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2003 John Ridgway Ardmore

The crowds begin to congregate and just on 12 noon the chieftain for the occasion, this year is John Ridgeway Explorer and writer, will be lead by the local piper James Mather accompanied by the Gathering president Don Morrison to meet with the games chairperson and be introduced to the former chieftains. Born in 1938, John Ridgway was educated at the Nautical College, Pangbourne and the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst before being commissioned into the Parachute Regiment. The first men to row the Atlantic this century were two British paratroopers, John Ridgway and Chay Blyth, in 1966. Captain John Ridgway had been messing about in boats since he was a boy. Experienced in the ways of the sea, he was confident that, given the right partner, the boat he had chosen was up to the job. Both were, extremely fit, and as members of an elite regiment, more than willing to take on anything that the Atlantic might offer. They set sail from Cape Cod on June 4th 1966, in 'English Rose III', and landed on Ireland's Aran Isles, ninety one days later. Two years later he sailed single-handed from Eire to Brazil. His other expeditions include the first crossing of Gran Campo Nevado Icecap in Patagonia and skippering his own boat in the Whitbread round-the-world race in 19977/78. He established the John Ridgway School of Adventure in 1969 and recorded the fastest non-stop circumnavigation of the globe in 1984. He has written numerous books and been featured in ten TV films documenting his adventures and experiences. Nowadays, John Ridgway runs an adventure school at Ardmore toughest management training school", the John Ridgway Adventure School in the Scottish Highlands.

John is married to Marie Christine and their daughter Rebecca has all been a regular participant in the games. They Sponsors two  trophies the Marie Christine Ridgway trophy for the ladies hill race for competitors from Durness and the Ridgway Trophy for the hill race 35 years and over..

Crowds gathered, the pipe band tuned up, traffic was brought to a halt and Chieftain for the 2003 Durness Highland Gathering Captain John Ridgeway MBE was led by piper James Mather and accompanied by Games president Don Morrison into the village square to meet up with chairperson Iris Mackay and former chieftains. The procession led the congregated throng down to Shore Park where the Duress Games are held annually. Iris warmly welcomed all to the event and paid tribute to two chieftains who have sadly passed away during the year Dottie Mackay and Charlie O�Brien and to others who have made the gathering possible. Captain Ridgewaymarried for forty years, a grandfather and recently reached 65-years-old gave a moving, personal with an unexpected announcement speech before opening the event.


To be Chieftain at the Durness games is the greatest honour I shall have in my life.


For over 40 years he has lived at Ardmore and John declared that there have been times when things are going badly he has felt like a Motherless Child He never knew his mother as he was adopted as a child and he has recently learned from his adopted fathers probate that he was born in North London in 1938 and was named Gordon Davis. This he felt entitled him to wear the kilt. His father of whom there was no mention just may have been a Gordon! Thirty years ago he donated a cup for the hill race mens over 35 and has won this on a few occasions.  To deter competitors he left this announcement to the last minute, He produced a cup for the over 65 mens hill race and was hoping to win.  I shall never be the chief of the pudding race but today I have a chance of being the chief of the racing puddings This field is a Field of Dreams and many a time while far away from the Highlands and home he has thought of this place and the next expedition will be no exception.

John Ridgway is setting off on a voyage to save the albatross and the BBc Contingent filming for the journey were the using the helicopter sent for static display to film him above the Games Field.. Under the flag of the United Nations Environment Programme, the yacht English Rose VI will sail from Ardmore and Captain Ridgeway had to be aboard on Friday evening after the games to ensure he caught the tide bound for the Southern Ocean.  This is John Ridgways third circumnavigation in this boat. John and his wife Marie Christine are very deliberately, totally un-sponsored. This is very much a personal effort an entirely independent voyage round the world, to raise public awareness and prevent the albatrosss needless slaughter. His volunteer crew, experts in their fields, is giving up to a year of their lives to help.

Like many of my contemporaries, I would like to look forward to something a little more purposeful than countless circuits of the golf course. I want to do something, to make a difference. I am but one individual, among 6000 millions on this planet. I have no affiliation, no debts, no creditors, no sponsorship, and no political or religious leanings. Now, I intend to set out to prevent the needless slaughter of the albatross

Captain John Ridgway thanked those for giving him this honor and declared the Games open. Valerie Mackay from Strathy then played a Lament in memory of Charlie OBrien. One hour into proceedings the skies blackened and very heavy rain started with little prospect of clearing. People took shelter in the marquees, officials huts and side stalls leaving the field deserted. For a short time there was concerns that all the preparations were in vain but slowly the torrent eased to a steady downpour and clearer skies began to appear. Competitors started to return and the proceedings once again got underway. Within another half an hour blue skies and sunshine blessed the area and only the dancing had to be moved to the hall. Spirits werent dampened and the large turnout remained all afternoon. No body could accuse the games committee of not supplying a great day out full of highland hospitality and the reputation of a Durness friendly family games catering for all ages was maintained. There was no RAF arial display this year but there was a low flying Tornado fly past at start. Among the many stalls the Coastguard and Maritime Agency had a display and the Mackay Clan had a presence.

A heavyweight contingent from Australia and USA broke a field record in the open weight over the bar. Matt Sandford from Australia set a new record at 16 feet. This broke the record set in 1990 by G. patience at 15ft. 9.5ins.  A new award this year the Queens Golden Jubilee Trophy overall winner 8 years and under from Durness primary School was won by Gary Morrison. Special mention must go to Eilidh Mackay, Inverness for her performance in the athletics for girls under 16 she was first in the hill race, long jump 220 and the 100 yards.       

Because the heavy rain earlier in the day made the dancing platform in the field unsafe and slippery the dancers were taken to the hall for their competition. This unfortunately meant that the spectators were missing out. To bring the afternoon to a conclusion the dancing team from Canada were asked to perform a display accompanied by piper Valerie Mackay form Srathy.

For 28 years Hector Sutherland has been the treasurer of the Highland Gathering committee and along with Danny MacKay one of the original committee members responsible for reinstating the event. Hector a quite and reserved man has always declined to be Chieftain and in his retiring year the committee felt it appropriate that he should be presented with a cromag, the staff presented to all the chieftains and a set of pictures of the Rhigolter Hills where he has lived and worked all his life. Hector has handed on the reigns of the finances to Mary Mackay.  After what was a very successful event the afternoons proceedings were drawn to a close. Captain Ridgway headed for the sea and another expedition while the preparation for the games dance later in the evening with Celtic Rock band Rhythm and Reel were finalised. This carried on until the wee small hours and the mid year celebrations in a far flung corner of the Highlands with all the traditions and culture that is celebrated world wide made sure the customs were proudly maintained. John, true to his word, disrobed his highland attire and ran the hill race. Unfortunately he did not manage to retain his newly donated cup, as Michael Otter from Kinlochbervie was first over 65 years home.  The chief of the puddings is a title John will have to return another year to compete for! The Games Committee and people of Durness wish John and his wife Marie Christine all the very best of good fortune for a successful venture and a safe return. Further information about the project can be had from


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