Posted by: mindyourknitting | August 15, 2009

Mo Rhon i Fuar*

In undergrad I took a Scottish Gaelic language & literature class as an easy elective.  I chose this over other electives because my heritage is Scottish.  My mom is a genealogy nut and has traced the Grant family back several generations, discovering along the way that our branch of the family tree was brought to Canada in the late nineteenth century by George Grant of Urquhart, Morayshire, Scotland, who married Martha Matilda Stanhope after he immigrated to Nova Scotia.  These are my great-great-grandparents.  There are two streets in Halifax, Grant Street and Stanhope Street, that are named after my ancestors.  Beginning with George, several generations of Grant men worked at Rockhead  Prison in the north end of Halifax until it closed in the 1960s.  My mom’s research and family lore say that George began work at Rockhead as a hangman then worked his way up to Governor of the prison, with Martha acting as Matron of the prison.  They lived in the warden’s quarters with their (at least) 9 boys – none of the girls Martha bore survived.  These sons went on to be wardens of the prison after George, so there  is a close association of the Grant family with Rockhead and Halifax.  My grandfather used to tell me stories about his grandparents, and I’m sure I’ve tangled some details together, but in one Martha is almost kidnapped by two inmates seeking to escape in a rowboat, and in another George put down an inmate uprising with the help of a shady character named Crowell or Crow.  This stuff still fascinates me, partly because as a historian I want to know the details.  Unfortunately for me this type of genealogy and family legend almost never yields the whole story, but I love the fact that we have some family stories to flesh out the dates and names of genealogical research.  These are my roots, and while I am Canadian through and through I am proud of my Scottish heritage too, and wished I knew more about this lone immigrant, George Grant, who struck out on his own for a new country and built a life here in Canada.  The act of leaving everything you know to start a new life or find a new opportunity seems terrifying to me, but at the same time very cool.  I’ve daydreamed about chucking the life I know (keeping the husband and baby, but little else…running away to a tropical island, quitting my job to open a bakery, etc.) and doing something completely different – haven’t you?

So anyway, the best opportunity to fly my Scottish flag comes once a year at the  Glengarry Highland Games  in Maxville, Ontario.  It is one of  the largest Highland Games and gathering of the clans in the world, and we go whenever we can.   The experience has changed over the years, but it’s still a great time.  This year was markedly different from the first time I went – that time involved beer throwing and sign stealing and camping out.  (Thank you, KLR!)  This time obviously did not, but we still had a blast, right up until we all got sunstroke and a serious case of the crankies, or was that just me?



Erik, Abigail, and I went with my parents this year, which worked out really well as they helped with the baby-wrangling.  Actually, they disappeared with Abigail for over an hour, which gave us time to roam around on our own for a bit.  I forgot what hands-free stroller-less walking was like.  The games are set up exhibition-style, with food and vendor stalls lining walkways set up around a main outdoor stadium where the competitions (strength, highland dancing, pipe bands) are held.  We wandered around the perimeter of the field looking at the vendors’ wares, which included a lot of Celtic-themed jewellery and kilts of varying quality.  There were also a lot of Scottish-themed t-shirts, teddy bears, and baseball hats, and a lot of  j-u-n-k.  The food veered away from all things Scottish and included a nod to Canada (poutine), but Erik went native and tried a UK-only flavour of potato chips.  I don’t even want to know what Prawn Cocktail chips taste like.  Abigail tried her first SnoCone – loved it, preferred cherry to lime.  The Canadian Forces had a very strong presence at the games, with more than one recruiting tent and various vehicles and equipment on display. 

Something tells me not all of these people want to join the army...

Something tells me not all of these people want to join the army...did I mention there was free swag?


Abigail got to sit in a Snowbird, which was very cool. 


Where's the launch button?

Where's the launch button?

After walking around for a bit and grabbing a bite to eat, we sat to watch the opening ceremonies.  I love the small-scale pageantry: flags, uniforms, pomp and ceremony.



It was a scorcher of a day, and by the time the pipe bands took the field I had a hot, cranky baby on my hands, so had to bolt from our spot on a hill to try to find Abigail some shade.  I was kind of sad to miss some of the pipe bands, but saw the mass highland fling, and let me tell you there were some shaky flings on that field.   But the bands never disappoint, and if you like the bagpipes (I do, we even had a piper at our wedding) then it’s a pretty moving experience.




As I was walking Abigail up and down the roadway in front of a line of vendors the fellows at Instakilt came to my rescue and offered us a seat in the shade of their tent.  Abigail and I were saved from the blistering heat by lovely Scottish men in towels, so as a karmic thank-you I have provide a link to their site.  The idea is pretty genius, if you ask me, because real kilts can run you, like, a grand, easy.  Twenty bucks for a look-alike towel sounds good to me. 

To sum things up, we had a really nice time and I’m glad we went.  It takes a bit of extra effort to attend these sorts of things with a baby, but it’s so worth it.  Actually it takes extra planning and effort to do almost anything with a baby, but that’s a different post.  One that involves complaining about the ever-present diaper bag and feeling like a sherpa daily.  So, I have no pithy ending for this post, just that we had a good time and you should go if you can.  My pithlessness (?) can be blamed on the fact that Abigail kept us up for several hours last night and we had a full day of cottaging & pool partying today, so I’m a little tired, and she was exhaused by the time we got home, which translates into misery all around.  I’d say she’s teething but she’s faked us out before – but she didn’t have a fever or other obvious malady, she was just uncharacteristically miserable and clingy in the middle of the night.  So maybe teeth are coming, maybe not.  And I should go to bed now, because  my punctuation skillz have broken down entirely. 

Feasgar mhath.

*Translation: My nose is cold.


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