Monday, September 23, 2013

Could You Carry Scotland's Smiddy Stane?

If your idea of fun is seeing how far you can carry a 363.8 pound stone, Scotland has an event for you. Just don't expect to tie up your horse to be shod at the smithy in town that day. (Photo of Airth, Scotland's "smiddy stane" contest courtesy of Ewan McTaggart)
Another reason to wear a kilt: you can spread your legs far enough apart to carry a 363-pound rock across a field...if you are so inclined.

Your idea of fun may be going for a trail ride on your horse, or taking off on a motorcycle. But in the Scottish village of Airth, the smiddy (shoeing shop) loses its "stane" (stone) for a day each summer when it's time for the local games. And it's considered fun to see who can carry it the farthest.

Ewan McTaggart goes home to his village of Airth each summer for the games and  tells us that the tradition in Scotland of lifting stones as a feat of strength is as old as recorded history. Young clansmen would be required to lift a "manhood" stone as an initiation test to prove their strength. Recruiting sergeants might choose only the strongest men who could lift a particular stone or anvil.

And where would you go to find the heaviest stone in the village?

To the smiddy, of course. Outside Airth's smiddy, the farrier/blacksmith had a large stone with a ring which was used for tethering those big Scottish Clydesdales while they were waiting to be shod. This would be a much bigger version of the old iron "horse weights" used to tether harness horses.

The "stane" is equipped with a big ring for tethering a horse. Perhaps, over time, the size of the ring increased so two human hands could grip and lift the stone once a year. (Ewan McTaggart photo)
If you're a farrier, you might be nodding your head; they probably wanted to lift the biggest anvil in the shop, but that meant detaching it and disrupting the shop. So it was probably easier to go looking for a really big, heavy stone for a tether, and offer it as an alternative for lifting feats.

In Airth, they continue the tradition of carrying the stane across the village green during the games each summer. The fact that it's carried--and judged--by men wearing kilts makes it even more fun for the rest of the world to see.

And what is the prize for carrying the stane the farthest? A bottle of whiskey, of course.

Thanks to Ewan McTaggart for sharing his photos, and for the village of Airth for preserving the smiddy stane tradition.