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Royal Deeside :
Heavy Events at the Ballater Highland Games

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For many of the visitors to the Highland Games the Heavy athletes and their almost superhuman acts of strength hold an enthralling interest. From the earliest of days Ballater has attracted the finest of athletes, the famous Donald Dinnie of Aboyne first appeared in 1868 when he set new records for the Heavy Hammer 90 ft. 2 in., and Heavy Stone 38 ft. After the Second World War local man Robert Shaw of Glengairn broke records and was Scotland's champion shot-putter. In the 1960s and 70s, it was Bill Anderson of Aberdeen and Arthur Rowe of Yorkshire that battled for the records.

To this day Bill Anderson holds the British Native records for the Light Hammer 151 ft. 2 ins. At Lochearnhead in 1960 and the Heavy Hammer 123 ft. 5 ins. At Crieff in 1969. Bruce Aitken holds the Ballater records for the Heavy Hammer 119 ft. 4 in. in 2008, and the Light Hammer 144 ft. in 2000. Today the names of Bruce Aitken, Bruce Robb, Craig Sinclair, and John McLeod are amongst those competing for the honours.

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  Games pages Introduction History of the Games The Heavy Events  

The Highland style of the heavy events is unique, hammers with solid shafts, stones taken from the river bed and the world famous caber, a tree trunk to test the best of men.

Ballater Games  
A piping contestant plays on while tug of war teams compete

At Ballater Highland Games there are principally seven heavy events competed for: Light and Heavy Hammer — Light and Heavy Stone — Tossing the Caber — Weight for Distance and Throwing the Weight over the bar.

The following is a basic guide through the events and their basic rules.

The light and heavy hammer are typically 16 and 22 Ibs. in weight with a cane shaft, the hammer is thrown standing style and delivered from behind a wooden trig. Each competitor is allowed three throws with the best throw to count. Note the peculiar footwear — boots with an extended spike to anchor the man as he throws.

Again the standard weight is 16 and 22 Ibs. These original granite putting stones, oval in shape and difficult to hold, were taken from the River Dee nearby the Monaltrie Hotel. Delivered from behind the trig, three putts are allowed with the stone held with one hand only.

There is no standard size or weight of caber, but it should be of a weight and length to test the best of athletes. Our present caber was gifted from the Braemar Royal Highland Society in 1986 and was tossed correctly for the first time in 1994 by Alistair Gunn. The perfect toss sees the caber turned to the 12 o'clock position.

A weight of 28 Ib. with a ring and chain attached is used. Again delivered from behind the trig the athlete is allowed a run up not exceeding 9ft.

A commercial box weight of 56 Ibs.with a ring is thrown upwards over a bar and the distance measured from the ground to the midway point between the uprights.

When you are visiting Highland games enjoy the sport as the heavies battle through the competition and may the best man win.

The above article about the heavy events at Ballater Highland Games (and others) was written by Eddie Anderson.

Pipe Bands are an integral part of a Highland Games programme


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