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2015 Anne & John Mackenzie

After weeks of wet windy and weather, said by many to be worst summer in memory, games day on Friday the 24 was a very welcome change. The sun shone and apart from a light chilly breeze the day was almost perfect. Most of the preparations were delayed due to the preceding horrendous weather conditions but on Friday morning the committed team of volunteers brought all the necessary groundworks and arrangements into place.

At 12 noon the 2015 chieftains Anne and John Mackenzie were escorted to the village square by Games chairperson Mary Mackay and local piper James Mather where they were greeted by a large crowd and introduced to the past chieftains who came along to support and wish them well. The cromacs, as a mark of the respect and admiration bestowed on the chieftains for the day, were presented by Games secretary Mark Manning. The parade was led by the Sutherland Schools pipe band to the Games Field at Shore Park where the proceedings and formalities included the opening and welcoming speeches from Mary Mackay and John Mackenzie on behalf of Anne and himself.

Mary gave a very warm welcome to all and introduced the 2015 chieftains;

“Anne was born in Strathbeg and brought up at Faoilin on the shores of Loch Eriboll, John was born in Daill, on Cape Wrath, moving to Durness when he was 5 as by this time the school on the Cape Side had closed.  So both came from similar backgrounds and fate brought them together when they both took summer jobs at Richard Mackay & Sons in Durness, and to this day they are still involved in the business.

The late Dickie Mackay of Richard Mackay & Sons was instrumental in getting the Durness Highland Gathering going again in the early 70s and I’m sure he would be pleased and proud that his friends Anne & John are receiving this honour today. They are both interested in sport, especially football and golf but it is for their outstanding contribution to the local community that they are here today.

When John was playing football for Sutherland Technical School better known as the Tech, in the 60s, one of the players in the opposing team was a young Kinlochbervie man.  John was impressed with his football skills and they became firm friends and were instrumental in starting up Football teams in Kinlochbervie and Durness in the late 60s, which resulted in the North West Football League being set up.  The friend was Lachlan Ross who is here on the stage today as a former Chieftain.

Anne and John have both been members at one time or another of nearly every committee in Durness, quietly getting on with the job with no fuss. Anne and her sisters helped out and participated in many of the Highland Gathering events over the years.  She is a long serving member of the Community Council and has served on the Football Club, and the Badminton Club, while John is a past Captain of the Golf Club and has served on the Community Council, Hall Committee, and Durness Development Group.


Honouring them in this way is a recognition of the important contribution they have made to the village and how much it is appreciated.”

John was very gracious in his speech ensuring he thanked all involved in keeping the Games a well-established event in the Durness Calendar with recollections of family participating over the many years and the importance the games meant to those that have resurrected them. John concluded with “From a very honoured couple - it is with great pleasure we now declare the 2015 Durness Highland Gathering open. “


Following the speeches Carol Anne Mackay from Strathy played a bagpipe musical composition she composed with inspiration from Strathnaver Museum’s Pibrochs and Poppies research project. The new tune reflects the social changes which were brought about as a result of WWI.  This was the first performance of the tune created to commemorate the soldiers from the province of Strathnaver that fought in WW1. Carol Anne revealed her wonderful musical ability.  Funded by Museum and Galleries and Heritage Lottery, during the last year, a team from the museum have been researching pipers and music from North West Sutherland involved in WW1 and meeting with their family descendants and recording their stories. Along with an exhibition on display Fèis air an Oir and Feis Chataibh Ceilidh Trail were playing a selection of traditional music.


All the usual sporting activities were available, track and field, heavy and children’s events with the piping and dancing competitions announced by Scott Macpherson gave a festival atmosphere to the games. Durness games are associated with friendliness and openness allowing and encouraging any one to participate, both amateur and professional, and popular local couple John and Anne were excellent hosts spending the afternoon meeting and greeting the visitors and visiting the many stallholders and participants making all feel welcome. The afternoon was interspersed with the pipe band, vintage tractor display and bubbles the clown.


This year a new trophy, donated by the family of the late Danny Mackay, was added to the prize list. Danny served on the committee and manned the gate at the Games for over 40 years.  The trophy was awarded to a local under 16 in the Hill Race and was won by Nathan Corbett.

The MOD, with close connections to Durness, were present with the close inshore ship F82 HMS Somerset in Sango Bay and a fly past over the field of an RAF Vulcan jet.


There is a huge amount of work involved both in setting up the field and clearing up afterwards, and Durness games could not come about without the willing band of helpers.  This year was especially challenging due to the weather conditions and all those volunteers involved are due a huge thank you in recognition.


Games day, a local highlight of the year and an opportunity for celebration, running in the present format since 1970, has been proceeded by the games night dance in the village hall. This year the Crash Banjos entertained the crowd.  Another very successful Durness Highland Gathering was drawn to a close.

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