At the ‘Argyllshire Gathering’ in Oban

Kate advised us to drive as far as Benderloch where we could pick up the local bus over Connel Bridge and on into Oban to avoid parking problems. We were off to the ‘Argyllshire Gathering’, apparently the only traditional highland games of the summer (because of CoVid), being held in a local park about a mile from the town centre. It was 09-30 when the bus arrived and as I normally am the driver it was a treat to sit and look out of the window particularly when we crossed the former Connel railway bridge spanning the tidal rapids where the sea enters Loch Etive.

Helena loves the Highland Games as an essential part of summer at home in Argyll. We haven’t managed to be there at the right time since August 2016, and before that we drove north beyond Fort William to the Arisaig Highland Games in 2013, which I’d loved, it being a much smaller and more intimate event in a field very close to the the sea. The Oban Gathering is much more like a county show with the evident social divisions much more on show.

The Oban event starts with the March of the Stewards from Oban harbour, where all the dignitaries gather in their clan outfits, which are much more than just kilts. I’ve added a couple of ‘Extras’ which show the pipe bands leading the way as they march uphill to the field. The main pipe band is comprised of about forty world class individual pipers who had been competing against each other in various categories over the last few days, it being ‘the pinnacle of piping competitions this year’. Here on the final day they marched and played together to incredibly moving effect. I walked on the streets in front of them taking pictures where I experienced the full and stirring effect of the power of pipes. I’d not understood how important they were until we similarly followed close by the Oban Pipe Band when they marched through the town to the harbour just an hour before the Millennium Celebrations back on New Years Eve 1999.

The Games proper began as soon as the pipe bands reached the field of play and I wandered about gathering pictures. I’ve put a few in the ‘Extras’ but can’t explain all the details. My main Blip is of one of the ‘Heavies’ tossing the caber, one of the various events they must do to win their prizes. I’ve also added a picture of them all gathered together just before their events began. The man in the yellow vest is Vlad, a competitor from the Czech Republic who did very well and I think he was the overall winner.

Runners competed both on the track as well as a long distance run over the nearby hills and back to the arena, won by Johnny Campbell, whose friends were sitting beside us on the banking as he crossed the line to win. I managed a chat with him when he came to sit with them a few minutes later. 

The twins, Natasha and Samantha, originally from Oban but now representing Stirling University, did very well in several races. One of them won the 100 metres, as shown in the ‘Extras’, but I’m sure you’re not surprised that I don’t know who was who.

It was a wonderful sunny day enjoyed by many who I’m sure like us were only too pleased to be able to be out and about with others without it feeling one’s health was in danger. Even Princess Anne followed the rules as she entered the marquee to greet the stallholders inside.

From the website:
The Argyllshire Gathering has a long history, dating back to 1871 when local families got together to renew clan contacts, declare loyalties and settle scores with Clan chiefs and chieftains meeting to discuss important issues of the day.

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