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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.    

May 122017
 

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

Aberdeenshire’s Lonach Highlanders are set to make a mark as they debut at this year’s Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Seventy-five of Strathdon’s kilted clansmen will travel to the capital in August to be part of the iconic annual spectacle as it celebrates Scotland’s clans.

The men have been invited to be part of the performance on Monday, 14 August by Lord Forbes, chief of the Forbes clan.

In front of an audience of around 8,500 people, including many international visitors, the highlanders will parade onto Edinburgh Castle’s Esplanade to herald the start of the evening’s performance. Dressed in full highland regalia and armed with their traditional eight-foot long pikes, the men will create an imposing sight for the gathered crowd.

With a history stretching back to 1823 when the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society was formed, the Lonach Highlanders are believed to be the largest body of non-military men to carry ceremonial weapons in Britain. Membership is drawn from residents of the local area who descend from the Forbes, Wallace and Gordon clans. Society membership currently stands at 227 men, under the patronage of Sir James Forbes, 8th Baronet of Newe and Edinglassie.

The theme of this year’s Tattoo is a Splash of Tartan, something that the Lonach Highlanders will admirably provide. To mark Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, Tattoo organisers have teamed up with The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs to celebrate the country’s clan heritage and national fabric, and their influence around the world.

Two or three clans will be represented at each performance during the Tattoo’s three-week run. On the night of the Lonach Highlander’s attendance, both the Forbes and Wallace clans will muster on the castle esplanade and their Scottish ancestry celebrated.

This is a fantastic opportunity for the society and the highlanders to help promote our history and heritage

The highlanders’ trip to Edinburgh comes just 12 days before their own annual gathering takes place in Bellabeg, Aberdeenshire.

Attracting crowds of up to 10,000 people, the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games is one of north-east Scotland’s leading traditional highland games.

This year’s event on Saturday, 26 August marks the 176th time the gathering has been held. It will once again commence with the Lonach Highlanders embarking on six-mile march round the local area, following in the footsteps of their forefathers and continuing a near two-hundred year-old tradition.

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

“The Lonach Highland and Friendly Society is honoured to have been invited to participate in this year’s Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. This is the first time that the Lonach Highlanders have been present at the event and there is huge excitement amongst those taking part.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for the society and the highlanders to help promote our history and heritage, the Lonach Gathering, Aberdeenshire and highland games in general. Television recording will be taking place on the night that we are parading. If we make the director’s cut then there is potential for millions of people around the world to learn about Lonach.

“Attending the Tattoo will be a great warm up for the 176th Lonach Highland Gathering and Games just 12 days later on Saturday, 26 August. If you think the sight of 75 Lonach Highlanders marching is special, the sight and sound of 200 of them, pikes aloft, marching through picturesque Strathdon is one to behold, and not to be missed.”

Ringside seat tickets for the 176th Lonach Highland Gathering and Games are on sale now, priced from £12 for adults and £7 for children. Visit www.lonach.org for full details.

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.

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Dec 162016
 

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 organisers of the annual Lonach Highland Gathering and Games are asking for the help of the north-east public to unearth the story behind a mysterious photograph.
Earlier this year, the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society asked for people to send in copies of old photographs of the event for a display to mark the 175th Lonach Highland Gathering. 

Amongst a bundle of old slides were a number taken in Strathdon in the 1960s and 70s, which illustrate how the community has changed.

One image stood out due to its intriguing subject. It features a small helicopter which appears to have landed on the A944, the main road through the village of Bellabeg where the gathering is held, and looks like it is being jumped started by a car.

The car is believed to be a Rover 2000 P6 Series 1, which was produced between 1963 and 1970 and trailing from its open bonnet are what look like jump leads. From the registration mark on its tail, the helicopter has been identified as a 1966 Bell 47G-5, which was owned by a Humberside company involved in aerial spraying.

In a second slide the car is gone and helicopter’s rotors are turning and it looks set for take-off.

The Lonach Highland and Friendly Society is now asking for anyone who can shed light on the picture to get in touch with them.

