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The 149th Victoria, BC Highland Games & Celtic Festival

Beyond the Books


My Englishman and I stepped out on Sunday, and took the ferry over to the 149th Victoria Highland Games and Celtic Festival.  It was a day full of pipes, kilts, whisky, dancing lasses and sword-bearing lads.

An Outlandish day, indeed.

His eyes opened, and his head snapped up.  The tipper struck the drum with a sudden thunk!  And it began with a shout from the crowd.  His feet struck down on the pounded earth, to the north and the south, to the east and the west, flashing swift between the swords.

His feet struck soundless, sure on the ground, and his shadow danced on the wall behind him, looming tall, long arms upraised.  His face was still toward me, but he didn’t see me any longer, I was sure.

The muscles of his legs were strong as a leaping stag’s beneath the hem of his kilt, and he danced with all the sill of the warrior he had been and still was.  But I thought he danced now only  for the sake of memory, that those watching might not forget; danced, with the sweat flying from his brow as he worked, and a look of unutterable distance in his eyes.

Diana Gabaldon, The Fiery Cross (Chapter 35 – Hogmanay)



“So, you Scotch, or you just wearing a skirt?”

Having heard several dozen variations of that pleasantry, Roger gave the man a bland look.

“Well, as my auld grand-da used to say,” he said, thickening his accent atrociously, “when ye put on yer kilt, laddie, ye ken for sure yer a man!”

The man doubled up appreciatively, and Brianna rolled her eyes.

“Kilt jokes,” she muttered. “God, if you start telling kilt jokes, I’ll drive off and leave you, I swear I will.”


Roger grinned at her.

“Och, now ye wouldna do that, would ye, lass?  Go off and leave a man, only because he’ll tell ye what’s worn under the kilt, if you like?”

Her eyes narrowed into blue triangles.

Oh, I’d bet nothing at all’s worn under that kilt,” she said, with a nod at Roger’s sporran.  “Why, I’ll bet everything under there is in pairrrrrrrfect operrrating condition, no?”


Roger choked on a french fry.

“You’re s’posed to say “Give us your hand, lassie, and I’ll show you,’ ” the food vendor prompted.  “Boy, if I’ve heard that one once, I’ve heard it a hunderd times this week.”

“If he says it now,” Brianna put in darkly, “I’ll drive off and leave him marooned on this mountain.  He can stay here and eat octopus, for all I care.”

Roger took a gulp of Coca-Cola and wisely kept quiet.

Diana Gabaldon, Drums of Autumn (Chapter 4 – A Blast from the Past)


I came around a corner, and smack into a group of clansmen.  These were men I didn’t know, come from the outlying clan lands, and unused to the genteel manners of a castle.  Or so I deduced from the fact that one man, apparently in search of the latrines, gave it up and chose to relieve himself in a corner of the hallway as I came upon them.

I whirled at once, intending to go back the way I had come, stairs or no stairs.  Several hands reached to stop me, though, and I found myself pressed against the wall of the corridor, surrounded by bearded Highlanders with whisky on their breath and rape on their minds.

Diana Gabaldon, Outlander (Chapter 10 – The Oath-Taking)


“As long as but a hundred of us remain alive,” he said precisely, “never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule.  It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom — for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.”

The Declaration of Arbroath,” he said, opening his eyes.  He gave me a lopsided smile.  “Written some four hundred years ago.  Speaking o’ principles, aye?”

Diana Gabaldon, A Breath of Snow and Ashes (Chapter 53 – Principles)


“There’s more.  Internal evidence.”  Roger’s voice betrayed his pride.  “See there?  It’s an article against the Excise Act of 1764 advocating the repeal of the restrictions on export of liquor from the Scottish Highlands to England.  Here it is” — his racing finger stopped suddenly on a phrase — “for as has been known for ages past, “Freedom and Whisky gang tegither.” ‘ See how he’s put that Scottish dialect phrase in quotes?  He got it from somewhere else.”

“He got it from me,” I said softly.  “I told him that — when he was setting out to steal Prince Charles’s port.”

“I remembered.” Roger nodded, eyes shining with excitement.

“But it’s a quote from Burns,” I said, frowning suddenly.  “Perhaps the writer got it there — wasn’t Burns alive then?”

“He was,” said Bree smugly, forestalling Roger.  But Robert Burns was six years old in 1765.”


“And Jamie would be forty-four.”  Suddenly, it all seemed real.  He was alive — had been alive, I corrected myself, trying to keep my emotions in check.  I laid my fingers flat against the manuscript pages, trembling.

“And if –” I said, and had to stop to swallow again.

“And if time goes in parallel, as we think it does — ” Roger stopped, too, looking at me.  Then his eyes shifted to Brianna.

She had gone quite pale, but both lips and eyes were steady, and her fingers were warm when she touched my hand.

“Then you can go back, Mama,” she said softly.  “You can find him.”

