According to tradition, Scottish Highland Games had their beginning when originated by the kings and chiefs of Scotland as a reasonable agreement method of choosing the best men at arms. Crude forms of the athletic events you see today were developed to test the constants for strength, stamina, accuracy and agility.
Of course, they used the elements and materials of their day-to-day life and so the caber toss, archery, wrestling, and foot races up steep hills were seen. Even Highland dancing was used to tax the endurance and strength of competitors. It is interesting to note, for example, that the Scottish regiments used to require Highland dancing as a form of training to develop stamina and agility.
The present day popularity of the Scottish Games must be credited to the indomitable Queen Victoria, who developed a love for Scotland, its people and things Scottish early in her life. She with her entire Royal family, regularly attended the Scottish Games held at Braemar, Scotland. This has become a Royal Family tradition. It was also during this late 19th century period that the games opened up to the lassies when Jenny Douglas became the first woman to enter an official Highland dance competition. This opened the door for all competition and various event participation to women.
The introduction of Scottish culture to the Pacific Northwest began on March 25, 1811. On this date the Pacific Fur Company ship Tonquin crossed the Columbia River bar and anchored close to the south shore with settlers and equipment under the charter of the enterprising Scot, one Duncan McDougal.
The next big event in which a Scotsman played a part in Oregon's heritage came in 1824, when gracious Dr. John McLoughlin established the Hudson's Bay Company settlement at Ft. Vancouver, WA. Despite his orders to discourage American settlement in the area, McLoughlin's humanitarian standards ensured that he befriended any emigrant in need, regardless of nationality.
With an ever-increasing influx of Scottish settler to Oregon, the St. Andrew's Society of Oregon was founded in 1875. The mission of the society was to "preserve the memories of their Scottish inheritance and serve the new country of their adoption."
The Portland Highland Games Association was established in 1960 to help keep the Highland Games alive in Portland. The first Oregon Scottish Games was held in 1952, sponsored by Sir James McDonald, British Consul. Due to the first Games' popularity, it was repeated the following year.
The Games' first membership chairman and program which listed sponsoring members' names came in 1970. This reflected both the stability and growth of the organization. The 70's also brought the establishment of the current traditions to recognize extensive past meritorious service on the part of volunteers. In 1972 Annie Munro was chosen as the Games' first official Guest of the Day, followed the next year by Duncan MacKenzie.
Under the leadership of Association President Robert A. Johnson, Sir James McDonald was chosen as the Games' first official Chieftain of the Day. This Tradition established in 1976 continues today.
In 1978 fresh ideas were explored, and these focused on enhancing spectator interest. This was the first Games in which a clan tent made its appearance. Col. John McNeil introduced a Clan McNeil tent, and a Clan Donald tent was also set up.
The Portland Games hosted the U.S. Inter-regional (Highland) Dancing Championships in 1982, 1987, and for a third time in 1999. These were held on the Sunday following the Games. In 1988, the Games moved to its present site at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, OR.
Our goal will always be to bring Portland the finest Scottish Highland Games possible. Loosely based upon the founding statement of the St. Andrew's Society, a similar goal of our Games could well be stated: "to preserve the memories of our Scottish inheritance while serving our American community."