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2001 Janette Mackay from Strathy

Originally printed on October 27, 2018.
MACKAY (Strathy)It is with heavy hearts and great sadness that the family announce the passing of Janette Mackay, aged 74 years, of Honeysuckle Cottage, Strathy West, in Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, on Tuesday, October 23, 2018, peacefully and with her loving family at her bedside, following a short illness, faced with great courage and dignity, beloved wife of Robin, devoted mother of Catriona, Uisdean, Valerie, Carol-Anne and Mhairi, cherished Granny Strathy to Natasha, Liam, Anna, Declan, James, Sean, Donald, Iain, Rosalie, Calum, Emily and Michael, loving sister of Uisdean and Valerie and the late Margaret, Donald and Iain, dear mother-in-law to Louise, Jamie, Bruce and Trevor. A loyal and supportive friend to everyone, who will be sorely missed by all. Funeral service to take place in Strathy Church of Scotland, on Thursday, November 1, at 12 noon and thereafter to Strathy Cemetery. All friends respectfully invited. Donations, if desired, at the church door towards the S. H. D. U at Raigmore Hospital and Armadale Surgery.

Janette has attended the Durness Gathering for over thirty years and her family have participated in all the events. She is probably best known in Gaelic circles having worked diligently and with immense enthusiasm teaching and continuing the Gaelic tradition at local and national mods. Her daughters are very accomplished pipers and have supported the Durness Gathering since an early age and now play the pipes for the dancing competitions.

After the initial welcome from the platform by Iris and prior to Janette being asked to officially declare the games open there was a particular surprise in store. As a special tribute to Janette, to mark the occasion, Janette's daughter Carol Ann came forward form the pipe band and played an exclusive tune composed by Pipe major Andy Venters called Chieftain Janette Mackay Honeysuckle Cottage and pipe major Charlie O'Brien a former Durness chieftain then presented Janette with a framed copy of the tune. With a delight and surprise that was apparent to all Janette acknowledged that she was honoured to be asked to preside over the Games. For over thirty years she, with her husband Robin, and daughters have been attending Durness Gathering and it gave her great pleasure to open the proceedings.


Compare Graham Bruce kept the audience informed of the competitions and activities on the field encouraging people to participate with a potted history of their origins. As is usual at the Durness games it is a time for family and friends to meet up and use the occasion as an opportunity to exchange news. It was encouraging to see a large turnout of young people returning to the community and taking part. The local children volunteer form an early age to become involved and help. Youngest helper was 9-year-old Alistair Morrison and he proudly wore his Stewards badge as he ran errands around the field for the judges and clerks.


Competitors were not restricted to local entrants and there was national and international contingent. Dancers from Australia, track event entrants from Spain and Onno Verberne from Norway won the hill race. As the trophies are forbidden to be taken out of the country his stewardship was cut short but his name will be engraved for posterity! Great significance is placed on winning one of the prestigious trophies for piping and dancing.

The fun clay pidgin shoot, making a second year appearance, was very popular. The afternoon in Durness resounded to the music of solitary pipers and a marching pipe band and the most north-westerly village on the British mainland was making loyal Highland memories.

The games were rounded up in the field at around 4pm after drawing the raffle and finalising the novelty events; ladies chuck the wellie, tilt the bucket and tug o war - always popular and full of fun. The first two teams were Durness and the workers from Scottish Power and they must have believed they were extra strong when the rope broke leaving both groups on their ends with legs in the air! The beer tent was open until 7.30 and the games dance, the last one in the old village hall started at 11pm. Local band Blue Ridge were providing the music. The crowd spilled out into the village square and danced into the early morning. An emotional time for many as this will certainly be the last Games dance in the old hall. The venue holds many memories of past dances.


A truly remarkable successful day with Ian Ross breaking his own ground record set last year for throwing the light hammer in the confined event. There was no celebrities making appearances or enormous amounts of money to be won but the friendly atmosphere and feeling of inclusion from an ever cheerful and friendly chieftain and from a hard working and dedicated committee gave all those attending a day to remember.


After sixteen years as games committee secretary Janet Cordiner has notified the committee that she will be retiring from the post. Janet has been committed to ensuring the efficient organisation of games day and is hoping that some of the younger members of the community will take over.

The tinge of doubt that was present about holding this event was certainly unnoticed in the smooth operations and presentation of this years popular annual event. Earlier in the year when similar events had to be cancelled there was uncertainty about the Durness Gathering taking place. Even at the latter date of making the final decision the willing band of helpers and members of a devoted committee ensured that the usual programme of track, field and heavy events, spectacular highland dancing and piping competitions were all available.


Supported by a large contingent of former chieftains Janette Mackay from Strathy was in this year's position of principal chieftain.  Janette was escorted to the Durness Village Square, just before noon by the President's apprentice for the day, Don Morrison and piped by her two daughters Valerie and Carol Ann. After the formal introductions to the former chieftains and members of the Sutherland Caledonian Pipe band by chairperson Iris Mackay the parade to Shore Park commenced.


A large crowd had assembled and with the weather being kind, mild with a rolling sea mist and warm sunny spells, many people stayed and enjoyed all the various activities and spectacular sense of a very traditional and friendly Highland Gathering. Gate numbers were the best for ten years dispelling initial worries of a small turnout!

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