Me at the Scottish Highland Games | I compete at Stone Put and Caber Toss | Quirky Customs

Published by Jan Heaney on

Me at the Scottish Highland Games | I compete at Stone Put and Caber Toss | Quirky Customs


When trees are flung through the air… Boulders are carried around… …weights fly through the sky… And rain falls in buckets, it’s summer in
Scotland! It’s the perfect weather for a Scottish
tradition. I am in Airth at the Highland Games and I’ll
be facing off some of the toughest men in the country and of course that requires a
certain dress code. A traditional Scottish kilt is worn by all
performers and competitors. Every summer around 80 communities across
Scotland host Highland Games. The village of Airth lies to the west of Edinburgh
and has been holding games since 1871. There’s running, cycling and plenty of heavy
lifting. It’s a tradition deeply entrenched in Scottish
culture. Charlie Murray is the President of the Scottish
Highland Games Association. Hi Charlie, I am Max. Nice to meet you. I’d like to know a little bit more about
the history of the Highland Games. Where did it all begin? The history would be more than a thousand
years old the and I believe it would be from clans. The clan chief would try and pick out his
best and strongest men and fastest runners. The strongest obviously in the throwing events. Aside from selecting warriors, clan chiefs
also sought out dancers and musicians. Nowadays, it’s all about the honour. Especially in the so-called “heavy events”
where ‘strongmen’ compete in six disciplines. For instance “weight for height” – where
the aim is to throw a 25 kilo weight over a bar. The Scottish hammer throw uses a cannon ball
attached to a wooden shaft. And in the caber toss a trimmed tree is flipped over on its axis, ideally landing in a straight line. Not an easy task. I’m keen to have a go but first, one of
the judges Walter Weir will give me a crash course in the hammer throw. What is the technique then? First of all pull across and swing around
your head. Like that? Yes. I don’t want to injure anyone. Just take it nice and easy. Swing it. That’s good. There you go. So how was that for a first go? That was very good. You didn’t fall or lose your balance. The caber toss is quite a bit trickier. This one is the lightest, weighing 25 kilos,
and is used only for practice. Getting up into position and keeping balance
is hard enough, then it’s time to flip it after a short run up. My first attempt… …leaves quite a lot to be desired That’s the one I haven’t quite got the
hang of yet. It’s not walk in the park: My rivals are professional
athletes and weightlifters. One of the most experienced competitors is
Neil Elliot. How did you get into doing Highland Games? Well, I was 17 years of age and it was my
first ever Highland Games. It was a Scottish under 18 national championships
and I won every event. The Highland Games is where it all comes from
and that’s my bread and butter and it’s fantastic. And I’ve been doing it for 31 years. Neil has got quite a headstart on me. I’ll have to make do with my crash course. How do you train for games like this? A local sports field lets me go down and basically
throw weights about as much as I like. And have you got cabers? I’ve got an old telegraph pole. Such a shame I lost my telegraph pole… Perhaps some words of wisdom will do the trick. I am about to attempt the hammer throw. Do you have got any tips? Just swing as fast as you can and keep your
arms long. Keep your arms long and don’t do this… keep it long and swing. Just swing and let go. Sounds easy enough. Without proper boots, the wet grass doesn’t
give me much grip. My throw fails to impress. The day’s best measured in at 129 feet. Good thing no one bet on me winning! So, what does it measure? 50 Feet! Before the next event, I’m
offered a whisky. It might help! Slàinte Mhath The Smiddy Stane is a heavy boulder that is
picked up and carried as far as possible. In my case not very far. I won’t try that again! No need to measure it. That is heavier than it looked! My final test is the caber toss.. It has to be flipped once over and land straight; like a clock hand going from six to twelve! My rivals offer me a sticky tree-sap concoction
which locks the hands into position and provides extra grip. So my fingers are all sticky now. I am ready for the caber toss. The injury risk is a little bit too high,
so I only can go on a practice caber. Because I am not World Championship quality. All eyes are on me now and it’s my last chance. to make a good impression. A perfect toss! I can’t believe it. Bang on 12 o’clock, albeit with the smallest
caber available. Still, who can say they’ve flipped a tree? At the ensuing award ceremony, the judges
grant me a mock prize for my efforts! It wasn’t enough for a proper prize and
I’ve really learned that you need to be a real athlete to compete at the Highland
Games. But I had fun anyway and I definitely will
have another go in the future. And perhaps I’ll make a habit of working
out in a kilt!


2 Comments

I Bhardwaj · August 26, 2019 at 3:57 pm

Thanks

l S · August 26, 2019 at 8:41 pm

Nice to see Max's hair holding well on such typical Scottish weather.

Entertaining episode yet again. 💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻

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