After a hectic day at Aboyne Highland Games the day before, it was another early start to the day. When you have to set up a tent and all the equipment it does take a bit of time and its great when members rally to the task as it is one of these arduous tasks that unfortunately have to be done.
Anyhow 8am Sunday morning it had all the signs of being a beautiful sunny day, with blue sky over head and even a heat in the sun even at that time in the morning.
No longer had we set up our tent and we had to make our way to the gathering point for the beginning of the tartan parade. It is hard to put into words when reaching the gathering point and you hear the numerous pipe bands all draped in their various tartans tuning and practicing their pipes and drums, stirring to say the least. A steward in a luminous green jacket paced back and forth on the road making sure everyone taking part in the procession was in order according to his plan.
11.00am and the strike up of the pipes and drums signaled the commencment of the mile long march from the top of Aberdeen’s main street to the bottom. To hear the pipes and drums practice etc before the march was inspirational enough, but marching behind them made the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. As the procession entered the main street the atmosphere of the pipes and drums were captured between the tall granite buildings on either side. Our position in the march was with other various Scottish cultural, historical and heritage groups behind the pipe bands and as we came in to view of the main street we could see the thousands of tourists and public alike who were thronging the streets in support of this Aberdeen Tartan Day when only ½ an hour before the streets were almost bare. As we marched down the length of the main street with all the crowds looking on, one felt a sense of patriotism, whether it was because you were marching behind a pipe band or because being dressed in your national dress and showing it to the world or a conglomeration of both I don’t know, but whatever the case there is something inside you that makes you proud to be Scottish.
Coming from Aberdeen and walking down Aberdeen’s main street many times, marching down the middle of the street as part of a procession, with no traffic gives a different prospective and view to the city’s main street. Being in the middle of the street you are able to see a view of the fabulous granite buildings which line either side of the street from a better angle, particularly if you look up you realise the magnificent architecture Aberdeen has to offer.
Anyhow as the march came to an end passing the Town House, then the Citadel over looking the Castlegate and onto King Street the pipe bands played a number of various sets before falling out. The end of the procession as it was all the way down the street was surrounded in applause and cheers.
The parade down Aberdeen’s main street must have been the best seen in many years with a good representation of pipe bands from both home and abroad, this being partially due to the change of day so as not to collide with Aboyne Highland Games. As well as pipe bands and all the cultural, history and heritage groups, the back end of the procession included various musical groups from the international youth festival, a steel band and a group from Belgium who displayed all the various international flags. Although they were not dressed in Tartan for the day, they did make the day more colorful with their appearance.
With the procession at an end we endeavored to make our way back to our display tent being stopped in the street every two minutes for a request for photographs. Back at the tent in the Gardens beneath the Wallace Statue we were rushed off our feet with the number of people wanting to handle, learn and get their photograph with the weapons we had on display. The tent itself was always full with people reading the various literature displayed on our information boards, this being a new addition within the tent seemed to go down very well, with a lot of positive and great feedback.
At 13.30 the Wallace 700 held a commemoration to William Wallace at the magnificent Wallace Statue up above the gardens, some of us took time away from the tent to attend the important ceremony. The commemoration began with a series of pipe tunes played by the Kintore pipe band. The service lasted for ½ an hour, which included a re-enactment of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath, which occurred of course 15 years after the murder of Wallace. The ceremony ended with the pipe lament of Scots Wha Hae and the majority of the on looking crowd getting involved by singing the words of the tune, written by Robert Burns, truly inspirational.
Returning to our stand once again, we carried on where we left off answering questions from tourists and public alike, with Big Brian becoming a bit of a celebrity icon being overwhelmed with requests for a photograph to be taken with him, so much so that it put the likes of Brad Pitt into the shadows.
The afternoon in the gardens continued in the sunshine, with entertainment from various musicians like Phil Cunningham & Ally Bain and Ted Christopher playing on the stage. The Gardens in the centre of Aberdeen is a great amphitheatre and I am at mixed feelings about the new proposals to alter them doing away with this secluded island within the busy city.
As the day drew to and end and although it was a fabulous day second to none, I was personally glad it was almost over as it had been a busy weekend and tiredness was catching up. After packing up it was a great relief to retreat to the nearest pub to relax for a well deserved cold beer.
It is not customary to publically thank our own members for their efforts towards an event, but as Secretary I would like to take the opportunity to do so, because I think it is well warranted on this occasion for making the weekend such a great success.
To Kenny Luke as representative of Aberdeen City Council for not only inviting us back to the event this year and for showing us first class hospitality, but for organising an event which promoted the culture, history and heritage of Scotland to such a high caliber.
To Davie MacKay, Bill McElhaney and Frank Gallagher from Braveheart and River City for welcoming us into their company and sharing the evening with us.
By Jim Singer