Mallaig and Morar hailed a highlight of the Highland Games circuit

MORAR GAMES David Hart throwing the weight. Picture Iain Ferguson, alba.photos

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Even the presence of television broadcaster and weather reporter Kirsteen MacDonald could not prevent a somewhat damp start to this year’s Mallaig and Morar Games at the weekend, but things soon brightened up for a fantastic day that drew a healthy crowd to Lovat Field.

The customary games site at Morar happily stayed mostly dry underfoot this year, with the games attracting a good field of entries for the piping, heavy events, Highland dancing and  athletics competitions.

The top heavy athlete who collected the Big Mac Cup and bottle of Ben Nevis whisky was John Hugh MacLeod, from Lochinver.

The top adult piper prize went to Sandy Cameron, of Roy Bridge, while in the under-18s piping march competition, the MacBrayne Cup went to Andrew Orr, of Fort William, with the Simon MacKinnon Trophy for under-18s Strathspey and Reel going to Laura Robertson, of Fort William.

Asked how she was enjoying the games, Ms MacDonald said she was delighted to be back in the area where she has strong family links.

‘My  mother was from Polnish originally, and my grandparents for many years lived in Morar, so I still have a lot of family here in the area – aunties, uncles and cousins. So it’s lovely to be back and enjoy a few days – and the weather’s not too bad.’

She laughingly admitted to hearing plenty of jokes about the weather given her profession, and commented: ‘Obviously I always monitor the weather very closely because of my job and today, especially. I was just thinking it would  be wet in the morning but hoping it would clear up as the afternoon went on and it has.’

And she is no stranger to the Highland Games circuit, saying: ‘My husband is from Lochinver so we often attend the Assynt Games, and I’ve been quite a few times to events between the games at Glenfinnan, Morar and Arisaig over the years and it’s always a great day out.’

And she said she was extremely proud to have been invited to take on the senior ceremonial role for the day: ‘Oh yes, very much so. To be honest, it was quite a surreal moment walking through Morar village with the pipe band, passing the house in which my grandparents lived for such a long time. It has been really lovely to be asked.’

Fort William’s own David Hart was the sole local representative upholding the honour of Lochaber in the heavy events.

Speaking mid way through the day’s events, he told us: ‘It’s been a good day so far and I’m glad the weather held off for the start of the throwing events.

‘It’s a good bunch of guys here and all good quality throwers. So far I’m doing better than I expected.’

Work commitments meant this was only his fourth Highland Games of the season instead of the usual 10 or 12 he would normally expected to have competed in by the start of August.

‘Work has been really busy but hopefully I can get another one or two games in at end of season. I’m glad I was able to make up to these local games and  support them,’ he added.

Despite the lack of other local athletes, Hart said it was still enjoyable company to be in: ‘I thought there might be a few other locals.

‘But this is a nice bunch of guys, there’s a really good camaraderie and we’re all enjoying the throwing.’

Also in the heavy events was Peter Hart, from Glenisla on the Perthshire and Angus border.

Originally from North Harbour in Auckland, he came to Scotland 20 years ago to play rugby in Perthshire.

‘That’s how I met my wife and we now farm in Glenisla. We have two boys and they compete in the junior heavies as well,’ Peter explained.

‘I love it here in Scotland, it’s my home now and I don’t think I’d ever want to move back.’

Peter, who also competed at Arisaig Highland Games last week, took up the Highland Games when he found he was not enjoying his rugby in Scotland as much as he had done back in his native New Zealand.

‘So I looked for another sport and came across the Highland Games. I love Highland Games, it’s an awesome sport.

‘There’s a good level of competition here today, including one of the top throwers in Scotland – John Hugh MacLeod. This particular games is a highlight of the circuit for me. It’s always a great day.’

And his comments were echoed by games secretary Anne- Marie Buchanan, who agreed it was turning out to be a super day.

‘The weather’s turned nice, we’ve got a good crowd and there’s some serious competition to watch in the various events like the heavies, piping and Highland dancing,’ she said.

And there was an additional poignant moment when piper Allan MacKenzie played a lament to mark the passing of two games stalwarts during the previous year – Sandy MacVarish and Gerry MacDonald.

All photographs: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos