Piper’s roulette and a bit of razzmatazz in the Fife highlands
the games was given by one Robert Bruce in return for the villagers’ support at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. So, right enough, at just shy of its 700th birthday, no it couldn’t be described as quite a new games.
The village is in a lovely little spot, along the back roads on the way to St Andrews. My husband Colin and I knew of it, because we crashed our car there shortly after arriving in Scotland, on our way to watch the British Open at the Old Course in 2000. But that’s another story.
We arrived in – believe it or not – warm sunshine. It actually could have passed for summer. It didn’t last, obviously, but it was lovely and pleasant for a good chunk of the afternoon. I had been told that Ceres was a beautiful little games with a brilliant setting for the piping, and so it was. The village green provides the games site, surrounded by hillsides so it forms a sort of flat-bottomed bowl, with spectators able to sit on the slopes surrounding the pitch for a good view of proceedings. A little burn trickles along the back side of the field, separating the main games park from a small area accessed by a foot-bridge, where the piping is held – close enough to be part of it all, but with a perfect physical separation to prevent the all too typical tourists, dogs and children running up close to the competition platform (or sometimes onto it).
Also, notably, both parking and entry to the games are free.
There were about seven or eight pipers in attendance, forming the obligatory casual clump near the platform. The relatively small entry was a reflection of the day’s other piping event – the British Pipe Band Championships in Annan – but was welcome in that it made for a pleasant, high-quality contest that lasted a very civilized four hours or so, instead of what has often become a day-long endurance test of piping and, mostly, waiting around.
Colin was judging everything (although he had a good chuckle when, on arrival, he was asked which events he wanted to play in), so I got to be tourist and spectator for the day. Rather disappointingly, nothing much silly happened at all. There were a couple of impressive downpours interrupting the warm sunshine, giving that feeling of roulette luck to each player’s draw. An amusing request was made by the games organiser for a piper to play the athletics competitors onto the field to . . .