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Blairgowrie Highland Games

Blairgowrie Highland Games

Photo courtesy of Fred Oudney Collection

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1887 Blairgowrie Highland Games.




Blairgowrie Highland Games

The history of Blairgowrie and Rattray Highland Games goes back more than 135 years

If the skirl of the bagpipes and booming of drums sets your heart fluttering, head for the Blairgowrie and Rattray Highland Games. Described as ‘ a blend of spectacle and fun’ the games presents a full programme of traditional highland games events as well as activities for all the family, including of course, the Blair v Rattray Tug O'War!

Blairgowrie & Rattray Highland Games Website 

The history of Blairgowrie and Rattray Highland Games goes back more than 135 years. Records of the Blairgowrie and Rattray Highland Games before 1887 may have been lost, but from John A.R. Macdonald’s ‘The History of Blairgowrie (Town, Parish, and District)’ published in 1899 we learn that  ‘ the Highland Games, which had been allowed to lapse’ were revived in 1887 by The Loyal Order of Ancient Shepherds (Lodge Tullyveolan). Back then the event was held on Fair O’ Blair day in July and was known as the Highland Games and Military Sports. In 1895 the Dundee Courier reported that ‘The Games Committee of the Shepherds have, by the permission of Colonel McKean, the commanding officer, engaged a detachment of the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons for the Fair O’ Blair day 23rd July’.

The programme included some intriguing events such as:

  • Sword v sword
  • Sword v lance
  • Tent pegging
  • Lemon cutting
  • Cleaving Turks’ head (over jump)
  • Grand ride and charge (musical)
  • Wrestling on horseback
  • Balaclava melee
  • Fencing (sabres)
  • Sword exercise at a gallop

The band of the regiment supplied music during the day. 

While the Games were held in Cleekerinn Park, also known as West Park ( now the location of Lidl and Home Bargains), the Fair O’ Blair was based around the Wellmeadow.On Fair O’ Blair day, thousands of visitors would descend on the town. For generations the Highland Games and the Fair O’ Blair attracted large crowds. For Dundonians this was the highlight of the Dundee Holiday week. Special trains ran from Dundee with cheap fares being offered by the railway company.

An article in the Dundee Courier on 27 July 1898 reported that ‘In addition to the customary athletic, musical and terpsichorean competitions, in which most of the leading men appeared, there was a grand show by a mounted detachment of the Fife Light Horse, who performed a number of military exercises in attractive style’.

In the 19th century terpsichorean (dancing) competitions were for men. According to tradition kings and clan chiefs used Highland Games to select their best men at arms, and the discipline to perform the Highland dances allowed men to demonstrate their strength, stamina and agility.

The 1920s was a time of mixed fortunes for both the Fair O’ Blair and the Highland Games. By 1925 the Highland Games had lapsed and the shows at the Fair O’ Blair were no longer allowed on the Wellmeadow.

Writing in the Dundee Evening Telegraph on 28 July 1927 ‘a Dundee Visitor’ laments ‘the City Fathers decided to forbid the shows on the Wellmeadow, which has since been beautifully laid out as a garden with well-trimmed lawns and beds of flowers and shrubs, and with the graceful war memorial’s column in the centre’.

The writer continues ‘What Dundonian does not remember the Blair Games, run by the Shepherds? They were games worth going to see. But, alas, for the past three years the games have been allowed to lapse, and this week the Fair O’ Blair without the games has been like a holiday breakfast without ham and eggs’.

By 1928 Blairgowrie and Rattray Highland Games were again held on Fair O’ Blair day with advertisements proclaiming ‘ Grand Cavalry Display by a Detachment of the Royal Scots Greys direct from Olympia Tournaments, London, accompanied by the World Famous Band of the Regiment’.

Sadly, by the mid 1930’s the Blairgowrie and Rattray Highland Games Committee, despite fundraising attempts like whist drives and dances, were finding it hard to meet financial ends, and no games were held in 1936. The games park was sold off to the County Education Committee for use as a playing field for Blairgowrie High School.

July 1951 saw an attempt by Blairgowrie Juniors Football Club to revive the games by holding Fair O’ Blair day sports at Davie Park.

Since 1991 large crowds have been assembling at Bogle’s Field, Essendy Road, Blairgowrie, for the Blairgowrie and Rattray Highland Games each September. Competitors for some of the heavy events come from far and wide.

The Ardblair Stones Challenge has been on the Blairgowrie and Rattray Highland Games programme since 2013.

To find out more about Tossing the Caber, Shot Put, Tug o’ War and other traditional events visit

To see Scottish Highland Dancing watch

For the opening parade at the games watch

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