The Highland Games season on Royal Deeside got underway on Saturday as Aboyne Green played host to Aboyne Highland Games. Now in its 151st year, the popular event drew an estimated crowd of nearly 10,000 visitors, many travelling from around the world to watch the annual celebration of Scottish history and heritage. Clear, sunny skies and warm temperatures helped to draw in the crowds. The day's proceedings got off to a rousing start as nine pipe bands marched through the village and onto the green, before playing throughout the afternoon. Those performing were Ballater and District, Deeside Caledonia, Ellon Royal British Legion, the Gordon Highlanders Association, Grampian and District, Huntly and District, Lonach, Newtonhill, and Towie and District. A busy programme of nearly 100 events ensured visitors were entertained until the early evening.
Crowds packed the grandstands around the main arena to watch displays of skill, strength and fitness in the Highland Dancing, tug o' war, children's races and light and heavy athletics events. Encouraging cheers were also provided for those competing in the 6.8-mile hill race. Fans of traditional music were treated to a number of fine performances in the piping and fiddle music events. Away from the competitions, around 80 trade stands showcasing a range of local produce and crafts, and a funfair provided interest and entertainment for all ages. For the first time, Aboyne Highland Games was officially opened by Alistair, Earl of Aboyne, who was officiating in place of his father, Granville Gordon, the 13th Marquis of Huntly who is chieftain of the event. The Marquis - who became chieftain in 1987 - was absent due to a back injury. It was the first time in 55 years that he had missed the games. Due to its location on Royal Deeside, Aboyne Highland Games traditionally welcomes many overseas visitors, and 2018 was no exception. Tourists from Alaska, Uruguay, Russia, Turkmenistan and China all marked their countries of origin in the overseas tent. While a contingent of 30 French visitors from Aboyne's twin town, Martignas-sur-Jalle, added some Gallic flair to proceedings. The group visited the as part of their four-day visit to Aboyne to celebrate the Franco-Scottish alliance. Visitors also had the chance to learn about 11 of Scotland's historic clans in the Clan Village.
There was a sense of fiction meeting reality as two of the clans that feature prominently in hit TV show 'Outlander' were represented. The relationship between the Mackenzie and Fraser clans forms the background to the hugely popular novel and TV adaptation, and the two clans had a friendly rivalry in the Clan Village as they attempted to outdo one another in welcoming more of their clansfolk into their respective pavilions.
Following its reintroduction last year as part of Aboyne Highland Games' 150th anniversary celebrations, pole vaulting remained in the programme after a near 40-year absence. Twisting and turning their body to clear the bar at a height of 9ft (2.74m) and clinch victory - surpassing the height achieved last year - was David Metnicak from Aberdeen. Having won the open caber event earlier in the afternoon, Lukasz Wenta from East Kilbride was given the honour of attempting to throw the Aboyne Caber, which was created last year and dedicated by Her Majesty The Queen during her visit. With a prize of £600 at stake, Lukasz received plenty of encouragement from onlookers, but failed to successfully land the 23ft 6in (7.15m) log in the perfect 12 o'clock position. A field of 97 runners took on the challenge of the hill race, which follows part of the Fungle Road and circles the base of local hill Craigendinnie. James Hoad led home James Crowe to win the men's race. Local runner Kyle Greig finished third and was the first local male across the line. The ladies race was won by Virginie Barrand, with Sally Wallis finishing second and being the first local female home.
Reflecting on the day, Alistair Grant, chairman of Aboyne Highland Games, said: "It has once again been a very successful day with a great crowd through the gates. They have been treated to some wonderful performances across all events. Our judges have also commented on the high standard of competition that they have seen. "Listening to the diverse range of voices in the crowd, and the size of the crowd, underlines how popular and important Highland Games are to Scotland and its economy. It should never be underestimated what a draw they are for tourists. We had a gentleman from England travel up to Aboyne especially to attend the games as he had never been to a Highland Games before and wanted to experience it. "We were sad not to have our chieftain, the Marquis of Huntly, in attendance due to his back injury. His son, the Earl of Aboyne, did an excellent job deputising. The Marquis's presence at Aboyne Highland Games over the past six decades has been a constant in a changing world. We wish him a speedy recovery and look forward to him being back overseeing proceedings on Saturday, 03 August 2019. "A huge thanks as ever goes to all those people make the games happen and to the local community for its continued support. The village and surrounding area welcome our visitors with open arms, it is great to see and very much appreciated by all." 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.
Published: 2018-08-07 10:29:34