Competing Highland Athletes:
Professional Highland Athletes from across the U.S. compete all season to accumulate points. The top 10 point earners qualify to compete at the Celtic Classic for the U.S. Champion title. These are the top Highland Athletes in the world!
This is Celtic Classic’s thirteenth year of hosting the official U.S. National Highland Games Championship.
Come and watch as this year’s competitors perform feats of strength, speed, agility and skill which were once commonplace during the various fairs, clan gatherings, and tainchels, or great hunts, of medieval Scotland. The games feature events that have changed little since medieval times include lifting of heavy stone, throwing the hammer, and tossing of the caber. Lucky for us, the game of ‘twisting the four legs off a cow for which a fat sheep is offered as a prize no longer occurs in the more civilized programs of modern games.
The Origins of Today’s Highland Games
The exact origins of today’s highland games are unknown. However, it is likely that they came from the contests of strength, speed, agility and skill which were commonplace during the various fairs, clan gatherings, and tainchels, or great hunts, of medieval Scotland.
From the earliest times, the highland chieftains would gather their clans together to celebrate in times of peace. The clan’s warriors used these gatherings to test their physical fitness, as these events provided a great excuse to challenge each other in running, jumping, wrestling, and with early forms of weight putting with boulders. Such games also ensured that the Highlanders would keep fit for war.
The exact origins of the games are unknown because after the final battle of the long-running Jacobite Rebellion, life in the Highlands was disrupted and changed forever. The Jacobite Rebellion was dynastic struggle between two different royal houses: the house of Stuart and the house of Hanover, for the rule of Scotland. In 1745, Charles Edward Stuart, known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, made a final attempt to restore a Stuart king to the throne of Scotland. The Bonnie Prince was only able to rouse 5,000 Highlanders against the 9,000 troops of William Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland and son of the Hanoverian king George II, in charge of ending the Stuart bid for the throne. Up until the Battle of Culloden on April 16, 1746, the Young Pretender (Bonnie Prince Charlie) and his Highlanders were undefeated. After Culloden, the English army was eager to enact retribution, and ‘Butcher’ Cumberland ordered that all wounded, as well as anyone found near the battle, regardless of age or gender, be killed.
After the defeat of Prince Charles’ Jacobite Highlanders on Culloden Moor, the ruling government’s forces devastated the highlands with new laws designed to make future rebellions impossible. These new laws led to the largest uprooting of Highlanders in history, and a complete alteration of the highland way of life. Highlanders were made to swear an oath to obey the Disarming acts, and the wearing of the kilt and tartan, playing of the pipes and the carrying of arms were all banned. Highland chiefs were stripped of their powers and became mere landlords. With these new laws strictly enforced, the old highland way of life came to an end, and the highland games virtually disappeared.