which tend to strengthen and develop the body is evident even to the most casual observer. Any one who has watched the athletes at play must have noticed how freely and richly the blood rises to their cheeks, how clear and sparkling are their eyes, and how regular and deep their respiration. Such games quicken the blood, making it course through the veins freely and actively, improve the muscles and strengthen the brains of those who practice them. Mere dexterity is not so much a necessity in Caledonian sports as are strength and endurance, and hence we find that the Scots do not take very kindly to trapeze performances, cross-bar exploits or posturing. There is a certain degree of danger attending many of the Scottish games which imparts an additional interest to them, in some minds at least. I have seen more than one good athlete lamed for life by the snapping of the pole when at the very height of his vault; the hammer has often been thrown right in the midst of a knot of spectators, fracturing a skull or dislocating an arm; and the quoit, in the hands of a wild player, has sometimes caused a life.

Such ordinary athletic sports as running, jumping and simple exercises of strength have naturally formed part of the social amusements of the Scottish people from the earliest period of their history, and so continue until now. The simpler the circumstances under which these sports are contested, the less they smack of the turn-halle; and the more completely they are devoid of implements or preparation, the more closely do they approach the style in vogue in the days of auld lang syne. The absence of "records," the most obnoxious feature of modern amateur athletics, that which has made them really professional and encourages betting, gambling and swindling of various sorts, kept these sports pure, clean and healthy, and made them alike popular among all classes in the community.

Of what may be called the more aristocratic class of sports hunting was, and still is, the most esteemed. The immense forests which once covered the face of the country gave ample accommodation for animals, birds and all sorts of wild game, and the natural inclination of most of the people led them to engage in the chase with ardor and delight. Boars, wolves, foxes and deer were thick in the forests of the lowlands and midlands, as well as in the glens and wooded hillsides of the Highlands; while all sorts of birds, from the partridge, plover, blackcock and muircock even to the eagle itself, were seen all over the land. The rivers teemed with fish, and while rude nets of lythe were used to haul on shore such ordinary denizens of the loch or river as cod, saith or flounder, the sport reached its most exciting form in the spearing of the salmon, the royal fish of the country From very early tines game in Scotland was more or less protected or "preserved." Sometimes a forest was preserved for the court; sometimes it was preserved by the monks, as was that of Drumsheugh, around Holyrood, after King David, in gratitude, the legend tells us, for his escape from being gored by a deer, gave it to the church. Sometimes it was "preserved" by statutes prohibiting particular species being destroyed during certain seasons, and sometimes it was prohibited altogether in certain districts. The legislators of Scotland devoted great attention to the preservation of game, and indeed on the old statute books there are more laws protecting game than there arc concerning the lives and property of the common people. This is accounted for by the fact that most of the legislators were land owners or dependants on land owners, and used their power to make their property as valuable as possible. The representatives of the burghs, who represented the people, did not concern themselves about what was of no seem no, interest to their constituents. When they awoke from this error, game, whether beast, bird or fish, in Scotland had become so hedged in and guarded by enactments and laws that it was almost a penal offence to look at any of them. Even at the the most obnoxious feature of modern amateur athletics, that which has made them really professional and encourages betting, gambling and swindling of various sorts, kept these sports pure, clean and healthy, and made them alike popular among all classes in the community.

