Mystery of missing trophy handed to the Highland's greatest athlete

Mystery of the missing rose bowl trophy handed to the Scottish Highland’s greatest athlete and last seen in the 1980s in Coventry as the historic sporting event is resurrected

  • Dwindling populations saw the end of the Cabrach Picnic and Games in 1935
  • A search for the Cabrach Rose Bowl is now on after the event restarted last July

It was once the highest sporting accolade in a tiny Scots village.

Now a nationwide search has been launched for a Highland Games trophy almost a century after it was last awarded.

The Cabrach Picnic and Games was an annual event between 1877 and 1935 until the area’s dwindling population made it unviable.

But now the games have been resurrected, the search is now on for the exquisite silver Rose Bowl trophy once awarded to the area’s strongest athlete.

Charles Taylor was the last man to be awarded the bowl. It was passed down, inherited and later tracked down in the 1980s before it vanished again.

Charlie Murray (pictured), chair of the Royal Scottish Highland Games Association, said the trophy represents ‘key component’ of the Highland Games

The Cabrach Rose Bowl last seen in the 1980s after being given to Charles Taylor (pictured) by his father who won the trophy in the 1930s

The Cabrach Picnic and Games was restarted last year after the area’s dwindling populations made the games unviable in 1935 

Organisers are now appealing to anyone who knows the whereabouts of the trophy.

Charlie Murray, chair of the Royal Scottish Highland Games Association said: ‘The Cabrach Rose Bowl represents a key component of the history of Scottish Highland Games.

‘Silverware like this is steeped in the heritage of traditional Highland sport, and it is culturally very significant that such prizes remain as the reward for the finest athletes that grace our games.’ 

Scottish Highland Games are among the most popular events in the country, including the Braemar Gathering attended annually by the Queen until her death on September 8 2022.

Last year, days before he was to come become King, Charles represented the Royal family alongside Princess Anne and Queen Camilla at the Highland event. 

A poster advertising the last Cabrach Picnic and Games from the 1930s 

Locals watching a bagpipe player at the Cabrach Picnic and Games in 1922

The Cabrach Picnic and Games was held for the first time in 87 years last July after being called off in 1935

Spanning sparsely populated hills and heather moors in the North East of Scotland, Cabrach sits to the south of Dufftown and Huntly.

The first and second world wars caused depopulation and decline in the area and brought an end to the games with fewer than 100 people living in the area.

As part of regenerating the area The Carbrach Trust – which formed in 2011 – worked to see the event make a comeback last year for the first time in 87 years.

Last July, more than 200 people enjoyed food and drink, Highland dancing, and traditional Highland sports.

Michael Kidd (left) and Charlie Murray (right) at the newly revived Cabrach Picnic and Games

Cabrach sits in the sparsely populated hills of north-east Scotland and suffered major depopulation during the two world wars

Locals at the Cabrach Picnic and Games in the 1920s

Competitors at the Cabrach Picnic and Games in the 1920s

The Trust, along with the Cabrach Community Association, also plan to grow the event after relaunching it last year -hopefully awarding the Rose Bowl to the top-performing competitor.

The trophy was presented in 1926 by a John Harper, a native of Upper Cabrach and a high-ranking officer in the Hong Kong police force.

It was at that time Mr Taylor claimed the prize in its first year.

He lost it in 1927 but reclaimed it in consecutive years before he was eventually awarded the bowl outright.

The silverware was discovered in 1984 in the hands of his eldest son Ron Taylor who at that time lived in Coventry.

Mr Taylor has since died and the whereabouts of the elusive Rose Bowl was once again lost but organisers and the board of the Cabrach Trust are determined to finding it.

A girl performs a highland dance at the Cabrach Picnic and Games

Highland dancers perform at the newly revived games that were attended by 2,000 people last year

CEO of The Trust Jonathan Christie said: ‘We are committed to reintroducing The Cabrach Picnic and Games to the local calendar for people from near and far to enjoy.

‘Having relaunched this important event, we now need the traditional top prize.

‘We have a team working on relocating The Rose Bowl and would ask anyone with any inkling of its whereabouts to get in touch with us.’

The aim of the Trust charity is to breathe life back into the Cabrach after decades of depopulation and decline.

Last year, more than 2,000 people visited the Cabrach to enjoy a new Discovery Trail and learn about plans for the development of a family-friendly destination, visitor centre, and working distillery.

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