Highland games

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Opening ceremonies of 2004 Canmore Highland games

Highland games are events held throughout the year in Scotland and other countries as a way of celebrating Scottish and Celtic culture and heritage, especially that of the Scottish Highlands. Certain aspects of the games are so well known as to have become emblematic of Scotland, such as the bagpipes, the kilt, and the heavy events, especially the caber toss. While centred on competitions in piping and drumming, dancing, and Scottish heavy athletics, the games also include entertainment and exhibits related to other aspects of Scottish and Gaelic culture.

The Cowal Highland Gathering, better known as the Cowal Games, held in Dunoon, Scotland, every August, is the largest Highland games in the world,[1] attracting around 3,500 competitors and somewhere in the region of 23,000 spectators[1] from around the globe. Worldwide, however, it is exceeded in terms of spectators by two gatherings in the United States: the estimated 30,000[2] that attend Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina and the even larger[citation needed] gathering—the largest in the Northern Hemisphere[clarification needed]—that has taken place every year since 1865 hosted by the Caledonian Club of San Francisco. This event is currently held on Labor Day weekend in Pleasanton, California.

The games are claimed to have influenced Baron Pierre de Coubertin when he was planning the revival of the Olympic Games. De Coubertin saw a display of Highland games at the Paris Exhibition of 1889.[3]

History[edit]

The origin of human games and sports predates recorded history. An example of a possible early games venue is at Fetteresso, although that location is technically a few miles south of the Scottish Highlands.

It is reported in numerous Highland games programs, that King Malcolm III of Scotland, in the 11th century, summoned contestants to a foot race to the summit of Craig Choinnich (overlooking Braemar).[2] King Malcolm created this foot race in order to find the fastest runner in the land to be his royal messenger. Some have seen this apocryphal event to be the origin of today's modern Highland games.[3]

There is a document from 1703 summoning the clan of the Laird of Grant, Clan Grant. They were to arrive wearing Highland coats and "also with gun, sword, pistol and dirk".[4] From this letter, it is believed that the competitions would have included feats of arms.

However, the modern Highland games are largely a Victorian invention, developed after the Highland Clearances.

Events[edit]

The Highland Games Consultancy, run by former World Champion Gregor Edmunds, organise and run events throughout Scotland. www.hgc-ltd.com

Heavy Events[edit]

A caber being thrown at the 2000 New Hampshire Highland Games

In their original form many centuries ago, Highland games revolved around athletic and sports competitions. Though other activities were always a part of the festivities, many today still consider Highland athletics to be what the games are all about — in short, that the athletics are the Games, and all the other activities are just entertainment. Regardless, it remains true today that the athletic competitions are at least an integral part of the events and one — the caber toss — has come to almost symbolize the Highland games.

Although quite a range of events can be a part of the Highland athletics competition, a few have become standard.

  • Caber toss: A long tapered pine pole or log is stood upright and hoisted by the competitor who balances it vertically holding the smaller end in his hands (see photo). Then the competitor runs forward attempting to toss it in such a way that it turns end over end with the upper (larger) end striking the ground first. The smaller end that was originally held by the athlete then hits the ground in the 12 o'clock position measured relative to the direction of the run. If successful, the athlete is said to have turned the caber. Cabers vary greatly in length, weight, taper, and balance, all of which affect the degree of difficulty in making a successful toss. Competitors are judged on how closely their throws approximate the ideal 12 o'clock toss on an imaginary clock.
  • Stone put: This event is similar to the modern-day shot put as seen in the Olympic Games. Instead of a steel shot, a large stone of variable weight is often used. There are also some differences from the Olympic shot put in allowable techniques. There are two versions of the stone toss events, differing in allowable technique. The "Braemar Stone" uses a 20–26 lb stone for men (13–18 lb for women) and does not allow any run up to the toeboard or "trig" to deliver the stone, i.e., it is a standing put. In the "Open Stone" using a 16–22 lb stone for men (or 8–12 lb for women), the thrower is allowed to use any throwing style so long as the stone is put with one hand with the stone resting cradled in the neck until the moment of release. Most athletes in the open stone event use either the "glide" or the "spin" techniques.
  • Scottish hammer throw: This event is similar to the hammer throw as seen in modern-day track and field competitions, though with some differences. In the Scottish event, a round metal ball (weighing 16 or 22 lb for men or 12 or 16 lb for women) is attached to the end of a shaft about 4 feet in length and made out of wood, bamboo, rattan, or plastic. With the feet in a fixed position, the hammer is whirled about one's head and thrown for distance over the shoulder. Hammer throwers sometimes employ specially designed footwear with flat blades to dig into the turf to maintain their balance and resist the centrifugal forces of the implement as it is whirled about the head. This substantially increases the distance attainable in the throw.
Weight throw
  • Weight throw, also known as the weight for distance event. There are actually two separate events, one using a light (28 lb for men and 14 lb for women) and the other a heavy (56 lb for men, 42 lb for masters men, and 28 lb for women) weight. The weights are made of metal and have a handle attached either directly or by means of a chain. The implement is thrown using one hand only, but otherwise using any technique. Usually a spinning technique is employed. The longest throw wins.
  • Weight over the bar, also known as weight for height. The athletes attempt to toss a 56 pound (4 stone) weight with an attached handle over a horizontal bar using only one hand. Each athlete is allowed three attempts at each height. Successful clearance of the height allows the athlete to advance into the next round at a greater height. The competition is determined by the highest successful toss with fewest misses being used to break tie scores.
  • Sheaf toss: A bundle of straw (the sheaf) weighing 20 pounds (9 kg) for the men and 10 pounds (4.5 kg) for the women and wrapped in a burlap bag is tossed vertically with a pitchfork over a raised bar much like that used in pole vaulting. The progression and scoring of this event is similar to the Weight Over The Bar. There is significant debate among athletes as to whether the sheaf toss is in fact an authentic Highland event. Some argue it is actually a country fair event, but all agree that it is a great crowd pleaser.[citation needed]
  • Maide Leisg (Scots Gaelic meaning 'Lazy Stick'): Trial of strength performed by two men sitting on the ground with the soles of their feet pressing against each other. Thus seated, they held a stick between their hands which they pulled against each other until one of them was raised from the ground. The oldest 'Maide Leisg' competition in the world takes place at the Carloway show and Highland Games on the Isle of Lewis.

