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.

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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.

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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.

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Jul 212017
 

By Duncan Harley

The British Heart Foundation Scotland will be a major beneficiary from funds raised at ‘Blast from the Past’ – a Classic Car Show featuring rare and unique vehicles from across the North-east – on Saturday 22 July 2017.

“We are delighted that Margaret and Ian McWilliam along with their daughters Jade and Iona have accepted our invitation to join us at the event” says co-organiser Alan Leonard.

“The McWilliams, a local family from Kintore, give up a lot of their time in support of the BHF as their lives have been directly impacted by the effects of heart disease.”

Co-organiser Alan Leonard and main sponsor Alan Wallace of Aberdeen’s AW Autotech chose the Inverurie venue for this inaugural event due to the suitability of the site.

“The area we are using is all in tarmac” says Alan “and we also have the exclusive use of the entire in-door shopping mall and display area.”

“More importantly” he says “From our first contact with Thainstone management they have offered us all of the professional support we could possibly wish for in order to ensure that the event will be a success.”

Alongside the classic cars, the day features family fun complete with kids rides, bouncy castles, music and competitions.

For the young and not so young the show features live action including an Auto-Test competition, parade laps of exhibitors cars and a giant Scalextric Track guaranteed to take the breath away from both adults and kids.

Alongside the more than 200 Classic Car display entries, the show will feature motor-cycles, commercial vehicles plus many rare and unique vehicles. Stars of the show include a 1936 Auburn ‘Boattail’ Speedster and a rare 1961 Daimler Dart.

‘A Blast from the Past’ runs from 10am – 4pm this coming Saturday.
Admission £5 – children under 12 free.
Free parking on site.
More information at http://www.nes-blastfromthepast.co.uk/car-show/

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Jul 142017
 

With thanks to Yvette Rayner, PR Account Manager, Frasermedia.

Aberdeen athletics coaches gathered at a leading sports facility this week to celebrate the work of an early 20th century sporting official at a unique historical presentation.
Aberdeen Sports Village, based on Linksfield Road, held the opening ceremony in honour of the work of Andrew Ross Scott (A R Scott), a former Scottish Athletics judge.

Mr Scott’s great grandson, Andrew Walker, visited Aberdeen Sports Village with his wife, Hilary, to see the display featuring A R Scott’s original timepiece, a unique athletics record book, and the medal awarded to Mr Scott by Queen Alexandra, at the 1908 Olympic Games in London.

Mr Scott was a Scottish Athletics official for over 15 years, taking on the role of president of the organisation in 1903. The Summer Olympics of 1908 was to take place in Rome, but due to an eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the venue was changed to London, with each of the UK nation’s supplying officials.

The final of the 400m was declared void due to elbowing, and the final was rerun with only one runner, after the other athletes refused to take part. Wyndham Halswelle, a Scot, ran the race to win gold, becoming the only athlete ever to win an Olympic gold medal by a walker. A Ross Scott was one of the judges for the rerun.

Mr Walker was given his great grandfather’s memorabilia by his mother, and approached a current Scottish Athletics coach, Alex McGregor to find the best way to display the unique pieces. Mr McGregor decided to approach ASV, having run on the original Linksfield Stadium ash track as a boy over 60 years ago.

Several seasoned officials from Aberdeen Athletics Club met Mr Walker to hear the unusual story, which is now on display in a specially produced pod at ASV.

Duncan Sinclair, CEO ASV, said: 

“The story of A Ross Scott and Wyndham Halleswelle is unique, and so we are delighted to display the beautiful timepiece, book and medal at our facility. It is fascinating to hear about sporting endeavour from over one hundred years ago, and it was a great pleasure to meet with so many experienced judges and coaches who came to welcome Mr Walker to Aberdeen.”

Mr Walker commented:

“The display pod is everything I could have wished for. My mother and my great grandfather would be very proud to be part of this tremendous facility, encouraging young people to achieve their best.”

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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.

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Jul 032017
 

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

(L to R) Sarah Harker and Moira Gash of DeeTour and VisitScotland regional director Jo Robinson.

A pair of Aberdeenshire entrepreneurs have launched a new tourist guidebook aimed at attracting more visitors to Royal Deeside.
Moira Gash and Sarah Harker, who run tour and activities business DeeTour alongside their own separate businesses, have created the Royal Deeside PassporTour, a pocketsize guide showcasing things to see and do in the Aberdeenshire valley.

The pair previously worked for tourism body Visit Royal Deeside.

Aimed at national and international visitors and locals alike, the 128-page book highlights the diversity of the area’s tourism offering. The guide was created after local tourism businesses called for this type of publication.

With stunning scenery, a wealth of locally produced food and drink, and an array of tourist attractions, golf courses and outdoor activities to enjoy, Royal Deeside has something for visitors of all ages. The book is designed to provide a comprehensive insight for those planning a trip to the area, while also acting as a guide and money saving tool as they explore the region.

Along with highlighting key tourist attractions and profiling the amenities and activities on offer in each of the main towns, the guide features interviews with local artists, tour guides, musicians, sportspeople and tourism professionals, helping to bring the region to life. A golf trail and a tea and cake trail each present further incentives to explore Royal Deeside, with participating businesses offering discounts to customers.

The history, heritage and culture of Royal Deeside and Scotland is also outlined, and a handy summary of Doric words will help visitors to grasp some of the basics of the distinctive north-east dialect.

Priced at £9.95, the Royal Deeside PassporTour provides purchasers with over £200 worth of savings through the 23 vouchers and two trails that it features.

