Scotland in the early days was ever a warlike nation. It is said that, if the Scots were not fighting someone else, they were fighting amongst themselves. Indeed, some of the bloodiest parts of our history involved feuds between rival clans. Probably the most fabled among these is the tragic story of Glencoe, where the Campbells, acting for the Government, murdered their hosts, the MacDonalds.
Clan chiefs had to be ever alert to the threat from others and the need to keep their men sharp and battle practised. Competitions or ‘Games’ were organised to practice skills and allow warriors to test their strength and fitness against each other.
Highland Games, as we know them today, were largely a Victorian invention, designed to celebrate the great traditions of Highland culture in Scotland. Today’s Highland Games are much more civilised, of course, although the echoes of history remain, particularly in the heavyweight events. Other aspects of Highland tradition, including the Celtic version of a war dance, are recalled through the spectacle of Highland Dancing competitions.
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