I received an email from Inverness Calley supporter Steve Taylor who takes part in the ‘Highland March’ and the end of the season.
With the demise of Rangers imminent, I’d like to think that an opportunity exists for the fans of all the other clubs in Scotland to form closer links and appreciate each other a little more.
I am an Inverness supporter (based in the Central belt) and this year, we will be celebrating our TENTH Highland March. Have a look at www.highlandmarch.co.uk (and/or check out Highland March in Wikipedia) to discover a completely different side to being a football supporter in Scotland.
I have a vision whereby supporters of lots (all?) of supporters do what we do in the last week of the season. It’s a chance to enjoy great craic, Scotland’s great outdoors AND your football team with your mates (whilst making new ones along the way).
Do you think you could find 8-10 Celtic fans to kickstart The Celtic March?
He has written the following article.
The history of Inverness Caledonian Thistle is marked by a number of
significant events. Some are well known, most notably the 3-1 victory
at Parkhead in the Scottish Cup back in 2000. There have also been a
number of trophies won along the way as the club progressed from the
3rd division to take its seat at the top table of Scottish football.
But there is another, less well known feature that sets Caley Thistle
apart from every other club in Scotland…. The Highland March!
The Highland March was conceived in the Market Bar, a small, dimly lit
upstairs drinking establishment in the centre of town (as it was
before Inverness became a City). It was here on Hogmanay in 2002 that
five Internutters (a term used to describe message boarders) gathered
for an end of year swally. Bronson, Shennachie, Seoras, Govan Jaggie
and InterTheNet were musing over a potential league championship
decider at Falkirk on the last day of the season when ITN suggested
that they walk there, just for the hell of it. This idea found its way
onto caleythistleonline.com the next day and the rest, as they say, is
history A monster was born…
The routine is pretty straightforward: wait until the fixtures come
out, then walk from the last but one game to the last game, wherever
those two games happen to be. That would be relatively straightforward
if your team was based in the Central Belt, but Inverness, as media
pundits and other clubs keep telling us, is a long way away. But
maybe, in a way, that’s what’s kept us doing it, year after year. In
May 2012, we will celebrate ten years of walking up and down the roads
and hill tracks of Scotland in support of our famous team.
We’ve walked from Inverness to Falkirk, Clyde to Inverness, Dundee to
Inverness, Inverness to Dunfermline, Inverness to St Mirren, Falkirk
to Inverness, Kilmarnock to Inverness, Ayr to Inverness and Inverness
to Hamilton; a total of something like 1300 end to end miles.
In the early days, as newbies, we stuck mainly to wee roads and
established tracks; never ever the A9. But as we gained experience and
became more adventurous, so did the route planning. HM5 to Love Street
saw the first group overnight adventure straight after the home game
against Dunfermline; Inverness to Fort William in a night and a day,
leaving the regulation West Highland Way (and a bit) for the rest of
the week. Bunkhouses, yes, we do bunkhouses; somewhere to enjoy a
plate of pasta anda few beers with the passing trade of someone else’s
adventure. Camping, yes we do camping; essential when the route
dictates that nothing else will do. Indeed, if there nothing more
reassuring than sitting in your wee tent with a beer at the end of a
32 mile day while rain is pouring down outside, and sure in the
knowledge the it’ll still be raining when you wake up in the morning.
Been there, done that.
Sometimes the fixtures are unkind, and in order to be there in time at
the other end, we have to take on outrageous challenges, such as
leaving Rugby Park at five o’clock on HM7 and walking non-stop to
Aberfoyle. Thereafter, we borrowed several little known routes from
the Scottish Hill Tracks book in order to keep the total distance to a
respectable 190 miles in seven days. And when we got up the road, we
were relegated. A wake to end all wakes.
