Caledonian Games and New Year’s Day in New Zealand

The lusty sports of “Caledonia, stern and wild” have been celebrated in prose and verse by the greatest masters of both. They have a peculiar charm of their own. The combination of massive strength with deerlike agility, which is characteristic of the proficient Highland athlete, is seldom to be found in the athletes of other countries. . . . Scotchmen are the only people who, in these modern degenerate days . . . appear to attach the same importance to athletic sports as the classical nations of old did.’ (Evening Post, 2 January 1880 – click here to download an image of the newspaper page).

At the outset, Caledonian Games were ‘purely Scottish sports’ indeed, athletic feats being merged with the familiar tunes and dances ‘dear to the …

The Glasgow Dumfriesshire Society

Screen-Shot-2014-10-21-at-19.09.38Many Highland Scots, on moving to the urban centres of the Lowlands, established clubs and societies there. What is a little-known fact, however, is that Lowland Scots too utilised associationalism in this way, for instance when having moved from rural areas to cities. In Glasgow, for instance, the Dumfriesshire Society was very active. The Society was founded in 1869 as an amalgam of the Glasgow Nithsdale Society, which had been established in the mid-1860s, and the Dumfriesshire Benevolent Society formed earlier in 1869. It was thought that, given the similar objectives of the organisations, combining efforts would be a sensible move. As the Glasgow Herald reported, ‘[t]his event was happily accomplished’, and the Glasgow Dumfriesshire Society was formed on 10 December 1869. The Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry and George …

Happy Easter – Scottish Style

At the end of April 1905,  self-proclaimed Traveller wrote a letter to the editor of the Manawatu Standard, commenting on the Caledonian Games that had been held in Palmerston North, New Zealand, on Easter Monday. ‘Having a spare day here on my tour through the Colony’, Traveller wrote, ‘I sauntered down to your athletic meeting on the Sports’ grounds. … With the continual skirl of the pipes in my ears I went among the crowd to look at the young men preparing for the athletic contests. Visions of the past came into my brain’. Such sentiments of reconnecting to the past were not unusual at Caledonian Games, kilted pipers and caber-tossing providing suitable reminders to awaken the memory of the old home among the spectators of Scottish descent. …

The 148th Turakina Highland Games

Welcome to TurakinaIt was my great pleasure to visit the Turakina Highland Games last Saturday — the 148th Games, making them New Zealand’s longest-running Highland Games. It was in early January 1864 that the residents of Turakina and the nearby villages first gathered for Highland Games. The first Games were not held on the Turakina Domain, however, but on the grounds adjoining the Ben Nevis Hotel. As a newspaper reported, ‘the weather was all that could be desired, and the various games were keenly contested, and appeared to give the lookers on great satisfaction’ (Wellington Independent, 2 January 1864 – click here to download an image of the newspaper page). ‘We have no doubt’, the paper concluded, ‘that this will be the precursor of numerous happy meetings in future years.’ …