Lovers of all things Scottish have brought a touch of the Highlands to the town of Bressuire in the Deux-Sèvres. Every two years, in June, they hold a Highland Games event in the grounds of the local castle complete with tossing the caber and pipe bands.
The Association Sportive des Jeux d’Ecosse en France has around 250 members with seven athletes. They even have their own tartan and a new Franco-Celtic drink mixing whisky with local sparkling apple juice which they’ve called Bockhighland.
The local fascination with Celtic culture grew out of the fact that Bressuire is twinned with Fraserburgh in Scotland and Leixlip in Ireland.
A group of Bressuire inhabitants were attracted by the sporting aspect as well as the festive feel to Highland Games and decided to set up their own group in 2005. Now they hold a bi-annual tournament.
In 2015, they also hosted the World Championships held for the first time out of Scotland and attracted 10,000 visitors. This year, they will hold the European professionals Championships as well as competitions for amateur teams.
Joint-president Alain Rousselot said locals are open to learning about a new culture: “In the run up to the event we work with local schools. This year 217 pupils in five CM2 primary classes and five sixième collège classes are learning about celtic culture.
“The teacher decides which theme to work on. It could be in maths looking at the way the sport works, or in languages to improve English or in history, music or dance.”
On the Friday before the games all the pupils will come together and have a go at Scottish dancing and try out the sports.
The sports practised by the Bressuire team are Tossing the Caber; the Scottish Hammer Throw; and the Stone Put in which a stone is thrown as far as possible; Weight Throw, when a metal weight must be thrown as far as possible using only one hand; and Weight over the Bar when competitors have to throw a 25kg weight as high as they can. The record for Bressuire in this last event is 5m11.
In between the Highland Games event, the association keeps busy working in schools and travelling around local festivals in the summer period to exhibit their French take on Scottish traditions.
Mr Rousselot says they would welcome new members and are keen to see other clubs established in France so they can have more competitions.
He says this year’s ninth edition of the games on June 10 and 11 will be well worth a visit: “You can have a two-day pass for €12 which will include watching the amateur competitions in the mornings and the professionals in the afternoon. There will be a Celtic Rock concert on Saturday evening and a Frenchman married to a Scotswoman will be providing Scottish style food including of course haggis and an English man will be there with his fish and chip van.”
He says they will do their best to make it an authentic Highland Games experience.
Tickets can be bought on highlandgames.canalblog.com