Braemar Royal Highland Gathering – The Story So Far …


Although there have been gatherings of one sort or another in Braemar since the time of King Malcolm Canmore nine hundred years ago, the gathering has been held in its present form since 1832.

Its geographical position made it a point of great strategic importance during the time of the Clan Wars, located as it is at the center of the roads and tracks leading, East, West, North and South.

Braemar still sits in the heart of the country’s largest deer forest and for hundreds of years kings, nobles and hunters have been drawn to the surroundings for the thrill of the hunt.

In the past, cattle were transported to and from markets along recognized driver routes – again, Braemar was at the center of these.

For centuries, the traditional hammer throw, stone throw and caber throw continued, more recently with the addition of throw weights for distance and over the bar for height.

Braemar has therefore always been the place of a “gathering” of one sort or another and there is good reason to believe that such gatherings have taken place here since the 8th century.

On the hill of Creag Choinneach, whose tree-lined slopes rise steeply from the road to Braemar, Kenneth MacAlpine, the first King of Scotland, had his hunting headquarters and, in the very heart of the village, lie the ruins of the Castle of Kindrochit, the stronghold of King Malcolm Canmore. Tradition has it that King Malcolm called the clans to the Braes de Mar to competitively select his toughest soldiers and fleeting messengers, and this can be considered the original Braemar Gathering. Kindrochit became more evident in the 14th century when King Robert II hunted in March, and this fortress must have seen many clan gatherings.

One hundred years later, the Braemar Wrights Society was formed. At that time, the welfare state was unknown and the Wright’s Society (the “wrights” being those who “worked” with their hands) was one of the earliest forms of social insurance. He took kinship and friendship a step further and organized relief in difficult times for the sick and the elderly, for widows and orphans.

Quarterly meetings were held for the collection of contributions – still called “quarterly centimes” today – for the payment of benefits, relief, etc. and an annual meeting was usually chaired by the then Laird and, by invitation, in his castle.

Members of the royal family are regular participants of the Gathering. The Queen and Prince Charles are seen here.

Some 160 years ago, an interesting business was the Company’s purchase of bulk oatmeal and resell it to members in times of need. In the early 1800s, the Wrights Society became the Braemar Highland Society and its goals included the preservation of the kilt, as well as the Highland language and cultural interests. It was registered under the Friendly Societies Act in 1831 and the goals of the current company are still those of its founders.

As you might expect, of course, the social side was not forgotten in this land of reel, Pibroch, and dram – and without a doubt the day of the year was the Society’s Annual Procession. – or “Wrights ‘Walk” as it was called – when the members wore their white linen aprons and colorful embroidered’ Braemar Wrights ‘Society’ scarves.

They usually got together in the morning and with the sounds of the pipes and the colors passing by, went to a favorite spot for a regular picnic of dancing, bagpipes, games and sports competitions and that day was the Braemar Gathering. from a century and a half ago. The night usually ended with a ball and a dinner in the residence of the castle of one of their chiefs.

1832 may be the beginning of the Rassemblements as we know them today. But the year that stands out in the history of the Society is 1848 because it was in this year that Queen Victoria graced the Braemar Gathering with her presence for the first time.

That year’s gathering took place outside Invercauld Castle, on the estate of Clan Chief Farquharson. (The current leader, Captain AAC Farquharson is the 16th laird). There, on the green grass in front of this house, the members of the clan played the flute, danced, threw the caber and laid river stones – all to the delight of Her Majesty and her husband, the Prince. Albert, their family and members of the Court. Queen Victoria later bestowed the honor of royal patronage on the Society (1866) and became a generous (and keenly interested) benefactor of its funds.

This close interest lasted throughout his long life and now, for over a hundred years, successive gatherings have risen to acclaim the reigning monarch as their leader. It was in 1906 that the First Duke of Fife gave the Company its current 12-acre land – prior to that the gathering had taken place variously at Mar Castle, Invercauld Castle or, at the invitation of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, at Balmoral Castle. .

The lovely new setting has gradually been made capable of accommodating the huge crowds which now come from all over the world.

** The Braemar Rloyal Highland Society celebrated its bicentennial in 2015.

Having led the Gathering since 1832, to take into account the changing times, the Society decided in 2002 to form a separate society to manage the event. The Braemar Royal Highland Charity Ltd, a company 100% owned by the Braemar Royal Highland Society, was established for this purpose.

In the fall of 2018, a long-standing ambition of the Company was fulfilled with the opening of a new £ 2.5million Highland Games Center at the gathering site in Braemar.

The center tells the story of the Gathering and the Highland Games, with exhibits and exhibits providing a well-documented archive.


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