Lonach Gathering Feature

The Gathering’s PR department have forwarded this…

Resplendent in their Highland regalia and shouldering their traditional eight-foot long pikes, the Lonach Highlanders were the star attraction at the 178th Lonach Highland Gathering and Games which was held in Aberdeenshire on Saturday, 24th August.

Following in the footsteps of their forefathers, the Lonach Highlanders set out at 7:50am from Bellabeg on their historic six-mile march through Strathdon.  With the strains of the pipes and drums of the Lonach Pipe Band piercing the morning air, the highlanders continued a tradition that stretches back nearly 200 years as they visited six local properties, toasting the health of each property’s owners.

The iconic procession, which this year featured 169 of the society’s 220-strong membership, was a spectacular sight as it wound its way through Strathdon.  Among the ranks were three youngsters who were taking part in their first Lonach march.  The eldest marcher was 79-year-old marshalling sergeant George Thomson from Strathdon.

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Organised by the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, which was founded in 1823, the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games is a highlight of the summer events calendar in north-east Scotland.   This year it drew a crowd of over 7,500 people.  Visitors from across Britain and the world packed onto the games field from 10:30am, with some travelling from Australia, New Zealand and Canada to attend the event.

The gathering also welcomed a group of 14 students and four adults from the Japanese city of Nagasaki, who are currently on a visit to the UK.  During their visit to the Lonach Gathering, which was arranged by Ronnie Watt of Milltimber, the group were presented with commemorative caps by the Consul General of Japan in Edinburgh, Mr Nozomu Takaoka.

At one o’clock the Lonach Highlanders, led by patron Sir James Forbes of Newe, marched onto Bellabeg Park to officially open proceedings.  Greeting them were hearty cheers and warm applause from the crowds watching from the grandstands and that stood four to five deep in places around the arena.  The scene was repeated two hours later when the Lonach Highlanders led by the massed pipe bands completed a second circuit of the games arena.

Held in warm, dry conditions, the gathering is a celebration of Scottish culture, music and sporting heritage and takes place annually on the fourth Saturday in August.

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There was close competition across the piping, dancing, tug o’ war and athletics disciplines.  In the piping, Calum Brown from Peterculter won the Open Piobaireachd event, while Campbell Wilson from New Zealand claimed the under 18s Piobaireachd title and collected the Thomson Family Trophy. Full piping results here.

Joining the Lonach Pipe Band to play for spectators throughout the day were the pipe bands of Ballater and District, Huntly and District, Towie and District and Robert Gordon’s College.

Jennifer Stewart, secretary and chief executive of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, said: ‘What a day.  Everyone’s hard work over recent weeks to prepare for the Gathering has paid off. There was a great atmosphere all day and the weather was warm and dry, and not too hot for marching.’

The success of this year’s gathering and the achievements of competitors will be celebrated on Friday, 30 August, at the annual Lonach Highland Ball in the Lonach Hall.

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. Further information can be found at www.lonach.org.

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