Stage set for the Mearns Connections Festival 2012

Scotland’s Homecoming Celebrations in 2009 inspired the first Mearns Connections Festival and it is one of the few events started in that year in Scotland that still continues to flourish.

It has remained faithfull to its aims of raising the profile of Grassic Gibbon, Robert Burns and Joan Eardley, encouraging new works and bringing established performers to the Mearns.

Over the three years, these have included – Jack Webster, Richard Demarco, Paul Anderson, Shona Anderson, Fiona Kennedy, Sheena Wellington, John Cairney, Dougie McLean, Jimmie McGregor, Emily Smith, Patsy Reid, Nicola Auchnie and David Purdie. There have been three wonderful years of superb entertainment and fun in a beautifully attired marquee.

However, the increasing cost of tentage and unpredictable weather has caused the committee to change the format for 2012.

The Festival has been extended to four days, August 2 to August 5, but will be held in the Arbuthnott Hall for the entire weekend.

The enthusiastic committee have worked hard to put together an outstanding four days of music, song, drama, oratory and interviews with the participants including the fiddle playing Patsy Reid, accordionist Angus Lyon, American vocalist and player Laura Cortese, renowned speaker George McNeil, the legendary Robbie and Esma Shepherd and local entertainers Dennis and Lorna Collie, Dave Ramsay, Eddie Cairney, Andy Hall and Jim Brown.

The numbers will be restricted this year so it is advised that tickets are secured early. The various events will be highlighted in the local press over the next few weeks and tickets can be obtained from the Grassic Gibbon Centre 01561 361668.

On the Friday of the Festival the remarkable career of the “Celebrated Pedestrian” Captain Robert Barclay Allardice, born at Ury House, Stonehaven in 1777 will be highlighted.

The committee have been able to attract, perhaps the top sporting after dinner speaker, George McNeill of Tranent.

George ranks alongside Eric Liddell and Alan Wells as one of the fastest ever sprinters in Scotland and still holds a world record.

The late Chris Brasher, an Olympic gold medallist, described McNeill as the greatest native born sprinter that he had ever seen in Britain.

He has captivated audiences around the world with his hilarious anecdotes from his sport. There will also be songs from the talented local duo Dennis and Lorna Collie.

In the year of the London Olympics, it is appropriate that the feats of famous local athletes be celebrated in their own birthplace.

Only recently the career of Laurencekirk rower, WD Kinnear, winner of an Olympic gold medal in Stockholm in 1912, was marked by a dinner in his native town.

Captain Barclay was a man of prodigious strength displayed in wrestling, hammer throwing and caber tossing but it was his extraordinary walking feats that earned him the greatest renown.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, long distance walking was a popular spectator sport with huge crowds willing to pay entrance fees.

Barclay had many walking performances recorded but in 1809 he accomplished his most noted feat of endurance walking.

At Newmarket, he walked 1,000 miles in 1,000 successive hours with over 10,000 spectators gathering to watch the feat.

Both Captain Barclay and George McNeill have been inducted into Scotland’s Sporting Hall of Fame.

This will be a very special event, chaired by Jim Brown and only 100 tickets will be available costing £30. Order quickly from the Grassic Gibbon Centre telephone 01561 361668.