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

“We had a great response to our appeal for old pictures, which turned up some fantastic images.  Some were more curious than others and left us scratching our heads and asking a number of questions. The visitor response to the display at this year’s gathering provided information about some of those pictures.

“The picture in question was in a box of slides marked Strathdon and Lonach that was donated to us. The person who took the slides died a few years ago and their family had never seen the slides before so couldn’t shed any light on the image. It had us stumped.

“Did a car really jump start a helicopter on the main road in Bellabeg? It’s all very peculiar, but there must be an intriguing story behind it. These types of unusual events play an important part in the history of our local communities.

“Why did a helicopter apparently land on the main road in Bellabeg? Was it really jump started by a car? Does anyone remember it happening, if so when was it? Somebody is bound to be able to fill in all the details, and it would be great to hear from them.”

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society via its Facebook or Twitter pages, or by e-mailing info@lonach.org.

Held annually on the fourth Saturday in August, the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games is one of the oldest and most iconic traditional events in north-east Scotland.  Alongside a full programme of traditional highland events, the event features the unique march of the Lonach Highlanders, who are believed to be the largest body of non-military men to carry ceremonial weapons in Britain.

In 2017, the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games will take place on Saturday, 26 August.

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.

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Sep 012016
 

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

March of the Lonach Highlanders 2016

The Lonach Highlanders set out following in the footsteps of their forefathers on their traditional six-mile march round local six properties.

The history and heritage of one of Scotland oldest and most iconic highland games was celebrated on Saturday (27 Aug) in the Aberdeenshire village of Bellabeg.

Thousands of visitors from across Scotland and further afield attended the 175th Lonach Highland Gathering and Games and witness the unique and emotive march of the Lonach Highlanders.

An estimated crowd of around 9,000 packed into Bellabeg Park in Strathdon to watch the day’s proceedings, which enjoyed warm dry conditions with long spells of bright sunshine.

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.

To mark the 175th anniversary games, the Lonach Highlanders, believed to be the largest body of non-military men to carry ceremonial weapons in Britain, were joined on their marches by Europe’s only private army, the Atholl Highlanders.

In total, 210 individuals dressed in full highland regalia, which included members of both highlanders’ pipe bands, took part in the day’s marches. There were 170 members of the Lonach Highlanders armed eight-foot long pikes and Lochaber axes, and 40 Atholl Highlanders carrying Lee-Metford rifles.

The day’s proceedings in Strathdon began at 8am as the Lonach Highlanders set out following in the footsteps of their forefathers on their traditional six-mile march round local six properties. The glen came to life as the still morning air was broken by the strains of the pipes and drums of the bands, the footsteps of marching highlanders and sound of the following horse and cart.

At each of the six stops the highlanders received a dram from the properties owners, continuing a tradition begun by their predecessors.  The highlanders toasted the health of their hosts, the society and the local area, with the cry ‘Ho Ho Lonach’ resounding through the strath.

Five new Lonach Highlanders took part in the march for the first time. Membership of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society currently stands at over 230.  The oldest Lonach Highlander marching was 76-year-old marshalling sergeant George Thomson from Strathdon, while the youngest was 16-year-old Bradley Joss from Kintore, who was among three generations of his family marching.

The 175th anniversary of the gathering was also marked with a display of old photographs, which charted the evolution of the gathering and the changing fashions of its visitors. Some of the photographs dated back to the 1890s. Many had been donated by society members and regulars to the Lonach Gathering who were keen to share their memories of the event.

March of the Lonach Highlanders 2016 (2)Crowds packed the grandstands and stood up to six deep in places around the main arena to watch proceedings, with the heavy events, the hill race and highland dancing receiving enthusiastic support.

The Lonach Highlanders, the Atholl Highlanders and the massed pipe bands received rousing welcomes as they circled the arena.

However, the loudest cheers were reserved for Socks, the Lonach horse, who made his second appearance at the games pulling the traditional ‘cairt’. Owned by Derek Gray of Kildrummy, Socks is a seven-year-old Irish Heavy Cob.

Six pipe bands from across Scotland performed at the gathering. Lonach Pipe Band was joined by the Pipe Band of the Atholl Highlanders, Ballater and District, Huntly and District, Towie and District and the Pipes and Drums of the Royal Guard from 2 SCOTS – the Royal Highland Fusiliers.

