Centennial celebrations for Caithness Young Farmers get underway as massive convoy of tractors ride through the county
Easier access to your trusted, local news. Subscribe to a digital package and support local news publishing.
A huge convoy of tractors decorated with Christmas lights made its way through Watten last night on the way to Thurso from Bower.
The event was a special fundraiser ahead of the centennial year of the Caithness Young Farmers in 2023 and 59 massive tractors made their way through harsh wintry conditions.
Avril Henderson, secretary of the Caithness Young Farmers' 100th anniversary committee, said: "There were 58 in the convoy as we went through Watten and there were 59 by the time we got Thurso, as one joined us along the way. There were more tractors than we expected – we thought there might be 30 to 40. Getting that all sorted out took a wee bit of time but we got there in the end.
"We hoped to set off at four o'clock but it was half-four by the time we left the hall in Bower. The way we did it was to take in the clubs that have been in the Young Farmers like Bower, Watten, Halkirk and Forss. We never made it to Latheron but we hope to do something [there] for the 100 year anniversary."
Avril said that the Young Farmers movement started in Caithness in 1923 and there are groups all over the world now. "The first meeting was in Lanergill school which is a private house now." The movement is now led by the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs (SAYFC).
Avril said she is originally from Granton Mains but now lives in Lyth with her husband where they run a farm. Her son, Gordon Henderson from Alterwall Farm near Lyth, picked up an award at the end of the run for best decorated tractor – his vehicle having a giant glowing polar bear on top.
"The journey was good and the only time we had a few things sliding about a bit was on the Dunn Brae but that was to be expected as it was the steepest part. The number of folk standing at their farm road ends and outside their houses waiting for us to pass was unreal. The support that the whole thing was given was tremendous. We ended up at the harbour in Thurso and folk got out to have a look around the other tractors.
"It looked tremendous on the night and I just want to thank everybody for coming out."
As the convoy journeyed along Station Road in Watten and turned right onto the A882 towards Thurso, John Murray from Netherside Farm near Castletown helped to marshal the vehicles through the junction. Each tractor paid £10 to enter and other money was collected for three different charities – Scotland's Charity Air Ambulance, MFR Cash for Kids and the Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution.
There is a crowdfunder page for further donations which can be found at: www.gofundme.com/f/100th-anniversary-of-caithness-young-farmers
The journey took a little longer than the expected two hours due to the wintry weather. Caithness District Young Farmers posted on social media thanking everyone who showed up for the event and said it was "blown away" by all the folks who came out to cheer them on. "And of course a massive thanks to all the tractor drivers for making it such a success! It would be nothing without you," it added.
A spokesperson for Bower Young Farmers said: "The weather slowed us down a little bit but it didn’t stop the folk coming out or the community spirit.
"We raised an incredible £2,575.01, from entry fees and collections on the night which was just amazing. Our [crowdfunding] page will remain open for donations over the next week as well, any donations would be greatly appreciated!
"A big thank you from all the farmers to everyone who came out and gave us a wave – we are lucky to live in a community like Caithness!"
Numerous events are planned over the centennial year of 2023 and all monies raised will be donated equally between the chosen charities. There are more than 70 Young Farmers clubs across Scotland, with three still active in Caithness – Bower, Forss and Halkirk.
SAYFC describes itself as a membership organisation for young people who live and work in rural Scotland, aged between 14 and 30. It is Scotland’s largest rural youth organisation with more than 3500 members divided into West, East and North regions.
The centenary programme in Caithness will culminate in a dinner/dance towards the end of 2023.