Of what may be called the more aristocratic class of sports hunting was, and still is, the most esteemed. The immense forests which once covered the face of the country gave ample accommodation for animals, birds and all sorts of wild game, and the natural inclination of most of the people led them to engage in the chase with ardor and delight. Boars, wolves, foxes and deer were thick in the forests of the lowlands and midlands, as well as in the glens and wooded hillsides of the Highlands ; while all sorts of birds, from the partridge, plover, blackcock and muircock even to the eagle itself, were seen all over the land. The rivers teemed with fish, and while rude nets of lythe were used to haul on shore such ordinary denizens of the loch or river as cod, saith or flounder, the sport reached its most exciting form in the spearing of the salmon, the royal fish of the country From very early tines game in Scotland was more or less protected or "preserved." Sometimes a forest was preserved for the court; sometimes it was preserved by the monks, as was that of Drumsheugh, around Holyrood, after King David, in gratitude, the legend tells us, for his escape from being gored by a deer, gave it to the church. Sometimes it was " preserved " by statutes prohibiting particular species being destroyed during certain seasons, and sometimes it was prohibited altogether in certain districts. The legislators of Scotland devoted great attention to the preservation of game, and indeed on the old statute books there are more laws protecting game than there arc concerning the lives and property of the common people. This is accounted for by the fact that most of the legislators were land owners or dependants on land owners, and used their power to make their property as valuable as possible. The representatives of the burghs, who represented the people, did not concern themselves about what was of no seeming interest to their constituents. When they awoke from this error, game, whether beast, bird or fish, in Scotland had become so hedged in and guarded by enactments and laws that it was almost a penal offence to look at any of them. Even at the present day in Scotland, so powerful are the laws, it is a greater crime, legally, to kill or trap a pheasant than it is to steal a guinea. Up to a very few years ago rabbits, hares and other ground vermin were as closely guarded as though they were the sacred animals of some Eastern potentate.

The Scottish kings appear to have all, with one exception, been more or less enamored of the chase. I have already mentioned King David's legendary adventure in the forest of Drumsheugh which resulted in the foundation of the Abbey of Holyrood; and similar instances of a love for hunting might be given of all his successors except James VI., whose constitutional infirmity rendered him averse to violent exercise or the sight of blood or firearms. The greatest hunter among all the Scottish kings, however, was Robert the Bruce. During his wanderings in the wilds of the country, when his fortunes were at the lowest ebb, he and his few followers had often to sustain themselves solely by the chase. In Barbour's "Bruce" we read of Sir James Douglas making gins to capture salmon, eels, trout and the like. The sound of the king's hunting horn was so well known that his followers knew its blast as well as the sound of his voice.

"The king then blew his horn in by,
And gert the men, that wer him by,
Hald thaim still, and all priwe,
And syne again his horn blew he.
James of Douglas heid him blaw,
And at the last alsone gan knaw,
And said, Sothly, yon is the king:
I knaw lang quhill syne his blawing.'"

After Bannockburn, when the independence of the kingdom was secured, Bruce continued to he as fond of hunting as he was in his younger clays before the cares and troubles of his throne occupied his constant care. His dogs, falcons and horses were the most costly items in his household books.

Hawking was another aristocratic sport, and it was fashionable among ladies as well as their cavaliers; but, unlike hunting, its practice has been discontinued. It was a popular theme of the poets, and among the old ballad writers, as well as with the singers of a later clay, the sport came in for considerable attention. It was a favorite pastime of Queen Mary, and that fact has thrown over it in Scotland the glamour of romance, such as surrounds everything connected wth that beautiful woman. In his " History of Scotland ' Tytler thus describes a hawking scene : " We see the sun just rising upon a noble chase or park with breezy slopes and gentle undulations, variegated with majestic oaks, and getting wilder and more rugged as you approach the mountains that surround it. His level rays are glancing on the windows of a baron's castle and illuminating the massive gray walls till they look as if they were built of gold. By and by symptoms of busy preparation are seen ; horses are led into the court; knights, squires and grooms are booting and mounting and talking of the coming sport; the huntsmen and the falconer stand ready at the gate, and the ladies' palfreys, led by their pages, are waiting for their fair mistresses. At last, these gentle dames descend from their bower, and each, assisted by her favorite knight, 'lightly springs to selle;' the aged baron himself is gravely mounted, and leads the way; and the court of the castle rings with hoof and horn as the brilliant and joyous cavalcade cross the drawbridge and disperse themselves through the good greenwood." In the reign of David II., Scottish falcons were so highly esteemed. that they were exported to the Continent. The birds used by Queen Mary were taken from Craigleith, a high, perpendicular rock projecting from the brow of the WTesthill of Alva. In the 'Western Islands the chiefs used to he proud of their eyries of these birds, and the attendant who looked after them on any estate ranked among the most important of the retainers and enjoyed many perquisites and favors.

