Thousands of Montrealers converged in the borough of Verdun Sunday for what organizers believe are the oldest Highland Games in the country.
“It’s extremely significant that we continue the tradition that we started in 1855,” explained games president Scott MacKenzie.
It was called the Caledonia Games back then.
Sunday’s event, held at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, was the 47th Montreal Highland Games — the successor to the Caledonia Games. Organizers say it was a celebration of Scottish culture and a way to share it with the rest of the city.
“It’s a day to share all that we enjoy — sports, athletics, highland dance, bagpipes,” explained games spokesperson, Marilyn Meikle.
She added that it’s even more than that — a way to show yet another example of the city’s multicultural makeup.
“I think it says that as Montrealers we come together to support something that’s important to us,” she stressed.
Some attending the event point out that on a day like Sunday, everyone at the games is Scottish. It’s that sentiment some, like former Montrealer Alyssa Caughy, says makes them proud to be Montrealers.
“There’s a place for every heritage to celebrate, but (you can) also invite people into the different heritages,” she said.
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Caughy now lives in Winnipeg but said she makes it a point to attend the games every year.
In addition to the usual athletics competitions, like the weight for height throw and the caber toss, there were other less professional contests, such as medieval combat in which different teams jousted for supremacy. There was also, for the first time, a haggis-eating contest to see who could beat MacKenzie.
“I’m a big guy and I love haggis,” he laughed.
Four volunteers challenged him to see who could down half a pound of haggis the fastest, but in the end, MacKenzie triumphed.
One of the more popular contests, though, was the tug of war which, despite the jocularity, had a serious undertone. It was held to raise funds for the Douglas Foundation.
“The funding for the Douglas Foundation allows us to support research and other clinical support services at the Douglas that regular government funding can’t meet,” explained Gabriel Devenyi, a research scientist and a member of one of the teams.
Organizers were hoping to raise at least $5,000.
With that and all the other activities Sunday, those who attended say they are already looking forward to next year.