2011 Angus Ballie
Top cattle man is Durness chieftain This year's chieftain has been named as Angus Baillie, 66-years-old and semi-retired. Angus was born and brought up in Durness, attending Durness primary school and working at Balnakeil and Keodale farms and spent all his life working in the agricultural arena.
He left Durness in 1980 to move to Perthshire and then to the borders and laterally Formby in Merseyside, where he still works three days a week.
Angus has speciality knowledge of Aberdeen Angus cattle and this renowned worldwide breed has taken Angus to distant parts of the globe, including Argentina and Canada where he was involved in sorting embryos to produce bulls of very high standard. Angus has also been asked to be judge by the Aberdeen Angus Cattle society at the winter show "Beef expo" this October.
Angus has always called Durness home and returns as regularly as he can, where he is involved in the Keodale sheep stock club. Angus is married to Mary and they have two grown up children, Iona a drama teacher and Iain a police officer with the Metropolitan Police. When he first received notification of the invitation from the committee to be this year's chieftain, Angus admits the thought terrified him, but after time to reflect he feels honoured and is looking forward very much to the occasion.
Another successful year of the Durness Highland Gathering was held at Shore Park last Friday. Numbers attending were up, competitor numbers were up and four ground records were broken. The last time a record was made at the Durness Games was in 2006 when 56lb weight for distance record was set. John Macdonald from Lochinver threw the Light shot confined 42 feet 5 inches, the record stood at 39 ft. 7 ins held by A Matheson since 1973 and John also threw the light hammer confined 12 feet 1inch beating the record set by Ian Ross in 2004 by 2 feet 2 inches. The Heavy Shot open record held by Geoff Capes since 1985 was beaten by 1 inch setting a new record at 46 feet 2 inches by American Rusty Price. Mike Polkoski set a new light hammer open record at 137 feet beating Alistair Gunns distance of 136 feet 11inches set in 1993
Highland Games are events held throughout the year in Scotland and other countries as a way of celebrating Scottish and Celtic culture and heritage, especially that of the Scottish Highlands. Certain aspects of the games are so well known as to have become emblematic of Scotland, such as the bagpipes, the kilt, and the heavy events, especially the caber toss. While centered on competitions in piping and drumming, dancing, and Scottish heavy athletics, the games also include entertainment and exhibits related to other aspects where visitors can witness the yearly show of Scottish culture. The Durness Games are quite small compared to some of the others but are well worth the visit, with a full itinerary of events catering for all ages and abilities. At 12 noon 2011 Chieftain Angus Ballie was piped to the village square by James Mather accompanied by honorary games president Iain Anderson where he was met by former chieftains and games officials then presented with the staff of honour, a cranoch, by Chairman of the games committee Hugh Morrison. The Ullapool junior pipe band then led the procession to the games field.
When Angus Ballie was asked to be chieftain in February he was Surprised, delighted and anxious at the same time. Angus said he had two main worries, the weather and his opening speech. The weather had played its part and it was now up to Angus. This is a great honour as anyone with a Durness connection will realise. I am very proud to be asked by my home villagers to be chieftain of the games. Angus explained in his address that the late Dickie Mackay asked him over 40 years ago to be involved in reinstating the Durness Games and although Angus told Dickie he had no clue about running Highland Games Dickie insisted he would learn. For the next ten years Angus was part of the organising committee that reinstated the games in 1970 and on the day he was responsible for track events. When the hill race was introduced in 1974 Angus was responsible for deciding the route and marking the course. The same route is still used today.
Angus told the crowd he left Durness 30 years ago but My heart is in Durness and this is where I call home playing a part with the crofting community of Durness and maintaining contact with the Durness village. In this day and age when some relationships are short lived how many can say that the friends they had a child remain today - I can and I am proud to be a Durness man. Angus thanked the committee for their kind invitation and wished all the competitors good luck and everyone an enjoyable day and declared 2011 Durness Highland Games open.
Durness Highland Gathering has grown to become one of the most popular circuits in the north with contenders coming from all over. As Members of the Scottish Highland Games Association, the governing body of Traditional Highland Games in Scotland, they are registered to accept both amateurs and professionals. All the proceedings are accredited sporting events run to a high standard, assuring visitors and competitors of a great day out with challenging competitions and quality entertainment. Credit should be paid to past and present committees that this day has become so popular. Many of these traditions can still be seen in Highland Games today however they are now much more sociable and fun events celebrated worldwide. With the high number of contestants last Saturday many of the track events were held in heats and the schedule for the afternoon events ran overtime and the raffle and prize draw was drawn the following day. The Friday night dance was held in the village hall with Crash Banjos bringing another popular Durness Highland Games to a close for another year.