Abernethy, Aberargie and Dron News

Last date for submissions

31st October 2022

Date of publication

1st December 2022


When you read this edition we will be coming up to the day of the Hill Race, The sole survivor of "Gala Week" in Abernethy so I thought this would be an appropriate time to give you a little bit of the history of the race which was first run in 1979. I remember it well!

I had a list of all the winners and their times but I gave this over a number of years ago when the Williamson Hall Committee was doing a history of Gala Week but sadly the list disappeared so all I have now is a note of the overall winners, thanks to our editor Jimmy Swan

Since the race was for everyone in Abernethy we had to have different categories: primary school children, boys and girls, senior school children boys and girls and adults men and women so somewhere there is a record of 1st 2nd and 3rd in each group. Recalling some of the names of the primary competitors, they now have children of their own who would be competitors and some of that section are now grandparents! The passage of time!

The Hill Race came about at a time when we were needing some new events to keep Gala Week alive and the inspiration came from the Lomond Race. I had a friend who competed in this so I asked him along to assess the situation on Castlelaw He thought the track would be OK and so along with John Brown then of Glentarkie Farm and other members of the Community Council plans were made. This by the way was Abernethy's first Community Council following regionalisation.

Everything was very basic at the time. First of all the track had to be marked out which was done by tying strips of cloth obtained from The Factory to whatever they could be tied to, from  the bottom of the Main Street to the top of Castlelaw. This was done by Jimmy Swan, Robin MacDonald and I can't remember who else

Numbers for the competitors were written out by hand  using different colours of card for each category and a large box of safety pins acquired to pin the numbers on the competitors' vests or tops. Registration took place in John Brown's caravan which was parked in the Square I can't remember what the entry fee was - not very much as the prize money was not very much either. The family of Borland  who owned the Butcher's Shop at that time awarded a shield for the overall winner.

The race started in the Square and finished in the Square where cold drinks were served up during the afternoon by Irene McLaren and myself.

So that was the start of the Hill Race. As far as I know there have been no casualties but lots of fun and excitement and now thirty-nine years on we keep the fingers crossed for good weather on the day and lots of entries.

Below is a list of past overall winners.  

From 1979 up to 1996

1979    Bryan Mair          18 minutes

     80   Bryan Mair           17.45     

     81   Gerald Gahan       17.45

     82   Douglas Folan      18.29

     83   Andrew Brown      18.11

     84   Douglas Folan      17.54

     85   Douglas Folan      16.54

     86   Stewart Watson    19.32

     87   Alistair Blyth          18.19

     88   Michael Walker      17.39

     89   Michael Walker      16.56

     90   Michael Walker      16.53

     91   Tom Ross               16.27

     92   Michael Walker       17.20

     93   Craig Ferguson      18.49

     94   Phil Munro              Time Unknown

I have no further record but maybe someone has who could add to the list.

                                         Hilda Clow


Having noted the very bright invitation in the last Crier to take part in the ABERNETHY CASTLELAW CHALLENGE I thought I would take a step back in time to 1979, the year of the first HILL RACE.

It was a time when we were trying to get some new ideas for Gala Week when the Hill Race was conceived, born and has now reached the age of 43!

At that time we had a full week of events to raise money for the Williamson Hall, culminating with a dance in the hall when the Pictish Maid was chosen. She was then the Gala Queen for the following year's Gala Week.

The idea came to me because I knew some people who took part in the Lomonds Race and along with John Brown from Glentarkie Farm we started making plans and joined by a group of willing helpers (most of whom are now retired) the wheels started turning.

First of all we had to check that there was a possible route. John with a scythe managed to clear a track through the Rough Glen and the route to the top was marked out using ties from the Factory tied to various branches and stakes. (Ties were strips of cloth used to hold bundles of sleeves, collars, fronts and backs of garments before they were put together).

Then we had to decide the categories

Children    8 to 12 years
Young people  13 to 16 years
       17 to 25 years
Over 25.

Next the entry fee and prize money. I can't remember how much either was, but it was not very much. Prizes would be awarded to the first three in each category, to the first female and to the over-all winner.

Registration would take place in John's caravan which would be parked in the Square and every entrant would be given a number with a safety pin to attach to their shirt or blouse. A group of young men, among them Jimmy Swan and Robin Macdonald acted as marshals on the hill to make sure everyone followed the track and did go to the top of Castlelaw. Meanwhile Irene Mclaren and myself set up a table in the square selling fresh orange juice.

So the first race was run and was won by Bryan Mair who was in the 13-16 age group in a time of 18 minutes.

I only have a note of the winners up to 1996 and the fastest time over those years was run by Tom Ross in 16 minutes 27 seconds. I am not sure how many entries there were that year but in 1980 there were 22, in1981 there were 36 and as the years passed there were more and more competitors.

Each year the race was sponsored by local businesses, Mr and Mrs Lamb in the Corner Shop, Randy and Margaret Wallace in the Hotel, the Morland family who had the butcher’s shop at that time who also gave a shield for the over-all winner, Sandy and Angela McKinnon in the Tower Bakery, A.D. Walker of A.S.A.P, and the Double M Dairy, to name a few.

It was all very Heath-Robinson at the start but the enthusiasm was there and lots of fun and I guess that is why it has continued over the years. Now it is much more sophisticated and has to comply with Health and Safety. No Health and Safety in 1979!

Julia Banks very kindly gave me the following extracts from her diary which I can share with you.

1984 Sunday June 24th

Ran in the Hill Race. Jeff came 2nd again, I came 4th

1985 Sunday June 25th

Wet morning. Hill race in the afternoon Jeff ran but I didn't. He came 1st and got a trophy and everyone got a certificate. Anne Hamilton got a trophy for 1st lady

1986 Sunday June 22nd

Hill race. Jeff ran and came 4th. I checked at the stile. Lovely warm afternoon

1987 Sunday June 21st

Nice sunny day. Catherine and I ran the hill race. Jeff officiated. Andrew and Beatrice watched.

1988 Sunday June 19th

Hill race. I left after the start to go to work.

1990 Sunday June 24th

We all ran the race, Andrew for the first time. Jeff won a prize for his fancy dress.

1991 Sunday June 23rd

Catherine and Andrew set off for the hil race. On the way up the road with them I decided to have a go as well and managed fine.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this little bit of history and that it has brought back happy memories to some of the grandparents in the village.

Hilda Clow.