A short history of Glenurquhart Highland Gathering and Games

 

After almost six years of World War II, Britain was desperate for community life to return to normal as soon as possible. For some sporting events this was to take years, but the people of Glenurquhart were well ahead of the game. Indeed the war in the Far East still had almost a month to run when, on July 8th 1945, the Minute Book records, a Public Meting was held in Drumnadrochit’s Blairbeg Hall “for the purpose of constituting the Glen Urquhart Highland Gathering”.

An 18-strong committee was formed under the chairmanship of village headmaster and local legend Alistair C. McKell. Officials – including famous Inverness strong man, “Gym” teacher and entertainer Donald Dallas – were appointed, and arrangements made for a six-a-side Shinty contest which was such an important feature of the early years. The last Saturday in August was chosen as the date, creating an instant tradition. 1773 spectators paid £73 12s 0d for the privilege of sharing that piece of history and “in addition large numbers of juveniles attended for whom no charge was made”.

These are the origins of the feast of Highland sporting and cultural entertainment which is The Glen Urquhart Highland Gathering and Games. The event has come a long way since its wartime origins and the road has not always been easy. In 1957 and 1958 fortunes had reached such a low ebb that annual decisions had to be made whether or not to carry on, hardly a problem in the current era of unbroken success.

By this time another vital milestone had been reached with the change from Professional to Amateur Games in 1954. The athletes you see here today are all Amateurs and the Glen Urquhart Games has long had the tradition of attracting the very best performers in both sports for what is regarded by all as the “Jewel in the Crown”.

A read through the Minute Book of the Games conveys one immediate and abiding impression – the sheer industry and commitment which since 1945 an entire community has put into this one day in August. Fund raisers such as the Games Ball, Whist Drives and (before the term “raffle” was quite respectable) Free Gift Schemes have all contributed to the finances. Tea which would fill Loch Ness and mountains of sandwiches which would dwarf the Achmony Hill have been produced by an army of dedicated helpers.

Meanwhile the menfolk have laboured to convert a field which offers little room for flexibility into a strong arena set in one of the most romantic locations in the Highlands. And how many souls have been sold and to whom to ensure that this square mile (usually) enjoys the best of weather on this last Saturday of August is nobody’s business!

For over 60 years the people of Glen Urquhart have striven to create Highland magic for you the spectator and you the competitor. Let us all work together to make sure that this proud tradition lasts for another 60 years, and another 60 after that …