Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.
American families still enjoy reunions of various types and my family by marriage is bound together by their love of their Scottish heritage. My father-in-law is a patron of the St. Andrew’s Highland Games and arranges this day of entertainment and history for his extended family, like the Colonel that he is. He graciously buys tickets for his ever-growing extended family, organizing everyone into cars with patron parking tickets for the windshields so that we don’t have to walk miles to get to the festival. Then he moves us all out in numerous vehicles on time and in formation to make the drive from Orchard Lake to Livonia, Mich.  On time … and that is … Bruce time.   The St Andrew’s Society of Detroit has laid claim to the title of the oldest continuous annual Highland Games in North America. This year marked the 162nd Annual Highland Games, held for several years now at historic Greenmead in Livonia.

The games were initially war games designed to select the best warriors in each clan beginning long before there was a written history of these events. There was a period after the English defeat of the Scots following the Battle of Culloden in 1746, when the Act of Proscription forbade the wearing of the kilt, the playing of the bagpipe and the gathering together of people. These and other  laws prevented the games from occurring until the repeal of this act in the late 18th century. The Scots began to form Highland Societies openly then, leading once again to the Gathering of the Clans and the Highland Games that are little different from those that now span the globe. Each year the McIntyre clan, led by the patriarch, “The Bruce,” gathers in August to participate in the marching of the clans and to celebrate the Scottish history that the games embody. I get to march in the review of the clans in spite of the stronger Irish genes that I carry because I am married to a Scot. And, as one whose people have suffered throughout history, I can identify with the family motto embroidered on the banner carried by the younger generation of the McIntyre clan. Per Ardua,  “Through difficulties.” Just getting to the games from New York each year is arduous … but well worth the effort that strengthens family ties. I am accompanied by Nacole and Daniele, who are the special lassies brought to the event by the next generation, Garret and Baxter. There were border collies herding sheep, performances of Royal Scottish Country Dancers and the Mass Highland Fling along with multiple athletic events all occurring simultaneously. It was exhausting. The Rolling Thunder, 42nd Highlander’s Demonstration, was incredibly realistic with men in authentic period costumes and firearms that really made noise and smoke. One of my favorites was the massed bands consisting of dozens and dozens of bands with members of every band playing the pipes or beating the drums while marching in perfect formation, with turns and twists that were a visual delight.

 

The Tug O’ War Competition is one of the oldest contests in history.  It was part of the Olympics in Ancient Greece.  The Tug O’ War was part of the modern Olympics until 1910 and the emcee at this year’s games was still complaining about its exclusion from the Olympic Games.  The Marines won the Tug O’ War contest last year and arrived on the field in an impressive truck, holding the trophy high.

The groups of men competing in the Tug O’ War were the United States Marine Corps, The Army Airborne LRS and the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department. Detroit, the city in Wayne County, has suffered so much economically and psychologically that I was really rooting for the HUGE men in the Sheriff’s Dept even though the Marines were really hot. The Marines and the Army Airborne teams lost to the overweight and underpaid Wayne County Sheriff’s Department team. One competition at a time, Detroit will rise from the ashes.

 

 

Two  women’s teams competed in the Tug O’ War games and I can assure you no one would want to meet these girls on a dark night in an alley if they were in a drinking and fighting mood.

The Detroit Derby Girls were really tough looking  some with shaved heads or purple hair and an overall big time Goth look with pierced facial structures and God knows where else. They arrived looking for a fight. The Detroit Dark Angels are a women’s semi-professional American football team and are members of the Women’s Football Alliance. They were bigger and more muscular than the Derby Girls and as I suspected easily won the Tug O’ War.


 

Caber toss!


The Professional athletes who travel around the world participating in the Heavy Athletics competition are specialists in the Caber Toss, Throwing the Weights, Putting the Stone and Hammer Throwing.

There is much history behind each of these competitions, but the Caber Toss, referred to by the uninitiated as the telephone pole toss, has a compelling reason for its existence.

  “Historically, a fallen tree trunk or caber was used to bridge deep, swift running rivers. Less inclined to wash out when laid at a right angle to the river, accuracy of placement was both a highly developed skill and a dire necessity if one’s men were to cross the swift rapids. Today’s athletic competition  is still judged  on accuracy rather than distance. At 100 pounds, or more, and often at least 18 feet long, the caber is held by the narrower end, while its thicker, more unwieldly end points skyward.    Once lifted by the athlete, the caber must be run forward, stopped dead and then heaved end over end.” (From the program of the 162nd Highland Games)

    After all the drink and dancing and  celebration of tradition, I was still  on the hunt for the Best Looking Scots of the Day.  So, I approached each of my subjects with the fabulous photographer who took all the photos (that would be my son, Baxter) with the line, “Hi.  I am a journalist and I am choosing the best looking men to photograph.  Do you mind?” (Quite the pick up line I thought … not a man said no.) I took dozens, girls, because this was a place full of manly men.   

  But of course the most manly man was the man I came with, “The Husband.”

The American tradition of families finding ways, even in troubled economic times, to travel great distances to spend time with loved ones, to recapture something of youth and heritage is as varied as our backgrounds. The McIntyre Clan has been good to me and I am grateful to be part of this family.

 

 

 


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  • Valerie Sonnenthal August 17, 2011 at 10:47 am

    I loved your Highlands piece. I spent 8 weeks camping across England, Scotland and Wales when I was 15 with a group of 10 kids and an adult couple, We attended the Highland games in a small village where we were welcomed into local homes. I loved the rugged nature of the place and the games, so your piece brought me back!

    Reply
  • Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. August 17, 2011 at 10:04 am

    Adrian,

    We have known each other for a quarter of a century honey. I think we both know that you are a real grown up girl. When I pen my memoirs, I am giving YOU a chapter all your own!

    Pat

    Reply
  • Adrian Miller August 17, 2011 at 7:29 am

    Incredible. You are busy running a successful practice, keeping up with committees, patients, family and the like, popping out for the occasional hair and nail upkeep 🙂 and you STILL have time to pen this posting. You amaze me and when I grow up I want to be you!

    Reply
  • Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. August 16, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    Ssssh…Christmas present for The Husband is a kilt!

    Reply
  • Mary Faucher August 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Great story, great photos, but no kilt for The Husband?

    Reply
  • Patricia Moscatello August 16, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Dr. P,

    Thank you for the history lesson, your thoughts on Family and the humor! Sounds like the arduous trip was worth the trip!

    Reply