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No Skirl of the Pipes in St Andrews on Sunday

writes Shane Fenton

The Fife highland Games circuit should have been continuing this Sunday with the St Andrews Highland Games. Similar to every other Games this summer it won't be taking place owing to the Covid -19 pandemic restrictions.
In it's present form St Andrews is the youngest of all the surviving Games held within the Kingdom.
First held in in 1984 the inaugural gathering got off to a somewhat inauspicious start. The event was held within a field[Links Park] on the grounds of Strathtyrum Farm thanks to the kind permission of estate owner Mrs A.D. Cheape.

It wasn't until events were underway that it came to light that the said Mrs Cheape was actually charged to get into her own field. The unsuspecting gate person hadn't known who she was and charged her the entrance fee which she duly paid. Mrs Cheape made no fuss, the money stayed in the coffers and the rest of the day turned out to be successful occasion and. the seeds were sown for what is now one of the most popular Games on the circuit.

The Games are now at their third venue, after a couple of years at the aforementioned Links Park, they moved across the road to the North Haugh within the grounds of the University and changed days from a Thursday to a Sunday. They soon outgrew that location so it was back across the road to their present home at Station Park in the shadow of the Old Course Hotel.

The Games are now among the most popular on the circuit , always attracting good entry and spectating numbers. The big crowd is boosted by large numbers of overseas visitors, one year the special race for them had 23 different nationalities!The very first overseas winner was a David Silverton from California
Many famous names over the years have participated in the various events, Geoff Capes along with Bill and Grant Anderson contested the heavy events at the inaugural Games, through to the likes of World Strongman competitor Gregor Edmunds and latterly Scott Rider a GB and England competitor at Olympic and Commonwealth Games.

British international athletes Chris O'Hare,Terry Mitchell, Laura Muir and Sarah Inglis are among those who have run and won in the athletic events. The Games at one time hosted the SHGA 1600 metres championship and one year was won by BBC sports reporter Kheredine Idessane who was a useful runner in his day. Many of the cycling greats, Stewart Duff, Jock and Craig Hardie as well as Evan Oliphant and Charles Fletcher have pedalled their way around the pear shaped 267 metres circuit at Station Park.
The Highland Dancing was as popular then as it is now.

Looking at the programme for the first year, it cost 20p nowadays it will set you back £2. Such has been the increase in popularity, from an initial list of 16 events in 1984 to last year when there was 37. The biggest prize of the day 36 years ago was the £60 which went to the winning Tug o War team. All the heavy events back in the day had a top prize of £15 now the winner of each takes away £50. The latter sum also went to the victor in the 90 metres handicap which in the first year was Willie Scobie of Markinch. Other winners on that opening day included Mike Daly Glenrothes in the 200 metres and John Bain Markinch in the Youth 90 metres.

Alex Kidd Ceres who won the 1600 metres is now the treasurer of the Games. Ian Grieve has carried his bat as secretary from day one and is still not out as has Games handicapper Adam Crawford from Glenrothes who is also president. GB Athletics marathon great Don McGregor from St Andrews who recently passed away was long time co-commentator and announcer at the event, his multi lingual skills was just what was required when it came to drawing the overseas visitors from the crowds to participate in their race.
Solo Piping, Junior Heavies and Youth cycling are events which have been introduced over the years and the City of St Andrews Pipe Band have entertained the crowds since day one.

Sadly the 'skirling' of the bagpipes, the report of the Starters pistol, the Fairground music and the roar of an enthusiastic crowd won't be in evidence at Station Park this Sunday.


Published: 2020-07-24 21:58:03