PICTURES: Halkirk Highland Games – Record crowd as games leap back into action
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It was a record-breaking day at the Halkirk Highland Games on Saturday. The event – one of the most popular on the circuit – attracted a record crowd of 3346 and record gate receipts of £16,976 – much to the delight of the organisers.
The games were cancelled in 2020 and again in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic but the decision to stage them this year was vindicated when a large crowd turned out at Recreation Park despite the dull and cool weather conditions.
When the event was last held in 2019, a total of 2900 people attended and the takings were £15,346.
Records were also broken on the field with Nikki Manson from Glasgow creating three new ground records in the ladies long jump, high jump and the hop step and leap. Manson, the partner of Halkirk heavy athlete Sam O'Kane, beat the previous high jump record of 1.40 metres, set in 2019 by E Imhoff from Italy, with a jump of 1.43m.
She also set a new record in the long jump with an impressive leap of 15 feet 1 inch, easily beating the previous 13 ft 2½ inches established in 2018 by S Owen. Manson completed her hat-trick by smashing the hop, step and leap record with a jump of 29 feet 2 inches, beating the previous record of 27 ft 7 inches also set by Owen in 2018.
Some of the best athletes in Scotland were competing in the track and field events and it showed when Allan Hamilton from Edinburgh set a new record for the 85 metres race with a time of 9.03 seconds, beating the previous one of 9.30 seconds, established by P Walker in 1999.
It looked for a short time as if Hamilton also established a new ground record in the high jump but officials realised he had equalled the previous best of 1.90 metres and not beaten it. Undeterred, Hamilton tried to jump 1.91m but just failed in his attempts. However, he had an impressive afternoon and was crowned track and field champion after winning four of his eight events.
"I was disappointed not to set a record in the high jump but, overall, was very pleased with how things went," he said.
In the heavy events, there was a close contest between Kyle Randalls from Falkirk and Vlad Tulacek from the Czech Republic with the former winning the 16lb and 22lb hammers, the 28lb and 56lb weight for distance while the latter came first in the 16lb ball, the 22lb Halkirk stone, the 56lb weight for height and tossing the caber.
Tulacek also won the farmer's walk event and set a new record 59 feet, although the stones being used on Saturday were lighter than in previous games. Tulacek's performance resulted in him being crowned the heavy champion after a keen tussle with Randalls.
The open cycling championship went to Charles Fletcher from Kelso who won six of his seven events, taking first place in the 800 metres, 200m, De'il Tak the Hindmost, the 2400 metres, the 3200 and the 4800 metres. Harry Newmark from Edinburgh took the honours in the 1600 metres race. The junior cycling title was won by Victor Atkinson from Muir of Ord.
Michelle Gordon from Huntly won the senior open Highland dancing championship.
The games attracted competitors and visitors from various parts of the world and they included 18-year-old Arvid Hauschild from northern Germany. He is writing a thesis on the Scottish Games and was being taken round the circuit by Alasdair MacDonald of the Royal Scottish Highland Games Association. Arvid is the first student to come here and study the Highland Games.
He enjoyed the experience and hopes his thesis will result in him getting a scholarship.
Throughout the afternoon the crowd was entertained by the Thurso and Wick Pipe Bands.
Treasurer Carol Robertson described the public response to the games after a two-year absence as "fantastic". She said: "After Covid everybody is looking for the opportunity to come out. Visitors and locals alike wanted to come and experience the games again and everyone is happy with the response. It has been a great day."
Chairman Iain Mackenzie agreed: "It has gone really well and we were really lucky it stayed dry. The crowd was very good and it feels marvellous to be back. We had some of the best athletes in Scotland here this afternoon and it is great to see so many people enjoying the games. We want to thank our sponsors and the public for coming out and supporting us," he said.
On a sad note, it was the first Halkirk Games held since the passing of long-serving treasurer and games stalwart, Neen Banks, and Mr Mackenzie paid tribute to him.
"He was such a character and will always be missed. He was our treasurer since the late 1970s and put us in a financially secure position. Although he had a problem with his health over the last few years he was always interested in the games and always willing to come forward with ideas. He is a sad loss."
