Sep 022017
 

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

Visitors from around the world flocked to the small Aberdeenshire village of Bellabeg last Saturday (26 August) to witness one of Scotland’s most iconic spectacles.
For the 176th time, the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games took place in the picturesque Strathdon valley and with it a tradition that stretches back nearly 200 years. 

Dressed in full highland regalia, 170 kilted Lonach Highlanders followed in the footsteps of their forefathers to celebrate the history and heritage of the local area.

Armed with eight-foot long pikes and Lochaber axes, and carrying the colourful standards of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, the men, led by the pipes and drums of the Lonach Pipe Band, set off at 8am to embark on a six-mile march en route to the Highland Games. Along the way, the parade halted at six properties. At each, with a dram of whisky and to the cry of ‘Ho Ho Lonach’, the men toasted the health of the property’s owners, the society and the local area.

At one o’clock the Highlanders marched into Bellabeg Park to officially open the 176th Lonach Gathering. They were greeted with enthusiastic cheers and applause from a crowd estimated at 7,500 which packed the grandstands and stood five to six deep in places around the arena. The day was blessed with bright sunshine and warm temperatures, only interrupted by occasional light showers in the morning.

Following the Lonach Highlanders every step of their march, pulling the traditional ‘cairt’ was Socks, the Lonach horse. Owned by Derek Gray of Kildrummy, the eight-year-old Irish Heavy Cob was making his third appearance at the gathering and received a hearty reception from the spectators.

Organised by the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games has been held annually since 1832, except during the years of the first and second world wars. Staged on the fourth Saturday of every August, the event gives a huge boost to the local area.

Visitors travelled from throughout the UK and overseas to experience the unique and emotive march of the Lonach Highlanders and soak up the friendly atmosphere at one of Scotland’s leading Highland Games.

A packed programme of over 70 events featured throughout the day. There were displays of strength and stamina in the light and heavy athletics, and intricate footwork on the highland dancing boards. Solo pipers and four local pipe bands provided a musical soundtrack for proceedings.

The ladies tug o’ war competition was again fiercely contested

The popular four-mile hill race attracted a field of 70 runners. Henry Gordon-Hart from London won the men’s race, while the first female home was Stephanie Provan of Aboyne.

Also taking part in the hill race was Lonach Highlander George Reid. The 63-year-old from Tomatin went on to compete in the inaugural Great Aberdeen Run 10k race the following day wearing his Highlanders’ uniform.

A strong field of entrants featured in the heavy events, which saw a new shield being competed for in the open caber event. The shield was presented to the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society by the family of Society stalwart Rob Walker who died earlier this year. Mr Walker who farmed in Strathdon his entire working life, was a member of the society for 70 years, having first joined in 1947.  Lukasz Wenta from East Kilbride received the shield from the family after winning the open caber event.

The ladies tug o’ war competition was again fiercely contested, with the Glenbuchat Ladies proving victorious over Lonach Ladies and the Rest of the World team made up of ladies from throughout the UK and overseas.

Illustrating the international draw of the Lonach Gathering were two photographers from the National Geographic magazine. The duo, who photographed the event in 1991, returned to capture proceedings for an upcoming Dutch edition of the publication.

Three new Lonach Highlanders took part in the march for the first time. They are among six new members of Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, whose membership currently numbers 227. The oldest Lonach Highlander marching was 77-year-old marshalling sergeant George Thomson from Strathdon.

Jennifer Stewart, secretary and chief executive of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, said:

“The spectacle of Lonach and the march of the Lonach Highlanders never disappoints. Bellabeg was abuzz all day and it is wonderful to see. Every year, I look round the arena as the Highlanders march past and without fail there are beaming smiles and emotional faces in equal measure amongst the crowd. Lonach tugs at the heartstrings.

“Although the Highlanders are the stars of the show, they are slowly being upstaged by Socks the horse, who is becoming quite the attraction. He got a rousing welcome from the crowd as he entered the arena and plenty of people were taking selfies with him later on.”

“We saw some very closely fought competitions on the field today, which is great for everyone to see. Tossing the caber, the hill race, the tug o’ war pulls and the children’s races all gained vocal support from spectators. The pipe bands also drew large crowds. Overall, it has been a brilliant day and we thank everyone who has been part of it.”

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Aug 252017
 

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

The Bell Type 47G helicopter apparently being jump started by a car in Bellabeg, Strathdon, Aberdeenshire

The story behind a mysterious photograph unearthed last year has finally been uncovered as an Aberdeenshire community prepares to stage its annual Highland Games.
Amongst a bundle of old slides donated to the organisers of the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games was an intriguing picture of a helicopter apparently being jump started by a car on the A944, the main road through the village of Bellabeg where the gathering is held.

Now months after calling for the public’s help and having explored a number of leads, the tale of the baffling picture has been revealed. 

And a member of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society was the person who held the answers to Strathdon’s curious chopper case.

In 1974, James McIntosh, who was brought up in Strathdon and runs The Lecht Ski Centre, was working for Sunningdale-based Yellow Bird Air Services which owned the Bell 47G-5 helicopter.

The firm was contracted to spread fertiliser on young trees on the Isle of Mull and as the helicopter was due a service, James and American pilot Don Ambabo decided to head to Strathdon for the weekend and carry out the service there, before they flew to Mull.

Assisted by the local policeman, who held up the traffic, the pair landed on the road on the Friday evening before wheeling the helicopter to the cover of the local garage.  Over the weekend, James and Don serviced and washed down the helicopter with the help of fellow Lonach Highlander Archibald Stuart.  When they manoeuvred it back out on Monday morning for take-off, things didn’t quite go to plan.

