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INVERNESS HIGHLAND GAMES PREVIEW

14th July 2014

A bumper crowd is expected to attend Saturday's Inverness Highland Games following the announcement by the Games Committee that children aged 12 and under will be admitted free to the event as part of the celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of the opening of Northern Meeting Park.

The opening hour of this year's Gathering will be firmly focused on the younger members of the community with Toddlers Races and Junior Field Events entertaining the crowd before the Opening Ceremony commences at noon.

This year’s Opening Ceremony will feature a performance by the Inverness Legion, Forres and visiting Can-American Pipe Bands; and will conclude with one of the biggest mass Highland Flings ever seen in Inverness. Following the opening ceremony, Provost Alex Graham will unveil a special plaque to commemorate the opening of the world’s first Highland Games stadium by the Northern Meeting in 1864; before the main programme of Heavy events gets underway at 12:30 followed shortly afterwards with a full athletics programme commencing at 1pm. To mark the outstanding contribution made by the Inverness Harriers Athletics Club in support of Highland Games in the North of Scotland in the post war period; the Games Committee have also announced that this year’s Games will see all Inverness Harrier Club Members admitted free to the Games upon production of their Club Card.

Making its debut at this year’s Games will be a chance to see the Highlands finest Strong Women in action; with the Truck Pulling Event in the Games Market Area and the Atlas Stone lifting in the main arena guaranteed to be amongst the highlights of the day. The Strong Women have been training with Gavin Laird of the Forge Gym and World Highland Games Competitor Sinclair Patience in preparation for competing in more traditional Heavy events in 2015; and they will also be making an attempt at the current Inverness Games Ladies Weight Over the Bar record of 16 feet which is held by Julie Rider. The Women are guaranteed to create at least one new record as the Games will feature the debut of a female version of the historic stone lifting challenge that is unique to the Inverness Games. Thanks to an unknown stonemason who competed at the True Highland Games sponsored by the Northern Meeting in 1822; Inverness occupies a unique position on the International Highland Games circuit being the first Highland Games to feature a stone lifting event. Last year, after an absence of 191 years, competitors attempted to follow in his footsteps by launching a 252 pound (18 stone) stone over a bar suspended 5 foot above the ground. To date only Heavy Sinclair Patience, Highland Strongest Man Peter MacDonald Brown, Scotland’s Strongest Man Luke Stoltman and his younger brother Tom Stoltman have managed the feat. This year, the Women will be attempting the same feat using a 135 pound stone suspended at 4 feet; and it is intended to to make this a regular event at the Inverness Games programme and strength festivals held in Inverness.

The seven hour Games will also see the return of the very popular Highland Clan Exhibition which is being organised by the Association of Highland Clans and Societies. The Clans are now recruiting for volunteers to carry torches through the streets of Inverness at the inaugural Parade of the Highland Clans which will take place on September 12th as part of the Highland Homecoming celebrations.

Musically the Games will feature a full programme of Traditional Music organised by Margo Maclennan of High Life Highland. Now in its 13th year at the Games, the traditional music showcase will feature performances by Inverness Fiddlers with leader Morag Menzies, The 7 piece Caledonian Ceilidh Trail Band led by Rachel Campbell; Jeff Maclean and Ian McGregor, Susie Simpson and her Scottish Dance Band, Beatrice Clark and Ian MacAlpine; and Fiddle Forte.

Piping fans will be able to enjoy competitions organised by the Inverness Piping Society for the Donnie Manson Memorial Trophy (Overall Junior Champion), the Waterside Hotel Trophy (Overall Senior Champion) and The Presidents Cup (donated by Mrs Rona Lightfoot) for the winner of the Senior Piobaireachd competition.

Games Chairman Angus Dick said "Because of the risks involved with the lighting of 150 candles at the same time, we decided early on that the only thing that was going to be missing at this year’s Birthday Gathering would be a giant cake. We are trying to replace the candles with 150 Highland Flingers at the opening ceremony; and we would love to hear from former dancers who would like to come out of retirement to make up the numbers. Everybody is invited to come to the party on Saturday. We think that Northern Meeting Park deserves a day to remember".

Tickets cost £8 Adults and £4 for Seniors and Under 18’s. Under 12s are admitted free.

Tickets go on sale at Inverness Town House between 7pm and 9pm on Friday evening where there will be a Highland Game Eve Highland Dancing Show; and from 9am on Saturday morning. Tickets will be on sale at Northern Meeting Park from 10am.

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