Many of the Heavy Events competitors in Scottish highland athletics are former high school and college track and field athletes who find the Scottish games are a good way to continue their competitive careers.

Increasingly in the USA, the Heavy Events are attracting women and master class athletes which has led to a proliferation of additional classes in Heavy Events competitions. Lighter implements are used in the classes.

Music[edit]

Massed bands at the 2005 Pacific Northwest Highland Games
Highland Pipeband Competition Circle [Prince Charles Pipe Band 2008]

For many Highland games festival attendees, the most memorable of all the events at the games is the massing of the pipe bands. Normally held in conjunction with the opening and closing ceremonies of the games, as many as 20 or more pipe bands will march and play together. The result is a thunderous rendition of traditional favourites Scotland the Brave or Amazing Grace, and other crowd-pleasing favorites.

It is, in fact, the music of the bagpipe which has come to symbolize music at the Games and, indeed, in Scotland itself. In addition to the massed bands, nearly all Highland games gatherings feature a wide range of piping and drumming competition, including solo piping and drumming, small group ensembles and, of course, the pipe bands themselves.

But the pipes and drums are not the only music which can be heard at Highland games. Music at Highland games gatherings takes on a variety of forms. Many such events offer fiddling, harp circles, Celtic bands and other forms of musical entertainment, the latter usually spiced with a healthy amount of bagpipe music.

Dance[edit]

The Cowal Highland Gathering hosts the annual World Highland Dancing Championship. This event gathers the best competitive dancers from around the world who compete for the SOBHD sanctioned World Championship title.

Secondary events and attractions[edit]

Assembling for the parade of clans at the 2005 Tacoma Highland Games

At modern-day Highland Games events, a wide variety of other activities and events are generally available. Foremost among these are the clan tents and vendors of Scottish related goods. The various clan societies make the Highland games one of the main focus of their seasonal activities, usually making an appearance at as many such events as possible. Visitors can find out information about the Scottish roots and can become active in their own clan society if they wish.

At modern games, armouries will display their collections of swords and armour, and often perform mock battles. Various vendors selling Scottish memorabilia are also present selling everything from Irn-Bru to the stuffed likeness of the Loch Ness Monster.

Herding dog trials and exhibitions are often held, showcasing the breeder's and trainer's skills. In addition, there may be other types of Highland animals present, such as the Highland cattle.

Various traditional and modern Celtic arts are often showcased. This could include Harper's circles, Scottish country dancing, and one or more entertainment stages. In addition, most events usually feature a pre-event ceilidh (a type of social event with traditional music, dancing, song, and other forms of entertainment).

Various food vendors will also offer assorted types of traditional Scottish refreshment and sustenance.