Neen's grand-daughter Hallie Smith and her mother Hazel were at the games and Hallie wore one of Neen's treasurer's badges.
16lb hammer, 22lb hammer, 28lb weight for distance and 56lb weight for distance – Kyle Randalls, Falkirk. 16lb ball, 22lb Halkirk stone, 56lb weight for height and tossing the caber – Vlad Tulacek, Czech Republic. Tossing the 16lb sheaf – Jamie Gunn, Halkirk.
Cycling (Open) 16 years and over.
800 metres, 200m, De'il tak the Hindmost, 2400m, 3200m and 4800m – Charles Fletcher, Kelso. 1600m – Harry Newmark, Edinburgh.
Cycling (Open) under 16yrs.
800m, 1200m, 1600m, 2400m Victor Atkinson, Muir of Ord.
Track and field (Open).
85metres, long jump, high jump and 400m – Allan Hamilton, Edinburgh. 800 and 1600m – Luke Davidson, Inverness. Hop, step and leap – Anthony Daffurn, Wishaw. 200m – Stewart Clark, Stonehaven.
Track and field (Open) under 16 yrs.
85m, 200m and 400m – C Yates, Lumphanan.
Highland Dancing (confined to Caithness).
Highland Fling 12 yrs and under – Eilidh Budge, Halkirk. Highland Fling 13 yrs and under 16 – Hollie Fulton, Halkirk. Highland Fling 16yrs and over – Charley Sutherland, Halkirk. Sean Trubhais 12 and under – Skye McLeod, Thurso. Sean Trubhais 13 and under 16 yrs – H. Fulton. Sean Trubhais 16 yrs and over – Rachel May, Shebster.
Highland Dancing (Open).
Highland Fling 12 yrs and under – Carly Harrold, Wick. Highland Fling 13 and under 16 yrs – H. Fulton. Highland Fling 16 yrs and over – Michelle Gordon, Huntly. Sword Dance 12 yrs and under – Ashleigh Duncan, Stonehaven. Sword Dance 13 yrs and under 16 – Ella Saint, Thrumster. Sword Dance 16 yrs and over – Hamish McInnes, Brisbane. Sean Trubhais 12 yrs and under – A Duncan. Sean Trubhais 13 yrs and under 16 – H Fulton. Sean Trubhais 16 yrs and over – M Gordon. Hullachan 12 yrs and under – E Budge. Hullachan 13 yrs and under 16 – Rebecca Sinclair, Wick. Hullachan 16 yrs and over – H McInnes. Irish Jig 13 yrs and under 16 – S McLeod. Irish Jig 13 yrs and under 16 – R Sinclair. Irish Jig 16 yrs and over – M Gordon. Sailor's Hornpipe 12 yrs and under – E Budge. Sailor's Hornpipe 13 yrs and under 16 – R Sinclair. Sailor's Hornpipe 16 yrs and over – M Gordon.
Farmer's Walk – Vlad Tulacek, Czech Republic.
Senior piping (Open).
Piobaireachd, Slow air and jig – Angus MacPhee, Inverness. March and March and Hornpipe (own choice) – Brian Lamond, Fife. Stathspey and Reel – Chris McLeish, Australia. Junior piping (Open) 15 yrs and under 18. March and jig – Calum Dunbar. Strathspey and Reel – Aaron King. Junior piping under 15 yrs. March, Strathspey and Reel – Glen Miller. Jig – Morven Miller.
10-bird shoot and aggregate prize – Chris Ross, Harpsdale. 15-bird shoot – Ivan James, Orkney. Re-entry – Archie Sinclair, Dunbeath. Clay pigeon under 18 yrs. 10-bird shoot – R Levack, Halkirk.
Sack race under nine years – Miles Oliphant. Three-legged race under nine yrs – Charlotte and Kayley. 9 yrs and under 12 – Jake and Dale. 12 yrs and under 16 – Thomas and George.
Boys and girls under six months – Ella Bremner. Boys and girls six months and under 13 mths – Brody Henderson.
Boys and girls 13 months and under 18 mths – Teddy Staples.