At Random with Martin Laing

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I have been surprised again this year by the degree of vitriol visited upon the Argyllshire Gathering by a section of the local population.

We, of course, were quick to publish video and photo galleries on our Facebook page on Thursday as the parade went from Station Square to Mossfield, live-streaming the march.

And, no surprise here, we had a huge level of engagement from readers, with many commenting on the annual games.

What surprised me, though, was the polarisation of opinions, with some people praising the event, some (presumably who now live elsewhere) saying they wished they could be here, but many completely dismissing the entire gathering as being for ‘the toffs’.

Indeed, a number of those criticising the event referred to themselves as ‘riff-raff’.

A number of commentators suggested that the games are held on a Thursday solely for the purpose of keeping the hoi-polloi away because local children are in school and many local people are at work.

Certainly the genesis of the event goes some way to back up that perception. An extract from the website http://pipingpress.com, under an item headed ‘Argyllshire Gathering, How it all began’, reads as follows: ‘Close examination reveals that the original gathering was to be for the “Gentry of the County of Argyll for social purposes”. No mention of piping, cabers or Highland dancing. But you cannot have a games without them so it naturally followed that these events would be instituted along the lines of similar events elsewhere in Scotland.’

And the culmination of the gathering each year is a formal ball, to which members are invited, though there is a strict dress code. The gathering’s own website says: ‘DRESS: Gentlemen will wear Highland Evening Dress, Mess Dress, Hunt Coat or White Tie. No Dinner Jackets will be admitted.
Ladies will wear full length ball dresses (to the floor, all the way round). No stiletto heels admitted.

‘It is the Vouching Member’s responsibility to ensure that their party is aware of the dress code. Those INCORRECTLY DRESSED WILL BE TURNED AWAY.’

But nothwithstanding these strictures, the gathering is a hugely popular annual event that draws thousands of people and is a highlight of the calendar.

And even if it is held on a midweek day instead of at the weekend, it is an excellent event. It’s high time the moaners stopped their bleating.

Trunk call

I wrote last week condemning BEAR Scotland for its plan – now reversed – to close the A828 during the daytime over three weeks during September.

So it was very interesting – and, indeed, gratifying – to be called last Thursday morning by a Mr McKiddie, an Oban Times reader who took the trouble to phone me at the office.

Mr McKiddie, who lives in Oban, told me he is a retired roads engineer who thinks the planned closures are ‘scandalous’.

Clearly knowledgeable on the subject, given his past, Mr McKiddie wanted to know why the closure was necessary in the first place. He said, very reasonably, that some years ago, when the local authorities were responsible for our trunk roads, these routes were never closed, even for repairs and maintenance.

Mr McKiddie’s question deserves an answer. If we could keep our arterial routes open during roadworks in days gone by, why can’t we do so now?

Come on, BEAR Scotland, let’s be hearing from you.

What do you think?
Write to me at mlaing@obantimes.co.uk or The Oban Times, Crannog Lane, Oban, PA34 4 HB.