Just before leaving Christchurch we spent an awesome day at the Hororata Highland Games. This was the fifth year of the Games which started after the Christchurch earthquakes as a project to lift the community’s morale. It has morphed into one of the biggest and best Highland Games in the country.
Last time we attended the Games, although a clear bright day there was a cold wind, so in expectation of the same I dressed fairly warmly. The caravan tends to be a little cool in the mornings and it is not until one has been outside for a while that the weather can be accurately gauged, at least as accurately as ANY New Zealand weather can be gauged, seeing it can go through four seasons in a single day. After picking up sister in law Alison we were just on our way when Dave realised he didn’t have any spare batteries for his cochlear implants, so we drove back to the caravan (only a short distance away) and I took the opportunity to change into something rather more summery and was very glad later on that I had. It was glorious, hot day.
It was impossible to cover everything. Two years ago the innovative event was scurry racing; this year it was a Highland Spin competition – “… a Fleece to Garment challenge where teams of six people race to shear a sheep, spin the wool and knit a child’s jersey in six hours.” By the time we arrived the sheep had already been shorn and three teams were hard at work carding, spinning and even knitting straight from the spindle. The Highland Spin tent was a hive of activity; as well as the three teams there were spinning and sheep shearing demonstrations. Some spectators were settled in for the long day … with their knitting!
I was disappointed not to catch the start and to see how long before the knitting actually started. When I returned to the tent some hours later, the knitting was well advanced but still the wheels spun. Concentration was absolute and the atmosphere electric. We also managed to catch the end, but I do know the victorious team completed a very reasonable-sized jersey well within the allotted time.
A beautiful new elevated stage made the Highland Dancing far more visible to everyone. I cannot comment on the quality of the dancing but I was very impressed by the younger children doing the sword dance. According to the programme there were 34 different dancing events over 13 different age groupings, as the Games also hosted three different Canterbury West Coast and one South Island Highland Dancing Championships.
I could not get into a really good position to take photos of the caber toss, or indeed most off the heavy athletics cpmpetitions, some of which involved women; but I did see some of the tug’o’wars.
Apart from the usual crafts etc stalls seen at all country fairs there were some with a particularly Scottish flavour:
There was a large sign near the entrance explaining the Heavy Athletic events, something I appreciated. Do any of my readers know, for example, that a perfect cable toss is called a twelve o’clock turn, where the caber falls straight away from where the athlete released it. In a 12 o’clock toss, the caber falls away rom the thrower and forms a straight line through the thrower. Sometimes the caber falls off slightly to the side – a 10 o’clock, 11.30 etc. I gather that if the caber falls back towards the thrower, the toss is void.
Bananas are essential fuel …
I also missed the Hororata Pie Eating Competition – not that I think there would be anything particularly interesting watching people scoffing pies as fast as possible – and they are very good pies, such a shame to treat them so!
There was plenty of food available though including scrumptious whitebait patties on the usual white bread (no other type of bread will do), Scottish pasties and haggis, waffles, and NZ ice-cream including an experimental whisky flavoured ice-cream. I cannot say I could really taste the artifical flavour but both of us enjoyed a taste of the special Hortorata Whisky and came away with two reasonably expensive bottles.
The Kilted Mile (which involved far more than just running – and yes there was some pie eating involved too!) drew quite a crowd. the winner was a very fit young man.
Being a Highland Games there were of course many piping and drumming events. It was good to see so many young people of both sexes taking part in these competitions.
There were a number of Have A Go activities for both adults and children – “Visitors love to get off the bleachers and get hands on with various activities such as tossing the caber or sheaf, farmers walk, archery or the Haggis toss.” And indeed many people particularly young ones did indeed have a go. It was such a happy atmosphere.
For entertainment as well as the serious Game events, there were Scottish Country dancing demonstrations (which we nearly disrupted by greeting some of our old dancing group friends who we haven’t seen for two years, not long before the music started!) …..
….. and a game of Hurling – something like lacrosse and hockey combined.
We visited Clan Lane and the Johnston(e) Clan table of course – both of us are Johnstons, but unrelated. There was a lovely vase of Red Hawthorn – the Johnston Clan flower – which I have not seen before. I was interested to see a display by a Society of Orkney Islands descendants and will be following up with them later about one of my ancestors. I visited the Orkneys in the late 60s and remember them well, one of the highlights of my Big OE.
The Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) made their presence felt with a tent housing weaving, medieval manuscript illumination and sewing displays, and outside there was a woodworker clad in full armour and various other people in medieval dress. I once used to dance with a Renaissance Dancing group and although not part of the SCA we shared many dances in common.
Footsore, sunburnt, well fed and happy we were just about to leave when Dave was accosted by a rather desperate lady – could we possibly help start her car? We always carry jumper leads so Dave was able to help, but it was indeed lucky that after a good clean-out of the back of the ute, Dave had only placed the jumper leads back in the evening before. A happy ending to a memorable day.
I have finally managed to get the website looking more respectable; if you want to read some my family history stories they are under ‘Genealogy’. There’s also a story about the “Cornelius” on which I spent a wonderful ten years.