Invercharron Highland Gathering, as it was known, started in 1888 in the grounds of Invercharron House, by permission of the Littlejohn family. The Games were revived in 1981 and celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2006.
Beating of the Targe
Many visitors are interested in the opening ceremony, where the ‘Beating of the Targe’ is performed. The origin of the Targe has been lost in the mists of time, but history records it being used in Greek battles. Scottish history relates it being used at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 by Robert the Bruce and his clansmen and it was also used at the Battle of Culloden in 1745. The warrior Targe had a boss to which was attached a metal spike of about 6 to 8 inches long making it a formidable weapon in hand-to-hand combat.
Many clans have their own design on their Targe, which was originally beaten to call the clansmen to discussions regarding the lives of each member, as well as a call to arms to safeguard the land, people, all the clansmen’s belongings. The Invercharron Targe is made from wood, covered in deerskin and was studded in 1981 by one of the committee members. The sword used in our ceremony was presented by a past president, Ian Brinklow – many thanks to Ian.
Extract from Ross-shire Journal – August 23 1901
A successful meeting
The Invercharron gathering was held within the policies of the mansion house of Invercharron, Bonar Bridge, on Wednesday, the use of the ground being kindly granted by Mr Littlejohn of Invercharron, who up to this year, has been so closely identified with this, the most attractive and successful of Highland meetings. Favoured with the best of weather, attracted by a programme of an excellent character, large crowds gathered from all parts of the north. Special trains conveyed thousands of people from Wick on the one extreme, to Inverness on the other. The crowd, it is calculated, was about as numerous as it has ever been. In former years, a notable feature in the gathering was the large number of fashionable people who filled and Grandstand and the patron’s pavilion. This year, there were fewer of these people than usual, although many visitors to shooting lodges were among those present. Invercharron is a delightful spot for a meeting of this kind. Were it only the situation in which the games take place, the meeting could be called an ideal Highland gathering. On the Kyles of Sutherland, in the lap of the hills of Ross and Sutherland, the scenery, as viewed from the field in which the sports are held, is romantic in its beauty and stern grandeur. Finer surroundings could hardly be imagined.
The programme this year was bold and inviting. It was left to Mr Littlejohn, who inaugurated the gatherings in their present form, to prove that even a place as remote from centres as is Invercharron, huge crowds of people will come out if you have confidence enough to secure ample attractions. And although this year some picturesque scenes such as the salute to the flags were left out, there were still left sufficient popular events to bring the crowd together. Piping and dancing and athletic sports are all good enough in their way, but people do not go to see these alone. This year, the committee, under the guidance of Mr David Ross, the secretary of the meeting, were able to secure the services for the day of a ride of the Scots Greys from Edinburgh. A gymnastic team of the Seaforth Highlanders from Fort George, the band of the depot of the same regiment, and an aeronaut, who made an ascent to 4000 feet descending by parachute.
Nothing of an outstanding character signalised the programme of athletic sports, however, were taken part in by several well-known experts. The programme performed by the Scots Greys, who were under the supervision of Lieutenant Parker, was most attractive. Better work has been witnessed, perhaps, at Invercharron, for the South African war has denuded the barrack squares of many expert horsemen for a time, but still the exhibition was capital. Cleaving Turks Heads, Cutting the Lemon, Wrestling on Horseback, Muscial Rides and other performances combined to make an excellent show. The programme submitted by the Seaforths was also heartily enjoyed. It was also a well-practised squad that turned out, and the various interesting events were creditably carried out. The band from the depot of the Seaforths, under Band Master Birkhead, performed a fine programme. Most of the bandsmen are young lads, in training for regimental duty, but they are promising players, and the music was excellent. The balloon event, which took place outside the policies above the river bed, was eagerly witnessed by thousands of people. The ascent and parachute descent were successfully accomplished, and being a sight such as the vast majority of those present had never before witnessed, it excited very great interest. It was the closing item on the programme.
Ample provision for refreshments was provided in a large marquee and in other tents. The conduct of the crowd was all that could be desired, and, as usual, there was an entire absence of drunkenness.
Extract from Ross-shire Journal, 29 August 1902
Invercharron Highland Games
The Invercharron Highland Games was held on Friday in delightful weather. The field in which the games were held this year was outside Invercharron policies and much nearer the railway station than the old one. The new field is well situated and the beautiful scenery of the Kyles with heather-clad hills all around, made it an ideal place for a Highland gathering. The gathering is looked upon as one of the most attractive in the north and the committee having again put forward and excellent and varied programme. There was a large attendance from people from all part of the Highlands. A special train conveyed thousands of excursionists both from the north and south. This year, the number of fashionable people in the Grandstand was less than on previous occasions, although there were a good many of the visitors to the shooting lodges in the district present. The general arrangements for the sports were complete, and the successful manner in which everything was carried out reflects credit on the committee and especially on the energetic secretary, Mr David Ross.
The chief features of this year’s gathering were the sham fight, taken part in by a detachment of Seaforth Highlanders from Fort George, under the command of Lieutenant Gascoigne, and trained artillery men with their heavy field guns, and the balloon ascents and parachute descents by Captain and Miss Viola Spencer, London. The sham fight proved very interesting, during the course of which an idea of how the wounded are attended to on the battlefield was given by a team of Seaforth and Cameron ambulance corps. The fight resulted in the capture of the guns by the infantry. A select contingent of the Seaforths gave several interesting exhibitions of bayonet exercise, physical drill, gymnastics etc for which they were heartily applauded. The splendid band of the regiment, under Band Master Birkhead, was also present, and discoursed an excellent programme of music during the day which added greatly to the success of the gathering. The balloon ascent and parachute descent by Miss Viola Spencer were watched with great interest by the vast assemblage and greatly enjoyed. This year the ascent was made from the field on which the sports were held and at an earlier hour than last year, which enabled everyone to have a splendid view of it.
The entries this year were about as numerous as formally and there was keen rivalry in the different competitions, some of the champion athletes in Scotland being present. At the end of the sports, Miss Littlejohn, Invercharron, gracefully presented the prizes, for which she afforded a hearty vote of thanks.
The police arrangements were all that could be desired under the able superintendence of Chief Constable Macaulay, Dingwall, who had present a special staff of police.