James said:

“We wheeled the chopper out onto the road and went to fire up the engine and there was nothing.  It was a piston driven engine which can sometimes be difficult to start, especially after being hosed down and cleaned.  Knowing that the local bus and other folks would be needing past soon we had to act quickly.

“As the battery on the helicopter is fairly small a car can jump start it, so I hijacked my father Gibbie’s Rover.  The road was at a standstill for about 10 minutes while we got the helicopter off the ground.  There were a few bemused drivers and some of the locals were peering out their doors to watch proceedings.  It’s not every day a helicopter uses the main road through Strathdon as a helipad.

“After a brief stop in the Lonach games field, Don and I headed for Mull where we spent about four months spreading fertiliser.  The helicopter was also used for crop spraying in other parts of the UK and we had many great flights.  I don’t think we ever caused the same commotion as when we landed in Bellabeg.”

This Saturday will see a different spectacle take-off along the A944 in Strathdon when around 170 Lonach Highlanders undertake their annual six-mile march to the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games. 

Setting off at 8am, the men will visit a number of local properties to toast the health of their owners and the local area, continuing a near 200-year-old tradition. The Highlanders’ arrival onto the games field at one o’clock heralds the official opening of the Highland Games.

It’s a route that James has trod many times, having taken part in the march for 51 years as a drummer in the Lonach Pipe Band.  He first marched aged nine, before joining the Lonach Society at 16, eventually hanging up his drumsticks in recent years.

Forty years ago, after a spell in the Fleet Air Arm and flying helicopters privately, James set up The Lecht Ski Centre alongside Pieter du Pon, Ronnie Winram and Professor Jim Petrie.  Since its founding in 1977, the centre has grown to become one of Scotland’s main ski centres and a year-round activities destination.

Jennifer Stewart, secretary and chief executive of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, said:

“It is brilliant to be able to discover the story behind the photograph, as it certainly had us scratching our heads when we found it.  Being confronted with around 200 men in kilts carrying pikes isn’t unusual on the road in Bellabeg, but a helicopter certainly would have been.

“Stories and unusual events such as this are part of the fabric of our communities and it is important that we record them where we can.”

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Aug 252017
 

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

George Reid (foreground with green jacket) dressed in his Lonach Highlanders outfit.

One of the runners taking part in this Sunday’s inaugural Simplyhealth Great Aberdeen Run will have one of the most unusual warm-up routines of any participant.

George Reid of Tomatin will take part in a six-mile march and a four-mile hill race the day before he competes in the Simplyhealth Great Aberdeen Run 10k race.
The 63-year-old is a member of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, which holds its annual Highland Gathering and Games on Saturday, 26 August in the Aberdeenshire village of Bellabeg.

The event features the unique march of the Lonach Highlanders, a six-mile march through picturesque Strathdon that continues a near 200-year tradition. 

Dressed in full Highland regalia and armed with an eight-foot long pike, George will join around 170 other men as they visit a number of local properties where they toast the health of the owners and the local area.

With a membership numbering 227 men, the Lonach Highlanders are believed to be the largest body of non-military men to carry ceremonial weapons in Britain.  Clad in tartan, with pikes aloft, banners flying and led by a pipe band, the Highlanders create one of the most iconic cultural spectacles in north-east Scotland.

Getting underway at 8am on Saturday morning, the march precedes the Lonach Highland Gathering, which commences at 12 noon and features piping, highland dancing, tug o’ war, children’s races and light and heavy athletics events.

Having marched six miles and enjoyed a hearty lunch, George will join a field of around 100 runners of all ages to compete in the event’s hill race.  Runners interested in participating in the race, which is free to enter and features a £75 first prize, can enter on the day.

The challenging four-mile off-road course features a steep ascent as it winds its way round the hillside forest.  It’s a course that George knows well, having competed in the race 17 times, winning the competition for Lonach Society members six times.

For a man who has completed a number of marathons, ultra-marathons and is a member of Triathlon Inverness, the Saturday march and hill race will be ideal preparation for the Great Aberdeen Run, which he will run in his Lonach Highlanders uniform.

George said:

“I started running about 19 year ago and haven’t really stopped.  I run about four times a week and love it.  I’ve covered all sorts of distances, including marathons in Edinburgh, London and Dublin, the 53-mile Highland Fling ultra and the 50-mile Highland Cross duathlon. 

“It’s brilliant to see the Great Aberdeen Run taking place and I’m looking forward to being part of it.  A 10k run round Aberdeen will be a superb way to end the weekend.  The Lonach Gathering is a fantastic day out and a stirring spectacle, one which I’ve been part of for the past 47 years.  Lonach is the ideal warm-up for the Great Aberdeen Run and an event that I’d encourage visitors to the north-east to attend.”

The Lonach Highland Gathering and Games takes place in the Aberdeenshire village of Bellabeg, which is around an hour’s drive from Aberdeen.  Events on the Highland Games field get underway at 12noon, with the Lonach Highlanders marching round the arena at 1pm and 3pm.  Tickets are priced from £10 for adults and £4 for children.

Established in 1823, by Sir Charles Forbes, 1st Baronet of Newe and Edinglassie, the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society is a charitable organisation based in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire. 

