History of the Games

Queen Victoria may have had a passion for Scottish activities, but there is much proof in existence that there were organized Gatherings long before the Queen and her entourage discovered the beauty of deeside.

Queen Victoria’s love of the Scots and everything Scottish had a great influence on encouraging Highland Gatherings.    Her patronage of the Braemer Gathering set a royal tradition which has remained unchanged through each succeeding reign.

After the Rising of the ’45, it became quite apparent there was a need for some organized attempt to retain many aspects of the Scottish way of life and to preserve all forms of Scottish culture such as traditional music, dances and dialects.    Local and national societies include this idea among their aims and Highland Societies were formed.    We in the Pacific Northwest are very lucky to have so many Clans and Scottish Highland Societies represented.

In 1781, the first Society Gathering took place in Falkirk, Scotland.    From these efforts emerged the inspiring, soul-stirring spectacle that we know today as a Highland Gathering.

By 1820, the Highland Games were in full swing throughout Scotland.    By the middle of the century the prestige of these traditional meetings had risen to a new high level as a result of the interest shown by Queen Victoria, the Royal Family and their descendants.

Royal patronage was followed by that of noble patronage.    The Dukes of Argyll, hereditary chieftains of the Clan Campbell sponsor the Inveraray Highland Games. The Lord Aberdeen is the chieftain of the Aberdeen Games. The earl of Huntly is the Cheiftain of the Aboyne Highland Games and the Cloguhouns are patrons at Luss

There has been a marked revival of Highland Games internationally in the 1980’s.    Sponsorship by the corporations has been a big boost, especially in the field of sporting events at the games. These sponsorships have brought competitors from all over the world.    In turn, many of the best competitors in North America, be they dancers, athletes, or pipers-drummers have gone "home" to compete in Scotland and come home true winners. In 1987, the number one and number two pipe bands in the world, who competed in Scotland, were both from North America.

The games themselves have emigrated with Scots to all parts of the world. There are Highland Games in Canada, Australia (home of the 1988 International Gathering of the Clans), New Zealand, South Africa and the United States.

It is a tradition that modern Scottish Highland Games have their origins in the ancient clan of Northern Scotland where the chiefs and kings used similar games as a means to identify the strongest, most agile and talented men for leadership positions in the clan and on the battlefield.

The word clan in Gaelic means "family".    The clans of Northern Scotland were made up of many families that gathered together for protection around a single leader-the clan chieftain.     The chieftain’s leadership was especially important during times of war, which was all too frequent during the early years.    Thus, these physical contests, aided by his judgment, brought the strongest of his fellows to the fore.

It is this martial spirit that has carried the Highland Games tradition down through the years to today’s games.    They were peaceful contests of strength and skill allude only symbolically to their fierce origins

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