Aboyne Highland Games, which is normally held on the Deeside village’s green on the first Saturday in August in front of 10,000 spectators, was cancelled earlier this year due to continued uncertainties surrounding Covid-19.
With Aboyne Highland Games’ normal format of 95 events curtailed for a second successive year, the virtual programme – supported by EventScotland – was designed to maintain the spirit of the 154-year-old cultural and sporting showcase.
A series of pre-recorded films was broadcast on the event’s social media channels during Saturday, while the results of its online piping and fiddle competitions were also announced.
Proceedings commenced in the traditional manner with a film of the chieftain’s banner being raised on Aboyne Green, with Aboyne Highland Games committee members watching on. In the absence of the chieftain, the Marquis of Huntly, and his son the Earl of Aboyne, proceedings were opened by Marcus Humphrey CBE of Dinnet Estate, the longest serving member of the event’s committee.
Local heavy athlete James Dawkins demonstrated the different heavy athletics disciplines, supported by former heavy athlete Neil Fyvie, who is also a member of the games committee. In the film, James threw the 16lb weight for distance and the hammer, putted the 16lb stone and tossed the caber, before explaining the skills and techniques used in the different disciplines.
A display of Highland Dancing was performed by four dancers from Aboyne. Accompanied by respected piper and piping convenor for Aboyne Highland Games, Dr Jack Taylor, the girls danced the Highland Fling and the Seann Truibhas.
To provide traditional musicians with an opportunity to perform competitively this summer, Aboyne Highland Games moved some of its solo piping and fiddle music competitions online. The move proved popular with musicians, as the number of entries in both the piping and fiddle competitions was the highest it has been for many years.
The piping competitions attracted 40 entrants, with pipers from around the world, including Canada and New Zealand, submitting video performances that were reviewed by respected judges. This was the second successive year that the piping competitions had been held online and were once again organised by Dr Jack Taylor.
All of the piping titles went to overseas pipers. Ian MacDonald from Ontario, Canada won the open piobaireachd, strathspey and reel, and hornpipe and jig competitions. While Bruce Gandy from Halifax, Nova Scotia triumphed in the open march competition.
The top Scots in the piping were Renfrew piper Gordon McCready who finished second in open piobaireachd, strathspey and reel, and hornpipe and jig competitions, and Aberdeen’s Calum Brown was second in the open march competition.
Renowned Scottish fiddler Paul Anderson MBE, who is a member of the Aboyne Highland Games committee, organised and judged the fiddle competitions. A total of 25 fiddlers entered across three age categories, which included musicians from Germany and Canada. All tunes being performed were required to be Scottish in origin.
In the 12 and under category, Emma Cameron of Kintore was named the winner and was awarded the Graham Ross Trophy. The 15 and under category was won by Amelia Parker from Nova Scotia, Canada, whose name will be engraved on the Scott Skinner Trophy. Heather Anderson of Tarland won the Peter Milne Trophy for the best performance by an individual aged 16 and over. She was also named best local fiddle player.
Several local businesses sponsored the competitions, including Johnston Oils, Ian MacDonald Architecture, Gerry Robb Architectural Design Services, Bill Barclay Kiltmaker and Chris Caldwell of Strachan.
Alistair Grant, chairman of Aboyne Highland Games, said: “Everyone involved in organising Aboyne Highland Games was hugely disappointed that the event was not able to take place in its usual format again this year. With the support of EventScotland, we have instead been able to host a fantastic virtual celebration of Highland Games, helping keep their spirit alive.
“Our thanks to all the musicians who took time to submit video performances for the online piping and fiddle competitions, and all those who contributed to the short films. The number of entries received for the piping and fiddle competitions demonstrates the eagerness of musicians to compete. Credit to Jack and Paul for their hard work organising the competitions.
“As well as entertaining those who watch them, we hope all of the videos will inspire people to visit Highland Games or consider participating in some of the individual events in the coming years. Friendship and community play an integral part in Aboyne Highland Games and a warm welcome awaits the visitors and competitors who travel to Royal Deeside next August to be part of our 2022 event.”
The virtual programme of events can be viewed on the event’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/AboyneHighlandGames.
Aboyne Highland Games is next scheduled to take place on Saturday, August 6, 2022.
• 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.