Games competitors going for gold to mark anniversary

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The past, the present and the future will be celebrated at Aboyne Highland Games next weekend thanks to the creativity of pupils at Aboyne Academy.

To mark the 150th anniversary of the popular Royal Deeside highland games, four of its 98 events have been classed as Gold Events.

The events featured in the inaugural 1867 games and have been a fixture ever since. Next Saturday [05 August], along with vying for honours in the four events, competitors will be aiming to win specially commissioned trophies that celebrate a century and a half of Aboyne Highland Games.

The Gold Events, which are open to all comers, are the Piobaireachd in the piping section, Throwing the Heavy (22lb) Hammer in the heavy athletics, the 100 Yards Race in the light athletics and in the highland dancing, the Highland Reels aged 16 and over category.

The trophies will be won outright by those placed first in each of the four events, while increased prize funds for these four events are also being offered by the organisers.

The trophies have been designed by the local craftspeople and designers of tomorrow. Aboyne Highland Games’ committee approached Aboyne Academy’s National 5 Design and Manufacture class to create a design for the trophies. A range of concepts were presented to the committee, with S4 pupil Angus Fraser’s antler design being chosen as a fitting and iconic accolade. Angus received a family pass for the games and each pupil who submitted a design was given a commemorative 150th anniversary pin badge.

The design of the wooden trophies takes inspiration from the crest of the Gordon clan, which features a stag’s head. The crest also forms part of the Aboyne Highland Games logo, as the chieftain of the Gordon clan, The Marquis of Huntly, is patron of the event.

At the 1867 games, 13 men threw the 22lb heavy hammer, with local athlete Donald Dinnie throwing the greatest distance of 81ft 6in. Last year, Grangemouth athlete Kyle Randalls’ winning throw in the competition was nearly 30ft further than the 1867 distance, at 111ft 3in.

In the 100-yard flat race, Thomas Ward was first to break the tape in 1867, while last year the race was won by David Irvine of Aberdeen in 10.2 seconds. On the highland dancing boards, 16 men danced the Highland Reels, with F.S. Douglas being judged the winner. Last year, Liam Elphick from New Zealand was placed first in the competition.

Two pipers contested the Piobaireachd 150 years ago, with John Ross of Crathie being placed first. In 2016, Peterculter piper Calum Brown won the event.

Individuals looking to compete in any of the highland dancing, piping and fiddle competitions, light and heavy athletics events, and the hill race, and teams in the tug o’ war contest must register their entry online at www.aboynegames.com by midnight on Monday, 31 July.

Alistair Grant, chairman of Aboyne Highland Games, said: “These are beautiful trophies that have a simple and natural design that celebrates the 150-year heritage of Aboyne Highland Games.

“We are very grateful to the pupils at Aboyne Academy for their assistance and are in very proud to have given these future crafters and designers a platform to flex their creative muscles.

“The competition at Aboyne Games is always keenly contested. With increased prize money and iconic trophies on offer, we are certain the Gold Events will see some closely fought contests. We are sure that our Gold Event trophies will be cherished by the winners.

The awards celebrate our past, but also mark the achievements of present day competitors and contribute to the story of Aboyne Highland Games which will be told in the years to come.”

Aboyne Highland Games takes place on Saturday, 05 August on Aboyne Green. Events get underway just after 10am, with the official opening ceremony at 11:15am.