Archery was also a common enough spo-t in the early times until it was driven into the background by firearms. The Scots were apparently well skilled in the use of the bow, but their weapons were shorter, and probably of inferior wood, to that terrible long bow which won so many victories for England in Scotland and on the Continent. Still, the Scottish archers did good service in the wars of Independence. James I., who served for a time with the English army in France and saw the deadly effect of the bow, devoted much attention to extending its use among his people. It was the subject of several laws passed by his parliaments, and at the yearly wapenshaws it was made to play a prominent part, all yeomen between the ages of sixteen and sixty being required to be provided wth at least one bow and a sheaf of arrows. It was even attempted to make archery supersede football as an athletic pastime, although it is questionable if this attempt succeeded. But the bow never really became a common favorite, although its old connection with the country is still kept up by the innocent and harmless exercises of the Royal Company of Archers at Edinburgh.

The day of the WTapenshaw was the most popular festival of the old Scotch towns or villages. The occasion was a general holiday and the athletic sports were the principal amusements. Interesting details of these days may be found in such old poems as "Peebles to the Play," or "Christ's Kirk on the Green," and Sir Walter Scott, in the "Lady of the Lake" and his grand romance of "Old Mortality," introduces the people's holiday at Wapenshaw times with fine effect and considerable detail. In the notes to the poem named Sir Walter says "Every burgh in Scotland of the least note, but more especially the considerable towns, had their solemn play or festival, where feats of archery were exhibited and prizes distributed to those who excelled in wrestling, hurling the bar and other gymnastic exercises of the period.* * * The usual prize for the best shooter was a silver arrow."

Wrestling, formerly one of the most frequently practised of all Scottish sports, has now fallen considerably into disrepute. There are several reasons for this. The sport has been taken up by professional athletes, whose mock contests, arranged on platforms in theatres and music-halls, inspire con- tempt, and even when contested in the open air, as honestly as professional athletes can contest anything, it has degenerated into a mere struggle of brute force instead of an exhibition of combined skill, dexterity, practice and strength. Wrestling should never be attempted or encouraged except on the greensward. In the stuffy atmosphere of a theatre it is out of place. Another thing which has led to the downfall of this fine old sport is the gambling which has been introduced in connection with it. Wherever this vice has become associated with any Scottish game it has been allowed to fall into desuetude by the Scottish people. This may seem singular, but nevertheless it is true. In the olden times wrestling was a prime favorite among all classes, and was equally welcomed at the court as on the village haugh. Thus Sir Walter Scott wrote of it in the " Lady of the Lake":

"Now clear the ring for, hand to hand,
The manly wrestlers take their stand.
Two o'er the rest superior rose
And proud demanded mightier foes.
Nor called in vain, for Douglas came. —
For life is Hugh of Larbert lame;
Scarce better John of Alloa's fare,
Whom senseless home his comrades bear.
Prize of the wrestling match, the King
To Douglas gave a golden ring."

Football was another favorite sport at these gatherings, although it can hardly be described as being peculiar to the country, for it was and is equally popular in England. Grand matches used to be common between parishes, and the game, was made the theme of a spirited poem by the Rev. John Skinner, the author of "Tullochgorumn." That poem, "The Christmas ba'in at Monymusk," describes how the game was played at Aberdeenshire; and if the lines be truthful, as doubtless they are, football was apt to be as wild and dangerous a game in good old John Skinner's day as it often is in the present year of grace

"In Monymusk was never seen
ae mony well-best skins,
0' a' the ba' men there was nane
But had twa bleedy shins;
Wi' streinzit shouthers many ane,
Dree'd penance for their sins;
An' what was warst, scowp'd hame their lane
Maybe to hungry inns
An' cauld that day."

Throwing the hammer probably originated among the villagers who congregated round the smiddy after the close of the day's labor, in the delightful twilight hours which have done so much for Scotland. Putting the stone or tossing the caber are simple feats of strength; quoting or bowling, requiring a degree of skill as well as a modicum at least of muscle, are known in some form or other in many parts of the world, although they probably have attained their highest excellence in Scotland.

