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  • Kylie Sprott

Will there be kilts?

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

On my last trip to Rothesay, the main purpose of my visit was to collect the keys to my flat and start planning the renovations with Trish and Shaun. By pure coincidence, I also happened to be there at the same time as the 75th Bute Highland Games. I was very excited at this good fortune and hoping to spot kilts, bagpipes, highland dancers and maybe some men throwing those big logs of timber!

Oh but it was so much more than that! It was a huge celebration of Scottish culture and competitors and spectators from all around the world were there to be a part of of it. Even some from Australia! I couldn't believe my good luck and I was so thrilled to experience it all with Trish and Shaun, and their delightful dog Bosie.

There were so many visitors to Bute that day and the weather could not have been more perfect. After a covid imposed hiatus for several years, it seemed that the games were a wonderful reminder of the importance of celebrating culture and remaining connected.

It did take a while for Trish to shut the doors of the - so many visitors were rightly fascinated by her beautiful shop. Finally, with some wee red wine bottles tucked into our jeans (shh!!), we were heading into the games. It was an easy walk from the town centre up the high street, to all of the festivities.

As soon as we approached, the sound of bagpipes filled the air. Excitedly, I asked Trish if we could go and find some of the people playing bagpipes. She did look at me oddly and reassured me that there would be plenty of pipers that day. She wasn't wrong! The bagpipes played non stop all day and yes, there were more kilts than I have ever seen before. Strangely masculine too!

It turns out that the Bute Highland Games have been taking place in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute since 1947. Past Chieftains of the games have included HRH The Prince of Wales, who is now King Charles III.

The origins are interesting too and can be traced back many years. Clan chiefs used the games to recruit staff, with rival clans often pitting their best champions against each other at Highland gatherings. Although King Malcolm is thought to have begun the royal association with the Highland Games at Braemar in the 11th century, it was Queen Victoria who made the games so universally popular in the 19th century.

So, what were the highlights for me? Well, I particularly loved meeting Campbell Gilles, who has been the drum major with the Rothesay Pipe Band for 54 years. Here he is in action!

And here I am, looking rather tiny I might add, next to him!

I loved the whole experience and really enjoyed watching the fierce competiton in games that I have never seen before. There was wrestling in kilts:

There was non stop highland dancing competitions, which looked a little like ancient aerobics to me!

And of course, there was the caber toss - which was incredible to watch.

Trish helped to educate me on what was happening and even explained the food to me. It was a complete immersion in Scottish culture and it made me feel very proud to have roots in this incredible country.

Here are Trish, Shaun and I with Bosie (not pictured) enjoying the games.

But it was the final part of the day which really made my heart sing. After the games are finished, the pipers lead everyone down the high street in a joyous procession, to the stirring sound of "Scotland the Brave". I remember my Gran playing that song a lot - it made me smile.

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