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Written by on 28/08/2017

dancers world champs

A Rousing finale was reported to end the 2017 Cowal Highland Gathering and was acclaimed that as a family day out 2017 was one of the best

Thousands of people from across the world gathered in Dunoon for the finale day of the celebrated Cowal Highland Gathering. Competitors and spectators alike joined forces to ensure the event’s spectacular Saturday was a day to remember for everyone involved.

For those who couldn’t make it Dunoon Community Radio had set up their usual outside broadcasting studio just behind the very popular Cowal Highland Gathering 2017 Photo Wall and over the two days broadcast dozens of interviews with visitors and competitors alike from all over the world there was even famous entertainers who were appearing at the Gathering and some who were just visiting and only too happy to say hello to the listeners and tell of the wonderful time they were having.


From Cowal Highland Gathering chair Ronnie Cairns to famous TV and Radio Personalities to a surprise visit from Amber the Red Squirrel and Bruce the Beaver DCR97.4FM presenters with their up to the minute results DCR97.4FM presented  a flavour of the event to the thousands of listeners worldwide who were tuned in on the internet.

It was a delight among the studio guest to welcome back Craig Anderson, Scottish Salmon Companies’ chief executive officer, with 60 sites across the west coast of Scotland and Hebrides, 21 of which are in Argyll & Bute employing 160 local staff, SSC has been recognised for its commitment to areas such as habitat management, water quality and social responsibility of the communities in which it operates.                           Earlier this month Scottish Salmon Company was awarded Friend of the Sea (FOS) certification.This prestigious endorsement came from the independent sustainability certification body which is widely recognised across international markets with stringent controls over environmental, economic and social responsibility.

Just hours after returning from a business trip to Tokyo where SSC salmon is served in restaurants 48 hours after being taken from Scottish locks the Chief Executive told how much the SSC enjoyed the relationship it has with the Cowal Highland Gathering and how proud they are to Sponsor the Heavy Events, he was delighted to see so many people supporting the Games and especially pleased to see so many family groups and invited everyone to visit  the Scottish Salmon Company Food Demonstrations to sample Scotland’s finest sea loch fresh salmon “Raised In Scotland”

From the hundreds of dancers and pipers to the heavy athletes, runners, ceilidh tent performers, stunt cyclists and many other entertainers on show, every participant contributed to what was a fantastic day’s entertainment.

The standard of competition was breathtaking, with many of the world’s top competitors giving their all in a bid go home with the silverware.


Overseeing the action was the Gathering’s Chieftain, former Sky chairman and Cowal resident Nick Ferguson CBE.

One of the highlights of the Gathering’s final day – and one of the most fiercely contested – was, as always, the Cowal Pipe Band Championship.

inveraray & District Pipe Band

This year, newly crowned world champions Inveraray and District Pipe once again managed to hold off the challenge of Johnstone Pipe Band to be crowned winners of the Grade 1 Cowal Pipe Band Championships 2017.

Among the Cowal champions in other sections and grades were:

Novice Juvenile B – Oban High School Pipe Band
Novice juvenile A – Oban High School Pipe Band
Juvenile – George Watson’s College Pipe Band
Grade 4 – Rothesay and District Pipe Band
Grade 4 MSR – Lochryan Pipe Band
Grade 3 – Kintyre Schools Pipe Band
Grade 3 MSR – Wallacetown and District Pipe Band
Grade 2 – Glasgow Skye Association
Grade 2 MSR – Glasgow Skye Association

The champion adult drum major was Liam Renton of Inveraray and District Pipe Band.

Today also saw the Argyllshire Highland Dancing competitions, with top honours going to the same trio who carried off the silverware last year. Helensburgh dancer Eilidh Gammons won in the Under 13 category, with her sister Catriona picking up the top prize in the Under 16s. The winner of the 16 years and over section was Rhiannon Charles, also from Helensburgh.

At 12.30pm at the Burgh Hall in Dunoon town centre, brave runners lined up for what must be one of the toughest 5K runs in the country – the Cowal Hill Race.

This year it was won by local man Michael Tweedley, who held off the challenge of Paul Monaghan from Greenock’s Glenpark Harriers.

The winner of the women’s race was Dunoon Hill Runner Lucie Noakes, with fellow local Emma Stewart second.

Then came the biggest Highland Dancing competition in the world – the World Championship finals – with dancers from as far afield as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and the USA pitting their skills against the best the UK has to offer.

In the end, it was Scotland’s Ellie Dalrymple from Tranent who emerged victorious in the World Juvenile (Under 16) finals, followed by Elise Cheyne from Ontario with Cyan Macleod, who had come all the way from Victoria in Australia, coming in third. The trophy for best Scottish Juvenile Dancer went to Ellie and best Overseas Juvenile Dancer to Elise.

In the World Junior (Under 18) championship, last year’s Juvenile winner Erin Blair from California just held off the challenge of Scotland’s Michelle Gordon from Huntly (2nd), with Sophie Dunn from Ontario coming third.

The best Scottish Junior Dancer was Michelle, with Erin picking up best Overseas Junior Dancer.

The biggest cheer of the day came when the results of the Adult World Championships were announced.

Last year, Ontario’s Marielle Lesperance pipped Rebecca Thow – originally from Aberdeen but now living in Alberta – to the title.

