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Track & Field 

Birnam Highland Games host a wide selection of Field & Track competitions throughout the day. Events include:  

  • Running 

  • Cycling 

  • Children's Races 

  • Fun Races

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Michael Norval from Bidwells presents the prize for the 2009 Scottish 800m Championship

Ewan representing the Perth Arms presents the prize for the 2009 Scottish 100 yard medal

Michael Norval from Bidwells presents the prize for the 2007 Scottish 800m Championship

Past Birnam Games Chairman Dave Shilliday presents the prize for the Scottish 800m Championship

Heavy Events

Tossing The Caber

The most spectacular of the heavy events involves a tree trunk weighing perhaps 150lbs, about 18 feet long and tapering from about 9 inches thick at one end to about 5 inches at the other. The competitor lifts the caber by placing his interlocked hands under the narrower end, resting its length against his shoulder. He then runs as fast as he can, stops dead and tosses the end he holds in the air so that the heavy end lands on the ground and the light end passes over it and lands pointing away from him. There is an erroneous belief that the winner is the competitor who tosses the caber the farthest, whereas it is in fact the one who tosses it straightest. The competition is judged with an imaginary clock face. The competitor delivers his throw at 6 o'clock. He tosses the caber so that it lands in the dial. A perfect throw is one that goes straight over, with light end landing at 12 o'clock precisely.  


Throwing The Hammer  

This event represents an old contest where young locals would compete to see who could throw the blacksmiths heavy sledgehammer the furthest. The sphere of the hammer now weighs 16lbs or 22lbs, and, unlike the Olympic hammer, the Scots hammer has a wooden shaft measuring 4 feet 2 inches long overall. No turning is allowed. The thrower stands with his back to the trig and takes a god grip with the aid of 6 inch spikes that protrude from the front of his boots. The hammer is swung round the head to gather momentum and then released. The hammer should fly off straight behind the thrower! It requires strength and good timing.  

Putting The Stone  

Traditionally the first event of the Heavyweight programme, this was originally a smooth stone from the riverbed, sometimes shaped by a local mason. The stones used to vary greatly in shape and weight, particularly those used for tests of strength, where stones up to 265 lbs in weight were used. Now the stone is either 16lbs or 22lbs. The weight is putt (delivered) with one hand only from the front of the shoulders. A run not exceeding 7 feet 6 inches from the trig is allowed. 


Throwing The Weight For Distance  

This is the most graceful of the heavy events, combining rhythm with power. The weight is an iron sphere of 28lbs on a chain with a handle on the end, which measures 18 inches overall. It is delivered from behind the trig with a run up not exceeding 9 feet. The thrower swings the weight to the side, then round behind him, letting the weight drag as far as he can. He then waltzes round once, twice, and on the third turn he heaves the weight round and throws it as far as he can. The main problem here is for the thrower, having gathered up so much speed in turning, to stop at the trig.


Throwing The Weight Over The Bar  

The weight is 56lbs with a ring all arched. Like the high jump, each competitor has three attempts at each height. Great strength is required although this is belied by the nonchalant attitude adopted by most competitors. Thrown correctly, the weight narrowly misses the competitor on the way down. If it is thrown incorrectly the competitor may have to look lively in order to avoid being hit. The weight is equivalent to half a bag of coal. 

Highland Dancing

Birnam Highland Games hold Highland Dancing Competitions which run throughout the day. Highland dancing is regarded as being one of the most sophisticated forms of national dancing in the world and whilst it is almost impossible for dance historians to separate fact from fiction when researching the more popular Scottish dances, the following explanations have gained great currency, probably because they are imaginative and picturesque stories.  


The Highland Fling

This is the most famous of the solo Highland Dances, said to derive from the antics of a courting stag on a Scottish hillside. The raised arms imitate the stags's antlers. There are no travelling steps in the Fling, the whole dance being performed on one spot. The stag does not run after his women, he expects them to come to him.


Hullachan (Reel of Tulloch)  

The Reel of Tulloch, or Hullachan, is reputed to have originated in the village of Tulloch, Perthshire. Where on a cold snowy morning, the minister was delayed and the congregation started swinging each other by the arm to keep themselves warm. Reels are danced by four people and the exact origin is obscure. The slow movement, the Strathspey, is thought by many to be a mourning dance following the path of the river "Strath" in the valley of the "Spey". The Highland Reel is a quick, livelier version of the Strathspey.


Barrack Jonnie  

Several National Dances are performed in the kilt as they were originally men's dances. "Wilt Thou Go to the Barracks, Jonnie?" is said to be a dance depicting the strength, agility and determination which comes from a soldier's rigorous training.


