Top speaker for festival

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THE Mearns Connections Festival has decided to 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 on Friday, August 3, and the committee members have been able to attract perhaps the top sporting after dinner speaker, George McNeill of Tranent.

George ranks along side 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 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 1000 miles in 1000 successive hours with over 10000 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 from the Grassic Gibbon Centre (telephone 01561 361668).