If you missed the Gatlinburg (TN) Scottish Festival & Games back in May, or can’t wait till November for the Scottish Clans of the South to gather in Hendersonville, NC, don’t panic. The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in Linville, NC is the largest assembly of Scottish clan society members in the world, and it’s coming up July 12-15.
Scottish-Americans, Scotch-Irish Americans, Scots and would-be Scots converge each year on two rock-strewn pastures, known as MacRae Meadows, in the shadow of the tallest peak in the Blue Ridge chain, the 5,964-ft. Grandfather Mountain.
Dancing, running, throwing large poles and bragging about one’s Scottish ancestry-it’s all part of a day’s work at highland games.
The centuries old Scottish tradition of staging competitions at cattle fairs continued when Scottish immigrants came to North Carolina in the 18th century. The newcomers felt at home in the North Carolina mountains, and descendants of these pioneers continued to speak Gaelic into the early 20th century.
Scottish heavy athletics events include Clachneart (16 lb. stone throw), 22 lb. hammer throw, 28 & 56 lb weight throw, 56 lb toss for height, caber toss, tossing the sheaf (16 lb.) and Highland wrestling.
The caber toss is a contest in which brawny men flip 21-foot (6.4-meter) wooden poles weighing hundreds of pounds end over end. If you imagine that the brawny man is standing in the center of a clock face looking toward the number 12, the objective of the caber toss is to make the pole land so that it’s pointing exactly at high noon.
Putting the pole squarely on the imaginary 12 is extremely difficult, however. Sometimes years pass before a contestant nails a caber toss with a perfect landing. More likely, a contestant who can get his caber to point to 11 or 1 on the imaginary clock will win. The first recorded caber toss competition was in 1574.