Wednesday, 04 September 2019

Local Youngsters Benefit Thanks To Lonach Gathering

An Aberdeenshire organisation that arranges one of the region’s oldest and most iconic Highland Games has supported two youth projects in its local community this summer.

The Lonach Highland and Friendly Society has donated funds to assist with the running of a children’s summer club and the installation of new Astroturf at the local primary school.  The announcement comes days after the society welcomed over 7,500 visitors to Strathdon for the annual Lonach Highland Gathering and Games on the fourth Saturday in August.

Upper Donside Parish received funding from the society to support the summer club which it ran during the first week of the recent school holidays.  Offering a range of activities, the initiative was well attended by primary age children living across the local area.

Strathdon Primary School Parents Forum received a four-figure grant from the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society to help upgrade part of the school playground.  New all-weather Astroturf has been laid at the school, providing an improved outdoor learning and play space for pupils.  Funding was also received from other partners, including Aberdeenshire Council.

Some of the first visitors to see the new Astroturf were members of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society on the morning of the gathering.  The school is the first stop for the Lonach Highlanders on their traditional six-mile march through the local area which starts in Bellabeg at 7:50am.

The march route eventually leads the Lonach Highlanders, whose membership currently stands at around 220, onto the games field at Bellabeg Park to officially open the annual Lonach Highland Gathering and Games.

Featuring a packed programme of traditional events in Highland dancing, piping, light and heavy athletics and tug o’ war, the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games is popular with locals and national and international visitors. 

Following its successful introduction last year, The Daily Mile Lonach was again held for primary age children to participate in.  Organised in partnership with The Daily Mile and Active Schools Aberdeenshire, the event saw around 40 youngsters clock up their daily mile.  The event also promotes the benefits of a healthy and active lifestyle to all those attending.

Jennifer Stewart, secretary and chief executive of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, said: “Community spirit and charitable giving are among the founding principles of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society.  For these donations to benefit children is hugely significant.  Our local youngsters are our future, something the society has always acknowledged.  Its origins, after all, can be traced back nearly 200 years to celebrations that were held to mark the 21st birthday of John Forbes, the eldest son of our founding patron, Sir Charles Forbes.

“Each year, we welcome new young members into the society and onto the march, many of whom are brought up in the local area and schooled at Strathdon Primary.  So it is only natural that the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society supports these projects and helps improve facilities for young people in our community.”

Pupils have heaped praise on the new Astroturf.  Primary 2 pupil Katie said: “It’s really good because it’s big and the bigger ones get space and the little ones get space.  It’s big enough for us all.”

Fellow primary 2 classmate Liam said that “the new sports area is good and it feels good to take your shoes off and lie down on it”.  While Corran in primary 3 gave it “a million thumbs up because it’s brilliant”.

Established in 1823, by Sir Charles Forbes, 1st Baronet of Newe and Edinglassie, the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society is a charitable organisation based in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire.  The society organises the annual Lonach Gathering at Bellabeg Park, Strathdon, which is held on the fourth Saturday of August.  The main attraction at the gathering is the march of the Lonach Highlanders, a unique body of non-military men.  Further information on the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, the Lonach Highlanders and the annual Lonach Highland Gathering and Games can be found at