The society organises the annual Lonach Gathering at Bellabeg Park, Strathdon, which is held on the fourth Saturday of August.  The main attraction at the gathering is the march of the Lonach Highlanders, a unique body of non-military men.  Further information on the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, the Lonach Highlanders and the annual Lonach Highland Gathering can be found at www.lonach.org.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Aug 112017
 

A royal visitor helped to crown celebrations marking the 150-year history of Aboyne Highland Games on Saturday (Aug 5). With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

Her Majesty The Queen at Aboyne Highland Games

In bright sunshine and warm temperatures, with occasional showers, an estimated crowd of over 9,500 visitors from around the world descended on Aboyne Green to enjoy the town’s annual celebration of Scottish heritage.

Among the crowd was Her Majesty The Queen, who was making a private visit to the games.

Founded in 1867, Aboyne Highland Games has grown to become one of the highlights of the Royal Deeside summer events calendar, taking place annually on the first Saturday in August. 

A packed programme of 98 events, featuring solo and massed piping, highland dancing, light and heavy athletics and fiddle competitions, kept the gathered crowds entertained throughout the afternoon.

Her Majesty was welcomed to Aboyne Highland Games by its chieftain, Granville Gordon, the 13th Marquis of Huntly, Scotland’s premier Marquis, and chairman Alistair Grant. Mr Grant’s granddaughter, 11-year-old Carlie Esslemont presented The Queen with a posy of flowers.

During her visit, The Queen dedicated the new Aboyne Caber which was specially commissioned to mark the 150th anniversary and featured in the afternoon’s events. Local heavy athletes, Jamie Dawkins and John Fyvie had the honour of presenting the caber to Her Majesty, who also met its creator, Murray Brown, and other members of the games’ committee.

The Queen, who was making her first visit to Aboyne Games, followed in the footsteps of her forebears. In 1876, her grandfather, George V, and great-grandfather, Edward VII, attended the games along with Prince Leopold, the youngest son of Queen Victoria. While in 1922, Princess Andrew of Greece – the mother of The Duke of Edinburgh – attended the games with her daughters Princesses Margarita and Theodora of Greece.

The visit also came just two months after long-serving committee member Peter Nicol was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to highland games, the economy and voluntary service in the north of Scotland. 

In further recognition of his contribution to highland games, which has included nearly 50 years on the Aboyne Highland Games committee, Mr Nicol was presented with a Certificate of Appreciation from the sports governing body, the Scottish Highland Games Association (SHGA). Honorary president of the SHGA, Jim Brown, presented the award which has been introduced to commemorate the association’s 70th anniversary and acknowledges the outstanding service given by individuals in support of highland games across the country.

Organisers of Aboyne Highland Games have worked hard to mark the event’s milestone 150th anniversary in a number of ways, which in turn has helped shape the future story of the event. This included a memory book containing photographs and written reminiscences contributed by members of the public and charting a century and a half of the games.

Ten pipe bands also performed throughout the day, providing a stunning spectacle

Four events that have been a fixture of Aboyne Highland Games since its inception in 1867 were classed as Gold Events this year. With newly commissioned trophies – designed by local teenager Angus Fraser – and increased prize funds, competition in the four events was hotly contested.

Kelty piper Alan Russell claimed the first trophy when he won the Piobaireachd open piping event. Clocking a time of 10.48 seconds, Sam Lyon of London beat a strong field of 12 runners to lift the Gold Event trophy in the 100 Yards Race. In the Heavy Hammer, Vladislav Tulacek from the Czech Republic threw a winning distance of 109ft 6ins to collect the third trophy. On the highland dancing boards, the final trophy went to Rachel Walker from Fettercairn, who was placed first in the Highland Reels aged 16 and over category.

In the late afternoon, spectators were treated to display of pole vaulting. The event, which featured in the inaugural games, returned to Aboyne Green after a near 40-year absence. Nine competitors took part in the event, which was once a staple of highland games across Scotland and is now only staged at a handful of games.

Drawing enthusiastic cheers from the watching crowd, competitors planted the rigid aluminium pole into the grass and with apparent ease – defying the great dexterity required – twisted and turned their bodies to vault increasing heights. Clearing the bar at a height of 8ft (2.43m) and jointly winning the competition were Callum Robertson from Aberdeen and Evyn Read from Canada.

Four heavy athletes jointly won the open caber toss competition, giving them honour of attempting to toss the new 23ft 6in (7.15m) long Aboyne Caber to land in the perfect 12 o’clock position. However, neither Craig Sinclair, Lorne Colthart, Lucas Wenta nor Scott Rider could achieve the feat with the 130lbs (59kg) log.

The hill race was closely fought, with a field of 92 runners taking on the 6.8-mile route that follows part of the Fungle Road and circles the base of Craigendinnie. The first male home was Kyle Greig who finished ahead of second placed James Espie. In the ladies event was won by Stephanie Provan, with Sally Wallis finishing second.

Ten pipe bands also performed throughout the day, providing a stunning spectacle and sound when they played en masse. Those participating were Ballater and District, Banchory and District, Clan Hay, Ellon Royal British Legion, the Gordon Highlanders Association, Grampian and District, Huntly and District, Lonach, Newtonhill, and Towie and District.

Alistair Grant, chairman of Aboyne Highland Games, said:

“It was an honour and a privilege to welcome Her Majesty to Aboyne Highland Games to mark our 150th anniversary. She took a real interest in how our new Aboyne Caber was crafted and seemed particularly taken to learn about the visits her ancestors had made to the games. Our first royal visit was in 1873, when the then Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, attended and it is wonderful to continue that long association with the royal family today.

