History of the games

Highland Games originated in Scotland over a thousand years ago under the sponsorship of Kings and Clan Chiefs, for the purpose of selecting and recruiting staff for their entourage. The fastest men were used for delivering orders in battle, the distance runners for rallying the clans and the strongest men for bodyguards.

Dancers were taken into the Chief’s household for enterainment as were pipers. The dancers and pipers composed tunes and dances to extol the virtues and victories of the Chief. Neighbouring clans, when at peace, would match their best in comprtition: to win was to honour the clan thereby increasing its standing in the area.

The first sporting contest between the Scots and English was held when an envoy of Henry VIII brought with him a team of athletes. Competitions were arranged with local athletes as they travelled around Scotland.

Whenever large groups of Scots gathered, athletics, music and dancing were common results. Horse fairs and markets often ended with Games, the largest gatherings being that of the military.

Bagpipe music stirred the Scottish soldier to greater glory and some of the best bands of pipes and drums are to this day found in the armed forces. The kilted Highland regiments in the First World War earned the German nickname “the ladies from Hell” with the skirl of the pipes enhancing this reputation. The failure of the 1745 Rebellion brought a period of savage repression to Scotland with anything Highland being banned. However by the 1820s gatherings similar to those held today were again being celebrated in Scotland. Under the patronage of Queen Victoria, Highland Games went from strength to strength and are now held all over the world wherever Scotsmen gather. Several ancient Scots sports such as the Hammer Throw & the Shot Putt are now part of the international circuit. This indicates the role of Highland Games in influencing world sport.

“You never know quite what you’ll see at a Highland games”