THE stage is set for a memorable occasion as Bute counts down to the biggest single day in the island’s calendar – the annual Bute Highland Games.
The Games’ many supporters, on Bute and beyond, have been hoping for weeks that this year’s chieftain, STV weather forecaster Sean Batty, will predict blue skies and sunshine for the big day – and it looks as if those hopes might just come true.
The Games, taking place at the Public Stadium in Rothesay’s High Street, will be officially opened at 12 noon – but the action begins much earlier than that, with the first of the Highland dancing entrants expected to take to the stage at around 10am.
The Bute Games traditionally attracts dancers not just from Argyll and Bute and the west of Scotland but from all over the world – many of them using the event as the perfect warm-up ahead of the World Championships at next weekend’s Cowal Highland Gathering in Dunoon.
Meanwhile, 17 pipe bands will do battle for prizes in all grades, from novice juvenile to grade one, with the Rothesay and District grade 3 band looking to follow up their third place in last weekend’s World Championships on Glasgow Green with a strong performance in front of their home crowd, while the local novice juvenile band are sure to receive enthusiastic backing from family members and friends.
Meanwhile, 14 athletes from all over Scotland will compete for a new prize in the Bute Heavy Events Championship, presented in memory of a lifelong Games supporter, Craig Macfie, who competed in the ‘heavies’ for many years and later headed the organising of the competition.
The Craig Macfie Memorial Trophy will be presented on an annual basis to the winner of the heavy events, who already receives the Duke of Rothesay’s Trophy.
Such is the popularity of the Games’ junior heavy events that competition will get under way at 11am, to be followed later in the day by the junior athletic events on the track around the edge of the arena, and then by the keenly-contested Bute 10K road race.
Young shinty players from throughout the west of Scotland will compete for the GMB Trophy, while four members of the Bute Shinty Club team who won the Balliemore Cup in Portree last month will be represented at the Games’ opening ceremony.
Among the organisations which will have stalls around the outside of the arena are the Jimmy Reid foundation, which was formed earlier this month on the first anniversary of the death of the former journalist, broadcaster and trade union official, who lived out a happy retirement in Rothesay and was the Highland Games’ chieftain in 2003.
Also represented around the outside of the arena will be the charity Support for Soldiers, which will have a merchandise and awareness stall and will also be accepting donations of small, travel-sized items to send to the British troops serving in Afghanistan – with lip balm, sunscreen, blister plasters and other foot products understood to be in particularly high demand.
Admission to the Games, which will draw to a close at around 5.30pm and be followed by the spectacular sight of all the pipe bands marching through the streets of Rothesay, is £7 (£4 concession), with family tickets available at £20. Alcoholic drinks must not be brought into the park, but a bar tent will be in operation throughout the day; admission will be refused to anyone whose behaviour is causing annoyance of offence. Alcoholic drinks must not be brought into the park, but a bar tent will be in operation throughout the day.