At 70 years, Games still go­ing strong

The Glengarry News - - Front Page - BY STEVEN WAR­BUR­TON News Staff

Seventy years ago, when Lorna Win­ter’s fa­ther sug­gested that the fam­ily take in the in­au­gu­ral Glen­garry High­land Games, her ini­tial re­ac­tion was one of re­luc­tance.

Her fam­ily lived in Fournier, a 20- minute car drive away, and Mrs. Win­ter’s fa­ther was ea­ger to see what the Games were about. So Mrs. Win­ter went and was blown away by the sheer pop­u­lar­ity of the then fledg­ling event.

“I re­mem­ber there were a whole lot of peo­ple there that I didn’t ex­pect,” says Mrs. Win­ter, ad­ding that she quickly be­came a life­long fan of the High­land Games – only miss­ing about five in its seven-decade his­tory.

Her friend, Jean Met­calfe, says she also be­came hooked on the Games af­ter at­tend­ing the first edi­tion. She’s only missed them once when she had to at­tend a wed­ding in Nova Sco­tia in 1955.

The two ladies were part of a contin­gent of peo­ple who had been to the very first Games way back in 1948. They were granted free ad­mis­sion to the Games, wel­comed to a re­cep­tion, and given their own ta­ble right near the in­field.

On Fri­day af­ter­noon, Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau made a sur­prise visit to the Games. Decked out in a kilt fea­tur­ing the Sin­clair tar­tan (his mother, Mar­garet, was a Sin­clair), the PM vis­ited the Sports Hall of Fame and then spent a good hour meeting peo­ple, shak­ing hands, and pos­ing for selfies.

It was not Mr. Trudeau’s first time to the Games. He was first here in 2015.

“I was here two years ago and I promised that I’d come back when I was Prime Min­is­ter,” he said.

Although Mr. Trudeau was an ob­vi­ous wel­come vis­i­tor, the heavy rain­fall – which plagued the Games at sev­eral in­ter­vals – was not.

As early as Thurs­day, Games lovers were anx­ious about the weather and, on Fri­day evening about an hour be­fore the Tat­too, Games Pres­i­dent Anne Ste­wart lamented about how the over­cast skies made it im­pos­si­ble for one of the Tat­too’s an­nual tra­di­tions – sky­divers de­scend­ing into the in­field bear­ing the flags of Scot­land, the United States, and Canada – to take place.

Ms. Ste­wart had noth­ing but praise for the pre­vi­ous evening’s Tar­tan Ball, which fea­tured “per­fect” en­ter­tain­ment by the MacLeod Fid­dlers and the MacCul­loch Dancers.

Although Fri­day evening’s early events man­aged to beat the rain – au­di­ences en­joyed the tra­di­tional early massed bands, High­land dancers, massed fid­dlers, tug of war com­pe­ti­tion (Sons of Glen­garry beat South Glen­garry in the fi­nals two draws to one) and the singing of the na­tional an­thems (new this year: the Canadian anthem was sung by a trio – Rachelle Camp­bell, Is­abelle Larocque and Camille Char­trand), the thun­der and light­ning picked up shortly af­ter­ward and the ma­jor­ity of the Tat­too had to be can­celled.

As such, peo­ple flocked to the beer tent and the Met­calfe Cen­tre, where they were able to so­cial­ize and lis­ten to some mu­sic.

There were a num­ber of changes at this year’s Games. One of the most no­table be­ing that the High­land Danc­ing com­pe­ti­tions were moved into the nearby arena. Some of the dancers said they ap­pre­ci­ated be­ing out of the rain, but a few com­mented that the heat (es­pe­cially on Fri­day) some­times made things un­com­fort­able.

By mov­ing the danc­ing to the arena, the Games com­mit­tee was able to free up the en­tire north side of the in­field, which made it pos­si­ble for an­other new event – rugby. In­deed, those near the north side were able to watch some in­for­mal matches of men’s squads, women’s squads, and ju­nior rugby.

Those rugby games ended on some­thing of an emo­tional note. Once the matches were over, the men re­tired to the Met­calfe Cen­tre where the Clans Squad treated them to free beer and gave them some com­mem­o­ra­tive T-shirts that paid tribue to their friend and fel­low player, Finch res­i­dent Nate McRae, who passed away on April 10 of brain cancer at the young age of 23. Some­thing else that was new was the ad­di­tion of a his­tory tent. Many lo­cal his­tory groups had in- for­ma­tion booths set up in there. Sir John A. Mac­don­ald could even be seen roam­ing the area and an­swer­ing ques­tions about his regime (for the record, he does not like his like­ness on the 10 dol­lar bill and re­grets the way he han­dled the Louis Riel sit­u­a­tion) and there was even a small plat­form so lo­cal his­tor­i­cal groups could talk about area his­tory. One of those pre­sen­ta­tions fea­tured Lochiel res­i­dent Chelsey MacPher­son, who, along with six other peo­ple, gave a demon­stra­tion of waulk­ing.

While the rain con­tin­ued to pour down on Satur­day, it was more of an in­con­ve­nience than it was a safety haz­ard. It hit on Satur­day af­ter­noon just as the open­ing cer­e­monies were getting un­der­way. When the sun broke through the clouds while Guest of Hon­our, Toronto Po­lice Pipe Band Ma­jor Bill Liv­ing­stone was speak­ing, he quipped: “I have been called ar­ro­gant be­fore, but I know that was not for me.” He also noted that when he helped win the world pipe band cham­pi­onships back in 1987 – be­com­ing the first ever non-Scot­tish band to win such a dis­tinc­tion – it was on a day so rainy that “it made to­day look like a nice day on a beach in Ber­muda.”

In­deed, Mr. Liv­ing­stone demon­strated a fine sense of hu­mour dur­ing his brief time on the stage. Af­ter be­ing es­corted there by a horse­drawn white car­riage, he noted: “I know that when that hap­pened to my low­land for­bears, they were be­ing taken to the gal­lows. So this is a bless­ing.”

Mr. Liv­ing­stone had kind words for Maxville, say­ing that he’d been to High­land games in sev­eral places and that “no one does this kind of thing the way Maxville does.”

Much was made at the Games of the pass­ing of Con­nie Kip­pen Blaney, who died in January at the age of 83. She was a for­mer Games pres­i­dent and a life­long piper who had been in­volved with the Games since their in­cep­tion in 1948.

“Wher­ever she played and com­peted, she al­ways won,” MC Reg Gam­ble said. “She brought fame to the com­mu­nity and, by ex­ten­sion, the High­land Games. Many Glen­gar­ri­ans are ac­com­plished pipers to­day be­cause of her.”

STEVEN WAR­BUR­TON PHOTO

PIPE BAND COM­PETES: Glen­garry’s Grade 5 Pipe Band com­petes at the High­land Games on Satur­day af­ter­noon. The lo­cal group placed sec­ond in its cat­e­gory, com­ing in just be­hind Ge­orge­town. The bass sec­tion was also judged best in the Grade 5 cat­e­gory.

STEVEN WAR­BUR­TON PHO­TOS

MORE IM­AGES FROM THE GAMES: From left: Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau meets some young fans. St-Isi­dore res­i­dent Char­lie Wil­lis, 3, gets some ju­nior caber toss­ing tips from vol­un­teer Bryan Ward of Wil­liamstown. Games Pres­i­dent Anne Ste­wart wel­comes...

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