Monday, August 20, 2007

Hearts Of Plaid

The lads and lasses of We Make History gather together in celebration of Highland victories. Why? Because they clan!

Adapted from the Gaelic diaries of Christopher the Jacobite
Pictorial Assistance by Michael C.

(Click any photo for a closer view!)

1745.

Bonnie Prince Charley lands in Scotland, albeit with few men and no munitions. Yet still he rallies the clans to his side. They appear one by one on a warm August evening: Clan Maricopa, Clan Prescott, Clan Tucson, Clan Phoenix, Clan Flagstaff. Some Korean missionaries offer their alliance and friendship in return for a few photographic mementos and a pledge of protection against Japan.

The lads display their swords with great eagerness, some already armoured in readiness of a lengthy series of skirmishes, whatever it takes to return the House of Stuart to the throne. A plethora of lasses accompany them, steadfast and beautiful, knowing full well every able body will be needed to secure a British defeat.




Developments tilt heavily in their favour. Word arrives from Prestonpans of a quick and decisive victory, one secured in a matter of minutes as the bloody redcoats retreat in minutes, running from the battlefield. Aye, Edinburgh is ours. London is next. Victory is near! Tonight we celebrate the imminent success.

After an opening march, the Bonnie Prince addresses the excited ensemble with a few reminders of courtesy.

"Every lad is expected to dance with as many ladies as possible!" he commands with regal authority. "Any lad who cannot live up to this is not fit to march on London!"

And, he adds, every lad is expected to know how to bow. He calls upon a noted commander of his forces, a battle-tested leader with a reputation for fine dancing in addition to hard drilling. Yet standing before the prince in his dark blue embroidered jacket and fine tartan, he is mysteriously unable to demonstrate the required honours.

What be this?

An eager highlander is already jumping at the opportunity. He stands among the gathered in his bright red Stuart Royal tartan and blue Jacobite bonnet with a Cameron Clan pin on his wrap, a tribute to his mum's ancestry.

"Mr. Francis!" the Bonnie Prince observes, directing the attention of the hall to the volunteer. The eyes of every lad and lass, some 80 or more, now fall on him. Mary Queen of Scots, Robert The Bruce, and William Wallace await the demonstration. With as much grace as he can muster, the highlander falls back on one leg, spreading his arms apart as he lowers his head, offering a courtly bow.

"Ah! Can ye show us another way?"

Another way? the highlander muses. That is the way for him, the way he learned it from a dancing master in Williamsburg during his many travels. Maybe I just put my leg out and bow over it without falling back... He does so knowing full well it does not look much different, yet it is satisfactory for the Bonnie Prince, who offers a third, simpler way. The dancing commences.

Lads seek lasses for a circle mixer. The anxious Jacobite falls back on his reliable, proven method of securing a dancing companion, seeking out a lonesome pair of eyes or the beckoning smile from a lady standing just outside the centre of activity. But he finds none as he wanders about the floor, or others have found them first.

Fear washes over him. I am going to be marooned! he shudders, unable to comprehend how he might end up alone, especially after his display of grace. An upsetting truth reveals itself: usually the proportion of ladies to gentlemen leans overwhelmingly in favor of the lads. Tonight, the odds seem even.

Time is escaping him. The crowd is joining hands.

I cannot be alone!

But just as hope flickers out, he finds an unapproached lass and hastily bows low to her, almost in desperation, yet garnering acceptance with a smile and appropriate honour.

Not to worry, a friend later advises him. The lasses still outnumber the lads by his count. He advises the blue-bonneted highlander to seek out the ladies sitting down.


He would have little time to impress his newfound partner, as the first dance mixes the gathering through numerous changes of companions. They step in circles around the room, joining hands and stepping back and forth to the centre with a joyous kick. The enthusiastic lad pours his joy into his feet, skipping in steps others merely walk through.

"Save some for later!" a friend suggests after seeing the Highlander’s sprightly steps in the opening promenade.

But this is his love, his joy, the one diversion uplifting him above all others, the stuff of his dreams. He allows no dampening of his passion as the smile fixes upon his face, dance after dance, reminding himself that fatigue is no excuse to impress a beautiful lass across from him in the set. He removes his sporran, that anchor around his waist which serves no purpose but to slap against him, tormenting him like the musket fire of the pitiful English.



The dance hall fills with the music of the Bonnie Prince Charlie's Angels, crime fighters and beloved accompanists. They play under the command and call of Miss Becky, beloved dancing mistress who never fails to lead the cavorting masses to terpsichorean victory.

But ah, the crowd longs for a Highland breeze! This is Scotland, is it not? We should be enjoying a cool dampness instead of monsoonal humidity!

"Maybe we could get a breeze from Loch Ness," the blue-bonneted lad remarks after several mops of his watering brow.

"Aye," another lad responds. "We might just smell the monster."

Several lasses help quench the relentless thirst with ample liquid sustenance, partaken as generously as it is given. Water and punch rehydrate the multitudes who fan themselves or turn to a modern relief.

