Scotland has made several notable contributions to the world of sports, including golf, curling, and the high jump. In our continuing series on All Things Scottish, preparing for next month’s release of Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries Book 5, Myrtle, Means, and Opportunity, we’re taking a look back at one particular aspect of Scotland’s sporting history—the Highland Games!
Competitions celebrating Scottish athleticism have been held for more than a thousand years. Clan chiefs would pit their strongest members against their neighbors in (more or less) friendly matches, to prove which clan’s men were the most able and fearsome.
Caber is an old Gaelic word meaning rafter, and the sport is believed to have evolved from the need to toss logs across streams as makeshift bridges, and/or to transport them downstream for the lumber industry.
In the 19th century, these age-old meets grew in size and organization, becoming the Highland Games we know today, and featuring the same quintessentially Scottish events: the caber toss, hammer throw, shotput, tug-o’-war, and more.
In her memoir Some Reminiscences of a Highland Chief, Louisa McDonnel, daughter of the Chief of Glengarry, wrote of the Highland Games held in honor of her father’s birthday during the mid-1800s, describing some splendidly picturesque events.
You can read more about Glengarry’s Highland Games tradition here: Glengarry Gathering History. These days the festivities include demonstrations of traditional crafts like spinning and weaving, a dog show, and even a unicorn!
All over the world, Scottish Highland Games became an important way for Scottish people—whether in their homeland or abroad—to gather and celebrate their Caledonian identity.
In addition to the sporting events, Highland Games allow folks to connect with far-flung members of their clans and enjoy Scottish food, music, and dancing.
There are as many as 80 million Scots throughout the world, and Highland Games from Great Britain to North America, Indonesia, Brazil, the Czech Republic, and beyond continue to bring Scots together under the banner of friendly competition, pipe music, and feasting.
So lift a wee glass (whisky, tea, or what hae ye) tae aw the folks who have kept these fantastic traditions alive—and find out where you can visit a Highland Games near you!