By Chad Ullom
When I first heard from Stevie Shanks that he was hoping for a gathering of anyone that had lifted the Dinnie Stones to come together at Potarch I couldn’t have been more excited! I got my Dinnie trainers back out and started working up to the full weight. At some point in May, I saw that there were plans to walk the stones over the bridge! I let my ego get the best of me and sent Stevie a message that I’d like to give the walk a shot! Just as I was thinking this was a bad idea, Stevie sent me the schedule with the rules. A carry and drop would be allowed and you can continue as long as your hands don’t let go.
My wife and I really made a great trip out of this! We did a great tour of Scotland, spent a couple of days on the Orkney islands and really had a great trip. Even managed to lift the Dalwhinnie Stone a few days prior. The night we arrived in Aberdeen we met a really nice American staying at our hotel who didn’t have a car or anything to do so we invited him to the Aboyne games with us the next day. The Aboyne games were amazing! As we were walking into the gate, we hear “and now her Majesty the Queen will douse the new caber with Scotch to officially dedicate the newly made Aboyne games caber…” What???!! The Queen was here?? The crowd was huge, so we never got a chance to see her, but on the news that night saw that, sure enough, it was Queen Elizabeth.
I knew the Dinnie stones were usually at the Aboyne games, but couldn’t see them anywhere. We met up with Travis Willingham and decided to walk around after watching some the Highland Games comp and finally went to the overseas tent. There they were! We had walked right past them when we arrived but the crowd was too big to see. The butterflies started right away! Jim Splaine, Jack and Stevie Shanks along with James Grahame from Australia were posing for a pic right when we got there!
The morning of the gathering I could hardly sleep. Our new American friend, Roberto, was really interested so we invited him along. This really helped Tasha, because I wasn’t in much shape for conversation for the whole day! As soon as we were ready to make the drive, the butterflies started. We got registered and just started talking to old friends and making new ones. It was great to see the people that showed up for this, Stevie did an outstanding job. Terry and Jan Todd from Texas were there, David Webster, Bruce Aitken (maybe the greatest scottish hammer thrower of all time!) and many others.
The lifting started at noon and I was scheduled to walk at 2:50! The waiting was really tough! It was even harder because a lot of people that had lifted the stones in the past were really having a hard time. I was starting to second guess my walk attempt and thought seriously about just jumping in for a lift. As I was on my way to the car, Mark Haydock talked me out of it.
After the lifting attempts were finished, they moved the stones to the bridge. They had us all line up and we paraded up to the bridge being led by a pipe band! That was a great moment. Luckily, I was second up so I didn’t have to wait too long. There were mats laid out across the bridge and the first person to attempt, Brian Irwin from Northern Ireland, made it all the way!
Finally, it’s my turn. To make sure I had enough energy to go as far as possible after talking to some people about, I was trying to pull just enough to clear the ground and move them. For some reason, the light stone was giving me more trouble. At one point, I dragged it to catch up and got a warning for this from Stevie. If it happens a 3rd time, you have to stop. I think I made it about 10 feet and my legs just gave out on me, I wasn’t getting any more clearance at all.
After two more attempts, Mark Haydock was up last and he really put on a show! I had been watching his training leading up to this, and the only question in my mind was if he was going to try and carry them side by side the whole way! In the end, Mark did the straddle like everyone else. He completed the 17 feet in 1:40! About 2/3 of the way, he smashed the small stone into his right ankle and there was concern that he had really damaged it or possibly torn his Achilles. In the end, it turned out to be nothing serious (thankfully).
This was such a special event to be a part of, I really wish Al and James Gardner could have been there, but each had other commitments. I was extremely honored and humbled to be a part of it. I can’t thank Stevie Shanks enough for putting this together. It was conceived while they were making Stoneland. If you haven’t seen that, put that on your list immediately! It has been viewed over 16 million times on youtube.