Kinross, known as ‘The Sleepy Hollow of Scotland’, took a trip down memory lane in spectacular fashion on the 2nd and 3rd of September 2017 when it welcomed back its most famous former resident, Mary Queen of Scots, who was imprisoned in nearby Loch Leven Castle exactly 450 years ago. Market Green, opposite the Green Hotel, and overlooked by the Windlestrae Hotel came alive for the Mary Queen of Scots Festival with the sights, sounds and smells of the 16th century as Mary moved serenely among her subjects.
I spent much of Saturday in glorious sunshine soaking up the happy atmosphere along with locals, people from the surrounding area and a few international visitors as I rubbed shoulders with royalty and learned more about Mary’s life. The well thought out programme had something for all ages and began with Dr Bruce Durie, one of Scotland’s top genealogists who spoke to a rapt audience about tracing your past, and who posed the question, “Am I descended from a Royal Stewart/Stuart?” I now know for sure I am not.
Susan Morrison had everyone chuckling in a session where history met comedy. Her lightning repartee with the audience was in full flow when Mary suddenly arrived to take her place centre stage. There followed a “conversation with…” style interview on the sofa as Susan posed questions to Mary, who was accompanied by her attendant Mary Seaton and her faithful page. I could be forgiven for thinking this was a well-rehearsed script but it was nothing of the sort. This was a group of professionals who clearly knew their onions.
Nearby in an open-sided tent, Claire McNicol and Ruth Kirkpatrick enthralled a younger audience seated on scatter cushions with spell-binding stories. It isn’t easy giving a history lesson to a three year-old but Claire and Ruth succeeded perfectly during interactive sessions throughout the day. The children were invited to put on a costume, or wear a piece of armour, as the story unfolded. And judging by the number of adults standing outside it wasn’t only the children who were enjoying the storytelling.
A large seating area in the centre of the Green made a welcome stop to have a cup of coffee, an ice cream or something delicious to eat from one of the many vendors whilst enjoying a panoramic view of activities. At every turn there were games being played; giant four-in-a-row, huge dominoes, table top snakes and ladders, and drafts. I even saw some of the dads let their children have a go. Throughout, the sound of traditional music was never far away from a credible line-up of musicians.
Organiser Thomas Moffat hatched the idea of a Mary Queen of Scots Festival two years ago and approached Derek Shipway of the Cranranald Trust for Scotland. The rest as they say is history…
The Cranranald Trust members hail from all around the UK and like nothing better than an opportunity to get together to share their knowledge of the past at events such as this. Over the weekend they provided a living history of life during Mary’s time, from cooking to pottery, falconry to weaponry, and music to pastimes. Many members of the Trust are combat re-enactment professionals who have
acted in various TV and film productions including Ivanhoe, Robin Hood and Game of Thrones. Despite these huge accolades the Trust members think nothing of driving the length of the country to engage with the public in an entertaining and educational way.
The joisting display was a particular highlight, during which Derek and his co-presenter, King Henry VIII warmed up the audience in a timeless fashion. The horses gracefully galloped round the ring whilst their riders charged towards their target and firstly sliced a cabbage in two, then an apple and finally a grape. There were gasps and cheers from the crowds who stood six-deep in places around the ring. And this was only the precursor to the main joisting event with full regalia.
For those wishing to take away a souvenir of the event there was plenty of choice from period jewellery, toy weapons, reproduction coins and even a special whisky.
I didn’t have to ask anyone if the event was a success. It was written all over the painted faces of children and broad smiles of adults. Thomas’s parting words to me were, “I hope to make this an annual event”. I rather think that is what the good folks of Kinross expect. Given that Market Green is a mere five minutes from the M90 motorway and that the Cranranald Trust are keen to build on this year’s success, I’d say the ingredients are all there for the mixing. After all, 5000 people can’t be wrong.
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