One of the highest prize lists in Scotland on offer at Halkirk Highland Games
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The Halkirk Highland Games, which take place at Recreation Park on Saturday, are one of the premier events of their kind on the circuit.
With one of the highest prize lists in Scotland at £38,600 – £17,600 in prize money and a further £21,000 available for breaking ground and national records – there is little wonder it attracts top competitors from all over the country and abroad.
One thousand pounds can be won for breaking a world record in the heavy events and £300 for a new ground record in the track and field events.
Large crowds of 3000 and more usually flock to the ground to watch a host of activities, including the ever-popular heavy events, the track-and-field contests, cycling, Highland dancing, piping, clay-pigeon shooting, children's races, tug o' war and the novelty competitions, as well as enjoying the friendly atmosphere as old acquaintances meet up and new friendships are made.
The organisers will stage almost 100 events over the course of the afternoon and no doubt there will be keen rivalry among the heavies as they battle for the honours.
It is expected the contestants will include locals as well as others from elsewhere in the Highlands, from other parts of the country and from overseas. The games have a rich tradition of attracting competitors from America and Europe with world champion Vlad Tulacek, from the Czech Republic, a regular visitor. Athletes from Australia may come along to the games.
Secretary Lorna Mackenzie pointed to some exciting additions to the junior events this year.
“We have gained a Scottish championship in the 800m junior cycling,” she explained. “We have also added a junior chanter competition with two age groups, under-12 and 12 to under 15, and we have increased the prize money in all junior categories.
“With these three announcements we hope to see lots of junior competitors at the games on Saturday.”
Spectators will be kept updated with all the activity in the ring by the roving commentators and announcers. Surrounding the arena will be entertaining side-stalls, charity stalls, a fun fair, plus food and drink stalls/marquees.
Of course music will be provided as well, with three pipe bands playing this year – Thurso and District Pipe Band, Wick RBLS Pipe Band and the Queen's Own Highlanders Regimental Pipe Band.
The bands will lead the grand march from Bridge Street to the games field at noon, prior to the official opening of the games at 12.15pm by the chieftain, the Rt Hon Viscount Thurso. They will play at regular intervals throughout the day and also perform in a street parade in the evening from 7.30pm to 9pm.
The games will be a homecoming of sorts for the Queen's Own Drum Major David Murray who comes from Wick and served in the Queen’s Own Highlanders, The Highlanders and as Drum Major of 3 SCOTS.
The band's pipe major, Jim Stout, also has north connections. He is an Orcadian whose last serving post in the army was as Queen Elizabeth II's personal piper – the 11th piper to the late sovereign.
The day is rounded off by a grand marquee dance in Recreation Park at 10pm with music provided by Eclipse. Tickets for the dance cost £10.
Admission to the games is also £10, with £5 for concessions and for children aged between 12 and 16. Youngsters under 12 get in free. Free car parking is also provided.
The Halkirk Highland Games is a member of the Royal Scottish Highland Games Association.