Highland Games: A Traditional Spectacle
3 September 2020
Jim Brown MBE is Past President of the Scottish Highland Games Association. Jim reflects on the special place that Highland Games continue to have on the culture of the North East of Scotland - “Highland Games are the special ambassadors of our Aberdeenshire rural events They stand open-armed and welcome visitors and locals, rich and poor, old and young to their unique interpretation of a tradition that had its first stirrings at Braemar some 900 years ago .
Unlike many traditions, Highland Games are a living reality rather than an ancient memory. They have survived rebellions and reformations and spanned changing ways of life. This deeply-ingrained and much-loved tradition continues to flourish, influencing sports and culture all over the world. Over the centuries there have been laws and acts to ban such gatherings but the deep roots of tradition have held firm and international Highland Games have never been stronger.
Aberdeenshire and the North East of Scotland is the home of some of the finest and the oldest . From the rugged braes of Tomintoul to the smooth turf of Hazelhead in the city of Aberdeen, from the royal formality of Braemar to the complete informality of Drumtochty, from the youthful history of Cornhill to the the ancient story of The Lonach, from the grandeur of Gordon Castle to the playing fields of Stonehaven and Oldmeldrum, from the Deeside gems of Aboyne and Ballater to the Speyside malts of Dufftown, Aberlour and Grantown – all so different but with a shared spirit of friendship and fair competition .
The magical atmosphere at our games is created by a unique combination of wonderful locations, the local character of the committees and the continuous performances of highland heavy athletes, the unyielding tug o’ war teams, the swift track runners, the colourful vibrancy of the dancers, the unforgettable sound of massed pipe bands, the haunting pibrochs of solo pipers and the backdrop of lively stalls and side shows. A truly safe and welcoming family gathering where international professional performers uniquely share an arena with impromptu children’s events .
No visit to our beloved Aberdeenshire is complete without the Highland Games Experience”
As a photographer, Highland Games arenas offer a multitude of photographic opportunities. My friend Jim Brown has often allowed me access to the arena at Drumtochty near Auchenblae which has one of the most idyllic settings that I have seen anywhere in Scotland. The image opposite is of former World Champion Alistair Gunn of Halkirk, in full swing, throwing the hammer at the Drumtochty Highland Games. The Braemar Gathering on Royal Deeside takes place on the first Saturday of September each year when several members of The Royal Family are usually in attendance, including the Chieftain, Her Majesty the Queen.