Warriors and Other Runners

What happens when you bring 2,000 runners together to race eight kilometers while dressed in kilts?  You have the makings of the worlds largest kilt run.


Two centuries ago, the town of Perth was settled by disbanded soldiers and the economic refugees of Scotland when the textile factories shut down after the Napoleonic Wars. Today it takes great pride in its Scottish Heritage.


They take great pride in the run too.


There's face painting so even the youngest runners can take to the road in woad.


The kids have races of their own.


Even the dogs get into the spirit.


Before the race, there was lots of musical entertainment...


Including pipe bands, of course.


There was even a fiddler on the roof!


The  Scottish Society of Ottawa comes out to help celebrate each year. This year, once again we were given a prime spot to set up our tent.


Many volunteers were on hand for the day.


And some of our volunteers were participants in the kilt run -- even Isobel, the Volunteer Coordinator.


We promoted the kilt skate at the kilt run. And we were very pleased when enthusiastic kilt skaters David and Joanne came by for a visit.


David and Joanne are also keen champions of the kilt run.  In fact, it's conjectured that the icon that the run uses to promote the event is based on an image of David running..


Before the race begins, the runners parade through the town.


The opening ceremonies completed, the race began.


This year, the course ran for 8 kilometers, weaving over and around the Tay River.


As a special feature of the kilt run, David has organized the "Warrior Class" -- in which kilted runners must also carry a wooden shield and wooden sword while they race.


Thirty men and thirty women registered in the Warrior race.  It includes not only an 8-kilometer run, but a special competition -- the "Warrior Challenge."

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At a point about a kilometer before the end of the race, the warrior would leave the race course and enter their own realm.

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First they had to travel through the swamp.

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On the other side of the swamp, they were greeted by Princess Joanne and her team of volunteers.

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The brave warriors had five challenges they had to face.  The stone throw:

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The spear throw:

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The hammer throw:

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The log carry:

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And last -- but my no means least difficult -- the caber toss.


By the way, earlier in the day, younger runners had the opportunity to participate in their own version of the Warrior Challenge.

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All in all another wonderful kilt run in Perth.  Congratulations to all the organizers, and we'll look forward to seeing everyone again next year.


National Organizers Stepping Down

Don Cummer and Sue MacGregor have announced to the Scottish Society of Ottawa that they are stepping down as national organizers of Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate.  Cummer, who began the tradition of kilt skating to celebrate the birthday of Canada's first Prime Minister, helped organize the first national kilt skate in 2015 and has been the event's public face ever since.  MacGregor volunteered in hosting the 2016 Ottawa event when she and her husband had returned from diplomatic postings, and organized the operations of the national events in 2017 and 2018.

The 2018 event has been acclaimed as the best kilt skate yet, and showed considerable momentum across the country.  Kilt skates were held in:

·         Montreal (January 20),

·         Ottawa (January 20),

·         Toronto (January 27),

·         Saskatoon (January 27),

·         Alexandria (February 3),

·         Calgary (February 11), and

·         Winnipeg (February 11). 

At the end of the kilt skate season in February, a conference call was held with the organizers in each of the partner cities to share best practices.  It was hoped that the plans and funding would be in place to enable partner cities to promote their events during the summer Scottish festivals in their communities.  An agreement in principle was secured by the Scottish Society of Ottawa (SSO) for funding from the Scottish Government, which has been sponsoring the national event since 2017.

However, Cummer and MacGregor were unable to find agreement with SSO on some key matters, and decided to step down as national organizers.  SSO will announce who will take over responsibility for helping to organize kilt skates across the country.  In the meantime, it has exciting plans for a Scottish festival in Ottawa in January 2019.  The Ottawa kilt skate will be in good hands with Carol MacPherson, who organized the skate at the Aberdeen Pavilion in 2018.