“We have had a superb crowd on the green who have been kept thoroughly entertained by our packed programme of 98 events. The atmosphere has been excellent. Visitors have travelled from near and far, which goes to show the huge appeal that highland games still have. That is really positive for the future.

“The standard of competition was excellent, with some really strong fields. Tossing the caber, tug o’ war, the hill race and children’s race all drew passionate support from the crowd. While the skill of the pole vaulters held everyone’s attention. Our thanks go to all those who have participated, visited, supported or helped organise today, making it a truly outstanding day and ensuring the 150th anniversary of Aboyne Highland Games will be long remembered.”

Founded in 1867, Aboyne Highland Games is a traditional Scottish highland games held annually on the first Saturday in August. The Aberdeenshire event, held under the patronage of Granville Gordon, the 13th Marquis of Huntly, attracts crowds of up to 10,000 people each year.

Featuring a programme of traditional highland games events, including highland dancing, tossing the caber, piping and fiddle competitions, the event on the town’s green attracts visitors from around the world and makes an important contribution to the local Deeside economy. Further information on Aboyne Highland Games can be found at www.aboynegames.com.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Aug 042017
 

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

Massed pipe bands at the 2016 Aboyne Highland Games

Thousands of visitors are expected to descend on Aboyne Green this Saturday as the town holds its annual highland games. Founded in 1867, this year’s Aboyne Highland Games will mark the 150th anniversary of the popular Royal Deeside event. 

Up to 10,000 people from around the world are expected to attend the event, which is held under the patronage of Granville Gordon, the 13th Marquis of Huntly.

A packed programme of 98 traditional highland events will be held throughout the day, including solo and massed piping, highland dancing, light and heavy athletics and fiddle competitions.  Over 80 trade stands, children’s races and a funfair also feature.

To commemorate the games’ milestone anniversary, organisers have created a memory book containing old photographs from bygone years. The book also includes written contributions from members of the public who have spectated or competed at the games, or been involved in its organisation. It will form part of a display of games memorabilia which is expected to prove popular with visitors.

Among those visiting will be hundreds of representatives from the 10 Scottish clans featured in the event’s Clan Village. This year the clans that will be represented are Burnett, Cochran, Findlay, Forbes, Fraser, Gordon, Hay, Leask, Leslie and Strachan. The Burnett clan is expected to have the largest presence, as around 200 clan members are travelling to the north-east from around the world as part of a week-long gathering.

Events on Saturday get underway at 10am, when the massed pipe bands march through the town and onto Aboyne Green, heralding the start of the day’s competitions. The games will be officially opened at 11:15am by the Marquis of Huntly, at which time the chieftain’s banner will be raised.

Aboyne Highland Games 1871: One of the earliest pictures of the event.

A number of competitions will be watched with keen interest throughout the day by the assembled crowd.

Four events that have been a fixture of every games have this year been classed as Gold Events.

Boasting increased prize money and newly commissioned trophies that have been designed by local teenager Angus Fraser, each event is expected to be fiercely contested.

The open caber toss will see the usual feats of strength and balance from the heavy athletes.

However, with the winner gaining the opportunity to toss the new 23ft 6in (7.15m) long anniversary caber, a close competition is predicted. A field of up to 150 runners are expected to take on the challenging 6.8-mile hill race, which last year was won by Kyle Greig in 42 minutes 58 seconds.

One of the events that made up the programme of the inaugural games is also making a spectacular return after a near 40-year absence. Pole vaulting, once a staple of highland games across Scotland and now only staged at a handful of games, will grace Aboyne Green for the first time since 1978.

Alistair Grant, chairman of Aboyne Highland Games, said:

“Aboyne Highland Games has been an important part of the local community for 150 years, attracting visitors from around the world and occasionally, British and European royalty. Saturday is an opportunity for us to pay homage to our history, celebrate the achievements of today’s competitors and look ahead to the future. It is set to be a special day, which we are marking in a number of ways.

“Seeing Aboyne Green come to life on games day is a fantastic sight. It is the beating heart of the town with plenty going on to entertain all the family. Alongside the usual mix of events, there will be 10 pipe bands performing, a new caber event, the presentation of four stunning new trophies and pole vaulting. The crowd is certainly going to be very well entertained as Aboyne Highland Games celebrates its 150th birthday, and we’d encourage them to be here in time for the opening ceremony at 11:15am.

“Highland games such as ours would not be possible without the hard work that so many volunteers put in throughout the year and the support that we receive from numerous local businesses. We are indebted to them for that continued assistance.”

Aboyne Highland Games takes place on Saturday, 05 August on Aboyne Green, with events getting underway just after 10am. The official opening ceremony commences at 11:15am and events run throughout the afternoon. Those planning to attend Saturday’s event are encouraged to be there in time for the opening ceremony.

Founded in 1867, Aboyne Highland Games is a traditional Scottish highland games held annually on the first Saturday in August. The Aberdeenshire event, held under the patronage of Granville Gordon, the 13th Marquis of Huntly, attracts crowds of up to 10,000 people each year.

Featuring a programme of traditional highland games events, including highland dancing, tossing the caber, piping and fiddle competitions, the event on the town’s green attracts visitors from around the world and makes an important contribution to the local Deeside economy. Further information on Aboyne Highland Games can be found at www.aboynegames.com.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Jul 282017
 

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

Massed pipe bands at Aboyne Highland Games

For decades, a mysterious figure from the past has looked out from the minutes of the inaugural meeting of Aboyne Highland Games. Now, a century and a half on from that meeting, today’s committee has finally been able to put a name to the person who in 1867 held the title of Lord Provost of Aboyne.

