SCOTLAND IS making a name for itself internationally, as a force to be reckoned with on the Tug of War circuit. Recently returning from the European championships in Ireland, Ayrshire ToW ladies won a gold medal in the 520kg club competition and scooped up silver in the 520kg closed category – competing as the Scottish national team.

The ladies add these medals to a string of excellent performances over the past few months, which has seen them top the charts at both national and UK championships. The Scottish Farmer went along to Ayrshire ToW’s Monday evening training session, to get a glimpse behind the scenes of what it takes to be part of the team and why budding enthusiasts should look to get involved.

Located in a polytunnel at High Kilbride Farm in Stewarton, is the setting for Ayrshire’s training sessions, complete with a pulley machine, which allows the members to practice hauling different weight loads without the interference of an opposing team. 24-year-old Ashley Sparks recently joined the Scotland team and travels through from Brechin to practice with the squad. She explained how the pulley system works and why ‘live feed’ scenarios are a necessity ahead of competition: “The pulley is a good warm up to get you on the rope without needing the whole group there. We build as much weight on to the resistance as you want, and it is a great way to get your feet working.

“Practicing a ‘live feed’ or ‘live pull’ gives you the experience of a live competition, as you can better practice your defence and establish your rhythm as a team, with the full eight individuals on the rope including the anchor.”

She explained that all pullers are required to wear steel plated boots, which allow them to dig their feet in to the ground and hold their position whilst the rope is under tension.

Ayrshire ToW member Ross Baird has been competing both at a UK and international level for four years and explained the level of training which is expected: “We train as a group twice a week on a Monday and Thursday evening and during the summer months are competing most weekends. We are expected to do general fitness on the evenings we’re not training to build up our endurance levels.

“It is a great sport for young farmers to consider, as it’s based outdoors and is very competitive,” he continued. “However, farmers are known for their strength, but ToW is more focused on technique and stamina - so be warned.”

The Scottish Farmer:

The ladies practice a live pull ahead of competition

Alice Allan joined Ayrshire ToW team back in April this year, with the intent of competing alongside her sister Louise at the Royal Highland Show, where they both went on to be part of the winning team in the SAYFC national final. She explained some of the opportunities which are on offer to people looking to take up the sport:

“Tug of war introduces you to so many amazing people, whilst opening up a door to compete on a global stage, if you so wish to do so. The girls have been to South Africa for the world championships where they brought back a gold medal – that’s a lifetime achievement. If you want to strive to reach as far as that, coach Colin will take you as far as he can get you.”

Ayrshire ToW coach Colin Montgomery emphasised the enthusiasm and dedication of their members: “Some of our members travel from as far as Aberdeen, Brechin, Alloa, Biggar and Girvan, and one of our youngest pullers was eight years old and currently our oldest is 63 – anyone can take part,” he urged.

“I take great satisfaction seeing the development of the team – it’s a very rewarding process. You have people arriving as very green, inexperienced pullers and now some of them have been coming for 15 years and are fully at the pinnacle of what they can achieve.”

Colin used to compete himself before he made the switch to coaching and explained that there is a hard part to the job: “We work in weight categories so we’re always manipulating and calculating folks’ weights, depending on the category they are due to compete in. We have to think ahead and sometimes comes the ruthless decision where someone isn’t getting on the team,” he stressed.

Club ToW chairman Alexander Speirs gave some insight in to the different weight categories which pullers can compete in: “Any major competition we chose to take part in requires a ‘weigh-in’ before the rounds begin and the members will then go on to pull in several weight categories over the course of the weekend. The men compete in five weights including; 560kg; 600kg; 640kg; 680kg and 720kg. Women compete in four categories including; 500kg; 520kg; 540kg and 560kg, then a mixed team of boys and girls will pull at 580kg,” he explained. “Our members will compete in local competitions all summer but there are three major comps a year - the national championships, UK championships and either a European or world championships, which take place on alternate years.”

Louise Allan has been a member of Ayrshire ToW for five years and was part of the Scotland team who won gold at the world championships in South Africa in 2018. She was keen to highlight ToW as powerful outlet for the farming community at a time where mental wellbeing in the sector is under huge strain: “The team efforts that go in to this sport are unbelievable - you spend six to nine months of a year with this squad and they become a family to you. In this day and age, when mental health and wellbeing is at an all-time low in the agricultural community, with an increase in suicides, it can mean a huge deal to be part of a community,” she stressed.

“ToW has made a huge difference in my life – I have made friendships I will keep for the rest of my life and I have seen a huge change in my overall fitness and health.”

The Scottish Farmer:

Ayrshire ToW practice at High Kilbride Farm in Stewarton

Experienced puller Lauren Kennedy has been involved with Ayrshire ToW for 10 years and is excited for what’s next on the horizon: “I never imagined being a British & Irish champion, never mind European and world! But our work isn’t done yet, we’ll start working towards worlds next year which are in Basque Country and qualifiers for the world games in Alabama in 2021, the equivalent to our Olympics.

“There have been so many people who have paved the way for us to pick up the medals and I am eternally grateful lot them all, on the rope, behind the scenes and our sponsors and supporters have all made this possible! A huge thank you to the sponsorship support we have received from The Padaro Bar and Restaurant, R W Warnock Agricultural suppliers, A J Craig Ayrshire HGV services and general haulage, APS Ayrshire Plant Services, Henry Bennett Sawmiller and Fencing Contractor, Craig Wilson Ltd livestock auctioneers, J & S Montgomery and Saltire tags by J M Anderson Farm supplies,” she concluded.

If anyone is interested in signing up to get involved with ToW they can track down their local club and contact details via the Scottish ToW website at