Abernethy, Aberargie and Dron News

Last date for submissions

31st October 2022

Date of publication

1st December 2022

A scan through the Perthshire Advertiser  for 1909 shows that various sports took place which have long since vanished from the local scene. It seems that there was much more locally based sport com- pared with nowadays. I will deal with three aspects

– curling, golf and the Abernethy Highland Games.

Curling took place only in winter time when temper- atures were low enough to freeze the local ponds. The parish had two ponds, one half a mile south east of the village near the Nethy Burn and another near Ayton House, close by the River Farg. The local club was called The Abernethy and Ayton Curling Club. In 1909 we read of the club competing against Methven and also Cairney & Dupplin.   Does  anyone have any anecdotes of curling on the local ponds.

Abernethy’s golf course opened in May 1909 on the land now occupied by the Sutherland Crescent etc. houses. A photo of the occasion can be seen in our local museum.  “The course was laid out by Willie Auchterlonie, St. Andrews. It is conveniently situated for the village on suitable ground, and for an inland course presents some long and sporting holes. The membership is already over 80.” The club was opened by the Club President, Mr N J Nasmyth of Glenfarg, who “had great pleasure in presenting a silver cup to the club for competition. The Captain, Mr D Wishart, received the cup on behalf of the Club.” Does anyone know whatever happened to this cup? The club did not have a long history. During the First World War the course was ploughed up for food production and was never revived.

According to local newspaper reports, Abernethy Highland Games started in 1884. The Games ceased during World War 1 and I have not been able to source any reports for the post-war period, though there are some indications that they may have resumed.  Detailed information and photographs of the Games may be seen in the Museum of Abernethy.

The Games of 1909 included the following events:- Flat races at 120 yards, 300 yards,  440 yards and 880 yards; The Running High Leap; Throwing the Hammer; Putting the Stone; Wrestling; Tug of War; Cycling Racing (3 miles and 2 miles); Pole Vaulting and The Pillow Fight. There were six different dancing events. One race was restricted to local fishermen and another to farm servants only.

Competitors came from far and wide. In 1909 prize winners of the open events were from Cardenden, Dundee, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Leven, Newburgh, New Gilston, Partick, Penicuik and Perth.

The PA of 28/08/09 in its report of The Games gives a long list (35 names) of Perthshire notables who were in attendance. The report begins:- “Although the weather was showery there was a large attendance at the Abernethy Games on Wednesday afternoon. The popularity of the gathering seems to be increasing with the passing of the years ...... The Balgonie Colliery Silver Band discoursed a number of pleasing selections during the afternoon, while Messrs. Hamil and Williams, trick cyclists and variety entertainers, kept the company amused. The arrangements were admirably carried out by Mr J Haggart and a committee.”

Incredibly the same issue of the PA has a second article on the Abernethy Games (by “Onlooker”).  He states “The dancing pleased the large concourse of spectators immensely, the cake walk being perhaps the star turn.”  The Games day usually ended with a local dance held in the old school playground, now James Roy Court.  However in 1909 this was not the case: -

“....the evening though dull, was fine, and there was a large turnout at the dancing in the Games Park.  It is rather curious that the dancing after having been held from almost time immemorial in the playground of the school should have to take place in the Games Park.  Grass is not suitable for dancing, and it would be interesting to know on what grounds the School Board refused the use of the playground this season.  Surely when it is a local demand, and not an absurd demand, there should be no retarding the success of the Abernethy Games which is coming to be one of the leading gatherings in Scotland.  The meeting means much to Abernethy generally speaking, and the gentlemen who, year in year out, do their best to raise the standard of them are deserving of the greatest praise.  The Abernethy Games of 1909 will long be remembered.”

The Museum of Abernethy is keen to acquire any artefacts, leaflets, photos or information concerning sport, but especially relating to leisure-based clubs and societies, which have existed in the parish, e.g. youth organisations, drama.  There will be a special centenary display on the Girl Guides when the museum opens in the middle of May.