As part of celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of Aboyne Highland Games, the committee embarked on a project to identify the event’s founding fathers.

In July 1867, 20 men met in Aboyne’s Huntly Arms Hotel to discuss the possibility of staging the Royal Deeside town’s first highland games. Within weeks their vision was a reality as several thousand spectators gathered to watch proceedings on Aboyne Green.

Next month, on Saturday, 05 August, a century and a half on, those scenes will be recreated on the town’s green as crowds watch today’s competitors vie for honours in light and heavy athletics, highland dancing, piping and fiddling. The event’s success and appeal ensures it continues to be a highlight of the Royal Deeside summer events calendar.

Thanks to the work of Aberdeen and North-East Scotland Family History Society, a picture of each of these pioneering men has now been created. The professions of the men forming that first committee included a doctor, an innkeeper, a leather merchant, a flesher (butcher), a carpenter, a blacksmith, a wood merchant, a shoemaker, a gamekeeper, a railway porter, two masons and at least five farmers.

The most intriguing entry in the list of attendees was simply given as the Lord Provost of Aboyne, who was noted to have chaired the meeting. The title was most likely ceremonial as Aboyne was not a royal burgh, only a burgh of barony. For this reason, no official council records of Aboyne Town Council are held as part of Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Archives.

A newspaper article was to prove crucial in unmasking this eminent figure. The Aberdeen Journal of May, 22 1867 carried a story in which the identity of the Lord Provost of Aboyne was confirmed as a Mr William Mackintosh. This matched the name that was signed at the end of the minute of the first meeting and not listed elsewhere in those minutes.

Kyle Randalls competing at the 2016 Aboyne Highland Games.

Born in early 1830 in the Inverness-shire parish of Daviot and Dunlichity, William Mackintosh was working as an officer of the Inland Revenue in Aboyne at the time of the 1861 census. Following the death of his first wife in 1862, he married Mary Symon in 1864 with whom he had six children. He worked as a general merchant in Aboyne for a number of years before moving to Aberdeen to work as an insurance agent, dying in the city in May 1898.

Amongst the other founding committee members were local GP Dr Alexander Keith, world-renowned highland games competitor Donald Dinnie and his younger brother Lubin.

The proprietor of the town’s Huntly Arms Inn, Charles Cook, local farmers James Esson of Dess, William Grant of Mill of Coull and David Cooper from Glen Tanar, and blacksmith Alexander Gray were also among the group who helped to establish the games.

A fixture of Aboyne Highland Games, where the contribution different families have made to the local area is celebrated, is the clan village, which each year features 10 Scottish clans. This year the clans that will be represented are Burnett, Cochran, Findlay, Forbes, Fraser, Gordon, Hay, Leask, Leslie and Strachan. Aberdeen and North-East Scotland Family History Society will also be on hand to provide advice and assistance to those looking to research their own family history.

The Burnett clan will have one of the largest presences in the clan village at Aboyne Highland Games. Around 200 clan members are travelling to the north-east from around the world as part of a week-long programme of events that forms the clan’s regular gathering.

Those visitors will be among the 10,000 spectators who annually attend Aboyne Highland Games, making it one of north-east Scotland’s most popular traditional summer events. Locals and visitors will be able to toast the event’s success with a commemorative whisky – a 14-year-old Longmorn bourbon cask. Each of the 292 bottles has its own individually numbered certificate.

Alistair Grant, chairman of Aboyne Highland Games, said:

“The Lord Provost of Aboyne has intrigued us for many years and it is great to finally learn a little more about this mysterious figure, and also the other gents who helped establish the games. We are very grateful to Aberdeen and North-East Scotland Family History Society for their assistance.

“The group has done a fantastic job researching some of the family history of the founding committee, identifying where they lived, their occupations and naming their direct descendants. When you look at their professions, these men had important roles to play in the local community and would have been held in high regard.

“Our 150th anniversary is set to be a special day and is being marked in a number of ways. A book containing old pictures and the public’s memories of the games is being created, an anniversary whisky is being bottled and pole vaulting is making a return to programme. It will be great to once again see Aboyne Green come to life on games day and we look forward to welcoming visitors from far and wide to help us celebrate our anniversary.”

Bottles of the 150th Aboyne Highland Games anniversary whisky, which retail at £49.95, can be purchased from the Aboyne branch of Strachan’s of Royal Deeside.

Founded in 1867, Aboyne Highland Games is a traditional Scottish highland games held annually on the first Saturday in August.

The Aberdeenshire event, held under the patronage of Granville Gordon, the 13th Marquis of Huntly, attracts crowds of up to 10,000 people each year. Featuring a programme of traditional highland games events, including highland dancing, tossing the caber and piping, the event on the town’s green attracts visitors from around the world and makes an important contribution to the local Deeside economy.

Further information on Aboyne Highland Games can be found at www.aboynegames.com.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Jul 282017
 

A leading sporting facility in Aberdeen will welcome the Queen’s Baton Relay this summer with a series of events celebrating the 2018 Commonwealth Games. With thanks to Yvette Rayner, PR Account Manager, Frasermedia.

Aberdeen Sports Village

Team Scotland has revealed an exciting five-day programme of events and celebrations which will be held around the country, to mark the visit of the Gold Coast 2018 Queen’s Baton Relay (QBR) on its global tour, ahead of next year’s Commonwealth Games in Australia, including a day of sporting events at Aberdeen Sports Village (ASV) on Thursday 24 August 2017.

