Singing, Football and Good Cheer!

Evan McKemon University of Aberdeen, Scotland


October 20, 2014

The past week has been filled with music, athleticism, and good cheer! It began with the National Mòd in Inverness, onto the first Gaelic football game at Queen Margaret’s University, outside Edinburgh, then at Malone’s Pub in downtown Aberdeen!

I woke up at 0515 to catch a train up to the capital of the Highlands. The scenery on the way was unbelievable - if you didn’t know it, you would have thought you were dreaming. I found my way to the tourist hub and began exploring the local sights around Inverness.

About 1020 I headed to the Culloden battlefield site. I read about the Battle of Culloden in 1746 loads of times and was aware of what occurred; 2000/+6000 pro-absolute Stuart monarchical Jacobites were killed/executed by the pro-British Hanoverian government forces, but nothing prepared me for the aura that was present when one entered into this heather filled and peat graveyard.

The battlefield was marked with red flags where the pro-British government lines were and about 150 yards further you saw the blue lines of the pro-Stuart monarchy forces. The feeling that fermented inside you was one similar to walks to the 9/11 memorial in NYC-as one of professors said, “You just know something awful happened here.”-except this is the graveyard of over 2000 men, under the heather and large puddles that I walked over. It’s something that you must experience for itself to see where the last hand to hand combat battle on the British mainland took place. One of the things I reflected on was how far men would take their actions and their lives to a certain cause and how powerful ideology can truly be.

It also was the beginning of the destruction of Highland culture which then caused thousands of Scots to leave Scotland and emigrate to the far flung reaches of the British Empire (including the up and coming United States.)

This is where my area of interest begins within Imperial Studies, the Scots displacement and emigration to British colonies. In a weird way, I feel like I’m tied to this point in history because this is where I begin my career as a student and hopefully one day a professor.

Onto the town of Inverness! I find a session in a pub and since it is the National Mòd Festival, which is Scots Gaelic for ‘music’, there was Scots Gaelic singing and conversation on the streets like you wouldn’t believe. I didn’t believe I was in Scotland for a couple hours. I thought I was in some other European country where English was a 2nd language. A couple Canadians with a Scots Gaelic singing choir, a gentleman from Nairns, and I were singing and clapping along the fiddles, guitars, and accordions in the pubs. We didn’t know a word they were singing except ‘Uisge Bhath’-pronoucned (oi-sch-ga va) which literal translation is ‘Water of Life’ but it is not referring to water in Scots Gaelic, it is Whisky! God bless the Scots!

Fast forward to Saturday afternoon. 2pm. The air is cool and hearts are pumping furiously for ball up. Sweat rolling down our brows as the first game of the season is about to go. The ref blows his whistle. The thought flew by in my head-“LET SLIP THE DOGS OF WAR!” It was a ferocious half of guys breaking tackles, stiff-arming, and checking each other to the ground. 60 minutes of blood, sweat, and tears as the Aberdeen University Gaelic Football team victoriously grabbed the field against Queen Margaret’s University outside Edinburgh. We left the field exhausted after a roughing up of a game. The final score was 6.16-1.4 (44-7).

About 30 minutes into the carried back home to Aberdeen, I lead the lads in singing ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ then ‘Rocky Road to Dublin’ and we’re all clapping and banging the hood of the mini-bus home. We all had a grand time honoring our ancestors of old!

Later that night we met at Malones Pub downtown for more singing, pints, and good cheer to celebrate our first victory of the season. Next week we take on Harriot Watt in Edinburgh which that game will be a good rough up too. Til next week lads and lassies!