The game of golf is one of the most ancient in Scotland. When it was first introduced is unknown, although in its simplest form of shinty it was probably as old as the people themselves. The game received great impetus from the delight which James VI. took in it, and his son, Charles I., was also a lover of the sport. Indeed, he was engaged in it on Links in 1641 when the intelligence reached him of the rebellion in Ireland, and he at once threw down his club and returned to Holyrood. Had he always been as energetic in his movements his end might have been different. His son, James II., also delighted in the game. Golfing is still a favorite in Scotland, and the links at St. Andrew, Edinburgh, Leith, Musselburgh, Prestwick, North Berwick, Gullane, Carnoustie and other places resound in the summer months with the jocund laughter of the players and the incessant "knacking" of the balls as they are driven to their holes. The Pastime has crept into England, and in Canada several clubs have been established within the past year or so. It is too early yet to form an opinion as to whether it will really become generally popular in the Dominion—that paradise for out-of-door athletics—but there certainly is no reason why it should not.

The game of curling is probably the most generally known among the sports which are regarded as peculiarly Scottish, and it appears to be winning its way into all the populated countries of the world wherever a good sheet of ice and a few Scottish instructors can be found. The Scottish instructor is certainly needed, if we may judge by the following illustration of the manner in which the mysteries of the game are explained by the old hands to beginners "Inexperienced member of a curling club (to venerable skip)—"Mr. MacFergus, what's a pat-lid?" Skip—" Weel, div ye see, ye gowk ! ye ding ye stane cannilie, but no sae feckly as tae hoggit. Nae haeffins fleg, nor jinkiri turn, ye ken, but tentively, that it aye gangs snooving and straught as an elder's walk, hogsnoutherin' arnang the guards, till ye la:d oil verra tee. When ye've dun that, laddie, ye've med a pat-lid, and ye may bear the gree." Inexperienced member (somewhat piqued)—" Thank you, Mr. MacFergus; no doubt the explanation is very accurate, but I think its lucidity would have been very much heightened if you had made it in English."Skip—'' Tut, man, all be a curler ye maun faumeelyerize yersel' wi' the vernauckular."

The game is played all over Scotland, and the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, "oor auld respecht mither," as it is affectionately called has on its roll over 600 clubs, some of which are in Russia, Newfoundland, New Zealand and "other foreign parts." The great annual match between the players on the north and south of the Forth and Clyde Canal has brought on the ice as many as $oo players in one day.
On this side of the Atlantic the roarin' game, as it is fondly called by its devotees, first obtained a foothold in Canada, where the long, clear winters are peculiarly adapted for its practice and where the finest players in the world are to be found to-day. The Montreal Club was organized in 1807. So far as I can trace, the oldest dun in Ontario is that of Fergus, which was organized in 1834. In 1836 a club was formed in Toronto, a city which now contains more active players than any other in the world. Then the game slowly but surely spread all over the Dominion, until at present it is governed by three grand bodies owning a more or less close allegiance to the Royal Caledonian in Scotland, and bearing on their rolls about io clubs. In Ontario the players nearly all use granite; in Quebec and the lower provinces iron is deemed better adapted for the climate. In Quebec, however, they are not very particular what they curl with, so long as they enjoy the game, and one club of fine players achieve their local victories with 'stones" made of cheese-boxes filled with rubble or soil.

In the United States this game was only played in a quiet fashion until some twenty-five years ago, and it is probably due to the stone-cutters and stone-setters of New York that it obtained much of a hold on this side of the line at all. Droll stories are yet told of the trials, troubles an(] escapades of the pioneers of the game in New York, and, if we may judge by the fondness with which such stories are told, we may believe that the curling of those earlier days was even a more exciting and enjoyable sport than it is at present. New York has now eight active clubs, and the game has spread as far West as Wisconsin and Minnesota, where may he found as keen players as anywhere else. The number of matches played each year is steadily increasing with the number of players, and Americans are proving themselves to be as thorough experts as the most pronounced Scot. The Grand National Club the central organization in this country has 35 clubs affiliated with it.