In Scotland from 22-26 August 2017, the presence of the Baton will bring Gold Coast 2018 one step closer for athletes and supporters, as Team Scotland aims for its best ever medal haul at an overseas Games.

The Queen’s Baton Relay is a Games tradition that celebrates the Commonwealth’s diversity, inspires community pride and excites people about the world-class festival of sports and culture to come.

The Queen’s Baton carries a message from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II that calls the Commonwealth’s athletes to come together in peaceful and friendly competition.

Designed for each Games by the host nation, the 2018 Queen’s Baton has a distinctive loop design and has been made using macadamia wood and reclaimed plastic, sourced from Gold Coast waterways, and inspired by the region’s vibrant spirit and indigenous heritage.

With only five days in Scotland this year, compared to the extensive 42 day tour of the country in 2014 as Commonwealth Games hosts, the focus is on not just passing through, but spending quality time in each community it visits. The programme includes school and community events with a strong youth and sport theme, showcasing our rich heritage, links to Australia, The Commonwealth and a number of exciting Glasgow 2014 legacy projects.

Paul Bush OBE, chair, Commonwealth Games Scotland said:

“The Queen’s Baton Relay is an iconic symbol of the Commonwealth Games and we look forward to welcoming the Baton to Scotland next month. We have had tremendous enthusiasm and support from local authorities, schools and community groups across the country, helping to organise an exciting programme of events which will use the QBR to connect their communities with the Games and embrace the values of the Commonwealth movement as a whole.

“The public support Team Scotland enjoyed for Glasgow 2014 was phenomenal and I look forward to seeing that passion sparked once again, as the Baton’s journey through Scotland marks the final countdown to the 2018 Commonwealth Games. I hope everyone across the country will get behind the athletes vying for selection for the team and play their part in supporting them as they prepare to compete with distinction on the other side of the world next April.

Duncan Sinclair, CEO, Aberdeen Sports Village said:

“Everyone at ASV is looking forward to welcoming The Queen’s Baton Relay to Aberdeen. ASV is dedicated to offering sporting opportunities for everyone, helping people achieve their very best, so we are delighted to be a part of this exciting event warm up to the Commonwealth Games.

“ASV will be getting into the spirit of the Games with a wide variety of sporting activities for young pupils from schools across the city, culminating in an exciting Australian-themed high tea.”

A summary of the programme is given below and includes a number of open events each day which members of the public are encouraged to attend. Many events will also include the participation of past or current Team Scotland athletes and the attendance of the popular Glasgow 2014 and now Team Scotland mascot, Clyde.

PROGRAMME OVERVIEW

Tuesday 22 August – Glasgow

  • The QBR will arrive at Glasgow Airport and spend the first day visiting legacy projects and youth and community groups related to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Game, including:  
  • Welcome to Scotland at the Glasgow School of Sport, Bellahouston Academy
  • Commonwealth Games Village – Meet permanent residents of Team Scotland accommodation
  • Cunigar Loop Woodland Park – Bike Town community group bike ride through the park*
  • Emirates Arena – Schools participation event linked to the 2017 World Badminton Championships
  • The Legacy Hub, Dalmarnock – local community event *
  • University of Strathclyde Innovation Centre – Commonwealth Youth Leaders Conference
  • George Square – Starting point of the Glasgow Commonwealth Walkway. *

Wednesday 23 August – Islay

The QBR will make its first ever visit to Islay in the Inner Hebrides for a unique range of youth and community events including:

  • Bowmore – Primary Schools festival featuring the Schools Gaelic Choir and Highland Dancing *
  • Visit to the Bowmore distillery
  • Bowmore Town Square for community meet the Baton opportunity*
  • Talk at Ionad Chaluim Chille Ìle (the Columba Centre Islay). *

Thursday 24 August – Dundee, Aberdeen, Stirling 

The QBR heads to Dundee, Aberdeen and Stirling for a series of events including:

  • Clepington Primary School, Dundee – a sportscotland gold standard sports award school for Australian Commonwealth themed activity
  • Kirriemuir – a visit to the Bon Scott statue to celebrate the famous Australian-Scot lead singer of ACDC *
  • Aberdeen Sports Village – a multi-school ‘One Big Sports Day’ of Commonwealth themed activities incorporating an Australian high tea
  • Stirling Castle – Team Scotland reception & Bahamas 2017 Youth Games team celebration.

Friday 25 August – Stirling, Falkirk

A big day of school and community activities in Stirling and Falkirk before visiting the home of Team Scotland at the University of Stirling.

  • St Ninian’s Primary School , Stirling – Joining children for their Daily Mile. St Ninian’s is linked with Coolangatta State School as part of the Gold Coast 2018 Schools connect programme.
  • Helix and Kelpies, Falkirk – A multi-school Commonwealth themed festival for the schools and the community *
  • Stirling University Campus – meeting with students linked to the Commonwealth Games
  • sportscotland Institute of Sport – meeting the ‘team behind the team’ who help to prepare Team Scotland athletes for the Commonwealth Games.                   

Saturday 26 August – Grangemouth, Edinburgh

Visits to two major sports events where Scottish athletes are striving to be selected for Team Scotland for the 2018 Games. The day concludes with a visit to the Military Tattoo, an iconic Scottish showcase that is now a firm Australian favorite, broadcast to bring in the New Year down under.

