The Halkirk Highland Games somehow managed to be held in a beautiful weather window, as Friday and Sunday both had torrential rain. Any thoughts of cancelling the Games were dispelled as the Saturday morning of the Games was absolutely glorious. It continued throughout the day and into the pipe band parade in the evening. Halkirk has always been lucky with the weather and there has only been two rainy days in the past 20 years.
The pipes and drums of the Highlanders made a special trip from their base in Germany and only arrived in Halkirk at on the morning of the Games. Those who entered the Piobaireachd piping competition had to be at the park at , so did not get much sleep!
The event clashed with Scotland's Homecoming Gathering in Edinburgh and so the Societies of Clan Gunn and Sinclair did not have their usual busy tents. However, the Edinburgh Games did not affect the number of competitors and the usual array of local, national and international athletes and dancers eagerly competed for the largest prize purse in Scotland at over £22,000.
All eyes were on the "Heavies" and a fantastic field of 11 athletes, including a woman from the USA, produced another exciting and close battle. No records were broken, but the competition was intense in every event. The number of heavies in the under 26 years of age category was the most ever seen and is encouraging for the future of the sport.
Jason Young of Tain, Scotland, emerged triumphant from the battle. He won the Andrew Ross memorial cup as overall champion after winning 5 of the 9 events, including the Scottish Games Association (SGA) Scottish championship for the 22lb hammer. Other Scottish championship winners were local man Murray Gunn in the 28lb weight for distance, Sam Grammer, Connecticut USA, in the 16lb hammer and Alan Clark, Dunnet, Caithness won the 2000m cycling championship. They all won £200 as first prize.
"Heavy" Murray Gunn won the J Budge cup as County champion. He beat his older brother Alistair who has held it nearly every year for the last 24 years. Alistair first competed at Halkirk as a seventeen year old in 1980 and his son Jamie is following in his dad's footsteps as he competed in the heavyweight events for the first time ever.
The international line up in the "Heavies" consisted of Christophe Wand, Kitchener, Canada, Sam Kelmulrey, San Francisco, USA, Sam Grammer, Connecticut, USA, and Kate Mason, Connecticut, USA. Mason is currently ranked 2nd in the world for women's heavy events, but did not make an impression against the taller and heavier men. Jim Ford, Birmingham, England, joined the Scottish contingent of Scott Thompson, Nairn, Jason Young, Tain and the Halkirk quartet of youngster Sam O'Kane, Alistair Gunn, Murray Gunn and Jamie Gunn.
Sam and Jamie look to continue Halkirk's tradition of producing the finest of Heavyweight athletes. They will be hoping to emulate Gerston's Alistair Gunn, a four time world champion.
The track and field events were dominated by Thurso's Andrew Raeburn who broke two Caithness records on his way to winning an amazing 6 trophies. He broke the record for the long jump with a leap of 18' 10" and the hop, step and leap with 42' 5". Other winners were Fraser Davidson, Aberdeen and Craig Robertson, Pitlochry. Veteran athlete, Donald Bradley, Inverness, who has been competing at Halkirk for nearly 25 years, was just edged out in his favourite event, the 1,600m, by Craig Robertson. Donald had many a tussle with Craig's father John in the 80s and 90s.
Laura Smith, Huntly won the open Highland dancing championship, whilst Wick's Kirsty Bain won the Caithness championship. The dancing entry of nearly 40, entertained the crowd in the middle of the arena for over four hours.
Wick cyclist Evan Oliphant couldn't make the Games as he had commitments with his professional cycling team in England. However, his brother Lewis, Dunnet man Alan Clark, Peter Alexander, Inverness, plus 7 othrs provided a battle royale on the tight 200m track. Clark won 5 of the 7 events to become open champion. Oliphant won the 800m scratch race and Alexander the 1600m handicap. Charles Fletcher, Grantown-on-Spey won the junior cycling.
In the piping, Highlander pipe band member Peter MacGregor, Lochinver, won 3 of the events to win the overall championship. James Craig, Benbecula won the jig to deny MacGregor the clean sweep.
The turn-out for the junior piping was unfortunately the poorest ever seen. Murdo Mackay, Armadale, won the 15-18 years category. Hannah MacDonald, Bettyhill, won the 12-15 years category.
The clay pigeon shooting had the largest ever entry with over 60 guns from all over Scotland competing, including members of the Scottish team. The overall champion was Stacey Jennard, Tain. The 10 bird winner was Paul Sutherland, Wick and the 15 bird winner, Magnus Norquoy, Orkney. The junior champion was Logan Munro, Scrabster and the veteran winner, Sandy Gall, Invergordon.
The crowd pleasing Tug O'War teams did not disappoint this year, with Inverness being the first team in many years to be from outwith the County. Teams of 8 from Halkirk, Forss and a Caithness/Inverness select joined the Inverness muscle men in a round-robin competition. Halkirk emerged victors after winning all 3 contests.
The hotly contested and very popular baby show was won by 4 month old Sophie Trevelyan, Castletown. Mum Maggie, was presented with the trophy by judge Highland Councillor Marion Thurso.
The children's races and novelty events consisting of three-legged and sack races enthralled the crowd and out of the 91 events held on the day, were just as competitive as any of the main races.