Bag Pipes – They Make Me Smile

My dad was mostly Scottish, Irish, and a smidgeon of American Indian.  I don’t know what tribe.  He had enough Indian in him that his hair was just starting to gray when he passed away in 1997 at the age of 62.  His grandmother was a Mayo before she married and her mother came over her from Ireland.  But he was most connected to his Scottish roots.

When we were young our family was involved with the Scottish Clans of North Texas.  They met once a month at the Colonial Cafeteria that use to be off of Rogers Road near University.  I can’t remember what they would do at these meetings.  I just remember that cafeteria was set up different from other cafeterias.  It didn’t have lines.  It had different areas for different things.  I enjoyed wandering around and putting what I wanted on my tray.  I do remember great parties and my sister and I took highland dance lessons.  My favorite was the sword dance.  I was never really very good at it.  But I can still do a little highland fling.  But I have to say it isn’t pretty.

We went to Salado every year for the Scottish Clan Gathering and Highland Games.  That was always a fun time.  I think it was usually the first weekend in November.  It always included a meal at the Stagecoach Inn.  There were clan tents, vendor, piping and drumming competitions, highland dancing, and highland games.  What are highland games you might ask.  Well they are varied and interesting and fun.  Following are some examples?

Weight Toss & Weight Throw: These two events are usually combined into a three part competition using two metal weights of 28 &56 pounds. The 28 is thrown for distance while the 56 is thrown for both height & distance. Scores are on a ‘best of 3’ basis. Timing, speed & agility are keys to this event.

Tossing the Sheaf: A 16lb. Sheaf of hay, wrapped in burlap, is tossed by pitch fork over a horizontal bar. The contestants have three tries at each height and the bar raises 6″ each round until there is only one contestant remaining; the winner.

Hammer Throw: A popular pastime in the Highlands had young men throwing the blacksmith’s 22 lb. hammer to prove strength & agility. The contestant is given three throws and is scored on the greatest distance achieved without stepping over the toe board.

Putting the Stone or Stone Toss: The stone weighs 16 lbs. And is 7.25″ in diameter, and is thrown much like the modern day shot put. Each athlete is allowed three throws for distance and must not touch the ground in front of the foul board.

Tossing the Caber: The object of the contest is to toss the 100 pound, 18′ long pole end over end so that it lands with the bottom , or small end, pointing directly away from the contestant. Distance has no bearing on it and the straightest toss.

But the part my dad loved best was called the Tartan Ceilidh (pronounced Kay-lee).  We would eat and sing and listen to music.  It was usually held by the river.  My dad loved Scottish music.  As his daughter I too love Scottish music.  I love the sound of the bagpipe.  I have bagpipe and Celtic music on my Ipod.  I feel the connection to my past when I listen to them.  It may sound silly, but it stirs my soul.

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