Highland Games

The Hororata Highland Games are back again this year and will take place on the 10 November in the small Canterbury town.

Ref: 31-55853, Sir George Grey Special Collections
The games will be traditional with a unique Kiwi twist. Highlights will include: highland dancing, solo piping and drumming, pipe bands, heavy (strongmen/women) events including caber tossing, hammer throw, sheep shearing demonstrations, scurry racing, a dedicated children’s glen, and the very popular tug-o-war. The Taste of Scotland section is a new edition to the games and will include traditional Scottish fare, cooking demonstrations, whisky tasting and much more.

The games were set up by the Hororata Community Trust to help support community activities and rebuild the town after the September 2010 Christchurch earthquake. Find out more.

The Highland Games are said to predate the Greek Olympics and to have originated in Ireland around 2000 BC.  The games crossed the water to Scotland with the fourth and fifth century migrations of the Scotti into Dalriada (Argyll) and beyond.

In their current form, the games are a unique mixture of cultural, social and sporting events. In those early days though the gatherings were essentially 'war games' designed to select the best warriors in each family tribe or clan.

Ref: AWNS-19060111-3-2, Sir George Grey Special Collections
The 11th century saw the first Games in Scotland organized and designated as a sporting event. Games were held throughout Scotland and grew in popularity and in number until the Battle of Culloden in 1746. After Bonnie Prince Charlie's defeat by the English, the 'Act of Proscription' banned the playing of the bagpipe, wearing of the kilt, gathering together of the people, and the carrying of arms under the penalty of deportation or death.

Ref: AWNS-19261104-49-2, Sir George Grey Special Collections
The act was in force for almost 40 years and was detrimental to not only the games but also the Scottish clan structure. After its repeal, the games started to revive and the fortunes of the national customs were given a tremendous boost with the visit to Scotland in 1822 of King George IV. The King appeared in Edinburgh in full Highland dress and received an ecstatic welcome and is commemorated to this day in two famous Edinburgh landmarks – George Street and George IV Bridge.

In the latter part of the 18th century, Highland Societies began forming, and in 1781 the first society Gathering was held at Falkirk. This successful venture led to the Gathering of the Clans and the Highland Games as we know them today. By the end of the 1820s, games were once again being held throughout Scotland.

Ref: E0031, North Auckland Research Centre
The Scottish Highland Games Association (SHGA), established in 1947, is the governing body of Traditional Highland Games in Scotland. It represents over 60 Highland Games in Scotland with several associate members overseas. Highland Games are held in many countries around the world including in New Zealand and Australia.