Some end-of-summer revelry awaits —Scottish style — as Old Westbury Gardens once again opens its expansive grounds to the Scottish Games and Highland Gala on Saturday, Aug. 24. Scots and non-Scots alike gather for some yearly fun and games as the grand estate fills with the sounds of pipin, co-hosted, as always, by the Long Island Scottish Clan MacDuff.
With those bagpipes, caber tossing and highland dancing — along with a myriad of entertainment and assorted activities for lads and lasses — the Scottish Festival and Games continues to be one of the highlights of the season at Old Westbury Gardens.
It is believed that the games were begun by the ancient highland chieftains to help them select the strongest men for their armies. Those ancient traditions continue today in the form of caber tossing, Putting the Stone, Putting the Sheaf, and arm wrestling
“When Clan MacDuff first came here in 1977, they knew they had found a home.” said Old Westbury Gardens spokesman Vince Kish. “And they’ve been back every year since.”
The festival celebrates Scottish history and culture, which the Clan McDuff proudly promotes year after year. “We bring a wee bit of Scotland to everybody here on Long Island,” said Clan McDuff’s David Cairns, who has been involved with the festival in various roles for over 25 years. “It’s a day that combines tradition and fun for all.”
It’s one of many similar events that continues to uphold Scots culture and history throughout the nation and internationally — and the only one of its kind in the metropolitan area here, according to Cairns. “It’s important that we continue to preserve our traditions,” he said. "And through this festival we are able to do that. So although we do modernize it a bit here and there, we stick with the traditional events, some of which go back to the 12th century.”
These games predate recorded history. According to those familiar with its origins, the first modern games were held in 1819 at the Perthshire estate of Lord Gwydir in Scotland, featuring very similar events to what takes place today.