But the following year, lady luck turned and rewarded us with Ayr to
Inverness. “Okay, so you thought Kilmarnock was easy, eh; well let’s
put another 15 miles onto it and see how you like that”. A thumping
7-0 victory and the First Division Championship in our back pocket,
the Marchers set off straight after Terry Butcher had delivered his
famous victory speech from the director’s box at Somerset Park and
walked 68 miles virtually non-stop to Rowardennan on Loch Lomond. With
no let up in the schedule, the West Highland Way was done by
Wednesday, followed by the Great Glen Way on Thursday and Friday; 205
miles in six days and we were in the pub in Inverness by Friday
So who does this mad adventure? Well there are half a dozen regulars,
drawn from all walks of life, and locations all over the UK. There’s
Gringo, his son Joonya, there’s Yompa, who gained his moniker for his
love of taking the direct route “straight over that hill…”, and
there’s Chumba, who took the Highland March by the scruff of the neck
and went international with it by walking from Oslo to Hampden on the
inaugural Tartan March, the forerunner to the current Tartan Army Kilt
March. Yes, the Highland March has a grandchild. And along the way,
we’ve had many others who come and gone, done an HM here and a leg of
an HM there, just for the craic and the “been there, done it”; and of
course the T shirt. No one wears a T shirt more proudly than a
A feature of the march down the years has been the reception we’ve had
from every club we’ve visited, be it the beginning or the end of a
Personally, I’ve been in the dressing room with the players before the
match getting my feet sorted by the club doc! On that first trip to
Falkirk, our hosts had won the First Division Championship and were
playing their last ever game at Brockville; big atmosphere but the
Highland Marchers were afforded the honour of preceding the players
out of the tunnel. And that has happened just about every year since,
up and down the country. At Inverness, the ceremonial lap of honour
has become a guard of honour for the teams entering the field of play
and I would not be far off the mark when I say that every marcher had
a lump in their throat at the end of HM6 as we stood on the field,
alongside the players of both teams, to remember Tommy Burns. People
say they remember where they were when Kennedy was shot; well I know
exactly where I was on the road from Tromie Bridge to Loch Insh when I
heard on that Thursday morning that Tommy had passed away.
The Highland March knows no boundaries; the holy grail for a Highland
Marcher is a E2E, or an End to End as it’s termed in the glossary. Two
Marchers, Yompa (the marcher formerly known as InterTheNet) and Gringo
Joonya each had a 100% record of E2E’s going into HM9 but the SPL
fixture computer threw a spanner in the works by lumping a midweek
fixture in the final week of the season: Inverness to Hamilton in
three days, and sadly a challenge too far. Only 90 miles for the
intrepid marchers, including the now customary overnighter straight
after the game.
So what makes a Highland Marcher? Well, a love of the outdoors for a
start, and a love of the unknown. You can discuss a lot of football
during a week on the road, and you can play a lot of cards and a lot
of pool. The week long pool championship, played in bars up and down
the country, is a highlight of the week. Indeed, during one hosting of
the championship in Newtonmore, we met Dr Who, Tom Baker, who was
filming for Monarch Of The Glen.
However nothing, absolutely nothing, defines the Highland March better
than this: a legal document (well, kind of…) knocked up as the guys
stormed through Glen Tromie on HM6; and yes, we did have a lawyer in
“I, the Marquis of Howden, being of unsound mind, do hereby bequeath
to the Rabbus Highlandae (in modus operandum), grazing rights on the
land of the five dry rivers for a period defined in statute as the
final gestation of Splitus Daftus, so long as there shall be an
opposing force in the south of the land.”
Down the years, The Highland March has also been a decent fundraiser
for a variety of charities: The MFR Charity Trust, The International
Children’s Trust and the Raigmore Children’s High Dependency Unit to
name but three.
And we have a piper, Spud, the Celtic daft Tartan Army devotee, who,
as I am writing this piece, is probably still winging his way back to
Scotland from Slovenia.
As Highland Marchers, we have a vision: fans of every club in Scotland
doing what we do, and walking in support of their team, and in support
of their own personal wellbeing, in the final week of the league
season. We do it because we love the challenge, we love the craic, we
love the beer (within reason!) but most importantly because we love
the football team.
And finally, we look forward to the day when Inverness Caledonian
Thistle finally finish in the top six and we can march in tandem with
the Celtic supporters to a rousing reception at Parkhead!
If you want to know more about The Highland March, then visit the
official HM website at www.highlandmarch.co.uk