In his farewell to SSO's Grand Committee, Cummer thanked the SSO for the friendships and fellowships of the past four years.  He intends to continue promoting kilt skating on this website, and will take advantage of any opportunity to don the kilt and skates to celebrate Scottish heritage with bare knees and ice.



Report to the Scottish Society of Ottawa Annual General Meeting

Event Summary


The national event was the most successful yet in the four years of Sir John A’s Great Canadian Kilt Skate. With $15,000 in funding from the Scottish Government, sponsored events were held in seven cities (two more than last year), and the attendance numbers in most of the cities increased significantly from the previous year.

Kilt skates were held in:

·         Montreal (January 20),

·         Ottawa (January 20),

·         Toronto (January 27),

·         Saskatoon (January 27),

·         Alexandria (February 3),

·         Calgary (February 11), and

·         Winnipeg (February 11). 

Winnipeg returned as a kilt skate city after an absence of two years, and Alexandria hosted its first kilt skate. Toronto, which had only 15-or-so tartaned/kilted skaters in 2017, saw nearly 200 people show up at Nathan Phillips Square in tartans and/or kilts.  For further details on each event, see the blog reports in www.kiltskate.com (hyperlinked above).

The events garnered media attention at the local, national and international level (with stories carried in The Scottish Banner and The Scotsman.)  The kilts skates have been highlighted by our sponsor, the Scottish Government (SG), as an excellent example of the kind of initiative that it wants to support to promote a vibrant, forward-looking, exciting Scotland.

Executive Summary

Sir John A’s Great Canadian Kilt Skate gives us national and international exposure, and a direct link to activities taking place in Scotland and across Canada.

In 2017, changes were implemented in the organization of the Sir John A’s Canadian Kilt Skate, with SSO members Don Cummer and Sue MacGregor assuming independent responsibilities for the national event. The Scottish Society of Ottawa oversaw the finances as well as managed the banking for the sponsorship funds, for which it received a stipend of $750. The SSO organized the kilt skate in Ottawa (see report from Carol MacPherson). The SSO logo was given equal prominence with SG on promotional materials for the national event and the individual events of kilt skate partners.

Don and Sue’s responsibilities included:

·         Outreach and liaison with partner cities and potential partner cities;

•          Development of Memorandum of Understanding for each partner city that received Kilt Skate funding;

•          Retrieval for SSO any unused funds from partner cities and facilitating the return of these to the sponsor, when required.

•          Work with SSO to apply for funding from the Scottish Government (SG) and solicit potential funding from other sponsors;

•          Liaison with SG;

•          Advice to partner cities on how to run a successful kilt skate;

•          Design and production of Communications materials for the national skate and for partner cities (“event in a box”);

•          Maintaining the overall brand of Sir John A’s Great Canadian Kilt Skate;

•          Maintaining the communications objectives of sponsors (eg. SG’s “Year of Young People.”)

•          Maintenance of the kiltskate.com website to promote the national skate and kilt skates in partner cities;

•          Media appearances when requested;

•          Speaking at partner events when requested and if possible;

•          Keeping track of how partner cities are using funds from sponsors;

•          Advice to SSO when funds should be returned;

•          Reporting to SSO when requested on the status of Event funding;

•          Reporting to SSO at their convenience on the overall status of Sir John A’s Great Canadian Kilt Skate;

•          Preparing final report on the 2018 national event.

Kilt skate partners were divided into three different categories:

·         Tier A, which received $2000 in funding and which were expected to hold opening ceremonies including speakers from the Government of Scotland and SSO – Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, and Calgary (Don spoke on behalf of the SG in Calgary);

·         Tier B, which received $500, which was enough for promotion and to buy birthday cake, hot chocolate, etc. – Alexandria, Winnipeg, Saskatoon;

·         Tier C, which received no funding, but received support through the national organization and kiltskate.com – this year, to our knowledge, there were no Tier C cities.

