was arranged in a rather unusual way. The 15 contestants
were broken up into three groups of five, and judged according to the other
contestants in that group as opposed to everyone. I had no idea what number in
what group I would be in when I was first roused from our hotel room early in
the morning. After dressing, make-up-ing, lip-sticking, and plastering a grin
on my face, I went down to the lobby for an early breakfast (last meal?) with
the other members of the convention before the contest. And the meal was kind
of hard on the stomach…really sugary tarts. Then our M.C .gave us a little pep
talk about the importance of the contest, and via the wild results of
hat-drawings, I wound up being the first orator in the first set. Yes, panic
After picking these things up about the general the mood and intent of the contest, the verdict of the preliminaries seemed to coincide with it. I was not chosen to proceed to the finals because it was said I did not make a strong enough connection between the past and the present. Several things crossed my mind at this point: this should never have been called an historical orations contest. It was not judged upon the way the stories from the past were brought to life, nor upon the timeless lessons of courage, honor, sacrifice, and mercy that could be drawn from it; instead, it rested upon a very political point that the orator was supposed to make, connecting the initiative of the Founding Fathers with the pioneering spirit of the organic vegetable business or the right to wear tee-shirts with writing on college campuses.
Such was the case; but then it seems that many of the contestants were not particularly keen on history in particular but academic achievement in general. They were talented, every one of them…but perhaps the contest itself was suffering from a confusion of goals. Is it history that we are trying to preserve, in the flesh-and-blood of it, the kind of thing that tugs the heart and stirs the soul, the thing that teaches us about the complexity of humanity and the mysterious workings of providence…? Or are we trying to merely bolster the present by appealing to some famous personage or event, like name-dropping, and putting people in boxes that defy the appeal for both realism and originality? Perhaps that is a question that should be asked, and answered honestly.
After the contest, there was a procession of the SARs through the streets of Greenville to attend a service of remembrance for deceased members of the society. It was pretty wild being a part of it, with all the reenactors dressed in period clothing, banners flying. Visiting an old-fashioned Anglican church was a unique experience, especially because they had a Cross of St. George hanging outside, a Book of Common Prayer in vestibule, and they played Handel’s ‘Ala Hornpipe’ on the marvelously grand pipe organ. It was like going to England. I have to admit, after just having watched A Man for All Seasons back home, it was sort of an irony…almost as if I had just crossed back in time, and was ready to have it out with the vicar about Henry’s six wives! ;-)
Later that night, we returned to the contest room and watched as the final judging was made. The contestant from Virginia won first prize; the contestant from Ohio won second; the contestant from Delaware won third. Prior to that, we had all been called up on stage to give an overview about ourselves to the larger audience, and were presented with certificates of participation as well as $200 a piece. I would later use it to record the song “Our Lady of Britannia”. I will admit that initially, I felt pretty bad about not taking Maryland to the finals, but my sponsor, Mr. Engler, was a true pal and encourager, standing in my corner and acknowledging that I had done my best for my native state and fairly represented the county society. Also, I had the pleasure of making a friend: Mary Frances, the contestant from Louisiana, also a Catholic who had been partly homeschooled. We continue our correspondence through email, etc.
Then we headed off the visit The Battlefield of Cowpens, where the infamous British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton (fondly referred to as “Bloody Ban”) got his comeuppance and was drummed out of town by American Colonel Daniel Morgan, a redoubtable rebel and leader of men. At the Visitor’s Center, I got to see a beautiful Scottish broadsword taken from a British officer who fought at the battle. The blade itself was elaborately engraved with images of thistle and even St. Andrew, standing next to his X-shaped cross. I also got to have a picture taken of me standing next to a cannon, dressed in a revolutionary uniform and tri-corn hat. There were a slew of interesting books I could have spent all day going through, but we were informed by the information desk that the Visitor’s Center in King’s Mountain would be closing within the hour! So we rushed off to our main destination.
At the Visitor’s Center in Cowpens, I got to see a beautiful Scottish broadsword taken from a British officer who fought at the battle. The blade itself was elaborately engraved with images of thistle and even St. Andrew, standing next to his X-shaped cross. I also got to have a picture taken of me standing next to a cannon, dressed in a revolutionary uniform and tri-corn hat. There were a slew of interesting books I could have spent all day going through, but we were informed by the information desk that the Visitor’s Center in King’s Mountain would be closing within the hour! So we rushed off to our main destination.
|The Death of Maj. Patrick Ferguson on King's Mountain|