Diana Gabaldon, Voyager (Chapter 21 – Q.E.D)



He turned the stocking tops down neatly, and slid the antler-handled sgian dhu inside, tight against his right calf.  He laced the buskins quickly, hurrying a little.  He wanted to find Brianna again, have a little time to walk round with her, get her something to eat, see she had a good seat for the performances.

He flung the plaid over one shoulder, fastened his brooch, belted on dirk and sporran, and was ready. Or not quite.  He halted, halfway to the door.

The ancient olive-drab drawers were military issue, circa World War II – one of Roger’s few mementos of his father.  He didn’t bother with pants much in the normal course, but included these with his kilt sometimes as a defensive measure against the amazing boldness of some female spectators.  He’d been warned by other performers, but wouldn’t have believed it, had he not experienced it firsthand.  German ladies were the worst, but he’d known a few American women run them a close second for taking liberties in close quarters.

Diana Gabaldon, Drums of Autumn (Chapter 4 – A Blast from the Past)

the big guy

A Highlander in full regalia is an impressive sight — any Highlander, no matter how old, ill-favored, or crabbed in appearance.  A tall, straight-bodied, and by no means ill-favored young Highlander at close range is breath-taking.

The thick red-gold hair had been brushed to a smooth gleam that swept the collar of a fine lawn shirt with tucked front, belled sleeves, and lace-trimmed wrist frills that matched the cascade of the starched jabot at the throat, decorated with a ruby stickpin.

His tartan was a brilliant crimson and black that blazed among the more sedate MacKenzies in their green and white.  The flaming wool, fastened by a circular silver brooch, fell from his right shoulder in a graceful drape, caught by a silver studded sword belt before continuing it’s sweep past neat calves clothed in woolen hose and stopping just short of the silver-buckled black leather boots.  Sword, dirk, and badger skin sporran completed the ensemble.

Diana Gabaldon, Outlander (Chapter 14 – A Marriage Takes Place)


We had a great day!  Thank you to the organizers and participants for putting on such a fabulous event.  Can’t wait until the 150th Games next year…




  1. Ishtar
    May 22, 2012 at 3:16 am

    loving the sound of the pipes sends chills down me back every time i hear it wish i could go to one of these

    • Theresa
      May 24, 2012 at 6:45 am

      Maybe one day, Ishtar?

  2. Aaron Brown
    May 22, 2012 at 6:06 am

    verra cool!! Thanks for sharing!

    • Theresa
      May 24, 2012 at 6:45 am

      My pleasure, Aaron!

  3. Gisela Giussi
    May 22, 2012 at 6:15 am

    how nice! I would love to go one day! thank you so much for sharing with us! keep up the good work! =)

    • Theresa
      May 24, 2012 at 6:45 am

      There must be a Toronto Highland Games on in the spring or summer, Gisela…your kids would love it!

  4. The Mom Chef
    May 22, 2012 at 6:49 am

    I had so much fun looking at this. I kept trying to see which Scotsman had kilt that was a single huge piece of material, and which came already pleated. That part of it absolutely fascinates me. The guy doing the shot put (?) looks like he might have the real deal (darn if he isn’t wearing shorts though!).

    Thanks for documenting your day and sharing it with us. It was fantastic.

    • Theresa
      May 24, 2012 at 6:44 am

      Glad you enjoyed it, Christiane!

  5. mariemck
    May 22, 2012 at 8:54 am

    I like the way you use the quotes from the books along with your photos. I’d love to be up there for the 150th games.

    • Theresa
      May 24, 2012 at 6:44 am

      Thank you, Marie! We hope to see you here next year…

  6. shauntih
    May 22, 2012 at 9:42 am

    I love the sound of the pipes, and watching them reminded me of marching band. I’m listening to “Calling All Pipers” on Tunin Radio as we speak. I wish I could play the pipes, but I learned the flute, not a reed instrument. Of course, my mom kicked me out of the house when I practiced the piccolo, so I don’t know if she would have put up with the pipes.

    • Theresa
      May 24, 2012 at 6:43 am

      I think you need a hermetically sealed room to practice the pipes without disturbing the neighbours, Shauntih!

  7. Shari
    May 22, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Thanks for sharing your pics. It looks like it was a lot of fun!

    • Theresa
      May 24, 2012 at 6:43 am

      We had a great time, Shari!

  8. deniz
    May 22, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    I love Highland Games photos! I’m hoping to attend a couple in August.

    • Theresa
      May 24, 2012 at 6:42 am

      Here’s hoping you get there, Deniz!

  9. Laura
    July 21, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Aw, your photos made me homesick and brought back some great memories. I live now in Colorado, but grew up in Arkansas. From middle to High School I belonged to the Arkansas Country Dance Society with my parents. Scottish Country Dance was one of the more advanced types we performed. We attended the Scottish Festival at Lyons College in Batesville, and I always left the weekend with pipes and drums ringing in my ears.

    • Theresa
      July 22, 2012 at 12:10 pm

      I love a good Highland Games, and this one was a blast!

Comments are closed.