Captains Log: Irish-Scottish-Welsh-Norse fest

The bands entering the parade field

The Drum Major
The weather was perfect for attending the Irish fest we had heard about in Hamilton, just down the road aways from Missoula. We had directions to use the Hamilton high school parking lot and catch a shuttle to wherever the festivities were so off we went to find the high school. Turned out to be a huge parking lot for a small town high school. No waiting for the shuttle (a school bus) so after a short jaunt, we were pulling into this beautiful property with a mansion and very nicely landscaped grounds. Lots of tents. This was going to be great.

This is the guy carrying a broadsword
You could hear the bag pipes tuning up as we approached. There were several bands with pipes and drums and kilts. Lots of kilts were everywhere, not just the band members. Occasionally you saw a double-handed broad sword on the back of a guy wearing a kilt, which made the the whole look a little tougher. I wasn’t too sure the Irish wore kilts, so I figured they were Scotts. Some of them were, but others were Irish, or Irish/Scotts, or maybe even Welsh. Didn’t seem to matter. They had tents set up to help you decide which one you wanted to be by tracing your name or your mother’s name to a list of clans with (usually) a picture of a plaid. I already knew my mother’s side of the family was Irish, but I didn’t know anything about a plaid (or a tartan). Janie was sure I would look great in a kilt. I was sure I would look great with a big broadsword. The guy who helped me find my plaid was explaining how quality plaids could cost seven to eight hundred dollars. You could tell a good quality plaid because the plaid would be exactly horizontal across the back and not tilted to one side. I was having trouble reconciling the warrior with the broadsword worrying about how his plaid looked from behind. I didn’t ask how much the broadswords cost.

The Celtic Dragons
Since kilts don’t have pockets, you have to wear a purse if you want to carry your stuff. The purse is round, about six inches across, and can have tassels or a badge to butch it up. Just hang it on a chain attached to a leather belt to complete the ensemble.  So how do you wear all this without turning in your man card? Easy. You throw a caber, or a ball and chain (although it’s called a stone throw), or use a pitch fork to loft a satchel over a cross bar or some other manly feat. The caber toss was a favorite. The caber is long wooden pole maybe eight inches across and ten to fifteen feet long (there were several sizes). You start with the caber standing straight up, then squat and balance it with your shoulder while you dead lift it and run forward (which is to say while you tilt it forward then try to keep up) at the last second before it falls you heave it as hard as you can and try to flip it completely over such that it lands on its head and falls forward. Nobody cares how far it goes, just as long as it falls forward. Wearing a kilt is a bonus, so you don’t have to worry about splitting your pants. The was also a female competitor. I only saw one guy who managed to flip the caber over, and he wasn’t the biggest guy there. Between athletic competitions, we got to hear Irish bands, see traditional Irish dances (demonstrated in one instance by a young River Dancer who couldn't pass up the chance to dance a jig) and eat traditional, and not so traditional, food. We washed down our Pasties with some of the local brews and even tossed down some shots of single malt in a nod to our unknown Scottish ancestors.
Dancing competitors

Our favorite band, Malarkey

This little fella was getting his jig on

Janie's people were there too!

The opening ceremony was the first time we got to hear the pipes played with the drums in a marching band. Bag pipes are traditionally an instrument of war and it was strangely moving to hear them played by the Celtic Dragons, one of the local bands. During the opening ceremony and at various times during the day, a brief history of the Scotts, Irish, Welsh, Gauls, and Norse was presented. At various times, one group or the other would conquer their neighbors, raping and pillaging until all the blood lines were all mixed up. Then the Norse came along and screwed everyone all over again. So if you’re fair skinned or can eat dairy products without making yourself sick (a mutation found primarily in people of northern european descent), you probably have some ancestry from all of the above. So pick a plaid and wear it with pride.


  1. I am longing to go to our local Celtic Fest, in Sept. We always have a good time. We have a few favorite bands, but none that are coming this year. I could listen to bagpipes all day. Yours looked like a good festival. Slainte!

  2. Sounds like a great time. I love listening to bagpipes but only for a while! When we lived in Ottawa, every year thay had a huge Scotish festival not far away and we had always wanted to go but never did. Now I am going to have to make sure that we see something similar to what you have seen, I think we would enjoy it. Thank you for giving us an idea of what we missed in Ottawa.

    Kevin and Ruth

  3. looks like my kind of festival - love the sound of bag pipes

  4. Good point about the advantage of not splitting your pants, but you didn't answer the age old question: Do they wear anything under those kilts? :)

    Perhaps you found the answer to that during all the raping and pillaging?

  5. Looks like great fun, even if some of those folks look pretty serious:)

  6. Bagpipes and drums make for a great parade sound.


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