Curling is a sport which has everything to commend it, and is wholly without any of the drawbacks which are too often urged with justice against other out-door sports. It is free from such vices as gambling, betting or professionalism it is health-giving and invigorating, and equally adapted for the old and the young ; it is cheap, its implements cost little, and it requires no costly grounds or tracks for its full enjoyment ; it inspires friendliness, brotherhood and charity among its devotees, and teaches the value of a cool head, a steady hand, a clear eye and a cautious judgment. It teaches men to accept defeat gracefully and to wear the honors of victory modestly. It is thoroughly democratic in all its tendencies, and on the ice all men are equal, except that the best player is the best man. Its season is one when work is scarce with most of out-door toilers, and its practice keeps the hand and the frame ready to take up the struggle for existence with renewed activity whenever the opportunity offers.

Surely these are advantages enough to commend a game to the kindliest sympathies of all who love sport for the sake of sport alone. But curling has still another advantage. It is almost the only athletic sport which has a literature of its own, and in this respect it is second only to angling among all pastimes. Volumes have been written concerning the game and its associations, and its praise has been sung in stirring, sometimes rollicking, often uncouth, but always kindly verse by countless poets. Its followers are never tired of speaking about it, telling of its ups and downs, its victories or defeats, its pleasures, and sometimes even its pathos. The players are a kindly set, fond of each other, and seem to he entirely free from any of the petty jealousies which so mar the pleasures of other athletic sports. For a man to be recognized as a keen curler, and, above all, as a good skip, is a certain recommendation to the good graces and kindly regards of other players no matter how excellent their own curling record may he, or how vastly superior their social status. The players, are charitable, too, and many a "bow" of meal or hag of potatoes or barrel of flour are presented yearly to the deserving poor through the result of a game on the ice. Playing for such trophies is common, and is one of the best evidences which can be offered of the perfect innocence of the game and the leal, light, kindly hearts of the players.

Scottish games have now become a feature in American life, and nearly every Caledonian club or society on the continent makes one day in each year a sort of national holiday when the games can be practised in public as they are in the old country, and when the resident Scot can air to the fullest extent his national proclivities, prejudices, likes and dislikes. These national gatherings are generously thrown open to all comers at a charge of so much per head, and the sight is well worth seeing, for a glimpse of Scotsmen at play is not often to be got on this money-making, pushing, jolting and business-loving side of the globe.

On the morning of the day appointed for their out-door games in any town, the Caledonians gather together at some central or convenient meeting place. This they call "the gathering of the clans," and fancy that the meeting has something in it akin to an old-time rallying under Roderick Dhu or some other of Sir Walter Scott's personages. When all is ready they start forth on a parade which, to hut it mildly, is a pretty severe test of endurance in itself. Fancy a tramp over rough cobblestones, broken, dirty pavements, and muddy crossings, with the sun darting down its fiercest rays and the thermometer disporting itself away up in the nineties in shady recesses. Imagine such a march lasting for a couple of hours up the steep and crooked streets of Albany, among the dusty thoroughfares of Philadelphia, or the wondrously entangled highways of old Boston, and it will be agreed that the parade ought to be regarded as one of the feats of the occasion, and he so acknowledged in the official programmes.-

When the travelled foot-sore "clans" reach the scene of the day's performances, no time is lost in making a beginning. As a general rule, four skilled clansmen at once make their appearance on a small platform in the centre of the enclosed arena, and to the music of a pair of bagpipes perform what is called a Scotch reel. This is supposed to he a relic of an old war dance which was in vogue in Caledonia long before the Romans paid it the honor of a visit, and at a time when the natives were about as civilized as the Indians were on our frontier a century ago. The reel as it is danced at these games cannot be regarded as a very graceful arrangement, but it certainly makes up in vigor whatever it may lack in beauty. Its performers describe the figure eight in their movements. When the top and bottom of the figure are reached, each dancer goes through an judecribably wild and helpless pantomime with his hands, shuffles his feet with extraordinary agility, utters a loud "hough" or series of "houghs," and then proceeds describing the figure. The reel lasts from four to ten minutes, according to the age, agility and enthusiasm of the dancers, and is generally much applauded.