Highland Laddie  

This dance may have been performed as an invitation to a lassie to join a handsome lad for a stroll in the Highlands and perhaps for a picnic spread on his plaid.


Seann Truibhas  

This is a graceful dance, in Gaelic meaning "old trousers", which starts slowly and increases in temp on the final two steps. This dance recognised the repression after the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 when both Bagpipes and Kilt were banned. Any dancing had to be done in trousers and the slow tempo represents the disgust at having to do so whilst the shaking movements represent the shaking off of the trews and the quick steps are a display of pleasure when Scots were once more able to wear the Kilt.


Sailor's Hornpipe  

Although not a Scottish dance, the Hornpipe has formed part of the Games tradition for a long time. It is performed in stylised Navy uniform and simulates the various jobs of pulling ropes, manning the yardarm and splicing the main brace which seamen had to perform in the days of sail.


Irish Jig

Another popular import is the Jig, performed in a traditional green and red outfit. The dance is a portrayal of anger as the man has donned a pair of clean, leather breeches which have shrunk and so grip him uncomfortably. His resulting anger expressed at the washerwoman is returned in kind. 



The Great Scottish Bagpipe is a powerful and successful wind instrument with unique qualities. In its present familiar form the bagpipe was undoubtedly 'Made in Scotland, but it is also the descendant of an ancient wind instrument family with worldwide distribution and remote origins. It is thought to have originated in Egypt where a simple chanter and drone were played together. Later, a bag made of skin was used and this fitted with a blowpipe made a primitive form of the modern bagpipe. Almost certainly the bagpipe was played and heard in England before Scotland. Early sources describe kings and nobles paying pipers in Scotland for their music in the 14th century. It seems to have become a home-grown instrument in the 15th century. It flourished as the principle instrument of an assertive, confident and successful Gaelic culture. 


Pipe Band Performances  

The Games are opened by the Blairgowrie, Rattray & District pipe band who march from Dunkeld, over the Dunkeld Bridge and into the games park. At intervals throughout the day the band will perform in the main arena.  



Solo Piping Competitions  

Our Piping Competition is split into two categories;  

  1. Light Music - In the light music category the competitors perform Marches, Strathspey's, Reels and Jigs. The tunes played are of the pipers own choice.

  2.  Piobaireachd - The word Piobaireachd or Ceol Mor translated means literally pipe playing or pipe music but for 100 years or more it has been used as the name for a piece of classical music written only for the Great Highland Bagpipe. The Piobaireachd consists of a theme with variations throughout. The performer must make the piece of music, pipers own choice, interesting by playing with great feeling and self-expression whilst being technically correct and producing a sound which is pleasing to the ear. 

There are separate Light Music Competitions for junior pipers where the pipers of the future compete and hone their skills, carrying the music and traditions of the Great Highland Bagpipe forwards for future generations. 

Information for Competitors 

  • Please pay entrance to the park, at the gate. 

  • Registration after entry is FREE and should be made in the competition secretary's tent. This is the large white tent to the right of the main arena, as you come in.  

  • Juniors' piping registration will remain open until 1500. This will allow junior competitors, with morning band commitments, to take part. 

  • The draw, as usual, will be for Piobaireachd and will be made in the competition secretary's tent at around 11.00am (just before the competition starts). The MSR will run in the same order as the Piobaireachd, but will start half way down the list. This prevents any conflicting performance requirements between the competitions. 

  • Piping starts with the Piobaireachd shortly after the draw.  

  • All other Piping competitions start at 12.00am. 


  • The MSR stage is located half way down on the left side of the main arena. 

  • Juniors and Senior Jig perform on the same stage, and will be fitted in as they become available. Their stage is located at the bottom left corner of the games field. 

  • The Piobaireachd stage is located at the bottom right corner of the games field. 

We are always grateful for feedback and ideas. 
I very much look forward to meeting you on the day. 

Special Events

The World Championship Haggis Eating Competition  

Anyone, 18 or over, can enter this great competition free of charge... but hurry as there is a limit on numbers. Please register in the competition secretary's tent, which is located to the right of the main ring. 

The rules of engagement with the mighty Haggis are simple:  

  1. Competitors must be over 18 years old.

  2. Fastest to eat all the haggis wins the Grand Prize. 

  3. The Judges decision is final.  


The Kiltie Dash

This is a fun race open to everyone on the field wearing a kilt plus all Heavies, Pipers, Dancers, Stewards, etc  


"You'd be surprised how fast you can run with these lads chasing you..."

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