The gathering featured a full programme of traditional highland events, including solo and massed piping, highland dancing, children’s races, and light and heavy athletics, with some of the country’s leading athletes competing.

Once again, the heavy events drew a strong field of entrants. Current Scottish Highland Games Association World Heavyweight Champion, Scott Rider from London, competed and continued his exceptional performance this season by finishing first overall in the heavy events.

A field of over 90 lined up to tackle the four-mile hill race. The men’s race was won once again by James Espie of Dinnet, while the first lady home was Aboyne’s Stephanie Provan and the first Lonach Society member to finish was Neil Gauld of Midmar.

A keenly fought contest took place in the ladies tug o’ war, with the Glenbuchat Ladies proving victorious over Lonach Ladies and the team made up of ladies from the Rest of the World.

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

“It was a fantastic day from start to finish, with a brilliant atmosphere. The Lonach and Atholl Highlanders created a real spectacle and their combined numbers made it one of the largest marches we have seen. The reaction from those watching was quite something and generated a few tears amongst the crowd.

“Our 175th gathering is a hugely important milestone for the society and it was wonderful to see so many people here to help us celebrate it. The gathering has been a constant in a changing world and this was beautifully documented in our display of old photographs which received a lot of attention from visitors, and generated much laughter at some of the fashions.

“The gathering has always given the local area a huge boost, both socially and economically, and it is important that we maintain that. Our heritage is vitally important to preserve and with a number of young new members joining the society in the past year the future of Lonach looks bright.”

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.

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Aug 262016
 

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

Stars of the show - The Lonach Highlanders are one of the main attractions at the Lonach Gathering (picture credit Ian Halliday)lopro

Stars of the show – The Lonach Highlanders are one of the main attractions at the Lonach Gathering (picture credit Ian Halliday)

Europe’s only private army is heading to Aberdeenshire this Saturday to help celebrate the 175th anniversary of one of Scotland’s oldest and most iconic highland games.

The Atholl Highlanders have been invited to attend this year’s Lonach Highland Gathering and Games as the event takes place for the 175th time.

They will join the local Lonach Highlanders on their three annual games day marches, creating one of the largest marches of highlanders in the event’s long history.

Organised by the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, the Lonach Gathering is one of Scotland’s best known traditional events, attracting up to 10,000 visitors to the Aberdeenshire village of Bellabeg. Held in village’s Bellabeg Park, this year’s gathering takes place on Saturday, 27 August.

The annual event features the unique march of the Lonach Highlanders, who are believed to be the largest body of non-military men to carry ceremonial weapons in Britain. Membership of the Lonach Highlanders currently stands at around 230 men and is drawn from residents of the local area who descend from the Forbes, Wallace and Gordon clans.

Commencing at 8am on the morning of the games, the march of the Lonach Highlanders winds its way through Strathdon in Aberdeenshire, stopping at six local properties. At each stop on the six-mile route the highlanders receive a dram to toast the health of the society and the area.

Dressed in full highland regalia and armed with eight-foot long pikes and Lochaber axes, the Lonach Highlanders bring traffic on the A944 through Strathdon to a standstill. With the similarly attired Atholl Highlanders, who carry Lee-Metford rifles, the spectacle will be even greater for visitors.

This year, with the Atholl Highlanders in attendance, the march is expected to be one of the largest in history, numbering around 220 individuals, which includes members of both highlanders’ pipe bands. Both bodies of men will again march together during the afternoon marches on the games field at 1pm and 3pm, with the 3pm march being led by the massed pipes and drums of a number of pipe bands.

Featuring a full programme of traditional highland events, including individual and massed piping, highland dancing and light and heavy athletics, the Lonach Gathering attracts some of the country’s leading pipers, dancers and athletes. With a children’s race, a hill race, tug o’war, around 50 trade stands and a family funfair, there are many attractions to keep everyone entertained.

Activities on the games field commence at 10:30am with the piping competitions, before the full programme of traditional events commences at noon.

