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The Highland Games

Maggio 2017
Da maggio a settembre è tempo di Highland Games, una sorta di olimpiadi scozzesi, in kilt! Non solo in Scozia, ma in tutte le parti del mondo dove c’è una folta comunità Scottish. E non solo sport: gli Highland Games hanno una storia da raccontare, quella della lotta contro gli inglesi, dal 1314...

di Alastair Peel

File audio:

The caber toss
The caber toss

Speaker: Justin Ratcliffe (Standard British accent)

On Sunday May 14th people will gather in Battery Park in the town of Gourock  in the West of Scotland. This will be for the Gourock Highland Games. It marks the start of Scotland’s Highland Games calendar. Gourock is the first of more than 50 events that will take place between now and September, but Scotland is only part of the story. There will also be Highland Games in countries with large Scottish communities, like the United States, Canada and New Zealand. There are also Highland Games in countries with less obvious Scottish connections, such as Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Norway, Switzerland, Bermuda, Brazil and even Indonesia.

a bit of history

The oldest Highland Games are in Ceres in Fife, in the East of Scotland. According to legend, the first edition took place in 1314. The villagers were given permission to organize the games by the Scottish King, Robert the Bruce, who wanted to thank them. This was for their support when he beat the English at the Battle of Bannockburn. This may seem like ancient history, but now that Scottish independence is the subject of discussion – thanks to Brexit – it is relevant.


The Highland Games grew in popularity over the centuries, but the English banned them with the Act of Prescription of 1746. This was as a punishment for the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. Kilts were also banned. The ban ended in 1782, but then came another dark period in Scottish history: the Highland Clearances. Families were evicted from their homes in the Highlands. Many moved to the Lowlands, but many others moved to the  United States and Canada. They took their traditions with them and the first American Highland Games took place in New York in 1836.


In the 19th century the English began to accept Highland culture. This was  thanks to the romantic author, Sir Walter Scott, but also to Queen Victoria and her German husband, Prince Albert. He bought Balmoral Castle in Scotland and his family started going on holiday there. The present Queen also spends the summer at Balmoral and, if you want to see her and other members of the Royal Family, then you should go to the Braemar Highland Games in early September. This is near Balmoral and is the only Highland Games that the Royals attend.


The Highland Games include such activities as the caber toss. This involves throwing a long wooden pole. There are also two sports that are now part of the Olympics: the stone put, or the shot put, which involves throwing a large stone, and the hammer throw. They say that Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, first saw them during a Highland Games display at the Paris Exhibition of 1889.

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The caber toss, the stone put, the shot put, the hammer throw. Qui troviamo tre modi diversi per dire lanciare: to toss, to put e to throw. To throw e to toss sono verbi comuni, ma to put si usa solo nel contesto sportivo. Anche la parola caber, che significa tronco, è rara: di solito si dice trunk. The shot put è il lancio del peso, mentre the hammer throw è il lancio del martello.