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That was the season that wasn't[A blog from Shane Fenton].


[The Highland Games season would now be over, so i decided to write this personal blog on what was a very different summer to what i am accustomed.]

For everyone it's certainly been a strange and very different summer. For the vast numbers, similar to myself whose lives revolve around Highland Games it has been a massive void in our usual itinerary.

For the past 50 odd years my weekends from mid May until mid September have been taken up, firstly competing and then officiating on the Highland Games circuit. For many others over varying numbers of years whether you be a competitor, official ,showman, stall holder or supplier of vital equipment for a Games to take place it will have been the same. All of us have certainly missed it.

On a personal note over many of those blank weekends i found myself asking how I actually found the time to do everything I would usually do. As an SHGA General Council member I have always tried my best to support and promote all member Games throuighout the season

My Games weekend would usually begin on a Thursday or Friday writing up a preview for that weekend's events. It would be away to the Games on the Saturday to officiate the running and cycling events, pull together all the track and field results, head home, post them on the respective facebook pages and websites along with a report from the days proceedings. It would then be out for a few pints, home to bed and up the next day to do it all over again. Add in penning my weekly sports column for the various papers I contribute to and keeping on top of compiling no fewrer than 17 SHGA leagues it's no wonder I find myself asking where I find all the time. At the end of the day I wouldn't change it one bit as I love all the involvement. Despite a blank season SHGA work has still taken up a fair bit of my time. Prior to lockdown I posted a short article in the local Fife papers suggesting the notion that my own Games at Markinch might not take place owing back then to the so called virus that was going around. At this stage there was no hint of any Games being cancelled Well, i got called ''aff ma heid'' others said I had lost my marbles and another had to check when he read it if it was April 1st.

I got castigated from all sides for such an outrageous suggestion.How wrong could they have been. Less than a month later, on behalf of the SHGA I found myself posting almost daily updates of cancellations as the various committees made their inevitable decisions. The first call off on March 16th was Cupar [followed by Markinch] with Glenurquhart on June 2nd being the last of the 61 SHGA member Games to pull the plug.

Prior to the season starting in early May, and with the prospect of no previews or reports to write I challenged myself to strive to post something of interest for each of the 61 member Games as the various dates came along. I think i just about managed that. Whether it be photos past or present, Games day programmes comparisons from back in the day until present, ground records, basically anything of interest. Hopefully everyone found them of some interest. As a non snapper i thank all the photographers of whose photos i used[pinched!].
It was great to see other individuals do likewise in posting their memories of the various games. Many of the individual Games played their part by marking what should have been their big day. Some recorded short videos of their #virtual events. Committees gathered at their parks to raise the Games standards, solo pipers played and highland dancers performed, all limited numbers and socially distanced. The highest message of hope for 2021 came from Alva , on behalf of the committee a small posse of local athletes displayed a banner carrying the date of the 2021 Games at the summit of the hill used for the British Hill Race Championship.

Some competitors did manage to be involved in a bit of action with the SHGA staging monthly #virtual 800 metre handicaps for both senior and youth athletes. Track and field athletes, pipers and Highland dancers were all involved in what was a very successful end of season #virtual Highland Games which was filmed behind close doors at Braemar. It took a lot of time and hard work to put together but was well worth it with over 250,000 viewing in the space of 48 hours when the event was broadcast on the last day of the SHGA season. It was a great advert for Scottish Highland Games and hopefully it will do what it was designed to do, attract people to come to the Games in 2021.

Lets not forget that a handful of our Scottish heavy event competitors did in fact compete in a Highland Games in 2020, back in January,Jamie Gunn, John McLeod, Stuart Anderson, Kyle Randalls and and Craig Winslow took on their American counterparts at the Florida Central Highland Games.
We shouldn't forget all the small traders, charity stalls, fairground showmen etc who all help make our Games days what they are, they have all taken a big hit in 2020. All the local communities losing for most what would be their biggest day of the year and local economies losing out on one of their busiest times of the year.

And what of the future, that is anybodies guess, as i write this a Highland Games is in no nearer a position to being held as it was at the start of the season. It is very much a case of wait and see, i can't see there being Games until worthwhile numbers are once again permitted to attend outdoor gatherings and we may need to see a vaccine developed for that to happen.

  I was asked a very much hypothetical question, why not have Highland games behind closed doors,you wouldn't even think of doing it was my answer, Highland Games with socially distanced crowds or behind closed doors wouldn't be sustainable,  not just for the Games but for all the aforementioned traders, stalls , showmen etc who wouldn't be required.Games are attractions for local communities and tourists to enjoy, you must have crowds. It's a bit like why you cancel a Games when the weather is really bad, why would you risk paying out all the prize money with next to no one coming through the gates, then the next year you find yourself with no money to put the games on, which has happened in the past.

Lets keep everything crossed for 2021, and hopefully the words of the D:Ream hit song come to be true..'Things can only Get Better'

[I should point out everything in this article is solely my own observations and points of view]

Published: 2020-09-23 21:49:22