In December 2016, Don launched his website www.kiltskate.com.  This has proven to be an important communications tool for the national event as well as the various local events.  Traffic on the website has been growing rapidly.  In January 2018, the website had 5,106 unique visitors (up from 1,797 in 2017 and 1,491 in 2016).  The kiltskate.com website is hyperlinked with ottscot.ca. 

From November through to the end of February, Don wrote 29 blogs for the website – on both kilt skate and SSO issues.  The website promotes a rivalry among the partner cities to be crowned “Kilt Skate Capital of Canada.”  The winner will be announced in the Fall as we gear up for another kilt skate season in 2019. As “Skater-in-Chief,” he was able to attend five of the seven kilt skates. 

The budget from the SG included compensation to Don and Sue for their work, and paid administrative costs. An SSO member was compensated fr work on design of promotional materials.


The idea of a kilt skate to celebrate Canadian winter, Scottish heritage, and Sir John A. continues to grow.  Each of the seven partner cities has expressed an interest in running a kilt skate again next year, and the national organizers will continue to encourage other cities to organize kilt skates.

In their efforts to promote kilt skates, Don and Sue have opened up many new contacts for SSO with organizations across Canada and North America, including the Clans and Scottish Societies Association of Canada (CASSOC) and the Scottish North American Leadership Conference (SNALC).  Not only does this help promote the kilt skates themselves, it connects SSO to a larger community of Scottish organizations.


1.      Renew the relationship between the Scottish Government and the SSO;

2.      Develop an MOU for national kilt skate organizers for 2019;

3.      Host Ottawa’s fifth annual kilt skate in January 2019;

4.      Consider rebranding the National and Ottawa event as “The Great Canadian Kilt Skate”;

5.      Seek local sponsorship to ensure sustainability of the Ottawa kilt skate; and other city Kilt skates;

6.      Include kilt skate as part of fundraising activities when soliciting sponsors for Hogmanay and other events;

7.      Deepen the partnerships Don and Sue have established and developed with other organizations by joining CASSOC and attending SNALC.

Submitted by Don Cummer and Sue MacGregor, April 26, 2018


Irish Month has a Scottish flair

The City of Ottawa has declared January to be Scottish Month, but surely the month of March belongs to the Irish.  St. Patrick's Day is still a week away, but already the stores and pubs across town are filled with Irish themes.  And when Beau's Brewery decides to host a St. Patrick's party on March 10 rather than the 17th, well who are we to refuse an invitation to enjoy a good time? Especially when a group of former hockey parents haven't seen one another in a while.


We're all dressed up and ready to go!

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And some of us are prepared to go that extra mile in the wearing of the green.

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The party was held in the Aberdeen Pavilion, where the Scottish Society of Ottawa hosts its annual Hogmanay party on New Year's Eve. The St. Patrick festivities began at 2 p.m. when the annual parade up Bank Street wound up outside at Lansdowne Park.  But 8 p.m. the party was still ramping up.


The music had been going on all day.  By the time we arrived, the headliners had taken the stage.


The Real McKenzies are a celtic punk band from Vancouver.  They've been using a combination of bagpipes, two guitars and a rhythm section to rock audiences since 1992. 


The lead singer, Paul McKenzie, added a distinctive Scottish tone to an Irish party with his raucous renditions of love poems by Rabbie Burns.


Scottish kilts at an Irish party. A singer snarling out Rabbie's love songs to waiIing pipes and guitars. Weird hats, hair-dos, and eye-wear.  It all made for a surreal atmosphere.  Here at one table, a woman took on challengers in arm wrestling.


Elsewhere, people played pinball.


We certainly got into the spirit of things.

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This character was given the nickname "Elton Don."

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Ah, but all good parties must come to an end -- especially after the beer starts to run out.

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But a splendid time was had by all!


Family Day on Bowness Lagoon

In 1990, the province of Alberta proclaimed the first "Family Day" holiday in Canada -- a chance to get together and, hopefully, get outside with the family for a mid-winter break.


