The Origins of the Braemar Games Hill Race
by: Wheeler, Les
Back in the days fan Malcolm Canmore wis king o Scotland he thocht it wid be a gweed idea tae hae a kind o ‘royal postal service’. Fit he meant tae dae wis hae a lot o men fa could rin fast ower hills an glens an cairry messages between the King an the mony chiefs an lairds aroon the country. He wid hae certain fowk in each airt far he hid a castle or huntin lodge fa wid cairry messages for him an get them delivered as seen as possible.
Noo, up aroon Braemar, Malcolm hid Kindrochit Castle an there wis nithin for’t but that he maun hae a rinner there. He decided tae hae a race an the winner wid win a a sword an baldric o the verra best an a pyock o gowd besides being gaen the job of being the King’s rinner. There wid be a race up tae the summit o Craig Choinnich an the first een at the tap wid be the winner.
A fair gang o fowk gaithert tae seek the prize – some wirna that keen on daein a lot o rinnin for the King but the gold,sword an baldric wis a cratur o a different colour. Twa loons in particular stood oot among the competitors an that wis the twa eldest sons o McGregor o Ballochbuie.
The King stood ready to gie the signal for the race tae stert. A trumpet soonded oot, the King raised his sword an shield an the three judges on the tap o the hill waved their flags tae let the fowk at the bottom ken they were ready. The trumpet soonded again an the King raised his sword, banged it on his shield an the race wis on!
The tartans o the kilts streamed oot ahin the competitors as they wint rinnin up the hill wi een or twa as usual gyan ower fast for them tae last ower lang. But jist as they reached the bottom o the hill a young llon burst through the crowd, swytin like an aul soo, an bricht reid an breathless.
“Let me rin in the race! Let me rin!” cried the loon tae the King.
“Ye’re ower late, min, they’re aa awa!”
“It disna maitter. Let me rin!” An as he wis spikkin he threw aff his sword an dirk an lookit stracht intae the een o the King.
“Weel, rin if ye like,” said the King, “but I tell ye ye’re ower late.”
The loon didna hing aboot; he wis aff like a meenister efter his collection.
The fowk aa cheered an King Malcolm spiert, “Fa is that loon?”
“That’s the youngest o McGregor o Ballochbuie’s sons. His twa auler brither are already awa an rinnin.”
An young McGregor wis already rinnin like a stag an loupin like a mountain goat up the hill. Ae time he wis climmin on aa fours, at ither times grabbin the heather wi his hauns tae haul himsel alang an aye heidin up an up taewards the tap. There wis nae thocht o rest; it wis heid first for the summit!
“Yon young loon could beat them aa at the rate he’s gyan,” said Malcolm.
“Mair power tae him,” said the King’s freen Alan Durward.
An young McGregor kept on gainin on them in front an passin aa them fas ambition wis bigger nor their ability.
Some o the competitors hid already faain oot an were streecht on the grass, ither wir hardly getting ae fit past the ither, but the twa auler McGregor were still stridin oot an had left the rest far ahin. The only een that wis like tae challenge them wis young McGregor an he wis still breengin up the hill. It wisna lang afore he had his brithers in sicht an wis near haun level wi them. They hid reached the steepest pairt o the mountain an their step wis shortenin. The twa auler loons were still weel in front an were a wee bit bumbazed tae hear the soond o their younger brither cryin oot, “Halves! Halves, brithers, an I’ll stop an let ye get on wi it!”
“Win fit ye can yersel, an keep fit ye win tae yersel,” cried back the aulest brither. “I’m gyan tae dae the same!”
The second brither wis ower peched tae spikk. The young loon never stoppit, even file he wis spikkin. He raced on an it wisna lang afore he passed his second brither an wis catchin up the aulest een. The young loon nivver slacket a theet, on he wint till he wis shooder tae shooder wi his aulest brither.
“Noo, brither,” he gasped, “ halves an I’ll stop an let ye win.”
“I’ve tellt ye eence an I’ll tell ye again, win fit ye can an keep fit ye win, but dinna hassle me.” wis the reply.
By noo baith men were dizzy, their een wir sair an their breath wis like fire in their chests. Every muscle wis as ticht as a drum skin an their moos wir as dry as desert sann. Swyte dreeped aff o them like simmer rain an their sarks were drookit. Their feet wint forrit an by een anither as though twa muckle steens hid bin tied tae their queets.
The aulest brither summoned aa the strength o his teuch frame an the young loon aa his youthful vigour. At the fit o the hill aa the spectators were roaring their heids aff encouraging baith o the McGregor loons tae get tae the tap first.
The auler loon wis sair pressed an as the tap cam in sicht he streetched oot his airms tae try an stop his brither getting past wi only a fyow yairds tae rin. But he felt nithin but the scuff o tartan on his legs as his younger brithers kilt brushed by. The young loon hid ducked unner his airms! There wis only ae thing the auler loon could dae an he loupit forrit an grabbit the kilt o his young brither. The young loon wis near spent an hidna the strength tae trail his brither ower the line wi him an he saw his ither brither wis catchin them up.
The loon thocht nae mair aboot it. “I’ve offer tae yield aathing tae ye afore an ye’ve ignored me, but I’ll yield something noo,” says the loon an sae sayin he lowsed the belt huddin up his kilt an drappit baith belt an kilt tae the grun. Wi three steps he wis ower the mark, seized the marker pole an flung it tae the grun. The judges flags wint up an the loon hid won. He drappit doon on tae the fresh heather an rubbed his face in the dampness o it. His brithers seen jined him an aa three McGregor loons lay as een on the tap o Craig Choinnich. The younest McGregor loon had won the day an wis a hero tae aabody aroon Braemar. The young loon had reached the tap in three minutes! An mair than that the race wis that popular that the fowk thocht that they wid hae een every year an that’s fu Malcolm Canmore cam tae hae a say in fit is noo caad The Braemar Gaitherin!