As a child Scott Whitelaw had always wanted a sword, so when he saw an opportunity to take part in swordplay he grabbed it.
Whitelaw is one of the members of Gallus Gael, a re-enactment group that brings the 18th century Scottish highlands to life.
“I saw Linda and James (Finnie) do a demo at the Tatamagouche Farmers’ Market and I was hooked,” he said. “I really enjoy the element of make believe. There’s a bit of fantasy but it’s also physically active, and I’m dealing with culture that’s in my blood memory. I get to explore my Scottish roots and play with swords.”
His first performance was in 2011 at the Gathering in Earltown, and he’s taken part in many others since then.
“Performances can be a bit nerve wracking but they’re fun,” he said. “We have a lot of laughs and we’ve become friends. It’s a trusting kind of thing when you’re throwing bars of metal at one another.”
Having been a member of a re-enactment group in Scotland before coming to Canada, James Finnie was able to share a lot of knowledge with Whitelaw.
He too got involved after seeing a display at an event.
“I’d always been a keen amateur historian and this brought it to life,” he said. “To actually wear the costume and swing the sword, you learn more about what it would have been like. It’s almost like time travel.”
While in Scotland he was a member of a top re-enactment group called The Clann, and did some film and television work with actors such as Roger Moore and Michael Caine.
After coming to Canada he and his wife, Linda, did some demonstrations and found there were people interested in joining them. Gallus Gael now has 11 members and is ready to welcome more.
“If you are interested in learning how to wear a ‘great kilt,’ wield a sword, or simply dress the part, then come along and talk to us and ask about joining our clan and becoming part of this amazing hobby,” said Finnie. “We provide training and information on costume, weapons and the history and culture of the period we portray.
“You don’t have to swing a sword; there are other roles.”
Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a participating adult and fighting skills can only be taught to those 14 and over.
Anyone interested in learning more about Gallus Gael can contact James Finnie at email@example.com