As family days out go, this one was surely hard to beat.
Thousands of people from across the world gathered in Dunoon today for the spectacular climax of the Cowal Highland Gathering (CHG).
Competitors and spectators alike joined forces to ensure the event’s finale was, as always, a day to remember for everyone involved.
From the hundreds of dancers and pipers to the heavy athletes, ceilidh bands, axe throwers and many other entertainers on show, every participant contributed to what was a fantastic day’s entertainment.
The standard of competition was breathtaking, with many of the world’s top competitors giving their all in a bid go home with the silverware.
One of the highlights of the Gathering’s final day – and one of the most fiercely contested – was, as always, the Cowal Pipe Band Championship.
This year, Royal Burgh of Stirling Pipe Band was crowned winners of the Grade 1 Cowal Pipe Band Championships 2019 to take home the famous Argyll Shield.
In the other sections and grades, the Cowal Pipe Band champions were:
Novice Juvenile B – Kintyre Schools Pipe Band.
Novice Juvenile A – Mid Argyll Pipe Band.
Juvenile Bands – George Watson College Pipe Band.
Grade 3 – Stockbridge Pipe Band.
Grade 3 MSR – Oban High School Pipe Band.
Grade 2 – Royal Burgh of Stirling Pipe Band.
Grade 2 MSR – Oban High School Pipe Band.
The champion juvenile drum major was Becky Cox of Troon Blackrock.
Today also saw the Argyllshire Highland Dancing competitions (for dancers who live in Argyll and Bute), with top honours in the Under 13 category Premier going to Eilidh Gammons from Helensburgh, with Solana McMurchy from Campbeltown picking up the Under 13 Intermediate category. Top prize in the 13 and Under 16 category Premier went to Isla Flint from Helensburgh. Linzi Cameron from Campbeltown triumphed in the 16 years and over class.
Then came the biggest Highland Dancing competition in the world – the World Championship finals - with dancers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA pitting their skills against the best the UK has to offer.
In the end, it was Rosey Watt from Macduff who emerged victorious in the World Juvenile finals, followed by Robyn MacMillan of Forth and Morven Johnston of Western Australia.
The trophy for best Scottish Juvenile Dancer went to Rosey and the best Overseas Juvenile Dancer was Morven Johnston.
In the World Junior championship, Beret Dernbach of California held off the challenge of Elise Berrevoets of Ontario (2nd) and Hailey Romain (3rd).
The best Scottish Junior Dancer was Ellie Dalrymple of Tranent, and the trophy for the best Overseas Junior Dancer went to Beret Dernbach.
The Adult World champion was Marielle Lesperance from Nova Scotia, followed by Rebecca Thow from Alberta, with Ellis Hayes from Newton Stewart in third.
Marielle Lesperance is taking home the Mary McHarg Quaich for best Overseas Adult Dancer. The cup for best Scottish Adult Dancer went to Ellis Hayes of Newton Stewart.
Throughout the afternoon, some of the world’s hottest traditional music bands entertained the crowds in the now-famous live music tent.
Leading the pack was multi award-winning Tiree band Skerryvore who were back by popular demand having brought the house down when they played the ceilidh tent in the past.
Today, they were joined by three of the hottest names on the traditional music scene – up and coming bands Beinn Lee (fresh from playing at the Gig at the Gathering last night) and Rhuvaal, together with harmonica maestro Donald Black, who is renowned as the instrument’s foremost exponent in the traditional music scene.
While they were playing in their marquee behind the stadium, the heavy athletes and wrestlers battled it out for top honours in the stadium itself.
In the International Heavy Athletics Team competition, Scotland eventually carried off the trophy with Iceland coming runners up.
In the overall individual heavy athletics, Daniel Carlin from Scotland triumphed in the men’s competition, with Heisi Geirmundson from Iceland just half a point behind in second and Daniel Dorrow from Germany third.
In the women’s event, Mhairi Porterfield from Scotland beat off the challenge of Christina Scheffaur from Austria (2nd) and Lucy Marshall from Crick (3rd).
Daniel Carlin and Mhairi Porterfield were crowned men’s and women’s caber toss champions respectively.
In the wrestling, the Female Open section was won by Sofie Rorrison from Glasgow, with Katie McCullagh from Hamilton second and Victoria Kirk from Hamilton third.
In the men’s Open competition, Ryan Ferrey from Hamilton was crowned champion, followed by Paul Craig from Wemyss Bay (2nd) and Greg Neilson from Hamilton (3rd).
The weight category winners were Heather Mitchell from Hamilton in the 9 and a half stone category, Ryan Ferrey won each of the 11 and a half stone, 13 and a half stone and in the 15 and a half categories.
This year, there was a bigger and better selection of entertainment for all ages than ever before.
One of the most popular draws proved to be a new addition to the schedule – the exciting Braveheart Axe Throwing Team.
Among the other biggest attractions were the Mountain Biking track, Kintail Birds of Prey and the unique Smoothie Bikes along with the perennial children’s favourite, Artie’s Tartan Tales featuring veteran entertainer Artie Trezise, who spent 30 years as one half of The Singing Kettle.
Cowal Highland Gathering chair Ronnie Cairns said the success of the weekend and the enthusiasm of everyone involved would ensure that this famous event will continue to go from strength to strength.
“Judging from the feedback we’ve been receiving over the last three days, the vast majority of people who have taken part this year – whether competing or spectating – are going home having had a brilliant time,” he said.
“It’s very rewarding for everyone involved in its organisation to see and hear how much people enjoy it. There are so many people working away behind the scenes to ensure that everything is as good as it can possibly be by the time the last weekend in August arrives, and I’d like to thank all our supporters, volunteers and sponsors for once again pulling it off.
“Our competitors have excelled themselves, as they do every year. Our spectators have marvelled at the skills on show, as they do every year. And the entertainments on offer in addition to the traditional Highland games elements have once again proved a major hit.
“I’d like to thank everyone for ensuring it’s been such a great event, and we very much look forward to welcoming everyone back to Dunoon for the 2020 Gathering.”
Craig Anderson, Chief Executive of headline sponsor Scottish Salmon Company said, “Once again the Cowal Highland Gathering 2019 was a great success, we’re very proud to be a long-term sponsor of the event. The Gathering is always a highlight in the Highland Games season and this year was no exception. Our congratulations go to everyone who took part, and a very big well done to the Gathering committee and the volunteers who give so much to ensure that this 125th Cowal Highland Gathering was such a success and a memorable occasion for so many. We look forward to next year.”
Cowal Highland Gathering is supported through EventScotland’s International Events Programme.
Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, said: “Congratulations to all the dancers, pipers, heavy athletes, musicians and entertainers who have taken part in this year’s Cowal Highland Gathering. It is a truly spectacular event that showcases Scotland's traditions and heritage, while supporting the region’s visitor economy by attracting thousands of competitors and spectators from around the world to the stunning location of Dunoon. As one of the most revered Highland Games in the events calendar, EventScotland is proud to have been supporting the event for the last nine years.”
A full list of the results of all today’s action will be posted on the website (www.cowalgathering.com) as soon as possible.