Skill, strength and musical talent gather for Cowal extravaganza

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Thousands of people from across the world came to Dunoon for the 125th Cowal Highland Gathering, one of Argyll’s biggest showpiece events.

From the hundreds of dancers and pipe band members, to heavy athletes, ceilidh bands, axe throwers and many other entertainers, this was a fantastic three days of entertainment between Thursday August 29 and Saturday August 31.

The wet weather which had made the Friday interesting for dancers and solo pipers was forgotten on the Gathering’s final day, the weather improving as the competition heated up.

Royal Burgh of Stirling Pipe Band won the Grade 1 Cowal Pipe Band Championships 2019 to take home the famous Argyll Shield.

In the other grades, Kintyre Schools Novice Juvenile B won the 15-strong Grade 4B competition, with Oban High School and Dunoon Grammar School in seventh and 11th place respectively.

Mid Argyll Pipe Band took first place in the Grade 4A contest with an excellent season-ending performance, beating Lower Clyde Pipes and Drums into second place. Rothesay and District took third, while Kintyre Schools were placed fourth.

In Grade 3, Stockbridge took the honours ahead of Oban High School. The Grade 3 March, Strathspey and Reel competition was a different story, as Oban took first. But the Grade 4A Mid Argyll band proved they are not out of place in the higher grade when they took the second prize.

In a successful day in Dunoon for Oban High School, the band also came third in Grade 2 and won the Grade 2 MSR.

Saturday also saw the Argyllshire Highland dancing competitions, for dancers who live in Argyll and Bute, with top honours in the under 13 category Premier going to Eilidh Gammons from Helensburgh, with Solana McMurchy from Campbeltown winning the under 13 Intermediate category. Top prize in the 13 and under 16 category Premier went to Isla Flint from Helensburgh. Linzi Cameron from Campbeltown triumphed in the 16 years and over class.

The biggest Highland dancing competition in the world – the World Championship finals – saw dancers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA pitting their skills against the best the UK has to offer.

Throughout Saturday afternoon, some of the world’s hottest traditional music bands entertained the crowds in the now-famous live music tent, with multi award-winning Tiree band Skerryvore bringing down the house.

They were joined by up-and-coming bands Beinn Lee and Rhuvaal, alongside harmonica maestro Donald Black.

While they were entertaining in the Live Music Tent, the heavy athletes and wrestlers battled it out for top honours in the stadium.

In the international heavy athletics team competition, Scotland carried off the trophy, with Iceland runners-up.

Daniel Carlin from Scotland triumphed in the men’s heavy events individual competition, with Heisi Geirmundson from Iceland just half a point behind in second.

In the women’s event, Mhairi Porterfield from Scotland beat off the challenge of Christina Scheffaur from Austria.

Cowal Highland Gathering chairman Ronnie Cairns said: ‘It’s very rewarding for everyone involved in its organisation to see and hear how much people enjoy it,’ he said.

‘There are so many people working away behind the scenes to ensure everything is as good as it can possibly be by the time the last weekend in August arrives and I’d like to thank all our supporters, volunteers and sponsors for once again pulling it off.

‘I’d like to thank everyone for ensuring it has been such a great event and we very much look forward to welcoming everyone back to Dunoon for the 2020 Gathering.’

Craig Anderson, chief executive of headline sponsor Scottish Salmon Company said: ‘Once again the Cowal Highland Gathering 2019 was a great success. We’re very proud to be a long-term sponsor of the event.’

If you know of any Cowal Highland Gathering success we haven’t featured, send photos and details to