August 22, 2011


Celtic history comes alive

Annual festival in Cortland celebrates centuries-old traditions

CelticJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Paul Rose of Rochester competes in the Highland Games hammer throw Saturday during the Celtic Festival in Court House Park in Cortland. The festival also included music crafts sales and other activities.

Staff Reporter
A supple man wearing a red kilt hoisted a 17-foot, 170-pound log up with his arms, ran a few steps then threw the beam forward to the cheers of the crowd Saturday at the Cortland County Celtic Festival at Courthouse Park.
The show of might, known as a caber toss, took place at the Scottish Highland Games competitions, a mix of athletic feats requiring strength and agility and a highlight of the day.
David Barron, of Brooklyn, explained after the throw that the proper technique is to lift the caber and balance it, then run to get as much momentum behind the log as possible before throwing it.
The goal of the caber throwing contest is to have the log line up as straight as possible when it falls. The competitor who lands the caber nearest to a 12 o’clock position for three rounds wins.
Barron walked away the winner Saturday, though many of the other muscular competitors had impressive performances.
Cynthia and John Dumond of Homer were watching the Thor’s Hammer throw. One athlete threw the 32-pound weight an impressive 60 feet, landing a winning place.
Cynthia said she and her husband love the Scottish games.
“I’m Scottish. I especially love the caber toss,” Cynthia said, adding she also likes the kilts the men wear.
Saturday was the Dumonds’ third time attending the Celtic Festival.
Other spectators came for the educational aspect of the two-day festival.
Carol Schumacher came from Candor for the fourth year, saying she loves the jewelry, games, music and the fact that people can learn some Celtic history at the booths.
One such booth, called Clan of the Wolf, featured people in traditional clothes that would have been worn by people in the Highland region of Scotland during the Jacobite Risings.
This was a series of rebellions that took place in the 17th and 18th century in Scotland and England, aimed at returning King James VII of Scotland (James II of England) and descendants of the House of Stuart to the British throne after he was deposed by Parliament in favor of a Protestant king, William of Orange.
The Jacobite rebellion was unsuccessful and traditional dress like plaid kilts were outlawed by the British after the last unsuccessful battle in 1746.
Brian Carpenter of Binghamton was educating people about the traditional gear that he displayed, such as flint-lock firearms, gunpowder horns, a broad sword with a steel basket hilt and a shield he made of wood and leather and studded with brass.
“People are very interested in old time stuff,” Carpenter said.
Donna Mactavish of
showed off medieval Viking embroidery that she reconstructed. Mactavish showed how flax and wool would be spun into garments or straps using a spindle and a spinning wheel and a weaving loom.
Mactavish was looking forward to her group, the Society for Creative Anachronism, to replicate a fight where people on either side rush toward one another to brawl, saying it is like a giant boxing match.
Schumacher, who does not have Celtic roots herself, said she returns to the festival because “it’s great.”
“It’s a great way for people who aren’t Celtic to find out about Celtic stuff,” Schumacher said.


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