Am Bratach No. 227
September 2010


2010 Assynt Games report

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At mid-day on Friday the 13th August, Neil  Gudgeon, Assynt Games Chieftain for 2010, sailed into Lochinver Harbout aboard the Chieftain’s barge, this year the Lochinver Lifeboat, RNLB Julian and Margaret Leonard.  Neil had been an RNLI volunteer for thirty years, twenty one of those as the coxswain of the lifeboat.  So it was absolutely fitting that his barge for the Assynt Games 2010 was the Lochinver lifeboat, skippered by its present coxswain David MacAskill.  Neil could not resist taking the helm of the lifeboat, so he took the helm at the breakwater, circled the harbour and brought the lifeboat into the harbour.
Here, he and his party of past chiefs and invited guests were piped ashore by his pipers, the magnificently attired Charlie Cowan and his son Jack from Strathy.  Charlie’s family at one time owned Drumbeg Hotel so there was also an Assynt connection.
Once ashore, Neil and his party were led from the harbour to the Games field by the Ullapool Junior Pipe Band. The Band made a rousing opening to the Games as they paraded around the field before Neil, as chieftain, officially declared the Games open.  The Pipe Band played impressively on the field several times during the afternoon.
Since the weather for last year’s Games was the worst anyone can remember there was great fear that 2010 would be a repeat performance.  So far the summer has been virtually a non-summer but Friday stayed dry for the Games to our great relief. We did not have a blazing sun.  However, with a slight breeze, neither did we have the dreaded midgies.  Due to heavy rain during the week some of the jumps did not take place because the ground was too wet for safety.
The number of spectators was good with a mix of visitors and locals. It seemed that there were not as many foreign visitors as usual and there were certainly not as many foreign competitors as in some years. Could this be due to the poor summer so far?
There was a good entry for the Heavy events although only one local who now competes in the Open events.  John Hugh Macleod broke two local records which he himself had made last year. In the Light Weight for Distance, he made a new record of 66’ 2” and in the Heavy Weight for Distance30’6”.  This year there was only one heavy from abroad, Pat Hellier from New Zealand .  At recent Games we have had heavies from California and Australia .  But we were delighted to have back, not having been last year, Bruce Aitken from Auchenblae.  Bruce holds the world record for Throwing the Light Hammer. On Friday he broke his own world record creating a new world record of 151’ 2”.  He had stiff competition over the heavy events. Indeed Bruce Robb of Rosyth beat him by half a mark to win the Macintyre cup.
Last year was so wet that the Highland Dancing had to take place in the Hall. This was a great disappointment because the Games then lack colour and music.  So it was a delight to see the Dancing competitions this year.  A blaze of colour on the field.  Ending in the presentation by Neil, the Chieftain, of Dancing Cups and medals on the Dancing platform out on the field.  We no longer have a local dancing school so no local competitors. How nice to see the young girls from all over Scotland .  But sadly this year no dancers from Canada or USA as usual.  The pound and the dollar are maybe to blame.  This year’s judge was Clare Bryce and her mother Linda. They ran a very good competition. We look forward to their help next year too.  The piper for the dancing was Shona Laidlaw from Dingwall.
We had the added delight of dancing demonstrations by a troupe of Ullapool girls showing creative dance. This was a contrast to the traditional Highland Dancing and added greatly to the spectacle of the Games.
There was a good entry for the field and track events.  It was good to see youngsters who did not know each other becoming partners for the 3-legged race, in one instance an Italian boy with a boy from Edinburgh .  The younger children entertained the crowd with their hilarious antics during the sack and 3 legged races.
The Hill race had a very good entry although the runners had to be warned that the ground might be very slippy due to the rain during the week.  First home completed the course in 8 minutes, which was a superb time given the very difficult muddy conditions.
In the High Jump jumpers soared to impressive heights as the bar was raised to 178cm.
Uninhibited ladies of various ages flocked from the crowd to compete in the egg and spoon and 60 metres dash races.
The Flower, Produce and Craft Tent was well supported once again which resulted in an excellent display for the' visitors to enjoy and then a chance to buy some of the produce at the end of the Show. Despite the poor weather this summer the entries for Veg. and Flowers were very good and best of all both the Baking Section and Children's section had a lot more entrants than last year.  So all the doom and gloom beforehand about produce being bashed to bits by rain and wind did not stop a very good entry.  The display of the entries was delightfully colourful and much enjoyed by the visitors. Some of the models made from vegetables were very amusing. There were 3 new trophies for Craft and Produce this year.  Andrew Mackenzie, working in Edinburgh but from Clashmore, donated two cups for the children in memory of two friends who had been there when he made miniature gardens and painted pebbles as a child for the Assynt Games, Angus Maclean and Mick Holland-Day. Kenny Mackenzie, retired headteacher of Lochinver School , donated a shield for the best school entry, won this year by Stoer school.

Chieftain Neil presented the Craft and Produce cups to the winners in the tent just before the auction which raised a good sum for the Games.
It is always wonderful to hear the skirl of the pips in the open air. And we were lucky with that this year again. Because the world Pipe Band championships are taking place in Glasgow at the time some of the senior pipers are not free to come to Assynt.
In the fly casting, local Scott Taylor won all the cups.  I hope that next year  young Kenneth Morrison will have competition from other young anglers. 
And so a very full and colourful Games came to an end with the presentation of the prizes for the raffle.  A good Games was had by all without any rain!  We now look forward to next year  on the second Friday in August for our 2011 Games.
But for the young and strong the day was not yet over – still the Games Night Dance.which was run this year  by volunteers and was in aid of the newly formed Community Care Assynt, who are taking over the running of the Assynt Centre in Lochinver from 1st September.
Jess Thomas, Angie Gordon and Tina Roney, ably assisted by a group of volunteers, organised and ran the Dance which was hugely successful and was enjoyed by everyone. The Band, called “Rant”, were from Inverness , and they were excellent, playing a large assortment of covers. Apparently there are already requests from others about booking them for other events here which is great.
At the moment there is no final figure as there are still bills to be paid, but the organisers are confident that there will be a substantial final figure to be donated to the Assynt Centre.


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