Montreal skates to the skirl of the pipes

When Dr. Gillian Leitch organized the first Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate for Montreal in 2015, she had the resources of the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Government of Scotland at her disposal: posters, commemorative toonies, media releases, bunting, birthday cake, hot chocolate, and a giant birthday card on which skaters -- kilted or nae -- could sign their best wishes to Canada's first Prime Minister on the occasion of his bicentennial. Not to mention, free skating for participants at Montreal's wonderful rink at the Old Port, near the Bonsecours Market.

  The Zamboni grooms the ice, with the bonsesours market in the background.

The Zamboni grooms the ice, with the bonsesours market in the background.

There's no doubt that the 2015 kilt skate created a lot of buzz, and the buzz was recreated in four other cities, which also had access to Canadian Heritage funding.  It was a terrific event, and Gillian, like organizers in the other cities, were determined to repeat it again this year even without funding from the Government of Canada.

  Dr. Gillian Leitch and her colleague, Charles, from the St. Andrew's Society of Montreal.

Dr. Gillian Leitch and her colleague, Charles, from the St. Andrew's Society of Montreal.

On Saturday, January 30, 2016, the weather was perfect for skating -- much better than the sub-Arctic cold front that came through last year: so perfect a winter's day, in fact, that there were many competing events across the city, including a Christmas tree toss in Jacques Cartier Square just up the hill.  It was a perfect day, as well, for skiing.

So while there were a hundred skaters on the ice at the Montreal event this year, the skaters in kilts, tartans and other Scottish paraphenalia were outnumbered by those without. That didn't diminish the fun of those who came to celebrate Sir John A. with bare knees and ice.

  Members of the St. Andrew's Society of Montreal celebrate Sir John A.

Members of the St. Andrew's Society of Montreal celebrate Sir John A.

"People thought it cool to see the kilts," says Dr. Gillian. "They were a bit surprised when all of a sudden at 2pm the bagpipe music started on the speakers.  A contrast from what had been playing earlier."

Gillian and the St. Andrew's Society are enthusiastic about hosting a third kilt skate next year, the 150th anniversary of Confederation. 

"Our numbers may have been modest this year," says Dr. Gillian, "but I made over 100 people skate to bagpiping music!  We will convert them all - eventually!"