Victoria Highland Games 2015

Clan MacAulay Canada attends the Victoria Highland Games & Celtic Festival May 16-17, 2015

Phot by Shyrl Kennedy

Photo by Shyrl Kennedy

Ah, the Victoria Highland Games and Celtic Festival (VHGA). Definitely one of our favourite Games. We love their various events and how well they welcome the Clans.

We arrived Tuesday night in order to be well rested for our kick off to the Games, the Tilted Kilt Pub Crawl, held annually on Wednesday night. This year we were on Coleen’s Team Green. Coleen is one of those people you instantly like for her enthusiasm and welcoming spirit. We were joined by our friend Khaled, Doug and friends from Clan Campbell and it wasn’t long until our motley crew included Kristina and Monty. One thing about a pub crawl, it’s easy to make friends! As we went from pub to pub by double decker bus people on the street got into the spirit by waving back at us.  At our final stop we had a blast. Not only were the pipers playing, the highland dancers were dancing and a pipe major showed his skill with a pool cue. There’s no chance of us missing this event anytime soon.

With a couple of days to recuperate from the Tilted Kilt Pub Crawl we took advantage of being in Victoria and headed a bit north to the wine country to visit one of our favourite wineries, Blue Grouse. Doug and I also really enjoyed our visit to Sea Cider for lunch and a flight of ciders to share. Since my friend Todd had told me about MacAulay Point Park we went there for a walk about; it’s absolutely lovely with beautiful views and historic significance. Perhaps a spot to visit during our 2016 MacAulay Gathering in Victoria? And ladies, if you like handbags, a stop at She She Bags is a must; they carry a good range of Canadian designers. We also had the opportunity to have supper with my cousin Mike and his lovely wife Shyrl and my sister Kathy and her husband Jim, who were joining us for the first time at the VHG.

The VHGA switched things up a bit this year, and we liked it! On Friday night they held the formal gathering where 2 people from each clan hosting a clan tent are invited as well as heavy games participants, drum majors and other dignitaries. It was fantastic to have a chance to connect with some of our friends from other clans – the Murrays, the Mackenzies, the Leslies, the Macleods and others – before the frenzy of setting up our tents early the next day. While at the event we learned that Jim Maxwell, President of the VHGA will have a very special year ahead. He’s going to be King of the Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the first Canadian ever to hold this position. As we enjoyed our evening, Randy Stewart, the Cultural Chair told me that he had a gift for me, but wouldn’t tell me what it was until he could give it to me the next morning.

Photo by Shyrl Kennedy

Photo by Shyrl Kennedy

I’ve mentioned how welcoming the VHGA are. They provide the tents! That may not sound like a big deal, but when you’re traveling from Saskatoon to host a tent it’s a blessing to have the tent available for you. The materials we have for the tent keep expanding so the gun case that I bought to carry our banner poles is simply not big enough anymore. I’m going to have to invest in a hockey bag. After setting up our tent Saturday morning Randy brought us the gift. He had found a book written by Thomas Babington MacAulay, a very famous MacAulay. Such thoughtfulness and kindness is so reflective of Randy and the VHGA. The fly page had the year 1895 handwritten by the purchaser of the book. To think my Grandpa MacAulay was only 5 years old when this book was originally purchased. Amazing. It will be a treasured part of our clan tent for the years to come.

Photo by Shyrl Kennedy

Photo by Shyrl Kennedy

Photo by Shyrl Kennedy

Photo by Shyrl Kennedy

It was great having Kathy & Jim and Mike & Shyrl joining us (a) because we got to spend time with them, and (b) it gave Doug and I opportunities to wander and see friends such as Robbie from our favourite t-shirt tent (his grandmother was a MacAulay) and watch heavy games, pipes and drums competitions, sheep herding, falconry and much more. Alas, we weren’t signed up for whisky school. We were also given a crash course in how competitive the dance competitions are by people in the know. Who knew?

