Le chieftain David P WEBSTER

When you witness the opening of the Highland Games, you may be intrigued by the ceremony of the shield.

So, ready for a history lesson?

Thanks to David WEBSTER, international president of the Games, we are able to supply the following explanation.

Around 1050 Malcolm III, King of Scotland, launched the very first Highland Games.

A new messenger

Malcolm needed a new messenger and, like any self-respecting king, he wanted to recruit the fastest man in the country.

To do so, he organised a race to the top of Craig Choinnich, a nearby mountain.

Not yet having acquired a starter pistol, he had to improvise and use what was at hand: in this case his shield and his sword.

F1040031Thus he inaugurated both the race and a tradition that has continued over nearly a thousand years to this day. (photo AJEF Bressuire, Woult ZIJLSTRA in 2003)

100.000 welcomes

To open the Games, the shield is struck 4 times facing north, south, east and west and the Gaelic words for 100 000 welcomes, "ceud mille failte", are pronounced to welcome all those  - competitors and spectators alike - who have arrived from all corners of the country.

It could be said that the striking of the shield is also a way of summoning everyone to the games.

And judging by the crowds that flocked to Bressuire Castle in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012 from such far-flung cities as Cholet to the north, Niort to the south, Poitiers to the east and Nantes to the west, the system works.


Want some more about the shield?

  • MORE PHOTOS: album-photo on the right : 2011 le bouclier de 2003 à 2010
  • The new chieftain who will strike the shield this year is Jean-Pierre FAGNON (see previous article)
  • Ryan and the shield:

Last year's inauguration in video with a chieftain named Ryan VIERRA

Thanks to Mary PINET for her adaptation.

The French version is up for graps.

Just a click: la légende du bouclier

Alain CADU