Lonach Games Organisers Issue Report on a Successful Day

Lonach Highland Gathering have sent the following: The Lonach Highland Gathering and Games was held in the village of Bellabeg, Strathdon, Aberdeenshire, last Saturday, 25th August. A crowd of around 7,000 attended the event which featured a packed programme of over 70 traditional events including the iconic march of the Lonach Highlanders – believed to be the largest body of non-military men in the United Kingdom to carry ceremonial weapons.

Dressed in kilts and full Highland regalia and armed with eight-foot long pikes and Lochaber axes, the men create an impressive sight as they undertake a six-mile march through the local area in the morning before marching round the games field in the afternoon. History was also made at the Gathering when the first ever Daily Mile event was held at a Highland Games with 45 children taking part in the health initiative.

The photograph above is of the march of the Lonach Highlanders. After morning showers, warm sunshine prevailed throughout the afternoon. It was the 177th time that this iconic Aberdeenshire event had taken place. At 8am, as the strains of the pipes and drums of the Lonach Pipe Band pierced the cool morning air, the Lonach Highlanders commenced their march. Led by Sir James Forbes of Newe, patron, their journey en route to the Games saw them visit six local properties. At each the health of its owners, the Society and the local area was toasted with a dram of whisky and the cry ‘Ho Ho Lonach’.

The oldest marcher was 78-year-old marshalling sergeant George Thomson from Strathdon. At one o’clock the Highlanders marched into Bellabeg Park to officially open the Gathering. They were greeted with steady applause from spectators who packed the grandstands and stood five deep in places round the arena. Following on, pulling the traditional ‘cairt’ was Socks, the Lonach horse, led by his owner Derek Gray. The well-turned-out nine-year-old Irish Heavy Cob received a rousing welcome and many admiring glances from onlookers.

Keen competition was witnessed across all disciplines at the gathering. The four-mile hill race attracted a field of 85. Hamish Battle from Craigievar won the men’s race, while the first female home was Stephanie Owen of Larbert and Rowan Currie from Strathdon was the first Lonach Society member to finish. Hotly contested as ever was the ladies tug o’ war competition. The Rest of the World team – made up of ladies from throughout the UK and overseas – overpowered both the Lonach and Glenbuchat Ladies teams to be crowned victors.

In the heavy events, Scott Rider from Dartford was named the overall heavy event champion for 2018, whilst Lukasz Wenta from East Kilbride retained the Rob Walker Memorial Shield by winning the open caber event. The Lonach Society School of Dancing celebrated its tenth anniversary with a special performance by its pupils. Pupils from the dance school once again won all of the Lonach area competitions in the local Highland Dancing section.

In acknowledgement of 40 years of service in the secretary’s office at the Lonach Gathering, Alison Webster from Kildrummy was presented with a gift and bouquet of flowers by the society. Throughout the day four local pipe bands performed for the crowd, which included visitors from Australia, Austria, Hawaii and New Zealand. Joining Lonach Pipe Band were Ballater and District, Huntly and District and Towie and District bands.

Jennifer Stewart, secretary and chief executive, said: ‘Lonach is one of north-east Scotland’s most iconic summer spectacles and it is always heartening to see a good crowd turning out to support us. It is a major event for the area and continues to attract visitors from around the world.’

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 Gathering  on the fourth Saturday of August. www.lonach.org.

• Piping results from Lonach here.

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