The weekend of 14th and 15th July was a great day to be in France, with Bastille Day on the Saturday and the historic victory of the Auld Ally in football's World Cup the following day.
This memorable weekend coincided with Fetes Franco Ecossaises, an annual event now in its 30th year, when the beautiful, historic town of Aubigny sur Nere in the heart of the Loire Valley hosts an annual celebration of all things Scottish, including our long and memorable connections with France.
Scotland's connections with the old town date back to the beginning of the 15th century, when the Stewarts of Darnley went to France to fight against the English for Joan of Arc in the Hundred Years' War. Rewarded with the Lordship of Aubigny by the French King, this was the start of a relationship that has endured throughout the centuries since; successive Stewarts were Seigneurs of Aubigny in France as well as Earls and Dukes of Lennox in Scotland, titles that passed eventually to an illegitimate son of King Charles II in the 17th century. His descendant, the Duke of Richmond, Gordon and Lennox in the United Kingdom, is Duke of Aubigny in France to this day.
Aubigny sur Nere is a community with a modest population of 5,600, so the influx of more than 30,000 visitors for the weekend of the Fetes is something of a culture shock. However, such is the strength of the community's ties with Scotland, that the whole town is given over to the festival for the weekend, when everyone has a role and enters enthusiastically into the spirit of the occasion.
You will find everything at the Fetes that you would expect at a Highland Games in the mother country. Piping, dancing, athletics and heavy events sit easily alongside a huge array of stalls offering Scottish artefacts and produce. This year, there was a particular emphasis on showcasing Scottish food and drink, with entire streets given over to food stalls.
This is a magnificent event that brings the best Scotland has to offer to our neighbours across the channel. This year, the Royal Celtic Society attended for the first time and we are proud to play a small part in promoting Scotland as a brand.
A wide variety of Clans were represented, including the Camerons, Montgomeries, Mackinnons, Mackenzies, Hays and Ramsays, who were led by their Chief and Royal Celtic Society member, the Earl of Dalhousie.
The climax of the event is a grand parade through the town, led by pipers and dancers and including all the clans present. The Royal Celtic Society's Chairman, Alan Hay was honoured to lead the parade alongside its principal orgnaiser, Chevalier Tom Hye.