To a stranger the appearance of the crowd which is around the arena or within the enclosure is in itself a treat. There is no mistaking the nationality of the great majority of the people. High cheek-bones, yellow or auburn hair, and pronounced physiognomies are the characteristics of nearly every grown man we meet. Many wear a Scotch cap, or its broad prototype or progenitor, the Balmoral, and a few extra-enthusiastic chaps are crowned with real Kilmarnocks, such as all genuine pictures of 'Tam O' Shanter" represent that "bletherin' blusterin' blellurn" as wearing. Now and again we run across some one with a nosegay of heather, an envied adornment brought over by some of the Glasgow steamers, and the great value of which lies in the fact that a few weeks before it was quietly and sweetly blooming on some hillside across the sea, in the "land of the heather" itself. In the early part of the day the Scottish spectator is somewhat solemn and sedate. He has not yet shaken off his every-day American feeling; he has just paid for his ticket of admission and is determined to have his money's worth of sight-seeing. But as the day waxes older his disposition appears to undergo a change; his heart melts as he hears the rich old Doric of Burns and Scott from the lips of the more recent arrivals from the mother-land, and he too begins to use the good old-fashioned speech. He sees the guidwife attending to the bairns and expressing herself as his mother used to do in years long gone by. He sees a crony, or maybe two, and has a talk regarding his early struggles in Scotland and America. He forgets all about the changes which the advance of years and difference in scene have brought, and he wanders to and fro, greeting and being greeted openly, honestly and warmly. Perhaps as he gets roused up he essays a step or two of a reel or Sean Trivs in some quiet corner for the edification of his companions, or tells long stories about how his father fought at Waterloo and his great-grandfather at Prestonpans, and winds up the afternoon by singing, as loudly as he can, a verse or two of that most popular of all national songs, "Auld Lang Sync."

The ladies, too, enjoy the day in their own way every bit as much as their lords and masters. They like to see the athletic sports, and all Scotch lassies, young orold, delight in taking part in a reel or contra dance. One would almost award the prize for public dancing to these bonnie lassies with the red hue of health on their cheeks and the roguish twinkle in their merry eyes which have drawn so many gallant fellows like lambs into the haven or bedlam of matrimony. There is no mock-modesty about these Scotch lassies. As they stand up in the inevitable reel they "shake their fit," snap their fingers, and "hough" with as much vigor—perhaps with a little more—as their male companions, and when one dance is over they loudly express their impatience for the next. Then how homely and comfortable is the repast arrayed in some cozy nook by the thochtfu' guid-wife! How kindly she gathers her "cummers" around her and gossips away about this one and that one—about Mrs. So-and-So's guidinan, Lucky Itherane's bairns, and perhaps denounces in scathing terms the American wife whom some unregenerated countryman has taken to his bosom. How she does make the youngsters eat, and oh! how deftly she coaxes the head o' the hoose from time to time to fortify his inner man with substantial victuals lest the liquid viands should prove too much for his equilibrium. How her eyes sparkle as she sees so many weelkent faces about her, and surveys the manly forms of her male friends as they pass hither and thither! Her face is an index to her inmost thought, and that thought for the present is, "There's nae folk like oor ain folk."