The guidebook is also suitable for local families looking for inspiration for things to do during the summer holidays. Vouchers include 15% off at Go Ape at Crathes Castle, 50% off at Battlegrounds Paintball, two for one entry to Braemar Castle and 20% off day rover tickets at the Deeside Railway.

Co-director of DeeTour, Moira Gash, said:

“The Royal Deeside PassporTour aims to allow travellers to make informed choices as they plan their trip to Aberdeenshire and also act as a reference tool while they are visiting. Thanks to its royal connection, Deeside draws visitors from around the world and we’ve had interest in the guide from far and wide.

“Not only is it suitable for those visiting the area for the first time, but the huge savings offered by the featured businesses makes it a fantastic tool for locals. For families planning day trips during the summer holidays, the savings on offer at Go Ape at Crathes Castle and Battlegrounds’ paintballing, near Banchory, more than cover the cost of the book.”

The initiative has received the backing of VisitScotland, and was showcased at this year’s Royal Highland Show as part of the Aberdeenshire Village display, where it was given an enthusiastic reception from show visitors.

Jo Robinson, VisitScotland regional director, said:

“I think the Royal Deeside PassporTour is a great idea to inform visitors coming to beautiful Royal Deeside of the vast array of attractions, entertainment, locations and handy hints and tips, as well as locals looking for ideas for the summer holidays.

“Partnership and collaboration is at the heart of Scottish tourism and VisitScotland works with local industry to develop and deliver innovative initiatives that grow the regional visitor economy. We need to think big about Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire as a tourism destination to ensure we fulfil our potential – every visitor must get a quality experience, every single time.

“The Royal Deeside PassporTour reveals some of Aberdeenshire’s best-loved places as well as its hidden gems, and is a fantastic celebration of everything that this charming corner of the world has to offer visitors.”

Copies of the Royal Deeside PassporTour can be purchased from a number of businesses in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire or online at www.deetour.co.uk.

DeeTour is an Aberdeenshire-based tour and activities business that was established by business partners Moira Gash and Sarah Harker. The business provides bespoke tour and activity packages to help visitors explore Aberdeenshire. In 2017, DeeTour launched the Royal Deeside PassporTour, a new guidebook highlighting the wealth of things to see, do and sample in the region. The pocketsize book, which costs £9.95, includes over 20 vouchers that provide more than £200 of discounts at local business. 

Further information about DeeTour and the Royal Deeside PassporTour can be found at www.deetour.co.uk.

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Jul 032017
 

David Innes reviews  St Valéry And Its Aftermath by Stewart Mitchell.

Although it is almost inevitable that events are overtaken by time, and that the effect of history on localities dissipates, the name St Valéry-en-Caux, a small Normandy fishing village, continues to resonate in NE Scotland, even 77 years on from the scenes that accord that tiny French port a special place in Scottish military history.

It is said that there is scarcely an NE family which hasn’t been touched in some way by the events of June 1940, the surrender of the stranded and embattled 51st (Highland) Division, and the incarceration of thousands of Scottish soldiers in prisoner of war camps for the duration of the Second World War.

These were our forgotten casualties of that conflict, and it was a gross unfairness and insult to these brave, fortitudinous men who suffered the privations of capture, forced march and imprisonment to be described as having enjoyed an Easy War.

Stewart Mitchell, who named the Gordon Highlanders’ Museum’s excellent 2011 POW exhibition The Easy War, re-tells the story of the lead-up to Dunkirk and St Valéry, using personal accounts, some of which are now in the public domain for the first time, without resorting to military tactical terminology and technical jargon, often confusing to the lay reader.

Those of us who have had a long fascination with this episode of military and social history will have read accounts of the 51st’s manoeuvres, capture, treatment and liberation and of the social outcomes of returning home after half a decade of imprisonment. Tony Rennell, Sean Longden, Saul David, Alan Allport, Julie Summers, and Banffshire’s own Charles Morrison have all contributed to building a picture of a time of uncertainty, fortitude and, all too often, personal and familial misfortune.

It is in the re-telling of personal accounts that Mitchell excels, and he succeeds in making St Valéry more than just another military history. We hear of regular soldiers, Territorials and militiamen called up to serve when war was declared in September 1939, their backstories often of innocent city, village and country loons thrown into the jaws of an unforgiving mechanised conflict, and losing some of their most promising youthful years behind barbed wire.

Yet, there are personal recollections of derring-do, heroism, resourcefulness, smeddum and survival against heavily-stacked odds, told in fitting tribute to often forgotten men.

The volume’s appendix is unique in imbuing a personal touch to what is a harrowing, yet spirit-affirming story. Mitchell’s painstaking research has seen him identify from military records, every Gordon Highlander captured or killed in France in 1940.

My own maternal grandfather, army number 2870474 among the oldest of the Territorials called up at 37, who was 38 by the time of capture, and 44 before he was liberated, is included. That that saw my emotions well up 77 years after that fateful morning in Normandy, verifies that this a book that goes way beyond normal military history, as a chronicle of a part-generation of NE men. For that, it deserves your support.

Stewart Mitchell is making a generous contribution from the book’s sales to the Gordon Highlanders’ Museum Appeal. Please consider giving this splendid local cultural venue your support too.

STEWART MITCHELL
St Valéry And Its Aftermath
The Gordon Highlanders Captured In France In 1940
Pen & Sword Military
235 pp
Hardback ISBN 978 1 47388 658 2
£25.00

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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.

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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.