Aboyne keeps Highland Games traditions alive with virtual celebration of events

The Aboyne Highland Games committee members gathered on Aboyne Green after the Chief’s banner was raised.

Aboyne Highland Games, which normally takes place on the green in Deeside village on the first Saturday in August in front of 10,000 spectators, was canceled earlier this year due to lingering uncertainties surrounding Covid-19.

With Aboyne Highland Games’ normal 95-event format scaled down for the second year in a row, the virtual program – supported by EventScotland – has been designed to maintain the spirit of the 154-year-old cultural and sporting showcase.

A series of pre-recorded films were released on social media of the event on Saturday, while the results of its online bagpipe and violin competitions were also announced.

Highland Dancers performing as part of the Aboyne Highland Games Virtual Celebration

The debates began in the traditional way with a film of the Chief’s banner hoisted over Aboyne Green, as the Aboyne Highland Games committee members watched. In the absence of the leader, the Marquis of Huntly, and his son the Earl of Aboyne, the proceedings were opened by Marcus Humphrey CBE of Dinnet Estate, the longest-serving member of the committee for the event.

Local heavy athlete James Dawkins presented the different heavy track and field disciplines, supported by former heavy athlete Neil Fyvie, who is also a member of the games committee. In the movie, James threw the 16-pound distance and hammer weight, landed the 16-pound stone and threw the caber, before explaining the skills and techniques used in the various disciplines.

An exhibition of Highland Dancing was performed by four dancers from Aboyne. Accompanied by respected flute player and flute host for Aboyne Highland Games, Dr Jack Taylor, the girls danced the Highland Fling and the Seann Truibhas.

To provide traditional musicians with the opportunity to perform in competition this summer, Aboyne Highland Games has put some of its solo bagpipe and violin music competitions online. This decision proved popular with musicians, as the number of entries for bagpipe and violin competitions was the highest in many years.

The bagpipe competitions drew 40 participants, with pipers from all over the world, including Canada and New Zealand, submitting video performances that were reviewed by respected judges. This was the second year in a row that the bagpipe competitions were held online and again hosted by Dr Jack Taylor.

All bagpipe titles went to bagpipers overseas. Ian MacDonald from Ontario, Canada won the open piobaireachd, strathspey and reel, and hornpipe and jig competitions. While Bruce Gandy of Halifax, Nova Scotia triumphed in the open walk competition.

The top Scots in piping were Renfrew piper Gordon McCready who finished second in the open piobaireachd, strathspey and reel, and hornpipe and jig competitions, and Aberdeen’s Calum Brown finished second in the open March competition.

Renowned Scottish fiddler Paul Anderson MBE, board member of the Aboyne Highland Games, organized and judged the violin competitions. A total of 25 fiddlers entered in three age categories, including musicians from Germany and Canada. All airs performed had to be of Scottish origin.

In the 12 and under category, Emma Cameron of Kintore was named the winner and received the Graham Ross Trophy. The 15 and under category was won by Amelia Parker of Nova Scotia, Canada, whose name will be engraved on the Scott Skinner Trophy. Heather Anderson of Tarland won the Peter Milne Trophy for best performance by an individual aged 16 and over. She was also named the best local violin 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, President of Aboyne Highland Games, said: “Everyone involved in the organization of Aboyne Highland Games was extremely disappointed that the event was not able to take place again this year in its usual format. Rather, with the support of EventScotland, we were able to host a fantastic virtual celebration of the Highland Games, helping to keep their spirit alive.

“Our thanks to all the musicians who took the time to submit video performances for the online bagpipe and violin competitions, and to all who contributed to the shorts. The number of entries received for the bagpipe and violin competitions demonstrates the eagerness of musicians to compete. Thanks to Jack and Paul for their hard work in organizing the competitions.

“In addition to entertaining those who watch them, we hope all of the videos will inspire people to visit the Highland Games or consider participating in some of the individual events in the years to come. Friendship and community are an integral part of the Aboyne Highland Games and a warm welcome awaits visitors and competitors who will travel to Royal Deeside next August to be a part of our 2022 event. ”

Aboyne Highland Games is scheduled to take place on Saturday August 6, 2022.

• Founded in 1867, the Aboyne Highland Games are traditional Scottish games held every year on the first Saturday in August. The Aberdeenshire event, hosted under the patronage of Granville Gordon, the 13th Marquess of Huntly, attracts up to 10,000 people each year. Featuring a program of traditional Highland gaming events including Highland dances, caber, bagpipe and violin throwing competitions, the city’s green event attracts visitors from around the world and makes a contribution important to the local economy of Deeside. More information about Aboyne Highland Games can be found at www.aboynegames.com.


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Jennifer R. Strohm

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