A FESTIVAL and a unique confluence? Well, the 2011 HAAR Festival held in conjunction with the ongoing celebrations of Year of the Light and The Auchmithie Roots Homecoming certainly made for a memorable weekend.
The early September date for the worldwide Auchmithie Homecoming had been decided upon without reference to the HAAR organisers and the ripple of delight which spread around the Internet was almost palpable when it was found that the dates coincided.
This year, perhaps even more attention was focused on weather forecasts as, a few weeks earlier, a devastating rainstorm had washed away the cart road leading down to the harbour and had also caused a major landslip on the cliff below the cottages. No-one in the village could recollect a rainstorm of such intensity.
However, Saturday proved to be a calm and sunny day - perfect for the re-enactments which took place around the village in the course of the afternoon.
In the morning, small bands of people were to be found wandering slowly around the maze of cottages checking documents, cameras at the ready, and trying to make sense of the quixotic house numbering system in Auchmithie which is designed to confuse and perplex. These were the folks from overseas and the wider community familiarising themselves with the village and exploring ancient ties.
Around mid-day, the smokie barrel was lit by Stuart and Audrey Scott and family and the familiar aroma of Smokies, such an essential and authentic part of the festival, permeated the air. Their nearby stall offered a tempting range of seafood delights, creatively crafted and adding value to the once humble Smokie, now regarded as a culinary delight and in demand the world over.
Capacity crowds followed the unfolding story told in the re-enactments around the village during the afternoon with the storyline provided, as ever, by the indomitable Mrs Annie Gilruth (Ann Craig) as narrator rather than the formidable mover and shaker of former years. The scene was set 100 years ago celebrating the centenary of the Bell Rock Lighthouse.
A new song had been commissioned for the occasion and is likely to be heard on numerous future occasions to judge by the thunderous applause which greeted its first rendition, ably led by songsters Violet Thomson and Alex Cargill.
Once again, a cohort of Arbroath Sea Cadets led by PO Daly and PO Smart expertly assisted with car parking and in helping to run the tearoom which was hectically busy throughout the course of the afternoon.
An exhibition of bygones created by Jim Wallace proved a hugely popular draw as did images of historic Auchmithie and the burgeoning archive.
The floral displays in St Peter’s Church with the theme appropriately based on the bi-centenary of the Bell Rock Lighthouse proved a focal point of beautiful calm away from the hurly-burly of the activity elsewhere in the village.
As ever, the day culminated with the exuberance of the Fisher Wedding where everyone joined the bride and ‘groom as they led the way from the Steadings to the Kirk, accompanied by the strains of a melodeon and much pawky humour.
HAAR organisers were delighted that Craig Mair was able to come and give a talk on the Lighthouse Stevensons as part of the festival finale in St Peter’s Church on Sunday evening. Introduced by Canon Dr John Cuthbert and with music provided by the Praise Band from Arbroath St Andrew’s Church, Craig’s talk focused on the building of the Bell Rock, in particular, and on the five generations of Stevenson engineers.
In an unexpected and delightful and rousing twist to the evening, Craig, who has his own ceilidh band, delighted his audience with a rendition of his composition, ‘The Boys of the Bell Rock Light’.
And the verdict on the festival? “One of the best and certainly most memorable weekends of my life” was the verdict of a visitor from Western Australia.
Organisers could not ask for more.