"Careful, Marilyn Monroe," the Bonnie Prince dryly admonishes as the spirited Highlander plants himself in front of the anachronistic windmill. His kilt billows and ripples above his knees, endangering his modesty, even with his hands holding it in place.

(We shall note the lad has indeed taken appropriate countermeasures against embarrassment. And though it would not be an issue on this night, he has also trained himself to answer the irritating standard question of non-Scots with a simple reply: "My legs.")

Revitalized, he leaps at the opportunity to dance a Highland Jig. But this jig more resembles a Highland Fling, a product of some study and practice, but mostly just a free hand raised above him, a few well-placed hops from one foot to the other, and a heartfelt commitment: If you're going to put on a kilt, learn the Fling!



The efforts do not go unrewarded as others seek to imitate, lasses facing him and matching his steps as the spirit of the dance infects the hall. It is satisfying, yet fatiguing, and his exertion leaves him planted once again in front of the mechanical windmill, his chest forward and head tilted back, beckoning the air to refresh him.

"You deserve it, Christopher," the Bonnie Prince compliments without a warning of kilt-lifting.

"The Sword Dance would be nice," the blue-bonneted Jacobite ponders. "There's one over there. I just need another." But that will have to wait for another time. The gathering practice their Highland Charge. Woe to the Englishmen who stands before this!



Cheers of "Huzzah!" accompany every announcement and follow every dance. Polite applause does not convey enough spirit, refined though it may be. The Highlanders must intimidate and celebrate in the same breath.

Winded yet determined, the lad in Royal Stuart garb seizes every chance to cavort, refusing to bow to fatigue. I made it to Edinburgh, didn't I? The gathered clans share his resolve, and without fail, they are drawn into a reward of extraordinary bliss.

A moment arrives during one final mixer of the evening -- a stew of small circles, right- and- left-hand stars and do-si-do's -- when the spirit of the dance consumes the masses, when walking steps transform into skipping steps and bows and curtseys sink lower and flow deeper from the heart. The Highlander raises his free hand during the stars, first observing he is one of few doing so... and then noticing everybody is doing it... and nobody is calling the steps any more. The pinnacle of joy is upon them, hearts joined in peace through dancing. The happy multitudes create a new world for themselves, if only for a few precious moments, one they shall return to in times of reminiscing many days later.

It is not Heaven, but you can feel it from here.

During a last waltz with a beautiful young lass, the Jacobite spies a lively pair of Highland women. He later offers words of astonishment.

"You two were wonderful," he says, commenting on their stylized, ballet-style footwork that unquestionably has them thinking outside the box step. "I have never seen a waltz like that. George Balanchine couldn’t have choreographed that any better."

Did every lad follow orders, the Bonnie Prince inquires, and dance with as many lasses as possible?

"Huzzah!"

Three cheers for the Bonnie Prince!

"Hip hip, HUZZAH! Hip hip, HUZZAH! Hip hip, HUZZAH!"


The gathering retires to the local inn, where containing their enthusiasm for the sake of the slumbering seems impossible. They shush themselves repeatedly, afraid of the innkeepers' wrath. Some retreat outside. But all bask in the afterglow, which dissolves into dawn.

Morning has broken, evidence of the Lord's greatness, and the faithful offer their prayers and testimonies, thanksgiving for their blessings and God's presence in their lives. Tears flow from eyes, the product of humble hearts consumed by the Holy Spirit, tears of joy. Happy tears, like the rain that enriches the earth and sprouts the seeds, that fill the rivers and the oceans, that give life to the barren and hope to the hopeless.

To the field of battle!

Kilted and stoked, the sides meet on the green. You take the high road, and I’ll take the centre. Hike!

"D" is the key in the Highland Bowl. Let us see the English get by these lines, populated by blitzers and rushers and lightning-fast wee ones who can exploit the tiniest weakness. Lasses prove they are just as worthy as the lads in the fight. The passing game is crucial, but the interceptions and incompletes add up.

But victory shall be ours, and the ties of two previous contests shall be settled, as evidenced by the scorecard.

Game One by the measure of one and twenty to nil.

Game Two by the measure of nine to seven, including a rare safety.

Through the course of both matches, "everyone was both a zero and a hero," the Bonnie Prince notes in the post-game analysis. The talented Tracy takes MVP. And every lad and lass of the gathered clans take home many glorious memories, summed up in a trademark cry:

HUZZAH!


More images and stories of Highland glory here!

NEXT: Yeeeee-haw!

2 comments:

desertrose said...

Christopher! This blog was terrific! I LOVED it! I have been so anxious to hear about this event. Everyone looks wonderful in their Highland finery. Loved reading your blog --- excellent writing! Loved the pictures! Your friend takes some awesome photos! Please tell him I said so. You look like you were in heaven, doing what you love to do....dance, dance, dance! Glad you had a terrific time and thanks for sharing with us!

Your humble servant and friend.
Le meas, Rosemary

faye dehoff said...

Chris...
I once again enjoyed your latest entry from "The Highlands"! I have been so busy that I didn't get a chance to read it until now.
I love your outfit!!!! You look like a true Scotsman! Continue your adventures and continue letting us be a part of them! I miss seeing you around!
Faye