For the first time since its inception more than a decade ago, Aberdeen's annual 'Tartan Day' celebration did not clash with the Aboyne Games and therefore Clan Hay was able to take part. This extremely happy and well organised celebration of the music, poetry, dance and literature of north east Scotland came as the climax to the week-long commemoration of the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Harlaw over the last weekend of July.
The day began with a march of no fewer than eight pipe bands from the west end of Union Street, a stirring start to a procession that included the Lord Provost of Aberdeen, Peter Stephen, and the city council, the banners of the local families involved in the Battle of Harlaw 600 years earlier and companies of performers dressed in 15th century period costume, some of them carrying period weaponry to add a touch of reality.
The centrepiece of the event was an all day concert in the city's renowned Union Terrace Gardens, which included piping, reel dancing demonstrations from the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, several choirs and individual singers, culminating in a magnificent performance from the 'tartan fiddler' Paul Anderson of Tarland, a protege of the great Hector MacAndrew who has been described by many as the greatest fiddler of his generation.
Belmont Street and the surrounding area was the setting for a street market which show cased the traditional food and drink of the area. Aberdeen University's sports ground in University Road saw a demonstration shinty match. In a moving ceremony, the Lord Provost laid a wreath at the foot of the magnificent statue of Sir William Wallace in Rosemount Viaduct, on behalf of the Wallace 700 movement. When it came to theatre productions, we were spoilt for choice with performances taking place throughout the day at many venues across the city, notably at Aberdeen Arts Centry and the boutique Lemon Tree theatre. Your Clan Hay Society representatives present decided on two: a production based on the run-up to Harlaw in Aberdeen's medieval tolbooth prison, and a performance of Mike Gibb's play, Reid Harlaw, in the Drum Aisle of the historic St Nicholas church.
St Nicholas churchyard is a haven of peace and tranquility in the midst of the bustle of the city centre and was the setting for a busy programme of events throughout the day that included folk music, fiddling, poetry reading and story telling. It was here that one of the event's honoured guests, the American writer Diana Gabaldon, author of the hugely successful Outlander series of novels, spent the day meeting her many fans.
The date for the 2012 Tartan Day has yet to be confirmed; with luck, the city council will decide on the same weekend so that Clan Hay will once again be able to take part.