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Lonach Highland Gathering and its iconic march halted by Covid-19

By David Porter

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The Lonach Highland Gathering and Games which features the unique march of the Lonach Highlanders, and considered amongst Scotland's most iconic traditional summer spectacles, will not take place this August due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Lonach Games has been cancelled for the first time since 1945
The Lonach Games has been cancelled for the first time since 1945

Organisers, the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, took the decision to cancel this year’s event, due to have been held on Saturday, August 22 as a result of the latest government advice relating to the global pandemic.

It means that this will be the first year since 1945 that the event which draws spectators and competitors from across the north-east and beyond has not been held and joins the list of other cancelled Highland Games including Oldmeldrum and Aboyne's events.

Held in Strathdon in the village of Bellabeg, the event welcomes up to 10,000 visitors each year, providing a significant economic boost for the local area.

Alongside a packed programme of traditional events in light and heavy athletics, piping, Highland Dancing and tug o’ war, the gathering also features the famed spectacle that is the march of the Lonach Highlanders, a 220-strong body of men dressed in kilts and full Highland regalia.

It is a colourful six-mile procession that’s roots can be traced back nearly 200 years to a march in December 1822, which led to the formation of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society the following year.

Organisers intend to mark the day of the Lonach Gathering and will announce plans in the coming weeks on social media.

They are also discouraging people from travelling to Strathdon until current restrictions are lifted and on what would have been the day of the gathering.

Ticket holders, sponsors and businesses and organisations that have booked trade stands are being contacted by the society and offered a refund or the opportunity to transfer the booking to 2021. Anyone with questions can e-mail info@lonach.org.

Attention is now focused on the 2021 Lonach Highland Gathering and Games which will take place on Saturday, August 28, 2021.

Secretary and chief executive of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, Jennifer Stewart said: “We are very disappointed that this year’s Lonach Highland Gathering and Games and the Lonach march will not be able to take place.

"Both mean so much to so many, including our members, local residents, sponsors, supporters and the thousands of visitors who attend each year.

"Ensuring the health and wellbeing of Strathdon residents, all those associated with Lonach and the wider public is what is important.

“Historically, Highland Gatherings and Games have been a place of kinship, where families and communities come together, something that is extremely evident at Lonach each year.

"We very much hope to still be able to do that from a distance in some shape or form this August.

"It has been a difficult year for Scotland’s traditional Highland Games and we will be thinking of each one as the summer progresses.

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