Aye, The 2016 Victoria Highland Games and Celtic Festival was a braw celebration. The skirl of the pipes from a dozen or more bands mingled with the grunts, groans and yells of the ‘heavy events’ athletes. These days, the heavy events are in the spirit of sportsmanship but their origins date back centuries to the Scottish highlands. When they weren’t fighting a neighboring clan, or joining forces to fight the English, the crafty highlanders devised imaginative ways to challenge each other. The modern iterations are the ‘heavy events’. It used to be that the heavy events were just for the lads – but nae mair! Modern lassies, proving themselves just as daft as the lads, take their turns, too.
Heavy events include shot-putting a big rock, in highland games jargon imaginatively enough called ‘the stone’. Then there’s the weight throw. Kilts fly high as competitors twirl at dizzying speed and then launch the implement. It soars high in the air, bruising the ground with a thud and leaving a small crater. Not an event appreciated on manicured lawns.
The ‘hammer’ doesn’t actually look much like one. It’s an iron ball attached to long shaft. Competitors wear shoes with long knives protruding from the toes. They dig these into the ground to keep their feet in place and use their arms and torso to rotate the hammer several times before letting go. A chiropractor is on hand for spinal re-alignments.
The ‘weight-over-bar’ event is a one-handed effort. The thrower assumes a crouched position, legs apart, and swings the weight back and forth to build momentum and then heaves it upward and backwards to clear a crossbar. It’s a risky venture if the competitor doesn’t angle it just right – and it comes down on his – or her head.
Heavy events are among the most popular draws at highland festivals, and ‘throwing the caber’ is the most popular. The caber toss an improbable looking endeavor where competitors hoist and balance a large pole, run with it and then try to ‘tun it over’- flipping it end over end. Another uniquely Scottish invention.
Heaving an empty beer keg down the field is usually the final event – the full keg saved for aprez- games camaraderie.
Yes, I write fiction, but improbable as these events seem, I’m really not making them up. Click on the u-tube link for a video of the ‘heavy events’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28QFio97Nnk
Next post – Bagpipes – a weapon of war.