This year the pair were again inseparable, with both winning two of the four disciplines and coming second in the other two.

world champion 2

However, when the individual dance points were counted, it was Rebecca who came out top. Marielle had to settle for second, with Scotland’s Candice Walker third.

wc 2016 --

Rebecca is also taking home the Mary McHarg Quaich for best Overseas Adult Dancer. The cup for best Scottish Adult Dancer went to Candice.

Throughout the afternoon, four of the world’s hottest traditional music bands entertained the crowds in the now-famous Ceilidh Tent.

Always one of the event’s most popular draws, the line up this year featured Eriskay Lilt, Heron Valley, HO-RO and Manran and the tent was packed with an enthusiastic audience the whole afternoon.


While the bands were playing in the marquee behind the stadium, the heavy athletes and wrestlers battled it out for top honours in the stadium itself.


In the International Heavy Athletics Team competition, Germany eventually carried off the trophy with Iceland coming runners up.

In the overall individual heavy athletics, Germany’s Daniel Dorow triumphed in the men’s competition, with Scotland’s Daniel Carlin second and last year’s winner Heisi Geirmundsson from Iceland third.

In the women’s event, Lucy Marshall from England again beat off the challenge of Germany’s Sylvana Bomholt, with Iceland’s Thora Thorasteindotter third.

Scotland’s Neil Elliott and Germany’s Sylvana Bomholt were crowned men’s and women’s caber toss champions respectively.

The wrestling this year featured 30 wrestlers from three countries – Scotland, Iceland and Germany.

The Female Open section was won by Scotland’s Katie McCulloch from Hamilton, with Iceland’s Margaret Runadottir runner up.

In the men’s Open competition, Iceland’s Gudmundur Stefan Gunnarsson held off the challenge of his compatriot Gunnar Logasson to take the title.

The weight category winners were – for the third year in a row – Hamilton’s Sam McCrory in the 9 and a half stone category. His clubmate Ryan Ferrey won both the 11 and a half stone and 13 and a half stone categories, and Hamilton had a clean sweep when Greg Neilson took the 15 and a half stone title.

This year, there was a bigger and better selection of entertainment for all ages than ever before.

One of the most popular draws once again proved to be the Clan mountain bike stunt team, which returned to Cowal once again to perform their gravity-defying shows to packed audiences.

Another show-stopper was the Ridgeside Falconry display team, which was making it’s first visit to Cowal .

A highlight for the younger visitors was once again ‘Artie’s Tartan Tales’. Veteran entertainer Artie Tresize – who spent 30 years as one half of The Singing Kettle – uses a tartan trunk full of souvenirs and trinkets as props for his traditional but interactive Scottish storytelling sessions.

Cowal Highland Gathering chair Ronnie Cairns said the event would go down as one of the most memorable in recent times.

He stressed that its success was in no small part due to the ongoing efforts and support of the people of Dunoon and the wider Cowal community, as well as the event’s sponsors.

“On behalf of the Gathering’s organisers, I would like to thank everyone who has worked so hard and contributed so much over the last few months and years to ensure Cowal Highland Gathering continues to go from strength to strength. I hope they’re pleased with the results of their efforts,” Ronnie said.

“I’d also like to thank the thousands of people who have come out to support the Gathering over the last three days. We’ve welcomed spectators not just from Argyll and Bute and Scotland more generally but from right around the globe, and the feedback we’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Of course we wouldn’t have a Gathering at all without the wonderful competitors, who excelled themselves this year. Those of us lucky enough to have been here witnessed levels of performance never seen before.

“We all know how popular the traditional Highland Games events such as the piping, dancing and heavy athletics are, and of course they remain the main draw. However, we’re delighted with the feedback we’ve had over the last couple of years on some of our newer attractions, and we’ll continue to look for ways to keep Cowal at the top of the list of Fun Family Days Out in Scotland in the future.

“A big thank you again to everyone involved, and I hope we’ll see you back again next year”.

Craig Anderson, Chief Executive of The Scottish Salmon Company, sponsor of this year’s Gathering, said: “This year’s Cowal Highland Gathering will definitely be one to remember. It was a great event that we are proud to support. We are committed to playing an active role in the communities where we live and the Gathering, with its unique atmosphere and world-class competitors, resonates with our values of pride, passion and provenance.

“I would like to congratulate the winners and competitors for their hard work and entertaining the crowd. Community spirit was definitely clear to see around Dunoon this weekend. The pride, passion and dedication Ronnie, the Gathering committee and all the volunteers have is amazing to see and they deserve huge congratulations for their hard work.”

Stuart Turner, Head of EventScotland, said: “Congratulations to Ronnie and his team for putting on another fantastic event. From the world’s best highland dancers, pipers and athletes to Clan mountain bike stunt team and the traditional music bands in the Ceilidh Tent, Dunoon has truly been the perfect stage.

“The Cowal Highland Gathering is a key cultural event for the region and Scotland, and we are delighted to have once again supported such a successful event.”

Dunoon residents and visitors are already starting to line the streets for the Gathering’s show-stopping finale this evening – the massing of the bands and their march down Argyll Street.

The final act of this year’s event, as usual, will be the spectacular Western Ferries firework display at Dunoon’s Coal Pier which starts at 9.00pm.

For more information about the Gathering, please visit its website at or contact the event office by emailing or phoning 01369 703206.

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