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Happy St. Crispian's Day!
Posted on October 25, 2006 at 07:58:26 AM by Ssmithrower

Raise a toast on this day to honor one of the greatest victories the British race ever perpetrated against the French. (OK, I'm thinking the same thing, too - anybody can beat the French-) The Battle of Agincourt was fought on this day in the year 1415. Many of us remember the story - King Henry the Fifth jumped up on a wagon wheel and stirred his troops with the speech immortalized by Shakespeare:

From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother;

But few of us realize that this battle was actually the beginning of some of the rules we use today in the Highland Games.

Picture the scene - the English army was trapped in a low, swampy area between two great stands of forest. The French army, which outnumbered the English by as much as 5 to 1, was blocking their passage out of the glen. The English had mostly unarmored and unmounted footsoldiers and longbowmen. A hard, relentless rain was falling, from which the English had no protection. The French attacked, charging down hill on their huge Belgian horses, armor rattling as the French knights charged the thin English line. At the last moment, the English longbowmen opened fire and the footsoldiers raised long, heavy wooden timbers to block the horses passage.

Complete carnage ensued. The French knights fell off of their horses. They couldn't regain their footing in the mud. The English were butchering them as they cried for mercy. Many of the french knights, weighed down by their armor, actually drowned in the mud. They were so easy to kill that the English soldiers got bored and walked away. Seeing the threat that leaving these enemy alive raised, a group of ten Scottish Highlanders, who had been brought along to watch the oxen, ran into the breech. They were not allowed to carry weapons, but they did have several things we would recognize today. They had a couple of pitchforks, a heavy hammer, some big stones, and part of a chain mace that one of the English soldiers has left behind because the wooden hanle had broken off, leaving only a chain and a heavy piece of iron dangling at the end of it.

These Highlanders quickly began using these implements to attack and defeat the remaining French army, who were now floundering and slipping in the mud and saying very French things like "This sucks!".

The Highlanders soon made a sport of it, using the heavy timbers to flip lenghthwise down the narrow glen to smash the heads of the French knights. They used the pitchforks to skewer the knight and throw them high into the air. it was soon determined that the three-pronged fork was much more effective than the two-pronged fork, thus a rule was made banning future use of the two-pronged fork, despite repeated protests from the shortest of the Highlanders, a man by the name of Wills.

The chain mace (which weighed 56 pounds) was so effective against the French that a rule was put in place that it could only be thrown with one hand. It still proved too easy, so a box was drawn on the ground, and if one of the Highlanders stepped out of the box while throwing the mace at the French, two Highlanders (whose names, according to legend were Johnston and Cawley) would yell "Foul! Foul!" much to everyone's delight.

When finally the last of the French army had retreated and run away, the Highlanders were left alone on the field with a bunch of dead French knights in their shiny armor and ribbons, and a buch of wine from the nearby village.

The Highlanders cut chunks of shiny metal from the knights armor, and on of the Highlanders named McNamee fashioned them into medals and put them onto different colored ribbons to be awarded to the best at each event. They all drank wine and laughed and joked and told stories about the old days in Scotland and Leesburg, and about how the rain that day was not nearly as bad as it was in Anne Arundel in 05.

Finally the fun had to end and the leader of the group, a great, huge, gruff Highlander by the name of McKenzie, made them all pack up all the implements and gear and lower all the flags and poles and load it on his cart.

That is the true origin of what we now do when we compete together at the Scottish Games. I swear to God, it is true! I know this because it was all documented by the historian in the group, a Highlander with a huge melon that was nicknamed Buckethead.

So raise a glass today, my friends, because we few, we happy few, we band of brothers, have but one more chance this year to bleed together, and we shall do it at a place called Richmond.