The most prominent personages in the crowd, however, are those in whom national sentiment is so strong that they have been persuaded to don the kilt and plaid. The wearers of this costume know well they are marked men, and they enjoy their prominence with no small amount of self-complacency. Some of them look as though their ambition was to pass for caricatures of the genuine article, and indulge in a swagger and assume an air of majesty and dignity which is far from being akin to their real nature. For the moment, too, their naturally peaceable proclivities are changed, and they are imbued with a feeling of national sentiment as strong as that which burned in the bosom of Sir William Wallace, with a good deal of that of Robert de Bruce thrown in. Who it was that invented the Highland costume, as it now is fearfully and wonderfully made, does not seem to be exactly known. He was either careless or unconscious of the fame which might have been his. Some say the rig was designed by Murray, of the Edinburgh Theatre Royal, when the play of "Rob Roy" was first produced on its boards. Others aver that it is the invention of a Cockney tailor. The genuine Scot affirms that it is a bonafide relic of antiquity, handed down from father to son, and that its history can be traced by monuments, sculptured stones and manuscripts from the remotest eras until now. But all these theories are nonsensical. The dress as worn now is not in the least adapted for theatrical display; there is nothing about it which could be evolved from the inner consciousness of any tailor, Cockney or otherwise; and as for the antiquity theory, it is safe to say that no old-time, warranted Highlandman would encumber himself with such a load of trappings and jewelry as is now considered necessary to constitute a full dress. Fancy a fellow flying over hills or down glens after Sassenachs or sheep with such encumbrances as sword, pistols, dirk, sgian dhub, cross and shoulder belts, cairngorm brooches, Lochaber axes, shield, and as many things more! The Highland dress as depicted on early records is a primitive, sensible, and useful affair, and as different from the present circus arrangement as an ordinary coat of the sixteenth century is from the swallowtail of the present day. Still the modern Scot believes in his ornaments and trappings. He calls his dress the "Garb of old Gaul,", and swears it is the only real and original national costume, and we must profess to believe like him or arouse his wrath; and the wrath of a man with a whole armory of claymores, dirks, and pistols at his side, and perhaps with "a wee drap in his e'e," is not to be rashly aroused.

By far the most wonderful character to be met with at these gatherings is undoubtedly the piper. He furnishes the regular orthodox music for the occasion, and takes good care that his talents are not hidden under a bushel. He is the very embodiment of self, and the best example to be found anywhere of one who walks through life with the satisfactory idea that he is the great I Am of all creation. He believes that he and his instrument reflect all the glories of Scotland, past, present, and to come. If he is more certain of one thing than another, it is that he is the prince of musicians, the only true musician in the world in fact, and he regards the claims of pianists, organists, cornettists, and particularly fiddlers, with supreme contempt. His music is the only genuine article, fresh from nature, heavenly in its tone, and equally qualified to inspire a man with love or endow him with the courage of a hero. His "grace notes" are the veritable quintesses of fine sounds, and as he swells out a pibroch or march he believes the grandest cathedral organ in existence to be little better than a tin whistle in comparison with his drones. Look at him while he marches across the greensward or stalks along the cinder-path. How jaunty his step, how distended his cheeks as he "blaws" into the receptacle under his arm, and how daintily his fingers manipulate among the notes! His eyes are half-shut in ecstasy. His mind is etherealized and his whole soul is in his tune. He is in the seventh heaven of delight, and woe be unto any unfortunate who tumbles across his path or obstructs his progress Then, as he finishes the melody, how deftly he allows the sound to languish away, and how elevated and self-conscious his gaze as he looks around for approving smiles! In his own opinion he is the central figure of the day, the most thoroughly genuine, unadulterated Specimen of Caledonia on the grounds. Without him the Scottish element would be shorn of its most prominent feature and the whole affair and be little better than a sham. With this impression he charges a goodly price for his day's services, and gets it too, for to the piper patriotism and pennies are always synonymous.

But the day wears on with all its excitement and bustle, and noise and clatter. The programme of the games has been exhausted, the athletes are tired, some of them disgusted, and the ring is left open for all and sundry, for the lovers to parade in and the small boy to practise the exercises he has been gazing at during the day. When the shades of evening begin to fall the guidewife draws her bairns around her and packs up the inevitable basket. Her men-folk are secured from further wandering, and the piper gives a loud blast announcing that all is over. The homeward way is soon taken up, and strains of "Auld Lang Syne," or "Willie brew'd a peck o' maut," or "Sae will we yet" are heard at frequent intervals as the pleasure-seekers pass along. In a little while the place where the games were held is dark and lonely. The Scot has reached his comfortable home, laid aside his national trappings in their appropriate "kist," and, after a rambling talk over the events of the day, jumps into bed and dreams of heather hills, romantic castles, terrible battles, wonderful adventures, and bonnie lassies. Next morning he is a thorough American, smart, keen, logical, and far-seeing. His notions concerning "Nemo me impune lacessit" are laid away with the costume in the "kist" aforesaid, and until the next annual outing he is content to pay heed only to the national saying which advises him to "gather the siller."


Return to Book Index Page