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Royal Deeside :
A history of the Ballater Highland Games

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The Ballater Highland Games were first held on 27th July 1864 on the Church Green at Ballater. In 1889 the site of the Games was moved to the delightful Monaltrie Park below Craigendarroch hill.

Tradition is a strong feature of the Games and a brief history of the Games is given below together with an extract from the records of the first meeting of the Ballater Highland Games Committee. The history was compiled by Eddie Anderson

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  Games pages Introduction History of the Games The Heavy Events  

Ballater Highland Games were instituted in 1864, the first Gathering being held on Wednesday, 27th July, at 12 noon on the Church Square, where the following Games were competed for, Putting the Stone, Throwing the Hammer, Tossing the Caber, Dancing, Running, Vaulting, Jumping, Sack and Barrow races.

The overall Champion for the day was A. Grant, Birkhall, who gained firsts in 8 events including a first equal in Dancing Highland Reels. His other results were:

Heavy Stone, 31 ft. 6 in.; Light Stone, 36 ft.; Heavy Hammer, 62 ft. 2 in.;
Light Hammer, 68 ft.10 in.; Long Race; Hurdle Race and High Leap.

A crowd of around 700 was in attendance. The total income for the Games of 1864 was £18 9s 6d and expenditure of £17 7s 6d left a balance of £1 2s. The total prize money was £12 5s.

The following minutes are a record of the first meeting of the Ballater Highland Games Committee, taken from a leather bound book which contains the records for the first 43 years of the Games.

At Ballater the 16th July, 1864, a meeting of the inhabitants of this Parish called by public Notice, Mr Reid, Crofts, in the chair it was proposed and unanimously agreed to that annual athletic games (Open only to this Parish) be established, and that Lieut. Col. Farquharson of Invercauld be President of the Society, Wm. Brown Esq., Altdowrie. Vice-President, and the Rev. I. Smith, convener of Committee.

Thereafter the following gentlemen were elected Committee of Management. Viz — Messrs Cook, Haynes, Ferguson & Reid, Ballater. Glennie, Paterson, Tullich. Illingworth, Ross & Grant, Glengairn. Reid, Gordon & Grant, Glenmuick. Smith, Strathgirnock. Clark, Contractor. Massie, Anderson & Stewart, Ballaterach.

It was also agreed too, to hold the said Games on Wednesday the 27th July first at 12.0 clock, noon on the Church Square, where the following Games be completed for -, viz — Putting the Stone, Throwing the Hammer, Tossing the Caber, Dancing, Running, Vaulting, Jumping, Sack and Barrow races.

The following office-bearers were then elected for the first year. Viz — Mr B. Stephen, Forester, Secretary. Mr Pringle, baker, Treasurer. Mr Cram, Clerk, and Messrs Massie and Emslie, Ring Stewards with Emslie and Wilkie as General Assistants.

A Ball in connection with the Society to be held in the Masons Hall at 9.0 clock, p.m. and the following office-bearers to have the management of said Ball — Viz. — Messrs P. Glennie Jnr., D. Farquharson, I. Esson and J. Emslie, Shoemaker.

Members of Committee and office-bearers to meet at 10.0 clock a.m. on day of Games.

From these early days Ballater has always attracted the finest of Athletes, Pipers and Dancers. The famous Donald Dinnie of Aboyne first appeared in 1868 when he set new records for the Heavy Events, throwing the Heavy Hammer a distance of 90 ft. 2 in and Heavy Stone 38 ft. These were two results from his seven first placings. Little wonder he was judged the most successful athlete that year.

Ballater Highland Games


Pipe Bands gather in preparation for marching.

(Members of Ballater Pipe Band are to the left.)

Other great names who attended the Games included George Davidson, Kincardine O'Neil; A. Grant, Aboyne; Alick Finnic, of Braemar; Alexander Macintosh, of Lawsie, Crathie, and later Robert Shaw of Glengairn, who was Scotland's champion shot-putter.

The original granite putting stones, oval in shape and difficult to hold, were taken from the River Dee nearby the Invercauld Arms Hotel (Monaltrie Hotel).

The famous Balmoral pipers, the late Pipe Majors McGregor, Nicol and Brown
all had a connection with Ballater. The records show many firsts in Dancing for John Knowles, jnr., and David Rose. both of Ballater. David Rose taught many members of the Royal Family Highland Dancing and was known as "Dancie Rose".

The site of the Games was changed to Monaltrie Park in 1889. a splendid Highland setting between the hills of Craigendarroch and Craig Coillich. Our famous Hill Race was introduced in 1946. It is a gruelling run to the summit of Craig Coillich. The runners can be clearly seen from the Games Field as they reach the top. Perhaps this year we shall see the record time of 16 minutes. 59 seconds being broken.

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