Highland Highlights

By Loraine Ritchey

I was there.... part two:

By Victor Wesley

The Royal Braemar Highland Gathering

For as long as I can remember Braemar has advertised, "Come over the hills to the Royal Braemar Gathering", and like so many years in the past and I'm sure in the future spectators and competitors alike will always arrive in droves to this magnificent gathering attended by the Royal family. Braemar is like no other gathering as it is reminiscent of "Brigadoon" as it comes alive each year. Out of the mist emerges the village in all it's splendor with the bustle of the last touches of meticulous preparation, and the pipes that can be heard for miles in the hills.It was a glorious day with a well-organized schedule of events in all aspects, presenting to the world the finest in Scotland's traditions and heritage in competition.

In the Highland dancing we witnessed that competitors and adjudicators came from both the Scottish Official Highland Dancing Association (SOHDA) and the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing. Braemar found dancers from both organizations competing and judges sat alongside each other without any restrictions. Miss Edith McPherson, SOBHD judge and a member of the UKA has been adjudicating at this Highland Gathering since I was a competitor in 1979 and still looks the same as she did then. On the judging platform there were two male, former dancers of notoriety and who themselves were the top winners of all of Scotland's major Open professional games and certainly two of the greats, at Braemar. Mr. Charlie Mill from Dundee, (SOHDA) not unfamiliar to readers, who is recognized actively as a judge at many Open Games (as well as having the honour of judging the NZ Championships) and myself (Victor Wesley) an Independent adjudicator, formerly BATD (Examiner of the UKAPTD) (HDSA) and (Scotland's HDA) and winner of three Adult World Championships at Cowal under three different boards of adjudication. In addition there were tow other SOBHD judges Betty Turkington and Jean Swanston. (Bringing the panel a bit top heavy in favour of the SOBHD) In all 5 judges in this years event.

We saw some of the SOBHD Cowal World Champions, who were winners from the week before and the non-board dancers compete harmoniously against each other within the junior events and the adult competition but again it was Roo Killick( see her article on this page) from Edinburgh that took top honours both as the overall Highland and again in the National events for Hornpipes and Jigs. Now a three-time winner at Braemar she joins the ranks of the great named competitors to hold the J.L. McKenzie Cup, and as such has earned a place in history along with previous winners of this prestigious award. She joins the ranks of the men as a great "lady " champion and the only woman ever to win and hold this title three times in succession.

What saddens me most about the perpetual conflict of the Highland dancing world is there are great numbers of other competitors throughout the world of Highland dancing who are not SOBHD members who have been denied, since the middle seventies, the opportunity to compete at Cowal Gathering.

There were two young Junior competitors on the platform that had a style of presentation of their work and whose facial expression and love of the dance was very evident they conveyed the spirit and essence of this traditional art, now sport? form, they reached out across the platform to the audience. These young dancers were in the minority. Although there were large entries, there were many beautiful costumes and dancer technically proficient but mechanical in style and void of facial expression or had acute "grimace". In my personal and professional opinion, part of the problem as is also known in other dance forms " too much standardization has the ability to restrict true artistry"

The Junior trophy at Braemar went to Cowal Champion Joanna Buchan (SOBHD) dancer and the overall Open Adult trophies went to Roo Killick SOHDA dancer.

On my way back to the United States from the nostalgia of Braemar I reflected on many matters and how I could perhaps make a small contribution to the memories of the great names who were the legends and the lives affected by and through Highland dancing and future generation…. A work in progress.

Victor Wesley: Part Three

As always for Questions and Comments, I can be reached at

Loraine Ritchey, 1127.W. 4th Street, Lorain, Ohio, 44052.