MacCorkill's Scottish - History of Grandfather Mountain USA Games

Scone's Scottish and Celtic Internet Book, &

by Sconemac

"another page in my book"


The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and Gathering of Scottish Clans, now in its forty-second year, has grown to be one of the most popular and most colorful events of its type in the nation.

Held annually on MacRae Meadows, high on the slopes of Grandfather Mountain, the Highland Games have become popular not only because of the 'clannishness' (no pun intended) of Scots and those of Scottish descent, but also because of the close resemblance of the Grandfather Mountain area to Scotland itself. It is doubtful if a native Scot, were he to go to sleep in his homeland and awaken in the mountains of Western North Carolina, that he could be sure he was not just over the next hill from his birthplace. The rugged terrain, the wildflower, the fruit and even the weather are similar. Rhododendron grows in profustion and mountain ask (rowan tree); the Alleghany sand myrtle is a member of the heather family; thistles bloom in August in the meadows and along the roadsides and occasional Scottish mists blow in thru the gaps and about the peaks of the mountains.

Because the setting is a natural one and because the MacRae family, founders of Linville, were of Scottish descent, they decided to sponsor a Gathering of Clans and Highland Games. The first year 10,000 people attended the spectacle, in 1955 OR 1956, and I was there. Oops, that gives away my age a bit doesn't it?

Months of hard work went into the organization and preparation. The idea began to take shape when Miss Monimia MacRae sent an article about Highland Games to her cousin, Mrs. J.W. Morton (Agnes MacRae). Donald F. MacDonald was contacted and at once offered his ssistance. From that time on plans developed rapidly and many others gave enthusiastic help and interested cooperation.

Now spectators and participants come from hroughout the United States and Canada for the annual event. Tartans of most clans are seen and, although more coffee than tea may be consumed and amateur pipers may not be quite as accomplished as in Scotland, the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games have become established as the largest gathering in the United States, of people who revere Rabbie Burns and respect the caber tosser.

The games have been on now for 48 years and have been held at Grandfather's Mountain, and it is still the largest of all the games in the United States, so far. Stone Mountain, Georgia is also becoming quite popular.

The North Carolina Archery Association usually holds its annual tournament in conjunction with the games.

Winners of scheduled events during the competition day (usually Saturday)appear in special exhibitions again on Sunday, although the emphasis is on the first days, is on the Games and on Sunday the Worship Service and the Gathering of the Clans.

Chiefs of the Clans have been frequent visitors and among the honored guests of the event since its inception.

Guestos of Honour in previous years have been noted Scots, Governors, President of the United Nations, and other notable citizens.

I hope that Grandfather's Mountain is again as beautiful as the first time I saw it in 1955 and I am sure it will be. My sister, won a special piper's award Intermediate Competition) and she was only 13. I was the dancer in the family, I did not dance that year, (I was newly married in that year and on a honeymoor travel) but I did dance in later years, and won some awards also. I will always think of Grandfather's mountain when I hear the skirl of the pipes, and the sway of the kilts as I saw it there in 1955.

Hope you can go threre in July, it it great! I won't be there this year due to a mishap but you can bet, I will be there next year.

Nancy MacCorkill, F.S.A. Scot USA
Author, Poet,
Historian of the Ancient Clans of Scotland &
Co-Moderator, Medieval History Boards
Highlands and Islands Partnership



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