Ceres Highland Games

It was a warm but overcast day for the Ceres Highland Games and a huge crowd turned out. Ceres is a beautiful old village in the centre of Fife. The games are held on the village green which has a slight hill so it’s like an arena although you have to watch you don’t fall in the burn that runs along one side. It has happened. Apparently Robert the Bruce gave the village a charter to hold the Games in thanks for the support of the village men at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. The Games used to take place on the battle’s anniversary (24 June) but are now held the last Saturday of June. This year’s Chieftain was Sir Menzies Campbell who was there in his rather jaunty tartan trews.

Villages and towns across Scotland hold Highland Games and they all vary slightly. All the events go on at the same time so you see cycling, dancing, shotputt, running, and tug-of-war, etc,  all going on at the same time around the arena. I was very excited to see wrestling on the timetable today. Men in kilts wrestling. Loverly jubberly.  Also, women (not in kilts) wrestling. I only saw two contestants for that particular event and, sorry to say, they looked a bit like two women in a drunken brawl on a Friday night in many a high street across the UK. The Scottish dancing competition went on for four, yes four hours. I don’t know how the piper had enough puff to play the bagpipes for that long. I watched the hornpipe which I’d missed at Newburgh. Some families must spend their whole summers wandering the country taking part in the competitions. It takes great dedication and practice.

Ceres also has a tug-of war competition. The local team were very popular in their kilts but the winners were a very professional team from Inverness who dug their heels in and just waited for the other side to get worn out.  Good tactic. The contestants for the heavy events seemed to be the same chaps as at the Newburgh Games. A Swiss chap comes over every weekend to take part in the games and seems to be well known. He got a huge cheer when on this third and final throw he managed successfully to toss the caber. He didn’t win. A very large, strong Polish chap won with a magnificent throw of 37 feet. Oby tak dalej. Brawo. Na zdrowie. As we say in Polish.

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The Ballad of Ceres Games

Whene’er, my friends, you are inclined
To Ceres Game, just bear in mind
That thereby hangs an ancient tale
Which faithfully I’ll now retail.

In Thirteen fourteen came the call –
‘Lest Scotland yield to Edward’s thrall,
Ilk man that’s fit tae carry spear
And holds his country’s freedom dear,
Put by the scythe and leave your hearth
And show the English what you’re worth;
Mak’ haste to join his Royal Grace
And face the foe that comes apace.’

In Western Isles, in Buchan lands,
The call was borne wi’ fiery brands;
In Galloway, in Angus glens,
The length o’ Fife, its howes and dens;
And so in Ceres, Beaton’s feu
Where nineteen men baith stark and true
Assembled on the village green –
Young Wat the miller, Andro Bean,
Magnus Bethune, his brother Tam,
Father and son ca’ed McIlwham,
John Heggie and his stalwart sons,
The Logies and the Morrisons.
And there they made a solemn band
To follow Bruce and win the land,
To haud thegither, close and tight,
On march and through the bloody fight,
And safely come – all scaith forfend –
Hame to this meadow at the end.

By Wemyss, Kirkcaldy and Cuross,
Dunfermline, syne Kincardine Moss,
The nineteen marched, some brash and bright,
Some fearful o’ the coming fight.
At ilka hamlet on the way
The puir folk cam’ wi’ bread and whey;
While as the burns feed into streams
And jostling torrent foams and reams,
At ilka road – end others came,
None ken’d but some o’ distant fame,
Till one unbroken column swelled,
By joint resolve and faith impelled;
United under Bruce’s crown,
All cam’ at last tae Stirling town.

Next day the armies ready lay,
And when the Scots began to pray,
Edward who thought to him they kneeled
Soon learned they had no mind to yield;
De Bohun was felled by Bruce’s axe,
His bowmen fled from swift attacks;
You ken the rest, how English might
By Scottish spears was put to flight.

Next day dawned, the dying stirred,
And priestly benisons were heard.
The men of Ceres met and stared –
And counted – asked how each had fared;
And high their spirits ‘gan to soar
For they had all survived – and more –
Had played their part in victory
And ta’en their part in victory.
The nineteen marched for Fife that day,
Borne up by cheers along the way;
To Ceres Green at last they came,
The whole town there to see them hame.
And syne the folk took up the cry
‘Let’s hold a Games where all men vie
At louping, running, riding horse,
At wapinschaw, all kinds of sports;
Let’s hold them yearly from now on,
Remembering what our lads have done.’

And so, my friends, whene’er you stand
At Ceres Games – revere that band
That took their place at Bannockburn
And lived to make a safe return.

There’s lots more info and history here: http://www.ceresgames.co.uk/

~ by marysia on 27 June 2010.

One Response to “Ceres Highland Games”

  1. Hi there! Great pictures, i was wondering if you had anymore of the tug of war? We were a man short for our team so had to enlist the help of my nine year old son! You have one of us pulling against inverness in your slide show but i was hoping you might have a closer one that you could send me? I thought the sight of a wee boy pulling with the heavy weights would be up on the games site but yours is the only one i have come accross.
    Glad you had a good day!
    (p.s. the big strong polish fella is Sebastian Wenta,placed 2nd in 2007 worlds strongest man!)

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