Massed pipe bands at the Aboyne Highland Games
Massed pipe bands at the Aboyne Highland Games

A 3000 mile trek to honour his Scots great-grandfather

Forget walking 500 miles, Duncan Mackintosh, great-grandson of one of Aboyne Highland Games’ founding fathers, will travel 3000 miles to make the journey from his homeland in America to north-east Scotland to attend the event.

As part of the Aboyne Highland Games’ 150th anniversary celebrations two years ago, William Mackintosh was identified as one of the 20 men who organised the inaugural games back in 1867.

The Aboyne Highland Games is a traditional Scottish highland games that is held annually in Aberdeenshire on the first Saturday in August. The event is held under the patronage of Granville Gordon, the 13th Marquis of Huntly and draws in up to 10,000 people each year. Traditional events include highland dancing, tossing the caber, piping and fiddle competitions.

When the current committee of the Aboyne Highland Games asked Aberdeen and North-East Scotland Family History Society to investigate the names of the founding committee listed in the event’s book from 1867, they discovered Lord Provost of Aboyne. This title was then revealed to be held by William Mackintosh who was born in 1830 in the Inverness-shire parish of Daviot and Dunlichity.

Upon discovering this connection, William’s great-grandson Duncan decided he would attend the Highland Games in a celebration of his family’s connection with the event. Duncan’s wife and two daughters will join him on this journey at the beginning of August to learn more about the context of their family history.

Duncan said: ‘I knew my family came from Aboyne, but did not know anything about my great-grandfather’s connection with Aboyne Highland Games or being Lord Provost of Aboyne.

When my father and I visited in 1967 he showed me where the family had stayed at Mill Cottage in Aboyne before they moved to Aberdeen. Learning what we have in the past year has filled in some of the blanks about our Scottish family tree and opens doors to enable further exploration.’

Massed pipe bands at the Aboyne Highland Games

Duncan’s grandfather and the youngest child of William Mackintosh, also called William, was born in Aboyne in 1879 and, like his own father, worked in the insurance industry in Aberdeen. In 1912 he moved to America and got married there 2 years later. William died when Duncan’s father was only 13 so this, along with his move to America, left the family with little knowledge about its paternal Scottish heritage.

The family has a great interest in its ancestry and one of Duncan’s cousins published a book on their family history. Duncan himself also used his Scottish heritage as inspiration for his novel ‘Three Times to Freedom’.

Duncan said: ‘We’re really excited about our visit to Aboyne and celebrating our family’s link with Aboyne Highland Games. It sounds like a fantastic even with lots going on – bagpipes, Highland Dancing, tug o’ war and all the athletic events. What more could you ask for as a celebration of Scottish culture. From memory, Aboyne is in a beautiful setting, so it should be a great day.’

As well as their visit to Aboyne, the Mackintosh family plan to spend time in Dornoch where Duncan’s father went for holidays and visit Inverness-shire where the family can be traced back to. They also hope to catch up with their Scottish cousins and learn more about their Scottish roots in the two weeks they are there.

The chairman of Aboyne Highland Games, Alistair Grant said: ‘When we set out to build a picture of our founding committee as part of our 150th anniversary celebrations in 2017, we never expected to be contacted by one of their descendants living overseas. We were surprised when Duncan got in touch and are thrilled that he and his family are making the journey across the Atlantic to attend this year’s Aboyne Highland Games.

‘Aboyne Highland Games has always had an international outlook, welcoming visitors from around the world. Another member of the founding committee, Donald Dinnie, also helped popularise Highland Games globally in the late nineteenth century. Scotland’s diaspora is rightly proud of its history and heritage.

‘The Highland Games is a major draw for them and each year we witness that passion in our clan village.’

This year’s Aboyne Highland Games will take place on Saturday 3rd August on the Village Green in Aboyne. It starts at 10:30am with events running throughout the afternoon.