Happy Easter – Scottish Style

easterAt 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.’ …

Caledonian Games and New Year’s Day in New Zealand

WCaledSocThe 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 Turakina Highland Games

TurakinaThe Turakina Highland Games, New Zealand’s longest running Games, will be held for the 148th time in 2012, the events taking place on 28th January 2012 in the Turakina Domain, Cameron Road, Turakina. Turakina is a small village in the western Rangitikei district in the southern North Island of New Zealand.

As the Turakina Caledonian Society details on its website, it was the Maori explorer Hau who named Turakina. The first European settlers arrived from Scotland from the 1840’s, with many making their way up from Wellington following the land purchase from the Ngati Apa people in May 1849, negotiated by Sir Donald McLean.

I will be giving a talk about the History of New Zealand’s Caledonian Games at the Turakina Games next year.The talk relates to two …