A colourful festival of island culture welcomed the Queen’s Baton Relay to the Isle of Islay, on the second day of its tour through Scotland, on route to the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.
Bathed in sunshine, the island’s stunning scenery was displayed at its best, as the population turned out in force to welcome the Baton for the first time in its history.
After leaving the plane to the skirl of the pipes, the first stop was Bowmore Primary School where pupils heard about the Baton’s journey around the Commonwealth before treating visitors to a display of music and country dancing, with the Baton passed from dancer to dancer in an energetic ‘Strip the Willow’.
The Baton was then met by Islay High School’s Sports Ambassadors and taken through a sport-themed guard of honour before being paraded down School Street, where schoolchildren from across the island lined the route to Bowmore Distillery.
Greeted by distillery staff in the stillroom, the Baton passed out onto the scenic shore of Loch Indaal before being carried by former Scotland Rugby 7s captain Colin Gregor down to the town square for the main community event of the day. A packed audience enjoyed stirring music from a combined school choir in their first public performance and a rousing display of highland dancing, with the Baton incorporated into a sword dance. After all those present had had their chance to see the Baton up close, it was off for the final stop of the day.
Back on Batonbearer duty, Colin jumped onto the back on a Duffie’s Haulage truck, more used to transporting barrels of whiskey than sporting stars, and the Baton was paraded through the streets to Ionad Chaluim Chille Ìle (the Columba Centre Islay), its final destination before heading back to the airport.
Veteran of two Commonwealth Games for Team Scotland, including as captain at Glasgow 2014, Colin Gregor was full of praise for the reception from the people of Islay.
It’s been an outstanding response,” he said. It seemed like all 3,000 of the island’s occupants were out to welcome the Baton and celebrate the Commonwealth Games and they’ve created a really great atmosphere to be a part of.
“It’s really special to be chosen to carry the Baton. In the build up to Glasgow 2014 it was a proud moment and off the back of that, in the lead up to Gold Coast, it’s great to be a part of it once again. It’s been fantastic to come to such an awesome wee island and share the experience with them.”