The lure of Lonach

THOUSANDS packed into the usually quiet Bellabeg Park at Strathdon on Saturday for the annual spectacle that was the 168th Lonach Highland Gathering & Games.

The sun shone on-and-off all day and the rain stayed away, ensuring a good day was had by all - as many as 10,000 this year - who had ventured into Donside for this annual gathering, organised by the Lonach Highland & Friendly Society.

As always, the main attraction was the March of the Clansmen. Led by the Lonach Pipe Band, the clansmen paraded around the arena at 1pm and 3pm as the gathered masses vied for the best position to absorb the unique sight, reminiscent of days prior to the Jacobite uprisings in 1715 and 1745.

Prior to the arena display, the men had already accomplished a long march in the early morning, around the homes of local proprietors.

Attired in full Highland dress and carrying battle pikes and Lochaber axes, the clansmen marched over the hills for about six miles.

On their visits, they were offered Highland hospitality, stopping off at The Schoolhouse, Candacraig House - home to Glaswegian comedian Billy Connolly and wife Pamela Stephenson - Roughpark, Tornashean, Bellabeg House and finally the Lonach Hall.

Billy Connolly and his wife both attended this year's Gathering, although without the usual gaggle of showbiz mates who have visited in the past.

The Games were supported by the leading athletes, pipers and dancers who went through a fine programme of traditional events, in the heavy, light athletics, piping and dancing sections. Many events attracted competitors from across the country and even abroad.

Children's races, tossing the caber, putting the stone, throwing the hammer etc. drew the crowds and more than 8,500 was up for grabs in prize money.

Pipe bands - including Huntly & District and Ballater & District - kept toes tapping all afternoon with their rousing tunes.

As usual, many visitors were bedecked in striking tartan costumes and hats - making the most of the good weather to show off their outfits.

Picnic rugs adorned the grass outside the arena as people found a spot, within viewing distance of the games field, to have their lunch and enjoy the spectacle.

With a climbing tower for youngsters to tackle, as well as a host of rides and stalls for the smaller children, the Lonach managed to cater for every age group and proved, once again, that on the fourth Saturday in August, "All roads lead to The Lonach."

Results from the Gathering were as follows:

PIPING: Bagpipe music (open) Pibrochs - Xavier Boderiou, Brittany; Bagpipe music (open 18 years and under) Pibrochs - Craig Wilson, Rothes; Bagpipe music (open) Marches - Alexis Meunier, Brittany; Bagpipe music (open) Strathspey & Reel - Alan Russell, Kelty; Best tune composed by Pipe Major William Grant - Simon McKerrell, Lenzie; Bagpipe music (open under 14 yrs) Marches and bagpipe music (open under 14 yrs) Strathspey & Reel - Calum Brown, Peterculter; Bagpipe music (open 14-18 years) Marches and bagpipe music (open 14-18 years) Strathspey & Reel - David Wright, Westhill; Bagpipe music (Lonach kindred gatherings - under 18 yrs) March, Strathspey & Reel - James McPetrie, Aboyne.

DANCING: Highland Fling (local areas of four kindred gatherings - under 8 yrs) and Ghillie Callum (local areas of four kindred gatherings - under 8 yrs) - Jessica Lindsay, Aboyne; Highland Fling (local areas of four kindred gatherings - 8-under 12 yrs) and Seann Truibhas (local areas of four kindred gatherings - 8 to under 12 yrs) - Alicia Dinnie, Alford; Ghillie Callum (local areas of four kindred gatherings - 8 to under 12 yrs) - Rachael Taylor, Alford; Highland Fling (local areas of four kindred gatherings - 12 to under 16 yrs) and Ghillie Callum (local areas of four kindred gatherings 12 to under 16 yrs) and Seann Truibhas (local areas of four kindred gatherings - 12 to under 16 yrs) and Half Reel of Tulloch (local areas of four kindred gatherings 12 to under 16 yrs) - Danielle Dinnie, Alford; Highland Fling (local areas of four kindred gatherings - 16 yrs and over) and Ghillie Callum (local areas of four kindred gatherings 16 yrs and over) and Seann Truibhas (local areas of four kindred gatherings - 16 yrs and over) - Anne Marshall, Craigievar; Half Reel of Tulloch (local areas of four kindred gatherings - 16 yrs and over) - Rona Nealgrove; Ghillie Callum (open) and Reel O'Tulloch (open) and Highland Fling (open) - Laura Smith, Cairnie; Seann Truibhas (open) - Dara Wood, Tain; Hornpipe (open), Highland Reel (open) and Irish jig (open) - Shelley Reid, New Zealand; Highland Fling (open 12 to under 16 yrs), Reel O'Tulloch (open 12 to under 16 yrs) and Ghillie Callum (open 12 to under 16 yrs) - Rachel Walker, Fettercairn; Seann Truibhas (open 12 to under 16 yrs) - Robyn Watt, Macduff; Highland Fling (open under 16 yrs) - Finley Duncan, Banff; Ghillie Callum (open under 12 yrs) and Seann Truibhas (open under 12 yrs) - Catriona Dempster, Huntly.

HEAVY EVENTS: Putting heavy stone (open) - A Neighbour, B Robb; Putting light stone (open) - A Neighbour; Throwing heavy hammer (open) and throwing light hammer (open) - C Sinclair; Throwing 56lb weight for distance (open) and throwing 28lb weight for distance (open) - A Neighbour; Tossing caber (open) - S Aiken; Throwing 56lb weight for height (open) - A Neighbour; Throwing light hammer (Grampian Games qualifying events age 18 to 25), throwing 28lb weight for distance (Grampian Games qualifying events age 18 to 25), putting light stone (Grampian Games qualifying events age 18 to 25), throwing weight over bar (Grampian Games qualifying events age 18 to 25) and tossing caber (Grampian Games qualifying events age 18 to 25) - S Patience.

LIGHT EVENTS: Long race (open) Frank Barton; High jump (open) - David Clunie, Oban; Short race (open) - Fraser Davidson, Torphins; Long jump (open) Greg Walker, Fettercairn; Hop, step & leap (open) - David Clunie, Oban; Quarter-mile race (open) - Fraser Davidson, Torphins; Hill race (open) - Craig Robertson; Ladies hill race (open) - Ruth McKenzie; Boys' race (open 10 yrs and under) - William Farquharson, Finzean; Girls' race (open 10 yrs and under) - Sophie Farquharson, Finzean; Boys' race (open 11 yrs and under 13) - Alastair Haston, Branard Castle; Girls' race (open 11 yrs and under 13) - Sophie Shopton, Hampshire; Girls' race (open 13 yrs and under 16) - Coralie Arthur, Coull; Boys' race (open 13 years and under 16) - James Sharp - London; Pillow fight (open under 12 years) - Logan Gordon; Pillow fight (open 12 years and upwards) - Brad Arthur; Ladies race (open) - Gemma Sole, Glenbuchat.

SOCIETY EVENTS: Best-dressed Highlander (Society) - Roland Stuart, Torphins; Best-dressed Highlander (open) - Alistair Laing, Alford; Hill race (Society) - Neil Gauld, Midmar; Throwing light hammer (Society) - Rob Taylor; Relay race (Society) - Forbes & Wallace; Tug o'war (local clansmen) - Forbes; Tossing caber (Society) - William Milne and Charles Mathieson; Putting light stone (Society) - Rob Taylor, Strathdon; Ladies tug o'war - Strathdon.