Weddings by David Macfie

Today was the day. Hamish McCloud was getting married. He was up early to prepare and felt energized when the Scottish weather had been kind. It was a glorious spring day with a cloudless blue sky and a sun that was already high enough to warm the air and promise a beautiful atmosphere for the ceremony. Hamish ate his breakfast of porridge and a plate of bacon and eggs, then dressed in his flying gear. He made his way to the back of the farmhouse where he had a hanger and his own airfield. He muscled open the hanger doors and stepped quickly to his aerobatic plane. Although he had checked everything before bed, habit led him to repeat all his preflight tests and checks, both out and in the cockpit. His Extra 330SC passed everything with flying colors and was ready for the day. He started the engine and trundled the plane onto the runway. His first task of the day was to fly to the airfield that he and his fiancé had chosen for their wedding.

To many people an airfield might sound like a strange place to get married, but to Hamish and his intended, it was a no-brainer. She, Moira Lochrie, was also an aerobatic pilot and flying was a huge part of both of their lives. So, for them, flying just had to play a part in the most important day in their relationship to date. That meant an airfield was a given, but they still had to choose which one. That choice was helped by a second passion they shared. They were both keen birders, with a particular fascination for raptors and eagles in particular.

Now the choice of airfield became a question of finding one that was close to a place where eagles bred regularly. In this Hamish got lucky. A farmer friend of his, Cameron McIntyre, kept sheep in an area in the south of the Cairngorms National Park close to Caenlochan, a glen that had been declared one of the Special Protection Areas for the great Golden Eagles of Scotland. He also had his own small plane and a private airfield there. He happily volunteered this as the venue for the wedding and equally happily agreed to be the best man.

As Hamish took off to hop the twenty five miles, or so, from his place near Dunkeld to the venue, his heart soared with his plane. He was in his element now and was really looking forward to the day. He and Moira had something planned that would make the wedding unforgettable for all those present. He even sang with happiness at the brilliant weather and the amazing scenery he headed towards. When he arrived, he was greeted by Cameron and his parents, who were hosting the event. Robert and Morag McIntyre were people that Hamish had known most of his life, and when his own parents had been killed in a car accident, some ten years ago, they’d become his surrogate mum and dad. The trio seemed just as happy as he was and prodded him to tell them what was about to happen. He refused point blank, promising that all would be revealed once all the guests were present.

Next to arrive was the luxury bus that Hamish had hired to bring the minister and the twenty five friends and family members, who were the only other guests. Not long afterwards Moira flew in and parked her plane next to Hamish’s. The only difference between the machines was the color schemes, which in true patriotic style were painted in the two main colors of the respective family tartans. Hamish rushed to greet Moira as she climbed down from her cockpit. The hug was strong and happy and the kiss curled her toes. His arm naturally circled her waist as he escorted her back to the guests. As all the welcomes and greetings were being completed, Hamish scanned the sky. He smiled a small smile of satisfaction when he spied a pair of golden eagles circling above.

“Good morning, friends. I’d like to welcome you all here today. I’m sure you’re all wondering what we’re doing here, in what some of you might consider the middle of nowhere.”

This introduction received smiles, grins and the odd chuckle of agreement.

“All is about to be revealed. First I’d like to draw your attention to two other guests at this celebration. If you look in the sky behind you on my left, you will see a pair of golden eagles circling above.”

The guests all turned and picked out the birds.

“Hamish is part of the reintroduction of these great raptors to this part of Scotland and they are the reason for this choice of venue. He gives them a sheep carcass from time to time to get them accustomed to this area so that we may see them. They are about to start a courtship ritual that is common to this species.” As he spoke the great birds began wheeling and soaring. They chased each other across the sky, with the female sometimes flipping onto her back and presenting her talons up to the male. They dived until it seemed they must crash into the ground then they soared again. It was a display of flying mastery seldom witnessed and the guests were spellbound. When it was done the birds disappeared.

“They have returned to their eyrie where they will complete the ritual by mating. We expect the first egg to appear within a couple of days. Now to the first part of today’s ceremony. Moira and I have choreographed our own courtship ritual based on what you have just witnessed. We have added a twist at the end, borrowed from the bald eagles of the United States. Some describe this ending as the ‘dive of death”. The eagles fly to a great height then lock talons and cartwheel round and round until they are very close to the ground. Some even hit the ground before they release.”

With that brief explanation the couple joined hands and walked to their planes. What followed was breathtaking and awe-inspiring and heart stopping. The two planes seemed to come alive as they re-enacted the swooping and soaring and chasing and diving that the birds had demonstrated such a short time before. The choreography was so well matched that when the aircraft were at their highest they looked just like the majestic eagles. As the display reached its climax there was a general holding of breath. The planes climbed until they were just specks and then suddenly they began to drop so rapidly that it looked like the pilots had lost control. Extremely quickly the machines became visible and the audience started to see that they were corkscrewing down so close to each other that it was a wonder they didn’t touch and disintegrate. By the time they broke out of the spins they were no more than a hundred meters from the ground. An almost violent exhaling of breath followed, as the two came in to land.

In some ways the remainder of the ceremony was an anti-climax. Nothing could really top what the guests had already seen. But the overwhelming rightness of the matched flights stayed with everyone. The minister summed it up.

“This is the first time I have ever seen two weddings in a single day that so perfectly illustrated the majesty of life and the beauty of lifelong promises between a male and a female.”