Highland games chiefs are throwing their weight behind the ambition of growing a new crop of wee heavies from the grass roots of the nation’s primary schools.
The 2016 season got under way in earnest with a record-breaking weekend crowd at the opening event on the official Scottish Highland Games Association calendar and Courier Country has begun its countdown to the first local games at Blackford in less than a fortnight.
The traditional spectacle will then come thick and fast for competitors, locals and what SHGA officials hope will be a bumper international summer audience.
Strathmore Highland Games organisers are preparing for their event on Sunday June 12, but ahead of that will be building on an inaugural 2015 mini highland games for local primary school kids when some 300 youngsters will grace the Glamis Castle arena just a couple of days ahead of the main event.
The games committee were blown away by the success of last year’s event and as well as inviting more schools to take part next month, have also started to create games kit for primaries – complete with tug o’ war rope, junior caber and small-scale hammers and weights – which it is hoped might eventually become part of the sports kit for every school in the land.
Lorna Cochrane of Strathmore Games said: “Last year was such a success, the youngsters still talk about it so we’ve added a few extra events, invited more schools to join in and hopefully it will really keep things going.”
Strathmore Games chairman Charlie Murray is also the SHGA president and has high hopes of bringing a new generation to the highland games field.
“When you look back over the sport it’s often been a case of generations following each other into the games,” he said.
“The primaries are the grass roots and the active schools co-ordinators are doing a great job in helping build the Strathmore junior games but the long-term ambition is to reach out and we would love to see every school having their own mini highland games.”
“The foresters at Strathmore estates have been making proper mini cabers and I’ve manager to get traditional Scottish hammers and throwing weights from 1kg to 6kg, which will cover ages up to 16,” added Mr Murray. “And if you put a tug o’ war rope into any school that’s guaranteed to give them a lot of fun.”
He added: “Schools such as Lathallan already run their own games and have developed a format that works really well so it’s something we’d like to see other schools and areas taking up.
“We’re also very fortunate to have the support of Glamis Castle, it’s a great setting and they are right behind anything we do, especially to encourage the youngsters, so we are delighted with that,” added Charlie.
“Gordon Castle at Fochabers had a record crowd of around 12,500 at the weekend and the field included a massive entry of top quality heavyweight athletes so hopefully we’re going to see a great season ahead at all the games.
“But it’s the grass roots of the sport that we really need to work on and hopefully the junior games will bring youngsters into it.”