Games Day Report

Abernethy Highland Games Report – 11th August 2018

Torrential rain on the Friday before Games Day flooded the field, but by the following day the water had disappeared giving ideal conditions for both competitors and spectators. This was reflected in the quality of performance on the field and the numbers coming through the gates. Provisional admission numbers, at 3650, showed an increase of 17% over last year, and were the best admission figures since 2011.

Games Chairman Neil Sutherland commented: “ If the rain had come on Saturday it would have washed us out without a doubt, but the very dry soil on the field ensured that the water disappeared very quickly and so we have been able to carry on as usual. We’ve had a brilliant Games here today with lots of people telling us how much they have enjoyed the day.”

Games Chieftain for 2018 was Dr Peter Grant, well known to locals as a GP and for many their local doctor. Dr Grant has strong local connections as his grandfather farmed at Rothiemoon close to the Games field itself. Dr Grant also served for 35 years on the Cairngorms Mountain Rescue team. Games Chairman Neil Sutherland presented him with his Chieftain’s Cromach against the backdrop of probably the largest parade of Pipes and Drums to be seen anywhere that day, together with the members of the Clan Grant led by their Chieftain, Lord Strathspey.

To commemorate the centenary of the end of the Great War, Chairman Neil Sutherland called for a brief silence for reflection, remembering in particular the 32 men of Abernethy who did not return from the War. The silence was broken by a lone piper, Pipe Major Peter Craigmile of Elgin Pipe Band, playing The Flowers of the Forest.

Announcer Graeme Allan kept proceedings moving along starting with the Childrens’ events, run by John McCook, which proved very popular with the many young participants.

In the Heavy competition, always a draw for spectators, local athlete Conan Quinn set a new Games record in the shot putt of 12.2m, while in the Juniors (17 – 19), Murdo Masterson set a new Games Record of 42.16m for the Scots Hammer. In the Open section, a strong field of 11 athletes competed, the best entry for several years. Aberdeen based Czech thrower Vlad Tulacek dominated the Open contest, in the process setting two new Games records. His massive first shot putt of 17.32m set a margin of over 3m against the next placed competitor, George Evans of Inverness, himself a Games record holder. In the 56lb weight for height contest he did the same again. clearing the bar set at 15”10” and leaving Evans best throw of 13”3” well below.

The athletics contest once again showed a strong field in the younger age classes reflecting a new generation of youngsters gaining experience in these disciplines.

The 10 Mile Road Race set off with an entry of 72 runners who made their way though the pine woods of Abernethy, courtesy of the RSPB who also sponsor the event. First home was Robbie Paterson of Moray Road Runners in 58.01, followed in 58.58 by Paul Rogan of the same club. Paul was also the fastest Vet. First Female and also First Female Vet was Megan Wright of Hunters Bog Trotters in 68.03.

In the Junior Piping section, Judge Ronald McLean of Inverness expressed surprise at there being no Junior Local entrants this year but commended the young Open Competition pipers for achieving such a promising standard of play. He gave good advice on how they could improve for next year. The winner of the David Grant Blyth Cup for the most promising piper (17 and under) was Kyle Cameron of Rosemarkie.

The Piping Judges, Graham Brown and Duncan Watson of Aberdeen, themselves former competitors at the Games, congratulated Abernethy Highland Games Committee on providing one of the most welcoming and hospitable piping competitions anywhere in Scotland. They welcomed and commended the increased number of competitors for their high standard of play. 8 pipers took part in the Pibroch competition, the winner being Ed MacIlwayne of Vancouver Canada, winning the Lord Strathspey Cup. In the March, Strathspey and Reel, and Jig competitions, Alan Clark of Aberdeen won the Gordon Cup for the competitor with the most points from the Senior Piping Competition.

A record breaking entry of 13 competitors in each competition treated a good crowd of spectators to displays of skilful drumming. Such were the skills that the Judge, Alasdair Dowling, found the placings very close. The growing popularity of this event was evident by the significant increase in entrants and growing numbers of spectators. The winner of the Junior section was Hollie Chalmers of Turriff and District Pipe Band, and in the Seniors the winner was Ieun Johnson, Strathisla & District Pipe Band.

The massed Pipes and Drums are always a popular feature of the Games, both for the spectators and the bands themselves. This year saw no less than 9 Pipe Bands from as far as Banff and Huntly, and comprising over 220 pipers and drummers parading on the field. 7 Pipe Bands took part in the competition for the Pipe Band Challenge Shield judged by Sir Patrick Grant of Dalvey. To their great delight, the prize went to Portsoy Pipe Band who were formed only 5 years ago and who the judge commended as the most improved band taking part.

The Dancing entry, at 96, was the largest seen at Abernethy for many years with dancers travelling from Lewis, Thurso, Aberdeen, West Dunbartonshire, Ft William, Cambuslang, Edinburgh, and Glenrothes, showing the significance of Abernethy as a Highland Dancing venue.

Judges were June Hislop, Laurencekirk and Lynne Lawrence, Aberdeen; the hard working pipers were John Whyte, Keith, Owen Chalmers, Banff and Tom Bisset, Nethybridge.

The overall winner in the Beginners’ section was Evie Jones of Inverness with Niamh Hogg, Elgin the Overall Novice winner.

The Overall Premier Highland title was a tie between Innes MacKenzie, Fearn and Suzanne McDonald, Elgin. Innes MacKenzie also won the Overall Premier National and the Overall Premier placings. Best Local Dancer 12 years and Under was Lucy Grant, Dufftown, and Best Local Dancer 13 years and over was Rhianne Smart, Craigellachie. TheTeachers Trophy went to the Claire Bryce School.

In Closing the Games, Chairman Neil Sutherland paid tribute to the members of the Games Committee and the many volunteers in the village who had come forward to set up the field and to plan and run the many events that took place during the day. Particular thanks went to the Bin Squad who kept the field litter free throughout the day. Thanks again went to Announcer Graeme Allan who throughout the day kept the crowd informed and entertained, and the many officials and judges who ensured the smooth and timely running of all the events. Once again the Friendly Games lived up to their reputation.

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