Major events in Scotland[edit]

Location Name of Event Details
Blair Atholl, Perthshire Atholl Gathering Europe's only private army, the Atholl Highlanders, open the games in the grounds of Blair Castle
Braemar, Aberdeenshire Braemar Gathering Attended by the British Royal Family.
Burntisland, Fife Burntisland Highland Games Second oldest in the world
Ceres, Fife Ceres Highland Games Oldest free games in Scotland
Crieff, Perthshire Crieff Highland Games Home of the Scottish Heavyweight Championships and has HRH the Duke of Strathearn (Prince William) as the Royal Chieftain
Dunoon, Argyllshire Cowal Highland Gathering Biggest games in Scotland
Inverkeithing, Fife Inverkeithing Highland Games
Halkirk, Caithness Halkirk Highland Games Started in 1886
Glenisla, Angus Glenisla Highland Games Started in 1869
Lochearnhead, Perthshire Balquhidder, Lochearnhead and Strathyre Highland Games Cameron, MacLaren and MacGregor clans linked to the games
Pitlochry, Perthshire Pitlochry Highland Games
Portree, Inverness-shire Isle Of Skye Highland Games
St. Andrews, Fife St. Andrews Highland Games
Stirling, Stirlingshire Stirling Highland Games First Stirling Highland Games were held in July 1870
Inverness, Inverness-shire Inverness Highland Games Staged in the world's oldest[citation needed] highland games stadium, Northern Meeting Park

Major events outside Scotland[edit]

Bermuda[edit]

Location Name
Somerset Bermuda Highland Games

Brazil[edit]

Location Name
Estância Velha, Rio Grande do Sul Scout Highland Games - GEJL46RS
Sapucaia do Sul, Rio Grande do Sul Latin America Highland Games

Canada[edit]

On 1 August 1997 Canada Post issued 'Highland Games' designed by Fraser Ross, based on photographs by Andrew Balfour. The 45¢ stamps are perforated 12.5 x 13 and were printed by Canadian Bank Note Company, Limited.[4]

Location[5] Name Month Held
Alberta
Calgary, Alberta Calgary Highland Games August
Canmore, Alberta Canmore Highland Games August
Edmonton, Alberta Edmonton Scottish Society Highland Gathering May
Grande Prairie, Alberta Grande Prairie Highland Games June
High River, Alberta Foothills Highland Games August
Red Deer, Alberta Red Deer Highland Games June
British Columbia
Coquitlam, British Columbia BC Highland Games June
Courtenay, British Columbia Comox Valley Highland Games May
Kamloops, British Columbia Kamloops Highland Games July
Penticton, British Columbia Penticton Scottish Festival July
Victoria, British Columbia Victoria Highland Games May
Manitoba
Selkirk, Manitoba Manitoba Highland Gathering June
Winnipeg, Manitoba Pavilion of Scotland, Folklorama August
New Brunswick
Fredericton, New Brunswick New Brunswick Highland Games July
Moncton, New Brunswick Moncton Highland Games June
Perth-Andover, New Brunswick Gathering of the Scots Festival May
Nova Scotia
Antigonish, Nova Scotia Antigonish Highland Games July
New Glasgow, Nova Scotia Festival of the Tartans & Highland Games July
Ontario
Almonte, Ontario North Lanark Highland Games August
Cambridge, Ontario Cambridge Highland Games July
Cobourg, Ontario Cobourg Highland Games June
Embro, Ontario Embro Highland Games July
Fergus, Ontario Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games August
Georgetown, Ontario Georgetown Highland Games June
Kincardine, Ontario Kincardine Scottish Festival & Highland Games July
Maxville, Ontario Glengarry Highland Games August
Sutton, Ontario The Georgina Gathering June
Uxbridge, Ontario The Highlands of Durham Games July
Quebec
Montreal, Quebec Montreal Highland Games August
Saskatchewan
Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan Moose Jaw Highland Games May
Regina, Saskatchewan Regina Highland Games May

Hungary[edit]

Location Name
Csesznek, Veszprém Scottish Highland Games (Skót Felföldi Játékok)
Zichyújfalu, Fejér Highland Games Cup (Felföldi Játékok Kupa)[6]

Indonesia[edit]

Location Name
Jakarta Jakarta Highland Gathering

New Zealand[edit]

Location Name
Waipu Waipu Highland Games

Switzerland[edit]

Location Name
Abtwil, St. Gallen Appowila Highland Games
Fehraltdorf, Zurich Highland-Games Fehraltdorf[7]

United States[edit]