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

“The 175th Lonach Gathering is shaping up to be a real showstopper and the presence of Europe’s only private army will only add to that.  This anniversary is a milestone for the society and the gathering, and we hope to welcome visitors from near and far to help us celebrate it.

“We are really looking forward to the Atholl Highlanders joining the Lonach Highlanders on their marches, which are always a fantastic spectacle. In the crisp morning air, the sight and sound of the 8am march winding its way through the valley is magnificent. We don’t think that anywhere else in the world you can witness hundreds of kilted highlanders marching along a main road and bringing the traffic to a halt.

“Also to mark the anniversary, we are charting the history of the Lonach Gathering with a display of fascinating old photographs. It includes some from when the Atholl Highlanders have previously marched here at Lonach.”

The 175th Lonach Highland Gathering and Games takes place on Saturday, 27 August in Bellabeg, Strathdon, Aberdeenshire. Tickets are priced from £8 for adults, £4 for children aged between 5 and 15, while entry for children under 4 is free. Car parking is also free.

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.

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Jul 292016
 

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

2. Lonach Highlanders (L to R) George Thomson and Willie Coutts with a poster promoting the 1958 Lonach Highland Gathering and Games

Lonach Highlanders (L to R) George Thomson and Willie Coutts with a poster promoting the 1958 Lonach Highland Gathering and Games

One of the oldest traditional events in north-east Scotland is calling on the public to help celebrate a milestone anniversary next month.

On Saturday, 27 August, the 175th Lonach Highland Gathering and Games will be held in Strathdon and the event’s organisers are asking the public to contribute old pictures and videos of the event to help mark the occasion. The Lonach Highland and Friendly Society was founded in 1823 to preserve highland culture and promote community cohesion and charitable giving.

To help achieve this, it staged its first highland games in 1832, an event that has become an annual fixture. 

During the first and second world wars the gathering was put in abeyance.

Over the past two centuries the Lonach Gathering has grown to become a popular annual event that attracts up to 10,000 visitors each year. A large number of photographs documenting the evolution of the gathering and the local area are held by the society, but it knows thousands more images exist.

In order to stage a display of old photographs at this year’s gathering, organisers are keen to hear from locals and visitors who have attended the event over the decades and captured still images or video footage of the annual spectacle. The society would also be eager to see old photographs of the Lonach Highland Ball, which it also organises and is held in the Lonach Hall on the Friday following the gathering.

Held in the small, picturesque Aberdeenshire village of Bellabeg, the Lonach Highland Gathering features the unique march of the Lonach Highlanders.  With around 220 men, the Lonach Highlanders are believed to be the largest body of non-military men to carry ceremonial weapons in Britain. Membership of the Lonach Highlanders is drawn from residents of the local area who are descended from the Forbes, Wallace and Gordon clans.

Featuring a full programme of traditional highland events, including solo and massed piping, highland dancing and light and heavy athletics, the gathering attracts some of the country’s leading pipers, dancers and athletes. Having already completed a march round the local area in the morning, the arrival onto the games field at 1pm of the Lonach Highlanders, armed with traditional Loachaber axes and pikes, is a highlight of the day.

This year, to help mark the 175th gathering the Lonach Highlanders will be joined on their marches by the Atholl Highlanders, Europe’s only private army. The Atholl Highlanders last marched at the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games in 2000.

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

“The 175th Lonach Gathering is a major milestone for the society and the event itself.  It remains an important community event and the many thousands of visitors we welcome to the gathering each year gives the local area a major boost.

“This year’s event is shaping up to a great occasion and will feature the traditional mix of dancing, piping and light and heavy athletics. We are keen for locals and visitors to really get involved by sharing their memories of past gatherings and also help us to document the event’s evolution.

“Whether the pictures or videos were taken in recent years or decades ago, it would be fantastic to see them all. If any company can help us to display these pictures at the gathering, or is interested in sponsoring part of the event, we’d be interested to hear from them.

“One constant at each games has been the Lonach Highlanders. They create a stirring sight and sound as they depart Bellabeg at 8am to begin their march around the local area and always receive a rousing welcome as they enter the games arena at 1pm. We are honoured that the Atholl Highlanders will be marching with the Lonach men this year to help us mark our 175th gathering.”

