58th Grand Chapitre, 6–9 July 2017
Early in July 2017 Chaîne members from around the globe met on the terrace of the New Club in Edinburgh which has a panoramic view of the Castle and old town. Founded in 1787, the New Club is steeped in Edinburgh’s professional, business and academic history. After a refreshing aperitif on the balcony we were entertained by an introduction to, and brief history of, the club from the secretary, Colonel Campbell, followed by a wonderful Dîner Amical in the oak-panelled dining room.
The following morning one group set out for the Falkirk Wheel. Their boat took them down one canal, around the Wheel, and then deposited them into a second canal at a higher level – clever technology! Then it was on to the French Château-styled Callander House for lunch, followed by a quick visit to see the world famous ‘Kelpies’.
A second group instead took the “Maid of the Forth” out to Inchcolm island where we saw grey seals, a variety of sea birds and … garden gnomes, sat on one of the outlying rocks like sentries guarding the wildlife. On the return trip, we passed under each of the three bridges that now span the Firth of Fourth - one from each of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Only up close does one get a sense of the size of these structures. The main tubular supports for the rail bridge being the same diameter as London underground tunnels!
The Welcome Dinner that evening in the Castle Suite of the Waldorf Astoria, Caledonian Hotel, was orchestrated by Operations Director, Maître Hôtelier Franck Bruyere. Maître Rôtisseur Ryan MacFarlane, Executive Chef, prepared an outstanding six-course meal for us with a strong Scottish influence from whisky cured sea trout, through haggis bonbons to Tantallon biscuits. The trompe l’oeil decoration of the Castle Suite formed an intriguing backdrop to lively conversation as delegates from far and wide mingled and caught up with the events in the lives of their friends.
The Chaîne is always made welcome in Edinburgh and again the City Council let us use the Council Chamber for our Induction Ceremony and Reception. Situated on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, the City Chambers is an impressive building, originally by John Adam, with numerous later alterations and additions. The interior of the Council Chamber is of later Victorian origin and is wonderfully ornate with a significant presence, reflecting the importance of the room’s role. The induction party was piped in by Senior Pipe Major Ross McCrindle of the First Battalion Scots Guards. After an informative introduction and welcome from Frank Ross, the current Lord Provost of Edinburgh, the Inducting Officer, Roberto Zanghi, Bailli Délégue d’Italie and Membre du Conseil Magistral, ably assisted by officers of the GB Chaine, performed the inductions and medal awards with aplomb.
That afternoon one group took a vintage bus tour of the city sights whilst others went to Broomhall House in Fife. Lord Charles Bruce (just plain ‘Charlie’ to us), eldest son of the current Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, led an informative and amusing tour of the ground floor rooms of this impressive Greek Revival house full of history of the Bruce clan. We learned that the 5th Earl was a founding member of the R&A golf club, and a leading figure in the Scottish Enlightenment. As for the somewhat notorious 7th Earl, Charlie was keen to point out that he brought back the Elgin Marbles from Greece, of which there are replicas in the house, with full approval and for conservation purposes! He stressed that as far as the family is concerned, they were not stolen as has been claimed by Greece for so long, but were instead purchased legally.
The Gala Dinner was held in the Sir Walter Scott Suite, in the Balmoral Hotel, with views over the Scott Memorial and the Castle to the west. This is a fantastic dining room and provided the perfect backdrop to this year’s gala dinner. The new Chaîne Tartan was widely in evidence, adding colour to the evening, with many ladies wearing Sashes and gentlemen in trews. Executive Chef, Jeff Bland, and his team, produced an outstanding five course meal, again showcasing Scotland’s best ingredients; the Blairgowrie beef being one of the highlights. Macaroon ice cream sandwiches with coffee were particularly inspired! With a wonderful array of paired wines, the meal was a huge success and was enjoyed by all. Mid-dinner we were treated to a collection of James Bond themed hits from Lisa Martin. Her voice seemed to mould itself to the cadence of the original artists and we were all temporarily transported to a world of international espionage, rather than international dining and friendship.
Sunday evening aboard The Royal Yacht Britannia was an evening never to be forgotten! Having been piped on board, we enjoyed an aperitif whilst wandering freely around many of the main rooms and suites on board. To have followed in the footsteps of so many world leaders and royalty, not least our own Queen and her family, was very special indeed. Docents in each room told us stories from the 50+ years that the ship was in service and brought to life the displays, paintings and photos. Dinner was served in The State Dining Room. Lavishly laid tables heralded a stunning six course dinner, again with outstanding wine pairings. Carefully orchestrated service added to the sense of occasion.
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