During the day we welcome people of any ancestry and try to help those with Scottish roots locate where their families came from in Scotland. As well as a Scottish clans map, we also have a whisky map and a standard road map for locating cities and towns. One visitor to our tent was a young man of the Matheson clan. He’s so enthusiastic and hopes to have a tent next year. A big part of the enjoyment of the Games is the time we spend with the other clans. The visitors come and go, but the clans are there for the duration and spending time with them is a joy. Stories and laughter abound.

Clan MacAulay. Photo by Shyrl Kennedy

Clan MacAulay. Photo by Shyrl Kennedy

Clan Leslie. Photo by Shyrl Kennedy

Clan Leslie (President Jim to the right). Photo by Shyrl Kennedy

After another lovely supper with Kathy & Jim and Mike & Shyrl on the harbour front it was time to head to yet another favourite part of the games for us. The beautiful torchlight ceremony in front of the BC legislature. Each clan is given a torch and announces to the crowd gathered that they are here for the games. The clans then form the Scottish saltire on the lawn. It was a lovely, although chilly, evening. In front of Doug and I was, from Clan Leslie, Troy’s adorable daughter, who this year did the calling by herself. That’s a hard act to follow! This year I decided to share the MacAulay prayer Lord make me right, for I canna change ma mind, which those gathered seemed to enjoy immensely. Hey, you have to inject fun at these events as much as possible. As always, a crowd favourite was Doug from Clan Campbell. Following the ceremony we headed over to the Strath for a wee drink before heading ‘home’ to rest up for the next day.

Sunday dawned as bright and beautiful as Saturday was. As there was no tent set-up per se, we had the chance to visit with our fellow clans (although some were a wee bit slow in getting there on a Sunday morning). Troy from Clan Leslie came up with a brilliant idea for next year. Why not have a clan breakfast on Sunday morning? All the clans manning tents would meet for a breakfast (we’d happily pay if the VHGA would set it up for us!); a great opportunity for us to spend time together and further bond.

(l-r) Doug, Kathy, Mike, young Matheson, Jim, Joan. Photo by Shyrl Kennedy

(l-r) Doug, Kathy, Mike, young Matheson, Jim, Joan. Photo by Shyrl Kennedy

As seems to be common with highland games, the opening ceremonies were on Sunday. This is yet another highlight for me. You’re led onto the field by a pipe band. The Stewarts are always the first clan to march, followed by the other clans in alpha order. I mentioned young Matheson earlier. Well, he was invited to march with the Stewarts but declined as he wanted to march with the MacAulays. So, he marched with us! I was very happy he joined us as I have a Matheson in my lineage. Once the clans are lined up on the edge of the field the massed pipes enter. It’s stirring. And there’s absolutely nothing like hearing Scotland the Brave done by massed pipes and drums. President Jim opened the games and the Honourary Chief Dr. Don Murdoch MacLeod, Baron of Rothie, gave a very inspiring address (his family is from Lewis). Jim’s daughter, with her beautiful voice, led us in the singing of Oh Canada. As we followed the pipers off the field we were once again joined by Doug of the Campbells to march with the MacAulays. It’s becoming a tradition!

Back to the tents and another enjoyable afternoon meeting people. All too soon it was time to dismantle our tent. As we’d booked our flights last year we didn’t know that the games were extended to Monday this year. So we missed a day of participating in the games but we enjoyed and made the most of the time we were there. Next year we’ll definitely be there all 3 days (I already have my flight booked). In 2016 we’ll also be able to participate in the Tartan Parade, held the weekend before the games, so we’re very excited about that.

And next year will be a very special Victoria Highland Games for us as we are hosting a Clan MacAulay gathering to coincide with it. Please come back and visit the Clan MacAulay Canada website for updates as they become available. The VHG are a games not to be missed and now you have the added incentive of the gathering! We hope to see MacAulays (of all spellings!) at our gathering May 18-23, 2016.

Slainte mhath!

Joan McAulay, Clan Commission, Western Canada