  • Grangemouth – Scottish Athletics Senior Championships *
  • Portobello – Scottish Beach Volleyball Championship *
  • Edinburgh – Edinburgh Military Tattoo

For further information about the Gold Coast 2018 Queen’s Baton Relay and its journey across the Commonwealth so far visit www.gc2018.com

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Jul 062017
 

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

Heavy athlete Kyle Randalls competing at the 2016 Aboyne Highland Games

As Aboyne Highland Games prepares to mark its 150th anniversary next month, the event is moving its competitor registration process
online.

Individuals looking to compete in the highland dancing, piping and fiddle competitions, light and heavy
athletics events, and the hill race, and teams in the tug o’ war contest, will need to register their entry online before Monday, 31 July.

The move is designed to speed up the process of checking in competitors on games day by removing much of the administration that normally takes place.

Advance registration for the children’s races is not required and entries for these events will be accepted on games day in the normal manner.

Those competing at this year’s Aboyne Highland Games will receive a special pin badge to mark their participation in the event as it celebrates its 150th anniversary. 

To coincide with that milestone, organisers have announced that the field for the popular Fungle Hill Race is being limited to 150 places. This year, the 6.8-mile race, which follows part of the historic Fungle Road and circles the base of Craigendinnie hill, will have both men’s and women’s sections with £100 prizes for the first male and female runners to complete the route.

After a near 40-year absence, pole-vaulting will return to this year’s programme. The sport featured in the first Aboyne Highland Games in 1867 and is being included in the 2017 programme to acknowledge the contribution it made to that inaugural games 150 years ago.

One of north-east Scotland’s leading summer events, this year’s Aboyne Highland Games will take place in the Royal Deeside town on Saturday, 05 August. The event, which attracts around 10,000 visitors every year, features a packed programme of 98 traditional highland events. Leading athletes, dancers and musicians from across the country will compete for a combined prize fund of over £13,000.

Alistair Grant, chairman of Aboyne Highland Games, said:

“This year’s games is shaping up to be a great day with our 150th anniversary being marked in many ways. Aboyne Games has always kept pace with the times and our decision to move competitor registration online is reflective of that.

“The change is designed to remove some of the administration that normally takes place on games day. Competitors will still need to sign in in the normal manner, but by pre-registering we’re aiming to remove unnecessary waits and hassle, making their day at Aboyne more enjoyable.”

Those looking to compete at this year’s Aboyne Highland Games can register at www.aboynegames.com.

Founded in 1867, Aboyne Highland Games is a traditional Scottish highland games held annually on the first Saturday in August. The Aberdeenshire event, held under the patronage of Granville Gordon, the 13th Marquis of Huntly, attracts crowds of up to 10,000 people each year.

Featuring a programme of traditional highland games events, including highland dancing, tossing the caber and piping, the event on the town’s green attracts visitors from around the world and makes an important contribution to the local Deeside economy. 

Further information on Aboyne Highland Games can be found at www.aboynegames.com.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Jul 032017
 

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

Murray Brown peeling the bark from the log.

Athletes competing in the heavy events at this summer’s Aboyne Highland Games will have a new challenge on their hands as organisers have unveiled a new caber to mark the event’s 150th anniversary.

One of the most iconic disciplines in the highland games programme, tossing the caber requires competitors to possess strength and good balance.

Measuring 23ft 6in (7.15m) in length and weighing approximately 130lbs (59kg), the new anniversary caber is set to test these skills when it is attempted to be thrown end over end into the perfect 12 o’clock position at this year’s games on Saturday, 05 August.

Founded in 1867, Aboyne Highland Games has become one of north-east Scotland’s most popular traditional summer events, attracting up to 10,000 visitors each year. Held on the town’s green, the games is a highlight of the Royal Deeside summer events calendar.

Overseas visitors to highland games watch in awe as competitors toss the caber – many are amazed by the ability of heavy athletes to run with and throw such a lengthy and weighty object. The caber is often described by foreign tourists as a tree trunk – its most natural form – and fail to realise the work involved in creating this carefully crafted piece of sporting equipment.

Organisers of Aboyne Highland Games decided to commission a new caber as the discipline was one that had been a fixture of the games’ programme since the event’s inception 150 years ago.

At the inaugural games, local athlete Donald Dinnie, who would go on to become one of the world’s most revered athletes, outclassed competitors in most disciplines, including tossing the caber. It was reported in the Aberdeen Journal of Wednesday, 04 September 1867 that: “In tossing the caber again, Dinnie was far superior to any of the others, and tossed clean over twice an enormous tree, which none of the others could turn until fully three feet were cut off the thick end.”

Timber for the commemorative caber was donated by Dinnet Estates and came from a 50-year-old Douglas Fir that stood in woodland at Rhu-na-Haven Road, Aboyne. Since the 70ft tree was felled in January, the timber has undergone a number of processes that have seen it transformed from tree trunk to slender caber.

The work is being carried out by Murray Brown, who is convenor of heavy events at Aboyne Highland Games. Murray, who himself competed in the heavy events at highland games during the 1970s and 80s, has made a number of cabers in recent years. Over the past five months Murray and a team of volunteers have spent around 50 hours creating the new Aboyne caber, which will be unveiled at the games.

Tommy Fyvie of Aboyne tossing the caber at the 2016 Aboyne Highland Games

The first stage of the process was to allow the sap within the wood to dry out, before the log was peeled of its bark and sculpted and sanded into the iconic gently tapering pole. A number of coats of oil have also been applied to the caber to preserve its finish. One end of the caber has a smaller circumference, allowing competitors to safely hold it with ease.

