Rotary gets some history on local Highland Games

W. Curt Vincent Editor



LAURINBURG — With just 10 days before the annual Scotland County Highland Games weekend kicks off, the local Rotary Club got some history on the event and a brief update on what those attending the event can expect.

First, Rotarian Beacham McDougald gave the club some facts about Scotland County’s involvement in the Highland Games.

“The very first one, we think, was called the Scotch Fair and it was held in the late 1780s out near present-day Old Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church,” he said. “That lasted until 1878, when the state legislature banned the Games — because folks began coming for two reasons: to drink and fight.”

McDougald went on to say that, about 98 years later in 1976, the Highland Games were started up at Flora MacDonald in Red Springs, where they were held until 2007.

That’s when Bill Caudill and McDougald began talking about bringing the Games to Scotland County — and it became a reality in 2009.

According to Philip McRae, an active organizer of the Games here, the group was incorporated under the Scotch Fair name.

“That wasn’t appropriate and had a negative, uneducated connotation,” he said. “So we looked for another name and finally decided on Scotland County Highland Games.”

The local Games would already be locked into the first weekend in October, since it would take over the old date belonging to Flora MacDonald’s event. But then a site had to be chosen.

“We looked at the John Blue site and decided on an area nearby,” McRae said. “We knew we were going to have pipe bands, dancing, vendors and athletic events, and we knew the initial area wouldn’t be big enough.”

So additional land was found close by, cleared and can now accommodate a main Games field, parking lot and more.

McRae also explained how the Games work.

“There are seven competitions in what is known as the ‘Scottish Heave Athletic Games,’ and they are divided into four divisions — amateur, professional, seniors and women,” he said. “I think the women’s competitions are some of the more interesti9ng and entertaining, but it’s all pretty competitive. It’s serious business for some of them.”

McRae said an average Scotland County Highland Games event will have eight to 10 pipe bands, but this year there will be 20. He also said there will be a number of competitive dance teams and a lot of different kinds of food.

“We’re really looking forward to the event this year — even with COVID concerns, we felt the odds are in our favor for a successful event,” he said.

During the event, masks will be required and temperatures will be taken before attendees will be permitted in.

The weekend will open on Friday, Oct. 1, with the annual Whisky Tasting at Brick+Mortar in downtown Laurinburg, which is already sold out, continue with the Highland Games on Saturday, Oct. 2, and conclude with a special service at Old Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church on Sunday.

W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-506-3023 or [email protected]