Scottish Highland games may not be an international phenomenon, but they are certainly fascinating to young, old and all in between – whether with or without Scot’s DNA. Outside of Scotland one of the largest and most prominent highland games event is held in July of each year at Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina. It is billed as a “gathering of the clans” – and dozens, perhaps hundreds, of clans send delegations to participate. This year, 2018, and for the first time since Clan Lennox was organized, it was represented at the games!
The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games (GMHG) extend over four days – Thursday to Sunday. It is not unusual for 35,000 to 40,000 people to attend. People come from all over, certainly including many North Carolinians. North Carolina is home to hundreds of thousands of residents who descend from 18th Century Scottish settlers. The state is one of the original 13 British Colonies in America from which the United States was formed. A large group of the original Scottish settlers were former Jacobite soldiers, prisoners of war actually, who fought for Bonnie Prince Charlie during the Rising of 1745-1746. When the Rising was crushed by the British army at Culloden, many Jacobite troops who were spared, and many were not, were penal transported (banished) to the North Carolina colony. Their descendants are alive and well today and many attend GMHG.
The first thing one notices at the games after the natural beauty of Grandfather Mountain, is the color. A full sized athletic field is surrounded with brightly stripped clan tents side by side with clan banners and flags flying briskly in the mountain breeze. Then the tartans. Tartans from seemingly hundreds of clans are worn by men and women as kilts, trousers, shirts, scarfs, or wraps. (This is America and there are many tee shirts and sandals – sometimes worn with a kilt.) Bag pipe and drum bands are galore.
On the field, the games are authentic. Burley men and strong women throw heavy weights and long poles (cabers) in competition. Dancing girls compete in traditional highland dance. Boys in kilts wrestle. Bagpipers compete. Sheep dogs round up sheep. There is pole vaulting, long jumping and foot racing. A lot of the events happen at the same time, so it can be difficult to figure out what to watch.
While the Grandfather Mountain games are prominent around the world, highland games are frequent events in all English speaking countries. All members of Clan Lennox are encouraged to find games near them to attend. And when you do, wear Lennox tartan, find the event’s organizers and let them know your clan is represented!
Ann and Neil Whitford representing Clan Lennox at the 2018
Grandfather Mountain Highland Games