The 150th anniversary caber will be used in a special event that will be contested the winner of the open caber throwing competition on games day.

If they are deemed to have successfully tossed the anniversary caber into the perfect 12 o’clock position they will be rewarded with a £500 prize.

Murray Brown, convenor of the heavy events, said:

“Many foreign visitors are unaware of the work that is involved in creating a caber. Some think we merely cut down a tree, strip the trunk of its bark and put it to use on the games field. However, it would still be full of sap which would make it too heavy and its girth at both ends too broad to be held by the majority of competitors.

“The new anniversary caber is a beautiful piece of timber. The wood is very straight and has few blemishes, which has made working with it over the last few months much easier. I look forward to seeing competitors throwing it on games day.”

Aboyne Highland Games has a tradition of creating cabers that challenge the strength and skill of competitors. In 1961, the games sent new cabers to Australia following a request from the Highland Society of New South Wales. However, it proved too tough a challenge for Australian heavy athletes. It was reported in the Canberra Times of October, 21 1965 that “nobody could toss it” and that it was subsequently replaced.

Marcus Humphrey, whose family owns Dinnet Estate, was inspired to donate wood for the anniversary caber after recalling that he was at the quayside in 1961 when the cabers arrived down under.

He said:

“I got the idea when I remembered that Aboyne gave two cabers to the Highland Society of New South Wales in 1961. The society was keen to obtain a caber from a Scottish forest for use at its own games and Aboyne duly obliged. By chance I was in Sydney and witnessed the cabers being unloaded from a ship at the harbour.”

Alistair Grant, chairman of Aboyne Highland Games, added:

“Our 150th anniversary is set to be a special day and is being marked in a number of ways. A book containing old pictures and the public’s memories of the games is being created, an anniversary whisky is being bottled and pole vaulting is making a return to programme.

“The new caber will be a splendid and lasting addition to our games equipment. Our thanks go to Murray, Marcus and all of those who have been involved in crafting it.”

Founded in 1867, Aboyne Highland Games is a traditional Scottish highland games held annually on the first Saturday in August. The Aberdeenshire event, held under the patronage of Granville Gordon, the 13th Marquis of Huntly, attracts crowds of up to 10,000 people each year.

Featuring a programme of traditional highland games events, including highland dancing, tossing the caber and piping, the event on the town’s green attracts visitors from around the world and makes an important contribution to the local Deeside economy. Further information on Aboyne Highland Games can be found at www.aboynegames.com.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Jun 162017
 

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

The Lonach Hall set for the Annual Highland Ball.

Highland ball aficionados from across Scotland are being invited to attend one of Aberdeenshire’s oldest and most popular social gatherings.

The Lonach Highland Ball has been held in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire since 1833, and provides an opportunity for guests to celebrate the achievements of competitors at the annual Lonach Highland Gathering and Games.

Tickets for the black-tie event have just gone on sale and organisers, the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, are keen to encourage a whole new generation of traditional Scottish dance enthusiasts to come along and sample the unique hospitality on offer.

Around 140 people attend the formal annual event. However, a press cutting from 1927 illustrates how popular the ball was 90 years ago, when it was reported that around 500 people attended that year’s event.

Held in the magnificent barrel-vaulted Lonach Hall in Strathdon, the Lonach Highland Ball is one of the highlights of the Strathdon social calendar. Along with guests from the local area, the evening attracts people from across north-east Scotland and further afield.

Guests to this year’s ball on Friday, 01 September will enjoy a four-course meal served by Harry Fraser Catering and dancing to the Graeme Mitchell Scottish Dance Band.  Tickets are priced at £40 per person.

The black-tie event sees some of the trophies that were contested at the previous week’s Lonach Highland Gathering and Games presented to competition winners.  Featuring the impressive march of the Lonach Highlanders, Lonach Highland Gathering and Games is one of Scotland’s most iconic highland games.

Staged annually on the fourth Saturday in August in the Aberdeenshire village of Bellabeg, the gathering features over 75 competitions in highland dancing, piping, light and heavy athletics and tug o’ war. This year’s gathering takes place on Saturday, 26 August.

Jennifer Stewart, secretary and chief executive of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, said:

“The Lonach Highland Ball is a fantastic night and an important part of the fabric of the society and the local community. We are keen to ensure it continues to be for decades to come, in the same way it has since the 1830s.

“It provides an opportunity for everyone to celebrate the achievements of competitors at the previous week’s gathering and the success of the gathering itself. Guests from across the north-east attend the ball, with some travelling out from Aberdeen for the evening, which is testament to the calibre of the event.

“The Lonach Hall is a brilliant, atmospheric venue which has a sprung dancefloor, meaning there is a great bounce for Scottish dancing. For keen dancers that is part of the appeal of the Lonach Ball.”

Anyone interested in attending the Lonach Highland Ball should contact Jennifer Stewart by e-mailing secretary@lonach.org.

Established in 1823, by Sir Charles Forbes, 1st Baronet of Newe and Edinglassie, the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society is a charitable organisation based in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire. 

The society organises the annual Lonach Gathering at Bellabeg Park, Strathdon, which is held on the fourth Saturday of August. The main attraction at the gathering is the march of the Lonach Highlanders, a unique body of non-military men. Further information on the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, the Lonach Highlanders and the annual Lonach Highland Gathering can be found at www.lonach.org.