I didn’t take nearly enough photos. But there’ll be more coming from others.
What a day that was.
In the end, despite the last-minute scrog-up with the assembly point, I reckon I managed to meet about 300 Wings readers either on the High Street or on Calton Hill. Here’s some of our team coming down North Bridge.
And some more coming along Regent Road, where the best sight was Tom Gordon of the Herald scurrying madly past the marchers in order to take some pictures of me and tweet the most unflattering one he could find. He didn’t come and chat, curiously.
My supply of 200 badges (100 silver Wings lions and 100 button-badge shield logos) lasted roughly 90 seconds. I’d barely climbed the last step of Fleshmarket Close at around 10.40am, gasping like the unfit old man I am, when an absolute throng spotted the Wings flag and swarmed around me like super-friendly locusts.
The crowd already stretched as far as the eye could see up the High Street at that point, and after shaking a forest of hands outside the Albannach and rashly accepting a generous offer of a pint of Crabbie’s (it’s never too early for a Fusilier), stewards told us we had to get into the road or we’d lose our spot and have to go right to the back, so we tucked in between Yes Aberdeen and Farming For Independence and waited.
The march paused for a good while outside the old Scottish Office building (I think) for no immediately obvious reason, where a couple of the many lovely Ladies Of Wings (no names, just in case) posed for this shot in front of irrepressible SNP MSP Christian Allard on Regent Road, and where we met a surprise guest (below right).
And from then up onto the Hill itself, which was already very busy when we arrived despite our being near the front. We found a spot (a hollow near one of the large video screens, which turned out to be a poor acoustic choice) and surveyed the scene.
Throughout the whole day, streams of people came up and introduced themselves as readers, many of them offering incredibly touching comments and testimonies. Several even insisted on pressing £5, £10 and £20 notes into my hand despite my protestations that it wasn’t necessary and that we weren’t doing any fundraising. I’ll find something good to spend the resulting three-figure sum on.
This site isn’t normally a place of gushing emotions, but I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who took the time to come up and say hello, from the bottom of my heart. You can’t possibly know what it means to hear how much people love Wings Over Scotland, and for so many different reasons.
The people who’ve always been for independence, those who’d been converted by things they read here, those who spread the word, and all the others. To all of you – I’m humbled almost (but evidently not quite) beyond these few inadequate words. I gulped down a lump in my throat more than once.
Above is just one section of the crowds away from the main “arena” in front of the National Monument. I was told in the middle of the day that the police put the crowd at 20,000 or so, Nicola Sturgeon said it might be as many as 30,000 from the stage, and the BBC, bless them, estimated 8,000.
I have no idea, it being almost impossible to gauge that sort of thing on Calton Hill unless you were armed with a clicker at the entrance, but it was certainly a lot more than 2012’s crowd, so make of that what you will.
I’ll write more later, and other people will have far better pictures and videos, but I just wanted to put something up right now. The rally was amazing, the speeches by Nicola Sturgeon, Dennis Canavan and Allan Grogan were standouts, and I had an awesome time. You’re all fantastic. We’re going to win. Now I need some dinner.