Pillarguri Days in Otta 20th-22nd August 1999From: INSLaird@cs.com
Date: Sun, 22 Aug 1999 17:15:26 EDT
We arrived in Otta Railway Station on the train from Oslo's Gardermoen Airport at 1506hrs on Friday 20th August. We were met by Rakel Dyrhaug from the Norlandia Otta Hotel which is some 100 metres from the Station. On the way to the hotel we passed the striking statue of Pillarguri, the local girl who sounded the warning blast on her "lur" to warn the local militia of the approach of the Scots soldiers on the way to Sweden in 1612, the event that was central to the celebrations over the next few days.
At the hotel we met the Rt Hon Malcolm Sinclair, the Earl of Caithness, and Major Niven Sinclair, the guests of honour at this year's events, Inge Leif Larsen, the owner of the Hotel and life member of the Pillarguri Committee and his wife Eldbjørg and Chris Maile, a member of the Oslo Caledonian Pipe Band who were to play over the next two days. Chris had been involved in setting up the links between Otta and Caithness through Wick Council and later with Clan Sinclair through Niven. Malcolm and Niven had arrived on Wednesday 18th August and had been given an extensive tour of the local area by Pillarguri Committee Member Hans Kristian Børud and with fellow committee member Rolf Uvolden and his ever present video camera. We were then introduced to Åse Kleveland who was to receive this year's prize.
The first event was a cultural evening at the Town Hall. Ola Svaet, the Mayor of Sel Kommune in which Otta lies opened the event and Hans Kristian of the Pillarguri Committee was the Master of Ceremonies. He as the other Committee Members present, was dressed in the Gudbrandsdalen "Bunad" (national costume) with red tartan waistcoats, the tartan they claim was taken from the Scots in 1612. We were entertained to local music by the Town's Brass Band, who were joined by the Oslo Caledonian Pipe Band, 6 pipers and two drummers who played "Amazing Grace" most movingly. The music
The Sinclair Party was, of course, kilted, The Earl and Niven in their red kilts and Prince Charlie's and Iain in the green with an Argyll. Annabel wore a long tartan skirt and sash, and our Highland Dress turned many heads in the town.
The Cultural evening was followed by a formal dinner at the Norlandia Otta Hotel hosted by the Committee for Åse Kleveland and the Sinclair party and Rolf and Annebritt Losnegård. The Losnegård live in Sognefjord, where Losna Island is their traditional seat, and they are also descended from the house of Møre. Their family crest is the engrailed cross. Rolf is a writer and has written a pageant that is performed each July on Losne island. Hans Kristian was the toastmaster. We were served Rakefisk (half fermented trout) Mousse and Levse, a kind of savoury pancake, accompanied by Viking Mead followed by reindeer accompanied by red wine, and concluded with a cloudberry pudding in whisky with Acquavit for toasting throughout. The speeches included an acceptance speech by Åse Kleveland, the Norwegians recalling their visit to Scotland in April 1999, Ola Svaet's response, and Maj-Britt Svastuen, Deputy Mayor of Sel presented each of the Sinclair party with lapel pins of Sel Kommune: a profile of Pillarguri in Gold on sky blue background. Rolf presented his family crest banners to the Committee and to Malcolm. Chris Maile translated throughout and made the traditional "Takk for matten" (thank you for the meal) speech on behalf of the guests.
The programme on Saturday began with the opening of the new path to the "Pillarguri Top", the hilltop from whence Pillarguri is said to have sounded her deadly blast in 1612. The path was presented by Maj-Britt Svastuen, in English, and Iain Laird replied in Norwegian, formally opening the path. The programme continued with a run to the town's park by local children, and 4 year old Sarah took part, helped by her mother. As she crossed the finish line, Hans Kristian, once more the organiser, told the spectators, "Here comes our first international competitor, Sarah Laird from Scotland."
The Sinclair party set off to George Sinclair's Grave just outside Kvam and the Earl of Caithness placed a vase of yellow roses by the marker stone and
We returned to the Hotel for lunch and the Lairds went to the prize giving for the race by Hans Kristian. Each child was presented with a slate medallion on a ribbon in the Norwegian national colours and sports bags from the race sponsor, NOR Sparebanken were raffled. Sarah was again introduced as the international competitor from Scotland.
