Amazing walker’s tale at festival

ON AUGUST 3, the Mearns Connections Festival will highlight the remarkable career of the celebrated pedestrian, Captain Robert Barclay Allardice, born at Ury House, Stonehaven in 1777.

A dinner will be held in the Arbuthnott Hall with 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 medalist, described McNeill as the greatest native born sprinter that he had ever seen in Britain. There will also be songs from the talented local duo of 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 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 1000 successive hours with over 10,000 spectators gathering to watch the feat.

Only 100 tickets are available, costing £30. Order from the Grassic Gibbon Centre, 01561 361668.