In Calgary, a good place to get together is Bowness Park.  In summer months, it's an amusement park where you can rent canoes, go for a ride on a miniature railway, or enjoy the kiddy rides.  In winter the lagoon of the Bow River is maintained as a skating rink.


The rules prohibit hockey sticks.  But no one seems to mind when the hockey stick is used to carry a flag.


This year, the temperatures across Alberta dipped to minus-20 during Family Day, but by noon, there were lots of people braving the cold for an outing on the lagoon.


Park staff kept the flames going at rinkside fire pits.


This was well appreciated by those of us thrawn enough to be skating with bare knees.


Among the people who were curious about the kilt and the saltire was young Josh.


He and his mom, Gabi, his Dad, Mike, and his sister, Emily, and brother, Noah, have recently moved to Calgary from Brazil -- Gabi's native country, where Mike worked in the oil industry.


Seven-year-old Noah isn't in that picture. He was too busy teaching older boys how to skate.  Emily's favourite pastime was to be swung around in circles on the ice. 


Josh, on the other hand, liked nothing better than to be skating as fast as he could with a saltire flapping in the wind.


By noon, it was time to go home -- or to whatever new adventures the family had planned for Family Day.

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Altogether a great place to be for Family Day.

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Kilt skating the Rockies

Kilt skating the Rockies

We've celebrated the last of the official kilt skates, but the joy of skating in the kilt lives on. And when the Rocky Mountains beckon, why not don the kilt, pack the skates and the saltire, and head west out of Calgary. 

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Winnipeg: kilt skating at 30-below

Winnipeg: kilt skating at 30-below

The temperatures in Western Canada on the morning of Sunday, February 11, dropped to the minus-20 range. In Calgary, the skaters were sheltered somewhat by the tall buildings. The Riley Family Duck Pond in Assiniboine Park, on the other hand, has little to shelter it from winds that sweep down from the Arctic.  Wind chill made the temperature feel like it was 30-below.

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North Glengarry shows us a different way

North Glengarry shows us a different way

Weather in the Ottawa Valley has not been kind to plans for kilt skates. When they first envisioned a kilt skate for North Glengarry, the Clan Donald Society imagined kilted skaters on the Alexandria Mill Pond.  But the deep freezes and the rapid thaws and occasional rains of the past weeks made a pond skate impractical.  So they decided to do something different.

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Winnipeg: a seventh kilt skate city!

Winnipeg: a seventh kilt skate city!

WINNIPEG – On Sunday, February 11, at the Riley Family Duck Pond, Qualico Family Centre, Assinboine Park, the people of Winnipeg will take to the ice in their kilts, tartans and other Scottish regalia in an effort to claim the title of “Kilt Skate Capital of Canada.”

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Saskatoon -- The Year of Young People

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, has the distinction of being the most northerly kilt skate.  This year, so far, it also has the distinction of being the coldest. 


Following a mid-winter snowfall, the morning of Saturday, January 27, dawned sunny and cold.  


By 1 p.m., the temperature had managed to crawl its way up to a balmy minus-19.  But cold weather doesn't keep prairie people indoors.  Some thirty hearty skaters laced up at the Cameco Meewasin Skating Rink for the fourth annual Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate.


Rachelle Lockwood is a proud member of the Saskatoon Highland Dancing Association.  She's been organizing these kilt skates since 2016.  That's Rachelle in the toque, along with the other organizer Tannis. As a team, they've been organizing kilt skates in Saskatoon since the time when Saskatoon was declared the Kilt Skate Capital of Canada.  

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Even with lower numbers from previous years, Saskatoon will likely take the prize for the "youngest" kilt skate. Probably the cutest too!


And this being Scotland's "Year of Young People," it's good to know that there's a new generation of Highland dancers coming up through the ranks in Saskatoon -- and they're getting an early taste of... kilt skating!


And, of course, enjoying a cookie and some hot chocolate.


For many, it was an opportunity for a first lesson on how to skate..


