The Highland Fling

When a young couple are to be married on Islay it is local tradition to have a ‘blackening’ for the couple. The bride and groom are ‘kidnapped’ by friends and relatives and tied to the back of a trailer. They are then towed through the villages, where buckets of anything rotten and smelly is thrown over the couple, before they are hosed down at the pier. At the weekend there was such an event, as the island prepares for a wedding next Saturday.

Now I know the bride and groom were ‘kidnapped’, but on this occasion it appears, according to the Happy Farmer’s version of events, that he was also ‘kidnapped’. Apparently, he was taken, very reluctantly, completely against his will, to a local Hotel to join in the ‘post blackening celebrations’. His apparent ‘kidnapping’ couldn’t have come at a better time. He has had a busy week of socialising with a whole contingent of farming pals from the mainland, who were over for the annual Islay and Jura Agricultural Show. Post show we have our annual Persabus Farmers’ Dinner, where huge rib roasts appear in the farmhouse kitchen, along with cases of wine, and a feast for 16 or so hungry farmers is on the menu. Celebrations continue with cask visits and tastings the next day. This is followed by an evening in one of the local Hotels, before the early morning ferry takes the farmers across the sea to the Mid Argyll Show in Lochgilphead. The Happy Farmer missed out on the cask tastings. Although, apparently after a mix up, it was the Happy Farmer’s cask the group all got to taste and enjoy. They took great delight in toasting their friend in his absence. They even produced a near empty sample bottle of his whisky to console him later that evening.

The Happy Farmer had hoped to join the motley crew on their trip to the Mid Argyll Show. This was all in the name of farming you understand. However, with a busy day ahead, guests checking in and out on the farm, pottery to be glazed and fired, kilns to be loaded and emptied, sailing away on the ferry became a distant pipe dream. Laundry chores, new calves, and kilns were calling.

At the end of a very busy Saturday and an even busier week, it was with a huge ‘reluctant’, positively beaming smile that the Happy Farmer found himself being bundled into his friend’s car and kidnapped away. He even managed to slip under the radar of the farmer’s wife, who had she been alerted to his predicament, would have called an immediate halt to proceedings and rescued him.  He was incredibly grateful when a few hours into the celebrations the ferryman’s wife called by to give him a lift home, especially when he heard the partying continued well into the ‘wee small hours’ of Sunday morning for some.

The Islay and Jura Agricultural Show takes place on the second Thursday in August each year. It is now in its 172nd year. What an amazing job the current show committee did this year. They appeared to have pulled out all the stops as the field looked amazing and the show ran as smoothly as ever. There was a huge turnout of people as farmers showed their very best livestock. Horses were groomed, having been put through their paces weeks in advance in preparation. Tack polished, riders turned out in their finery, to jump and trot around the show rings. There was baking, crafts, flowers, vegetables and plants. Stalls representing local charities, dog demonstrations, a dog show, agricultural machinery and suppliers’ tents, a parade of vintage tractors and vehicles, bouncy castles, trampolines and even politicians.

We won a beautiful crystal decanter at the show which now takes pride of place on the old dresser, for the best wool. We won it in 1907. Looking at old photos of the sheep on the farm back then they certainly had impressive fleeces. These days the Happy Farmer likes to go to the show as a spectator, but youngest won a first with her wild flowers. Hansel horse has competed on numerous occasions over the years bringing home cups and trophies, but eldest couldn’t make the show this year.

Celebrations continued off the show field and after a huge dinner at the farm we were treated to singing and dancing. I was more than impressed then to see the Highland Fling being performed so well, to Robbie Williams. There really is no end to the talents of these very happy farmers.

Until next time…