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Sprints, sword dances and the Stoltman brothers: Inverness Highland Games back with a bang

The crowd’s silence during the opening ceremony of this year’s Inverness Highland Games spoke volumes.

People from all over the world gathered in Bught Park as games chieftain and provost, Glynis Sinclair, opened the games with a reminder of how much they mean to the area.

The Joe Public Vs the Strongest men in the world event had the crowd cheering. Picture by Jason Hedges.
The Joe Public Vs the Strongest men in the world event had the crowd cheering. Picture by Jason Hedges.

“We are delighted to be able to stage this traditional and truly historic event once again,” she said.

“The games have been one of the most popular community events in our city for almost two centuries.”

The games kicked off with a literal bang as the first start gun was fired on Saturday morning, and the sounds that followed were those of laughter, reunion and a whole lot of piping.

‘Celebrate the Highland games in all its glory’

Undoubtedly one of the most anticipated aspects of this year’s Inverness Highland Games was the presence of the Stoltman brothers, Luke and Tom.

Born and raised in Invergordon, Tom, 28, was crowned last year’s World Strongest Man, and Luke, 37, was the 2021 European champion.

The line for the Stoltman tent, in which fans could get a photo with the famous pair, was often the longest, rivalled only slightly by booths on the Highland Food and Drink Trail around lunchtime.

Luke and Tom Stoltman, The World’s Strongest Man, at the Inverness Highland Games. Picture by Jason Hedges.

Luke said they were “absolutely overwhelmed” by the support shown for them at the games, adding: “It’s really nice to see the turnout and it has been such a nice day. We haven’t been here since 2019 so it’s just nice to celebrate the Highland games in all its glory.”

He said the pair feel a duty to preserve the tradition and that they are hoping to start their own version of the games in Invergordon in the next couple of years.

“We need to do something, both Tom and I have been very vocal about that and we need to do something more to try and preserve them, to showcase them,” he said.

The importance of the games

The importance of preserving the Highland games and the traditions they encompass was a common theme of the day.

One tent was dedicated to Scotland’s historic clans, giving people from all around the world a chance to learn more about their heritage.

Ann McGhee, a representative of Clan Donald, said: “I think it’s very important, especially for the younger generation to learn about their history, because it’s not always taught in schools.

Jamie Gunn participating in the heavy event at the Highland Games. Picture by Jason Hedges.

“So many people don’t know that they’re attached to different clans.”

Mrs Sinclair also highlighted the importance of the games in helping people move on from what has been a difficult two years.

“I’m just delighted that we are back and we all feel safe enough to come out,” she said.

“For a lot of people it has really affected their mental health being secluded and isolated over the last couple of years. I’m just hoping now we’re getting back to a little bit of normal, that’s what it feels like today.”

A fond farewell

People of all ages were both watching and competing in this year’s Inverness Highland Games, which were organised by High Life Highland.

Lily Kelman, 15, had a jam-packed day of Highland dancing, not only competing but also taking part in demonstrations and the opening ceremony performance.

Based in Inverness, she said she was “very excited” to be back at the games after the pandemic and that she was feeling confident as she has been perfecting her skills since she was only two-years-old.

Highland dancing was also featured at the Highland Games in Bught Park. Picture by Jason Hedges.

While there were many for whom this was their first games, it was Angus Dick’s last year as chairman.

He was first involved in the games in 1978 as a time-keeper and helped expand the event from a small corner of the park.

In a note in the event’s programme, he said: “The games are something I’ve always enjoyed and whilst I’m sad to be stepping down from the chairmanship of the committee, it’s a necessary thing to do – I’m 85 and was supposed to retire 20 years ago!”

Crowds gathered to watch competitors face off in numerous events. Pictured: Daniel Carlin. Picture by Jason Hedges.

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