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  • Ryan Joyce

Caber Throwing, Heavy Events & The Unturnable Caber at Fergus Scottish Festival & Highland Games

Fergus Scottish Festival & Highland Games is Canada's largest Highland festival, happening every August for over 75 years.


One of the many anticipated events is the Heavies including Stone, Weight for Distance, Hammer, Caber and Weight for Height. In this post we'll learn a little about these events and the festival's challenge caber, called The Unturnable Caber.


Take a look here:

I was thrilled to produce this 7-minute video for the Fergus Scottish Festival's second virtual festival.


In the video we are introduced to Warren Trask, Heavies Chair at the Fergus Scottish Festival and an athlete for over 37 years and his son Jamie Trask. Jamie is also a professional Heavy Events Athlete.

Here are the 5 heavy events they cover

Or as Jamie put it "...we threw heavy stuff, far accurate and high."

We filmed these events just outside of Fergus, in the neighbouring community of Alma for the 2021 "Digital Ceilidh 2 Go." It was the second virtual Scottish festival and a sanctioned competition. All of the athletes' throws went into the database to allow the athletes to rank on a national level for future championships.

During this phase of the pandemic, we were limited to social gathering sizes. Invited to the competition was the festival's board of directors, and a limited number of sponsors, and volunteers.

The weather forecast called for rain all day-- it didn't disappoint.

Before things got too wet a local drone operator managed to capture a few of the early moments from the air. Here's a shot from the drone as the eight athletes are piped out by Peter Piper.

Heavy Event Athletes

Heavy Event Competition featured the following eight athletes:

  • Jamie Trask

  • Alex McCormick

  • Lorne Colthart

  • Fraser Clark

  • Craig McCormick

  • Neil Lowrie

  • Jacob Fast

  • Jessie Trask

25lbs Stone

Before the rain got too heavy, the competitors managed to get some pretty dry stone throws.

The Stone is one of the main Highland Games heavy athletic events. The weight of the stone may vary from 16 to 26 lb for men or 8 to 18 lb for women. Ordinary stone rock is frequently used instead of a steel ball.

Today the competitors are throwing a 25lb pound stone.

56lbs & 28lbs Weight for Distance

In Weight for Distance Heavy Event, competitors are given a ball and chain and can only swing with one hand. The 56 for Distance is thrown with two spins and the competitor throws the weight for maximum distance.

Things weren't looking good for the weather, at this point, the rain was beginning to pick up. Things got a bit trickier for the athletes, especially grip and footwork.

22 & 16 lbs Hammer

The athletes did two hammers throws, a 22-pound and a 16-pound Scottish hammer. The hammer is made from a metal ball attached to a wooden pole or handle. The athletes spike themselves into the ground with blades on their boots and spin the hammer around their head and throw it as far as they can.

Caber

The term "caber" comes from the Scottish Gaelic word cabar, which references a wooden beam. The objective of tossing the caber is to make it turn end over end, falling away from the tosser. Ideally, it should fall directly away from the tosser in the "12 o'clock" position. The distance thrown is unimportant.

As soon as began the caber toss event it began to rain heavily.

The athletes used lots of chalk to help improve grip but we were in a full downpour at this point.

The athletes need to move down the field balancing the caber in the pouring rain. Jamie's feet slipped out underneath him trying to stop in the wet grass.

The caber went flying and Jamie was unharmed.

56lbs Weight for Height

A 56lbs weight is thrown with one hand, overhead for maximum height.


The Weight for Height is a 56lb mass attached to a round handle. Athletes throw the 56lb weight over a bar using a technique that does not allow foot movement.


Each athlete gets three attempts to clear each height. They may choose to pass lower heights, but when they choose to enter the competition, they cannot pass again.


20lbs Sheaf Toss

The sheaf toss is a traditional Scottish agricultural sport event originally beginning at country fairs. A pitchfork is used to hurl a burlap bag stuffed with straw over a horizontal bar above the competitor's head.

It's featured at many Scottish Highland games but sheaf toss is not technically a heavy athletics sport. Jamie says, "we do it here for fun."

I got a real close-up of the sheaf toss.

The rain certainly made for some interesting mishaps but the day was a huge success. Everyone had a fantastic day and Jamie Trask encourages others to get involved in the sport:

Don't be. Don't be afraid to try it. You know, you come out and you throw with someone that's that's done it. It's it's a sport where everybody helps each other.

The Unturnable Caber

The Unturnable Caber is known as a Challenge Caber. Here Warren shares the measurements and what makes it, unturnable.

"It's an ironwood 20 feet 5 inches it weighs 140lbs with virtually no taper which makes it very difficult to turn. It's got just about everything going against it."

Length, weight and a lack of taper make this caber nearly impossible to turn.

The caber's height had been reduced by one foot every year until being successfully turned by two athletes.

We put a $500 dollar bounty on it the first year and increased the bounty by $500 dollars every year since. It's now over eight years since it was turned. So the next athlete that turns the caber will get four thousand dollars for turning it.

Will the Unturnable Caber be flipped next year? Come and see for yourself!

Heavy Events Photo Gallery


Interested in learning more about the Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games? Check out this page or visit their official website.

If you enjoyed this article, tap that heart button below or leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you!

We also taped a camera to Caber and tossed it. Want to see?

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