|History of Highland Games|
The first Gathering was held in the 11th century. King Malcolm Canmore arranged a "foot race" up Craig Connich near the village of Braemar. He used this as a means of selecting a new courier.
Subsequently, other Kings and Clan Chieftains copied this idea. The Gatherings developed into social and celebratory events, along with staff recruitment activities. Various contests were held and from these the best dancers and pipers were hired as entertainers. The fastest runners were selected as couriers and the winners of the strength events were used as bodyguards.
Things developed a stage further when several clans would come together and hold a combined Gathering, with various champions representing their clans in the different contests. This meant that rival clans could compete against each other without battles and bloodshed.
The village of Ceres, in Fife, claims to hold the oldest Gathering. This was after the battle of Bannockburn in 1314, when the villagers were granted a day of celebration to mark the safe return of the village’s bowmen.
After the defeat of the Jacobites in 1746 at Culloden, the London based government, in fear of further uprisings, did their best to destroy the clan system. Large gatherings of people, the carrying of arms, playing the bagpipes and the wearing of the kilt, were all banned by an act of parliament. The punishment for breaking this ban was deportation or voluntary embarkation to the colonies for the offenders and their families. This, and enforced executions, lead to hundreds of highlanders and their families leaving the highlands of Scotland. In history this is referred to as "the Highland Clearances".
The spirit of the Gatherings was kept alive by the Highland Regiments. The first openly held Gathering was in 1781 at Falkirk. This encouraged other Gatherings to be held and so the revival of the Gatherings began.
In September 1848, Queen Victoria attended a Gathering at Braemar. This started the royal tradition of attendance at Braemar which continues to this day.
Modern day Highland Gatherings, or Highland Games, are a product of many Gaelic cultures and other aspects of social and celebratory activities. The events and competitions that we see today have developed over the centuries to give us our current Highland Games.
Wherever the Scots have travelled and colonised there are Highland Gatherings. This means that Highland Games, or Gatherings, are seen and enjoyed throughout the world.