Sunday, 14 August 2011

Dancing to the fiery bear

It was still dreich in Perthshire, yesterday morning, and Rosie suggested that we went to Fife.

It sounded like a damn fine idea so we headed off to Newburgh to see the Coble boat race.

The entire town had gathered down by the waterside and there was a real air of excitement. There were lots of little stalls; crafts, old photographs of Newburgh and the people, there were lots of things for the bairns to make, lino prints, lanterns, drums and painting.

The Maid of the Tay was taking people for a trip up the river.

The last time I was on The Maid of the Tay was in 1966 when the Tay Road Bridge was opened. You can just see the bridge in the background.

A band on a lorry played good Scottish music to the crowd.

Hardy young lads took part in the salmon coble boat race up the water and against the flow. It must have been very hard going as it was a fair distance and the cobles are very heavy boats. This race has taken part since 1880 when salmon net fishermen worked the river. They were strong and excellent oarsmen.
Salmon netting came to a halt in 1996 but the tradition still carries on, rowing the 18 foot salmon coble boats.

After the excitement of the race, it was lovely to find a tranquil area where these ladies (and someone who looks like Chris Moyles, now that I look), having tea and scones whilst listening to Cole Porter on the gramophone.
I wish you could hear it.

The Newburgh children had made amazing lanterns, all with a marine theme.
One huge lad came in to rescue the shark he had made. He was convinced that the lanterns were all going to be set alight after the lantern procession up to the Bear.

"Why do they set light to the bear?" I asked him. I had asked a few people but the answer always seemed to be a shrug of the shoulders and a 'they just do'.
"Ah dinnae ken, they just dae but they are no getting ma shark"

I thought it was a brilliant shark and watched as he carefully liberated it.

Once all the festivities by the river ended, everyone headed up to the bear.

It is a huge bear, carved into the hill by a local farmer. How he did it is a mystery, as mysterious as the reason they set on fire.
We ask an elderly gentleman about the bear and he is the local historian. He tells us that nearby Lindores Abbey had strong links with the Earls of Warwick and the Benedictine monks. The heraldic device of the Earls of Warwick is the bear and ragged staff.

"Why is the bear lit?"
"So everyone can see it" said the gentleman.

The bear gets lit.

It is beautiful and the small fires give the bear movement almost as if it is dancing and swaying.
Everyone is thrilled.

Our little boy (quite manic after a face full of sweets despite my hissing at the Farmer, "Don't give the bairn any sweeties. You know what he goes like"....)
our sugar fuelled little boy begins to dance with the bear.
I want to dance with the bear too, such is the feeling of joy in the air.

There does not have to be a reason why the good people of Newburgh light the bear. They just do.

We wait a while and watch the fiery bear then reluctantly head home; back up the A9 and towards the rainy hills.

It was an amazing day, a sunny day in Newburgh.

We dance when we get home.

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