1. Looking through some of the Lonach archive (L to R) George Thomson, Jennifer Stewart, Willie Coutts and Scott Anderson

Jennifer Stewart, secretary and chief executive of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, looks through some of the society’s archive, which includes photographs, programmes and posters, with Lonach Highlanders (L to R) George Thomson, Willie Coutts and Scott Anderson

Anyone with old photographs or videos of the Lonach Gathering should e-mail them to info@lonach.org. Where possible, old photographs should be scanned to 300dpi and any video footage should be provided as a WMV file.

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.

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Jul 212016
 

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

Lonach Hall defibrillator - Jennifer Stewart, Lonach Society, and Paul Hicks, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service

Jennifer Stewart  with Paul Hicks of Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, and members of the Lonach Highlanders and local firefighters.

The organisers of the annual Lonach Highland Gathering and Games, the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, have launched a fundraising campaign to install lifesaving equipment in upper Strathdon.

The society has launched an appeal to raise nearly £7,000 to fund the purchase of four public access defibrillators that will be installed at venues in the Aberdeenshire valley.

It follows the installation of a defibrillator, funded by the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, at the Lonach Hall.

Defibrillators give someone suffering a cardiac arrest more time while ambulances get to a patient’s location. It is estimated that every minute without CPR and defibrillation reduces a person’s chance of survival by 10 per cent. In remote, rural locations such as Strathdon, where the nearest major hospital is over 40 miles away in Aberdeen, access to defibrillation could prove vital.

Retained firefighters from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Strathdon fire station, which is made up mainly of Lonach Highland and Friendly Society members, were on hand at the unveiling of the Lonach Hall defibrillator.

The Strathdon fire station, like Scotland’s other 355 fire stations, acts as a base for local people to learn vital CPR skills that can potentially save someone’s life. The training is provided in partnership with British Heart Foundation Scotland, which has donated Call Push Rescue training kits to the stations. Anyone interested in this free CPR training should contact their local fire station.

To provide the rural community with the potentially lifesaving defibrillators, the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society is seeking support from local businesses, organisations and local benefactors to help fund the purchase. The four bright green ‘shock boxes’ will be placed in prominent public locations throughout the rural Aberdeenshire community.

Public access defibrillators are designed for anyone to use on someone in cardiac arrest. The devices talk users through the steps required, including CPR and patient analysis, and will only deliver a shock to the patient if it detects that one is required. This means that there is no chance of malicious or accidental usage.

The sites earmarked to host one of the devices are Glenbuchat Hall, Corgarff Hall and locations in Glenkindie and Kildrummy.

Lonach Hall was chosen to host Strathdon’s first defibrillator due to its role as an important community facility. The well-used venue has been a fixture of the Bellabeg area since 1845 and hosts a range of functions, including weddings, concerts, meetings, dances and corporate events. It is also the venue for the annual Lonach Highland Ball which is organised by the society and is held the week following the annual Lonach Highland Gathering.

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

“The society was founded to preserve highland culture and promote community cohesion and charitable giving, all of which still run through its core today. Supporting the local community is imperative to the society and our annual gathering continues to make a significant contribution to the local economy. We always strive to increase the scope of that contribution and this fundraising initiative is part of that.

“Strathdon is a beautiful, rural location, but one that can take some time for emergency services to get to. Defibrillators can prove crucial to increasing the chances of a patient’s survival in the minutes before an ambulance arrives. With a predominately older population, installing these pieces of lifesaving kit in the local area makes a lot of sense, particularly as no such provision currently exists.

“Applications for grant funding have been made, but any contribution from businesses, organisations or individuals would be warmly received. Our aim is to raise enough funding to have the additional four defibrillators installed by the end of 2016.”

This year sees the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society’s showpiece event reach a major milestone. The 175th Lonach Highland Gathering and Games will take place in Bellabeg on Saturday, 27 August. To mark the anniversary, the Lonach Highlanders will be joined at the games and on their march round the local area prior to the games commencing by the Atholl Highlanders, Europe’s only private army.

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.

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