Here's a shout out to the Highland dance moms who get the young ones out to the kilt skate each year.


And a shout out to Pipe Major Sandy Campbell of the North Saskatchewan Regiment Pipes and Drums.


Each year since 2015, often in the prairie chill, he's been out on the Cameco Meewasin ice, leading the skaters with music.  It's hard to get bagpipes to function properly in extreme cold.  Pipe Major Campbell knows how to tease the sweet sounds in any weather.

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Toronto's Scots come out in big numbers

Toronto's Scots come out in big numbers

After a flurry of social media posts, Scots came out in great numbers to Toronto's second annual Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate. Outdoor kilt skates are always vulnerable to the weather, and on the Saturday on which the skate was originally scheduled, the rain poured on Nathan Phillips Square. Mind you, that didn't stop some Torontonians from trying out their skates, but I'm glad the City asked us to move our event to Sunday. 

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SSO celebrates Rabbie Burns Day

SSO celebrates Rabbie Burns Day

In past years, Bryan Lyall organized a full Burns dinner for the Scottish Society of Ottawa (SSO), complete with  remembering the Immortal Memory, toasts to Lassies and, of course, the Address to the haggis.  This year, with Brian away on other responsibilities, we gathered for the fun and the fare at The Highlander Pub, where anyone wearing tartan gets a complementary dram.

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Before Kilt Skates became "a thing," it was what we did on January 25.

Before Kilt Skates became "a thing," it was what we did on January 25.

This is a great day for Scots and poets everywhere. It's a national day dedicated to a poet, Robbie Burns. January 25 is his birthday -- and along with the January 11 birthday of another great Scot, Sir John A. Macdonald -- it was a day on which the "thrawn" among us took to the Rideau Canal Skateway in our kilts.

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Ottawa doubles down

Ottawa doubles down

The Ottawa version of Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate continues to grow.  This year, about a hundred kilted and tartaned skaters gathered at the Lansdowne Park Skating Rink, milling about the tents and taking to the ice on a beautiful winter day. Skating, eating birthday cake and, of course, playing the bagpipes.

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Montreal skate "the best one ever"

Montreal skate "the best one ever"

The temperature was just above freezing but the refrigeration coils kept the ice surface hard at the Natrel Skating Rink in the Old Port of Montreal. More than a hundred Saturday skaters were on the rink, and of them, 34 had donned their kilts and tartans to celebrate the Fourth Annual Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate in that city.

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Ottawa -- the Volunteers make the event

Ottawa -- the Volunteers make the event

Ottawa had a perfect day for a kilt skate today, and about a hundred skaters and spectators gathered at Lansdowne Park Skating Court to celebrate Scotland's contribution to Canada's multicultural fabric. The pictures of the event will follow when our photographer culls his shots, but in the meantime, here's some snaps of the preparations, showcasing our wonderful team of volunteer -- coordinated by wonderful Isobel Adams.

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Ottawa -- Media prep for tomorrow's kilt skate

Ottawa -- Media prep for tomorrow's kilt skate

The first kilt skates of the season begin tomorrow in Montreal and Ottawa.  Here in Ottawa, this means a flurry of media interviews that began earlier this week and will continue on the ice tomorrow. Today, however, there were two television interviews with the local CTV station. The Morning Live show had us rendezvous at Lansdowne Park Skating Court, where the Fourth Annual Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate begins tomorrow at 11 a.m. Peter wired me for sound.

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Montreal rescheduled -- but we skate anyway!

Montreal rescheduled -- but we skate anyway!

It's turned out to be a beautiful day for a kilt skate at the Old Port of Montreal. We're always at the mercy of the weather: last year, for example, Winnipeg had to be cancelled because the ice had melted; this year, Montreal had to be rescheduled because a winter storm walloped the city. But everything works out in the end -- and the ice at Natrel Skating Rink in the Old Port of Montreal was excellent.

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