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2006 Michael Mather Durness

Michael has lived all of his life in Durness and welcomed all the visitors to the parish and the unique village of Durness. He said he was honoured to be asked to be Chieftain of this special event and hoped that all would leave with happy memories and have the opportunity to experience the true Highland hospitality. Michael works the family croft with his son in Sangomore and has a great knowledge of the shoreline with his experience as an inshore fisherman. He is married to Betty, who runs the Braemar bed and breakfast establishment, while his daughter Sheila meets and greets tourists and visitors where she works at the Durness Visitors Centre.

The Durness Highland Gathering is one of the most spectacular events held in this North West corner of Scotland. Held annually on the last Friday of July. If you are touring round the Highlands at this time this is the place to be! It is a one day event but one you will never forget.!The event begins at 12 noon with the chosen Chieftain for the day meeting the members of the pipe band before marching on to the Games Field to declare the games open. Entry to all competitions are free and open to everyone no matter which country you come from The Highland Dancers look resplendent in their Highland Dance costumes and display their light - footed dances namely Hornpipe, Sean Truibhas, Jig, Sword Dance and Lilt If you do not wish to compete just come and watch and maybe meet up with old friends or make new ones. This is a day not to be missed when touring this beautiful part of the Highlands of Scotland. We have much to offer in the way of a Scottish Pipe Band, Highland Dancers, Field, Track and Heavy events. Tossing the caber is always a big attraction with not only the professionals competing but our own local lads having a go.

Bad weather doesn't dampen spirits at Durness

Published:  04 August, 2006


THE day of the Durness Games started with a heavy mist and a perpetual drizzle of rain, although there was no wind and it was warm, but spirits were not dampened.


At noon, chieftain Michael Mather, accompanied by the newly appointed games president Ian Anderson, following the retiral of Don Morrison, were piped to the village square by Michael's son James. They met some of the former chieftains and Michael was presented with the traditional cromag by his sister, games chairperson Iris Mackay.


Michael welcomed the Ullapool and District junior pipe band and the procession marched to the Shore Park where the games have been held since their revival in 1970.


Sheltering under umbrellas, the official party of past chieftains gathered on the platform for the opening ceremony. Iris thanked all those helping and emphasised the enviable community spirit that makes this event possible. Michael requested that, through his presence as chieftain, the Highland Hospice should receive a substantial donation and with their presence on the field people were asked to make individual contributions. Michael feels strongly that the very dedicated and important work that is carried out in the hospice for the terminally ill is an absolute necessity to relieve the pain and suffering some have experienced in the past in their dying days.


Michael was a popular choice as Chieftain following celebrities Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham being honoured last year.

Course announcer was Graham Bruce; he introduced everyone and gave a commentary throughout, with a little history on the roots of a Highland Gathering. He added his own anecdotes with much humour.

For over six hours Graham was able to keep a co-ordinated and interesting interpretation of events as they happened.

New secretary to the games Rebecca Machain carried out her duties without flaw, a job which requires a great deal of organising and arranging as she worked alongside the other group of helpers.




To try and preserve all the action in the field from the rain, a team of divers from the Royal Navy, who are working in the area and had a stand at the games, erected their large marquee tent over the dancing platform but to no avail. The platform was just too wet and the covering would restrict the dancers' movements. This was confirmed unsuitable and the dancing competitions were moved to the village hall.All the other events were held on the field and the numbers both attending and participating were only slightly down. Piping, track and field events, high jump and long jump and the novelty events were all marshalled by volunteers and as usual drew competent athletes and novices alike. The games are open to all competitors and everyone is actively encouraged to have a go.The heavy events caused a great deal of interest as the day was drawing to a close, as the ground record for 56lb weight over the bar was equalled and then broken by Sean Betz, USA (new ground record - 16ft 3in) beating M Sandford's record of 16 ft set in 2003. Larry Brock, who also set the record in the weight for distance in 2004 which was formerly held by Geoff Capes, was second. Four of the top guys in the world were participating in Durness - Ryan Vierra, Sean Betz, Larry Brock and Harrison Bailey.The opportunity to see the spectacular Durness scenery from the air was not to happen, with the cancellation of the helicopter rides because of the weather. But Mr Boom was not deterred and in his usual fashion arrived from the moon with an entertaining performance for all the children and the young at heart. The Hee-Haw Donkeys were a popular attraction, carrying the youngsters a short distance around the back edge of the field.


The 2006 gathering had more stalls than ever around the field including carpets, clothing, jewellery, Food Link and Coco Mountain, Mackay Country, ASIRUS Asthma support in Rural Scotland, a local charity stall fund raising for local groups, Kingdom of Sweets, the Royal Navy, food stalls including fish and chips and burger stalls, teas, coffees and sandwiches, laser guided clay pigeon shooting and, of course, the beer tent.


For the first few hours the field was shrouded in mist and there was an eerie atmosphere with the sound of bagpipes echoing through the hazy damp vapours from vague outlines of pipers. People were not deterred, although the usual viewing from the hillside was sparse as the crowds held to the lower ground. When the mist lifted and the sun shone, the true beauty of the area was revealed. The comparison in the weather in a matter of minutes cannot be described. For the next hour the Scotch mist was a memory but soon the hazy fog returned. The fun and enjoyment of the day was undeterred as Chieftain Michael went about the field welcoming and discussing the finer points of Durness with visitors and locals. Many people return for the event, family and friends making the trip to Durness to catch up with all the local news, a mid-summer reunion.


Retiring local police constable David Ingles, who has been attracting a lot of press publicity lately as a "Hamish Macbeth" figure, joined in the fun and was put through the tilt the bucket and, for his effort, got a soaking. With no shortage of volunteers to help with the escapade, it was another Sutherland officer that made sure David was given fair treatment. Sergeant Kenny Morrison was enjoying the afternoon when he was easily persuaded to put the retiring officer into the wheelbarrow. All taken in good spirit, David will be a difficult policeman to replace in the north.

The evening was the time for all the hard work and worry about organistion to be forgotten at the Games Dance. Rhythm and Reel provided the music and the village hall was crowded to capacity.

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