Wednesday, 13th May 2015

Lonach Society Calls for Sponsorship to Boost Event

The Lonach Highlanders are one of the main attractions at the Lonach Gathering (picture credit Ian Halliday)

An Aberdeenshire organisation is aiming to make a greater contribution to the local economy as the countdown to its highest profile event reaches 100 days to go [Thursday, 14 May].


Established in 1823, the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society has been supporting the local community in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire for nearly two centuries. This year it hopes to boost the local economy further by providing more promotional and sponsorship opportunities for local businesses to promote their services at its annual highland gathering and games.


Held annually on the fourth Saturday in August, the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games is one of north-east Scotland’s best known and most popular traditional summer events, attracting up to 10,000 visitors annually.   However, with costs associated with holding outdoor events increasing, organisers are looking to boost the level of income through sponsorship, and are encouraging local businesses that wish to support the gathering to get in touch.


The event is held in the small, picturesque Aberdeenshire village of Bellabeg and features the unique march of the Lonach Highlanders, believed to be the largest body of non-military men to carry ceremonial weapons in Britain.  Membership of the Lonach Highlanders is drawn from residents of the local area who descend from the Forbes, Wallace and Gordon clans, and currently numbers 220 men.


Featuring a full programme of traditional highland events, including individual and massed piping, highland dancing and light and heavy athletics, the gathering attracts some of the country’s leading pipers, dancers and athletes.  A highlight of the day is the arrival into the arena of the Lonach Highlanders armed with traditional Lochaber axes and pikes.


This year’s gathering, on Saturday, 22 August, marks the 174th time the games have been staged.  Always popular with overseas visitors thanks to its friendly highland welcome and the spectacle of the Lonach Highlanders, organisers already have an advanced booking from a group of 40 Norwegian tourists.


After years in the spotlight thanks to the attendance of Hollywood stars, the Lonach Gathering is returning to its roots where the events take precedence.  The 300th anniversaries of the 1715 Jacobite uprising and opening of the Poldullie Bridge will also be marked at the event.


Jennifer Stewart, secretary of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, said: “The society was established to promote social and benevolent feelings among the inhabitants of Strathdon. Today our focus has evolved into supporting the local economy through the gathering and the visitors it attracts, and increasing the number of events held at the Lonach Hall.  Providing more opportunities for businesses to get involved in the gathering extends that support, while also generating income to help cover the event’s running costs.


“The costs involved in holding the Gathering have increased.  We’re not alone in this, colleagues at highland games up and down the country tell us they are facing the same issues.  Toilet hire has risen 25% in recent years for example.  Our unique location in the heart of Strathdon places additional pressures on the event.  We are deemed to be in an ‘extra rural’ area by the emergency services, meaning we have to have two ambulances in attendance, which increases costs.


“The volunteer support we get from the local community is incredible – we wouldn’t be able to stage such a successful event without their assistance.  They realise how important the gathering is socially for our local community and also financially – 10% of the local shop’s takings occur in games’ week.  Coupled to this, the gathering helps uphold Scottish tradition.


“We had several fantastic years with film stars attending, getting involved and creating an amazing atmosphere, but we’re going back to our roots now.  The individual events and the Lonach Highlanders are once again taking centre stage as the stars of the show.  We’re unique, have a stunning setting and want more people to experience that.”

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