Glenfinnan residents ensure historic anniversary Gathering dates are celebrated

GLENFINNAN GATHERING Ninety-three year old Donald Sinclair travelled from Cornwall to attend the Gathering and visit the grave of his old friend and long term games organiser, Ronnie MacKellaig. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos

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With glorious summer sunshine, Saturday would have been the perfect day for the staging of the 75th anniversary Glenfinnan Gathering and Highland Games.

Traditionally, the annual gathering takes place on the Saturday closest to the anniversary of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s raising of the standard in 1745 that signalled the start of the Jacobite rising.

The 275th anniversary of that momentous day was yesterday (Wednesday) so many in Glenfinnan and a huge number from elsewhere in the UK and abroad were crestfallen when the coronavirus lockdown restrictions forced the cancellation of this year’s gathering and games.

However, Glenfinnan’s small band of residents were able to get together on the games field for a small ceremony on Saturday to mark what would have been games day and look forward to next year.

Younger Glenfinnan residents carry the clan standards donated to the community by the makers of the 1946 film about Bonnie Prince Charlie, which starred David Niven in the title role. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos

Making a brief speech at the event, organised by Glenfinnan Community Council, Alastair Gibson, manager of Glenfinnan Estate and a member of the gathering and games organising committee, lamented the cancellation of this year’s event.

‘We felt the 275th anniversary of the start of the 1745 rising should be remembered and marked,’ he told those assembled.

The Bicentennial Celebration held at Glenfinnan on VJ Day in 1945, marking the 200th anniversary of the raising of the standard, was meant to be a one-off event.

Iain MacKellaig raises the Scottish flag on what would have been the day of the Gathering and Highland GamesPhotograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos

But it proved so popular that it was agreed to host a gathering annually.

‘Despite the fact the gathering and games won’t be held this year, next year’s event will see us still able to celebrate the 75th staging of the first event.’

The Saltire was run up the games field flag pole by Ian MacKellaig, while piper Katie MacRae entertained those gathered with the appropriate tune Glenfinnan Highland Gathering by Ronnie Lawrie.

Piper Katie MacRae, who played the pipe tune ‘Glenfinnan Highland Gathering’. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos

Among those present on Saturday was 90-year-old Donald Sinclair from North Devon.

Accompanied by his grand-daughter and her family, Mr Sinclair, a veteran of the Seaforth Highlanders, has attended many Glenfinnan Gatherings over the decades, as well as donating to the fund-raising efforts.

A great friend of the late Ronnie MacKellaig, who was one of the founders of the gathering, Mr Sinclair had wanted to be in Glenfinnan for the anniversary date to lay a white rose on the grave of his old friend.

‘I knew Ronnie for so many years. He was a great friend of mine. But this sadly could be my last visit as I’m getting on a bit now,’ Mr Sinclair said with a wry grin.

‘I’ve come to the gathering for many years and know so many lovely people. It’s a fantastic place to be if the weather’s like this – you can’t beat it.’

Resplendent in his Ancient Sinclair tartan kilt and Tam O’Shanter with the regimental cap badge of the Seaforths, and a white rose – symbol of the Jacobites – tucked in behind it, Mr Sinclair spoke with fondness of his visits to Glenfinnan.

‘It is a truly magical place,’ he added.