Next was the opening of the towns "Millennium Park" by the Railway Station, donated by NSB, Norwegian Railways and opened by their Director, Osmund Ueland and Stina Hedlund sang her "Song til Sel" again. The Oslo Caledonian Pipe Band marched in with a selection to open the ceremony and closed it as they marched off to the march "Scottish Soldier".
We then proceeded to the battle site at Kringen (Kringom is the old spelling of the place, and nobody locally knows where Kringellen came from, but it may be a romantic exagerration). The Pillarguri Committee had prepared a memorial to the fallen Scots of 1612. When we arrived, it was thoughtfully veiled in a Scots Saltire Flag, for unveiling and inauguration by the Earl of Caithness and Major Niven Sinclair. Chris Maile, again in full piper's regalia played the "Flowers of the Forest". Malcolm said a few words giving the background to the battle and expressing the Clan's gratitude to the Pillarguri Committee for their friendship and generosity and for the touching gesture of the memorial. Chris then played the stirring "Flower of Scotland" and we then walked the path the Scots had taken to the battle marker memorial. It is still deadly as some of us had to take of our leather shoes as it is steep and slippery.
In a departure from the events of 1612, we went to the unveiling of a new memorial to a local farmer, brutally killed by the German invaders of the valley in 1940 as he tried to save his father's livestock from being burned alive in their barn. The memorial was by the same sculptor who had prepared the Sinclair Memorial at Kringen.
That evening we were all hosted by the owners of the Norlandia Otta Hotel in their apartment. We were served the traditional sour cream porridge "rømmegrøt" with cured meats and "flatbrød" thin crispbread. Chris Maile played the pipes as Niven and Iain lowered the Saltire and then the Norwegian Flag was lowered to the National Anthem. Malcolm then made a formal speech of thanks to our hosts and presented each of them with a piece of Caithness Glass. Niven then gave the most moving address on the background to the battle and how the Scots had not sought a conflict with their distant Norwegian relatives, but that the massacre of Gudbrandsdal conscripts by the Swedes at Nya Lødsøe had provoked this tragic reprisal. He said that if George Sinclair had been asked to "parley" he would have surrendered has sword rather than fight his relatives. Niven said how much it was appreciated that Norwegians today were peacemakers and that he would now present them with a sword as a gesture of peace for the new millennium. He then unwrapped and presented to Syver Bakken a specially engraved Wilkinson Millennium Sword with the Sinclair Coat of Arms, dated 1398 for Prince Henry Sinclair's voyage to the New World and the word "peace" in 240 languages. The golden hilt bears the three Graces, Asia, Africa and Europe and the Sun, badge of English Sinclairs and the continents of the world. The committee were deeply moved and some in tears. The sword represents a bond of friendship between the Sinclairs and Gudbrandsdalers, whose valley, Niven assured us, is protected by the spirit of George Sinclair. To ensure the bond was not cut by the gift of a blade, our friends presented Malcolm and Niven with locally cast "Sinclair" medals, and each of us were given Norwegian Pullovers in the Sel design, incorporating the profile of Pillarguri. Rolf presented lapel pins of his family crest to us and T-shirts bearing the crest. The evening continued to the small hours with accordion music from local musician, Arne Berget and piping by Chris and some dancing and song.
The next day the Sinclair party began to depart. The Lairds were taken on a tour of the Rondane park by Eldbjørg and Inger Leif and to visit the site of a grave of a fallen Green Howard of 1940, only recently discovered and reburied in the local Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery. We stood for a moment in silent remembrance. The Norwegians greatly valued the help they received from the United Kingdom in the last war and will ever remember the fallen.
We left late in the afternoon, but the bonds of friendship forged in Caithness and Edinburgh in April 1999 have been significantly reinforced by the overwhelming generosity of our Norwegian friends during these Pillarguri Days of August 1999. We left only so we can return, and will do so as soon as we can.
Iain, Annabel & Sarah Laird, followers and supporters of the Earl of Caithness and Clan Sinclair
22nd August 1999
Last changed: 01/02/24 07:38:46