Location[5] Name
Santa Cruz County, California Scottish Renaissance Festival featuring the Loch Lomond Highland Games & Celtic Gathering
Pleasanton, California Pleasanton Games[8]
San Diego, California San Diego Scottish Highland Games & Gathering of the Clans [5]
Ventura, California Seaside Highland Games [6]
Woodland, California Sacramento Valley Scottish Games
Elizabeth, Colorado Elizabeth Celtic Festival
Dunedin, Florida Dunedin Highland Games and Festivals
Green Cove Springs, Florida Northeast Florida Scottish Highland Games
Marianna, Florida The Big Bend Highland Games & Scottish Festival
Sarasota, Florida Sarasota Highland Games
Stone Mountain, Georgia Stone Mountain Highland Games
Columbus, Indiana Columbus Scottish Festival and Highland Games
South Bend, Indiana Celtic Festival and Bryan Verkler Invitational Highland Games
Davenport, Iowa Celtic Festival and Highland Games of the Quad-Cities
Glasgow, Kentucky Glasgow Highland Games
Baton Rouge, Louisiana The Highland Games of Louisiana
St. Leonard, Maryland Southern Maryland Celtic Festival and Highland Gathering
Florence, Massachusetts Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival [7]
Alma, Michigan Alma Highland Festival and Games
St. Charles, Missouri Missouri Tartan Day Festivities [8]
St. Louis, Missouri St. Louis Scottish Games and Cultural Festival [9]
Lincoln, New Hampshire New Hampshire Highland Games [10]
Old Westbury, New York Scottish Festival and Games [11]
Laurinburg, North Carolina Scotland County Highland Games
Linville, North Carolina Grandfather Mountain Highland Games [12]
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania Celtic Classic Highland Games & Festival [13]
Ligonier, Pennsylvania Ligonier Highland Games [14]
Charleston, South Carolina Charleston Scottish Games and Highland Gathering [15]
Elizabethton, Tennessee Sycamore Shoals Celtic Festival
Gatlinburg, Tennessee Gatlinburg Scottish Highland Games
Maryville, Tennessee Smoky Mountain Highland Games at Maryville College
Austin, Texas Austin Celtic Festival
Houston, Texas Houston Celtic Festival and Highland Games
Delaplane, Virginia Virginia Scottish Games and Festival
Bridgeport, West Virginia North Central West Virginia Scottish Festival and Celtic Gathering

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Cowal Highland Gathering can be verified as the world's largest highland games on the Official Scottish Tourist Board Website at VisitScotland.com
  2. ^ For a modern day fictional account of this event, see The origins of the Braemar Games Hill Race, by Les Wheeler
  3. ^ Many Highland games web sites contain a brief sketch on the history of the Highland games. Most will mention this hill climb, some referring to it as a story or legend, others as if it were an established fact. Webster, in Scottish Highland Games recounts the story, labelling it as story, or legend only. Thomas Owen Clancy and Barbara E. Crawford, in the Bibliographical essay to chapter 2 (The Formation of the Scottish Kingdom) of The New Penguin History of Scotland state: "Little of significance has been written about the eleventh century kingdom otherwise, except on the dispute over the reliability of the early documentary sources. . .".
  4. ^ As quoted on the history page of the Aboyne Highland Gathering web site
  5. ^ The web site of the International Wrestling Association reports rather more expansively on the role of the 1889 Paris event and its effect on the development of the Olympics, considering it to have had a "huge impact" on world sport. An article published in 2004 in the Christian Science Monitor points to two other events, including that of Much Wenlock, a small English village in Shropshire

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Cowal Highland Gatcitationhering". Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  2. ^ "Grandfather Mountain Highland Games Fast Facts". 
  3. ^ Horne, Marc (25 April 2010). "Highland games were the model for modern Olympics". London: The Times. Retrieved 3 May 2010. 
  4. ^ Canada Post stamp
  5. ^ a b "Calendar of Highland Games and Scottish Events in North America". Clan Campbell Society. Retrieved 25 May 2014. 
  6. ^ "Felföldi Játékok Kupa Zichyújfaluban" (in Hungarian). Velencei-tó Portál. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  7. ^ "Highland-Games". Retrieved March 20, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Pleasanton Games". Retrieved March 20, 2014. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Michael Brander, Essential Guide to the Highland Games (1992) ISBN 0-86241-302-8
  • Emily Ann Donaldson, The Scottish Highland Games in America (Pelican Publishing Company, Gretna, LA, 1986). ISBN 0-88289-474-9.
  • Joan F. Flett and Thomas M. Flett, Traditional Dancing in Scotland (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1964, 1985), ISBN 0-7102-0731-X
  • John G. Gibson, Traditional Gaelic Bagpiping, 1745-1945 (McGill-Queen's University Press, Montreal, 1998). ISBN 0-7735-1541-0. See esp. chapter 15, "Highland Games and Competition Piping"
  • Ian R. Mitchell, "Rheumatism, Romanticism and Revolution: Victoria, Balmorality and 1848" in History Scotland (Vol. 5, #5, September/October 2005)
  • John Prebble, The King's Jaunt (Edinburgh: Birlinn Ltd,1988., 2000), ISBN 1-84158-068-6
  • Hugh Trevor-Roper, "The Invention of Tradition: The Highland Tradition of Scotland." in The Invention of Tradition ed. Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983, ISBN 0-521-24645-8.
  • David Webster, Scottish Highland Games (Edinburgh, Scotland 1973) pedo

External links[edit]