Wacky cartie races are a family affair

24th June 2011 at 01:00
From youngsters to grandparents, everyone raised their game for the first Kemnay Cartie Rally, writes Jean McLeish

A tiny boy walks down the street after his dad, who is pulling the boy's home-made cartie. He has a number 2 pinned on his back and is talking animatedly to his dad about the race. Suddenly he thrusts both arms up into the air above his head, making two wee hands into fists: "And I won!" he shouts with elation to the deserted streets.

A few hundred yards away on the High Street, the Kemnay Cartie Rally is still under way. It has taken the pupils of Kemnay Primary nearly a year to organise, and even in torrential rain there's something magical about this first-time event.

The P7s have organised everything - even getting the roads closed through this Aberdeenshire village to allow the carties safe passage. You're allowed to get a push to start you off, but then the drivers are hurtling down the road on their own to the finish line.

Fifty or so carties have been made from recycled materials and lots of imagination. Everyone has had a hand in this - mums and dads and grannies and grandads - and it's a colourful cavalcade. There are fire engine carties, glittery pink carties that look like Barbiemobiles, some made from old bike wheels, and others from old bits of wood nailed together.

Inevitably there are mishaps, wheels come unstuck and grandad's mobile is buzzing in his pocket - on call for cartie repair 247. But the children and their pit crews are utterly focused, serious-faced before the 150m race gets under way, sizing up the competition. The race is for everyone - a community event open to children from all the local schools, with races from P1 right through the secondary schools. There are even adult races for boys and girls who never grew up.

"This is actually an entry for the Total Green Schools Award competition," says Graham Still, depute head at Kemnay Primary, who is on duty at the finish line.

"So we thought: `What better way to enter an eco-competition than to have recycled carties and a community event all tied into one?'"

Six-year-old Leon Keating is finishing a practice run with his dad. "My dad built this," says Leon, proudly. "And I'm just hoping the front wheels stay on," interjects the said dad, Kenny, who used the wheels from an old buggy. "Down my way in Motherwell, we call this a bogey and he's affronted at me calling it that. Instead of cartie race I was calling it a bogey race and he was saying: `That's something up your nose.'"

Up the road, P3 teacher Alison Milton is standing with her two daughters, Niamh, nine, and Lucy, six, who go to nearby Kintore Primary. The girls' grandad helped build their cartie, which is upended onto its side.

"The wheel has fallen off," says Mrs Milton. "My mum leant on the back of the cart and then the wheel broke off," Niamh chips in. Their neighbour Mark Hendry has come to cheer them on, but is now working on the wheel with a hammer while they wait for granddad and his toolkit.

Nearby, 82-year-old Mavis Wainman is sitting in her driveway in the rain, watching the action. "This is excellent. I am all in favour of home-grown fun," she says.

Within minutes, grandad Bob Milton, the builder of the broken cartie, has arrived and unloaded his tools. Can he fix it? Yes he can.

From commentary to closures, pupils do it all

Twenty-four P7 pupils began organising the Kemnay Cartie Rally last August.

"They're marshalling, they're commentating and they're judging it - they're running it, basically," says their teacher, Katie McIntyre.

Never mind Curriculum for Excellence, these children have found a way of engaging their whole community, and people are having fun - in the rain.

"The children have learnt so many organisational skills. We've done presentations to the police and council.

"All that had to be organised by the children," says Miss McIntyre. "They spoke to the shops and organised raffle prizes and negotiated getting the roads closed with the shops, and making them all aware of it. And then they built their carties at home."

But it is also an ideal project for CfE: "This has CfE all the way through it," says depute head Graham Still.

"It's been fantastic. The kids have had to work with Aberdeenshire Council, local councillors, community councillors, shopkeepers and businesses. It has been hugely enterprising and the kids have been involved from the start."

Miss McIntyre says children used the rally as part of their class work: "The literacy aspect was designing posters and writing letters. In numeracy, we measured the length of the track and looked at stopping distances, so there has been a lot of practical applications."

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