Excitement builds as Airth set for 150th Highland Games

Excitement is building as the 150th Airth Highland Games takes place this weekend.

By Fiona Dobie
Thursday, 21st July 2022, 4:48 pm

This is the first full return to the traditional games programme in the village since 2019 after the Covid-19 pandemic meant the event could not take place for the last two years.

And organisers hope people will head along to North Green Park on Saturday to join in the celebrations and make it a day to remember.

The first Airth Games took place in 1871 and the committee are hoping this year’s will be the best yet.

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Marking the day of the 2021 Highland Games in Airth.

Emma Gillanders, secretary, explained: “Effectively our 150th Games would have been last year, but we were unable to stage them due to Covid.

"So we are this year celebrating the year of the anniversary as we didn’t want to not mark such a significant milestone.

"We’re so pleased we’re in a position to come back this year, as a number of other games haven’t been as fortunate.

"The funding from EventScotland’s National Events Programme earlier in the year has given us all a huge boost.”

The track events are back on Saturday. Pic: Scott Louden.

Despite the popular event, which is one of the oldest of its kind in Scotland, not being able to take place in full for the last two years, the committee ensured that the day was still remembered each year.

Emma said: “In 2020 when social distancing restrictions were in place we had a number of highland dancers from Jenkins School of Dance come to the park along with the Highland Games committee to mark the day.

"We then had something similar last year, but we’re back properly this year.

"We’re all really excited about it.

"The committee are looking forward to it.

"They all give up their own time and skills to organise the day and are busy working in the background.

"We’ll have our usual traditional programme of events on the day.

"Sharon Ritchie, Airth Primary School’s headteacher is our chieftain this year.

"It’s given us a great opportunity to build on, and strengthen, our partnership with the primary school.

"The pupils did a Highland Games event as part of their school sports day this year and we ran a competition with the children to design the cover of our programme.

“It was a lovely thing to be able to do.

"The winning design is our programme cover, but the runners up are featured inside too.”

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Saturday’s competitive events begin at 10am, although the Games officially kick off with the parade through the village at noon.

Emma continued: “The procession will be led by the Royal Burgh of Stirling Pipe Band and our official opening ceremony will take place at 1pm.

"We’ll have all the regular Highland Games events like the highland dancing, heavy events, cycling and solo piping.

“We’ve also got a number of competitions which are open to the public including the races for the kids and the adults; the tug-of-war which is open to teams of five, and the other thing which is quite unique to Airth is the Smiddy Stane Challenge.

"It’s a big massive stone and the challenge is to see how far you can carry it.”

The current Smiddy Stane record is 17 metres.

"This year we’ve also got live music from the band, Huroosh,” continued Emma.

"They are a traditional Scottish folk band who will be playing over the course of the afternoon for visitors to enjoy.

"There will also be a number of stalls from quite a few local businesses, food outlets and the fairground.

“Official Airth Highland Games merchandise will also be available to buy.

"We’ve got car parking a short distance from the park, but to support visitors with limited mobility, Cycling Without Age will be offering to take them between the car park and the Games on their trishaws.

"They did it in 2019 and they are back doing it again for us this year.”

Now the last minute preparations are almost complete, organisers are hoping that the weather stays kind and that people come along and enjoy the day.

Emma added: “We’ve got our fingers crossed, but it takes a lot to dampen our spirits and a wee bit of rain won’t do that.

"In the past we’ve had a really good number of visitors that have been holidaying here from further afield, but it would be lovely to see a good proportion from the local community come along on the day as well.

"We have a number of sponsors for the event and we’re really pleased to have some back on board again this year and we welcome our new ones too.”

Tickets are available online from www.airthhighlandgames.com or will be available to buy with cash or card on the gate on the day.