The growth of Highland Games in North America

Screen-Shot-2015-05-06-at-08.30.37The most visible change in Scottish associational activities in North America was the proliferation of Caledonian Games from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. And it was Caledonian societies and clubs who were chiefly responsible for their organization, triggered by the general popularization of Scottish sports. The seminal study of the emergence and evolution of Highland Games comes from Grant Jarvie, who has traced the Games’ folk origins and their proliferation during the Victorian era—a result too of growing royal patronage—through to the modern Games of the twentieth century. With the first Games in Scotland having taken place at St Fillans in 1819, it is interesting to see references to events in Canada also in that year, when the Highland Society in Glengarry, Ontario hosted activities. While it is contested whether the …

A Great History

TanjaTurakinaSo there I was, back in New Zealand at the Turakina Highland Games. But this year was special as it marked the celebration of the 150th Games – what an amazing feat. The weather agreed wholeheartedly as it was a gloriously sunny summer day (and the only such nice day in a while). As local MP Ian McKelvie, who opened the Games, observed, ‘It was a huge success and a great credit to all who put so much effort into making it the spectacle it was. This is further proof of the vibrancy and resilience of our small rural communities.’

The Games began on Friday with a piper’s lament played at the village cemetery to honour the original Turakina settlers, followed by a function at the Ben Nevis Tavern when …

Celebrating 150 Years: The Turakina Highland Games

turakina-300x195Whether hailing from the Lowlands or the Highlands, their national identity was very important for many of the Scottish migrants who had made the journey from Scotland to New Zealand, settling in the British Empire’s farthest outpost. In the mid-nineteenth century, the journey to New Zealand could easily take four months, and life aboard ship was hard, especially for the steerage passengers. Migrants knew that they would probably never return to Scotland nor see family and friends left behind again. This explains why, after arrival in New Zealand, connections with fellow Scots were a real comfort and often helped ease the transition to life in New Zealand. As Bazil Thompson wrote in a letter home to Scotland, life was ‘rough and ready’ in New Zealand, but being with his brothers …

The History of the Turakina Highland Games: A Celebration of 150 Years of Scottish Culture in the Diaspora

turakina2New Zealand, explained a report in Wellington’s Evening Post in 1931, was the place ‘where so many Scottish compatriots have carried their virtues and customs to form a great and flourishing Dominion.’ And indeed, the Scots have been fundamental in shaping New Zealand society, constituting almost 25 per cent of British Isle migrants who arrived between 1861 and 1945. For the new arrivals from Scotland kinship ties were paramount, and nowhere else were they more pronounced than in the many clubs and societies that the Scots established throughout the country – well over 100 by the early twentieth century. The first such society, the Otago Caledonian Society, was set up in Dunedin in 1862, but Turakina’s Caledonian Society followed suit quickly, with the first Highland Games being held in 1864 …