Edinburgh calling for the march of the Lonach Highladers

For more than 175 years, generations of men from the same secluded glen in The Cairngorms have marched together every summer in a show of friendship, family and tradition.
The Lonach Highlanders, who this summer will march together for the 176th time. PIC: Contributed.The Lonach Highlanders, who this summer will march together for the 176th time. PIC: Contributed.
The Lonach Highlanders, who this summer will march together for the 176th time. PIC: Contributed.

Now, this summer, the Lonach Highlanders are to step out of their Aberdeenshire heartlands and onto the esplanade at Edinburgh Castle for the first time when they appear at the Royal Military Tattoo.

Dressed in full Highland regalia and armed with their trade mark Lochaber axes and eight-foot pikes, around 75 of Strathdon’s finest will travel to the capital in August to take part of the spectacle which this year has a new focus on Scotland’s clan culture.

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The Lonach men, believed to be the largest body of non-military men to carry ceremonial weapons, have been invited to take part in the performance on August 14 by Lord Forbes, chief of the Forbes clan.

Jennifer Stewart, secretary and chief executive of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, said it was an “honour” to be invited to the event.

She added: “Television recording will be taking place on the night that we are parading. If we make the director’s cut then there is potential for millions of people around the world to learn about Lonach.”

Membership is drawn from residents of the local area who descend from the Forbes, Wallace and Gordon clans.

It current patron is Sir James Forbes, 8th Baronet of Newe and Edinglassie, who is based in Calfornia and works in the wine and whisky trade.

He is the great, great, great grandson of Sir Charles Forbes, 1st Baronet of Newe & Edinglassie, who arranged the first Lonach gathering and games in 1823 to extend the goodwill shown by the community on the 21st birthday of his son.

Since then, the tradition of the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games has been broken only by two world wars.

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Society membership currently stands at 227 men with the recent addition of young recruits a welcome boost to the ranks.

Each year, the Lonach men march around six miles, from Strathdon to Bellabeg and back, and stop at the homes of six prominent residents on the way.

At each house, a dram is raised to the cry of “ho, ho Lonach!” in a toast to the health of the area and its people.

For many years, Billy Connolly and his wife Pamela Stephenson hosted one of the dram stops at their former home Candacraig House, which they sold in 2015. The couple regularly attended the gathering with celebrity friends, including Steve Martin, Dame Judi Dench and the late Robin Williams.

The event, this year on August 26, attracts around 10,000 people, with 2017 marking the 176th time the gathering has been held.

Ms Stewart added: “Attending the Tattoo will be a great warm up for the 176th Lonach Highland Gathering and Games just 12 days later.

“If you think the sight of 75 Lonach Highlanders marching is special, the sight and sound of 200 of them, pikes aloft, marching through picturesque Strathdon is one to behold, and not to be missed.”