A personal view by David Webster O.B.E.*,
Founder of these World Championships.
I have been interested in and attended Highland games since the
late 1930's and first became involved in the organisation of these in
1947. I first took an international team of Highland Games
athletes to America and Canada in 1964 and have been travelling the
world with such athletes ever since. I invited the great Bill Anderson M.B.E., Jay Scott, Sandy
Louis McInnes, Jock McColl and Andy Robin to join me with THE WONDERFUL
WORLD of SPORT, appearing at major venues in America and Canada. It
was the start of a new life-style for top-line Highland heavies and me.
The following year I organised the first international floodlit
Highland Gathering at the International Sports Exhibition at the historical and
Crystal Palace, London. The team included the usual favourites plus
Rowe, Britain's best shot-putter at the Rome Olympics and my good
massive Dave Prowse, who became legendary in his depiction of Darth
in Star Wars. Helping British trade exports drives during that era
in many overseas countries including Sweden, America, Canada, Australia
and Japan.. I loved the people of America and Canada, regardless of
whether or not they were of Scottish descent and I was determined to
closer links to cement these sporting and cultural relationships.
of major international competitions began to be formed at this time.
My home town of Aberdeen, Scotland had not had Highland games in
the city for more than half a century and the revival of these needed a star
to make it unique amongst the many games in the north east, still
stronghold of such gatherings. In order to maintain balance with
development at home as well as abroad, in 1970 after discussions with
Winning, noted local authority Parks Director, I proposed a World
Tossing Championship. I learned a lot from these experiences and took
next major step in 1972 when I invited Lord and Lady Aberdeen to travel
Australia for a one-off World Caber tossing championships. It was a
as we wanted to have Aberdeen as the home base for World Championships.
Aberdeen city has been blessed with excellent Parks administrators
and Arrol Winning's successor, David Walsh, and his assistant Forbes
Copeland did sterling work for Highland games.
World Championship Officially Registered
While we were in Australia numerous discussions took place and as
a result of these the World Highland Games Heavy Events Championships were
legally registered in London on 25th May 1973. (Registration Number 28203)
We consolidated over the next few years with numerous
international TV appearances to gain the profile sought by sponsors and I was honoured
when the Lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire asked me to organise the Queens Jubilee
Highland Games at Blair House. This is mentioned as this is being
written at the end of another Royal Jubilee year and the explosion of Highland
games, worldwide, as compared with the previous Jubilee is astounding and
The first World Championship organised in America was in Ponoma
California near Los Angeles. America's entries included Fred Vaughan,
Tom Johnston and John Ross. Sir Billy Sneddon, Australia's Speaker
Parliament, accompanied Colin Mathieson, the athlete representing
in that competition. Sir Billy made an excellent and successful bid
to host the championship in 1981. It was an outstanding success.
The World Championships were now well established and we have
never looked back. The competitions for the title have been all over the globe -
Europe, Africa, America and Australia, Scandinavia and of course Scotland. Only
this week as I write, Bruce Campbell, the energetic editor of Celtic World,
newspaper giving the best coverage of Highland games, commended this
ranging policy. The organisers of World Championships have to provide
excellent prize list, fine facilities, good publicity, first class
sound administration and an excellent venue. The infrastructure,
combining the forces of local organisations, officials and voluntary
enthusiasts, works very well at various levels. Things like officiating, scorekeeping and good communication are essential for
events of world championship standard and these are very important aspects of the
package offered at Antigonish.
SUPPORT FROM THE CHAMPIONS
Many Scottish Highlanders have competed in Canadian games and superb
Canadian athletes such as Antigonish’s local hero Doug MacDonald,
Harry Macdonald, Dan Markovic, George Chaippa and Dave Harrington have all
competed at our major events in Scotland. They have left a legacy that
should never be forgotten. Of course these events could never take
place and succeed without a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes and
people like Don McEachran have met the challenge of organising a World
Championship and is proving himself equal to this arduous task.
World-famous athletes from home have competed in these World
Many Olympic Games competitors and Commonwealth medallists and
sports champions from nearly every continent have entered the lists; the
Okonkwo from Africa, Petur Gudmundsson, Iceland’s veteran of three
Jouko Ahola of Finland, England's Geoff Capes, Scotland Bill Anderson MBE, Grant Anderson Commonwealth Games Medallist,
American track/field stars Ron McKee and Ben Plucknett are but a few of
those who have thrilled us over the years.
Looking back to those first tours in the early 1960’s it can be
seen that the standard of performance has increased tremendously and the
international development of Highland games has grown beyond all expectations. During
the last two decades the World Championships have been held in Los Angeles-
Ca., Melbourne- Australia, Lagos- Nigeria, Waipu- New Zealand,
Fredericksburg- Virginia, Oulo- Finland, Pleasanton- California and in various parts of
In 2003 the competition will be in Antigonish- Nova Scotia which
interesting links with the Scottish Highlands and Waipu, previous
World Championship venues.
Scottish immigrants moved to Nova Scotia in and while many
settled there permanently, others built their own boats and sailed
first to Australia and then on to Waipu in New Zealand. This year’s championship
will link up all four countries and it is hoped that there will be
worthy representatives from each. The historic link between Nova Scotia
and Waipu, New Zealand is well known and history was made when Matt Sandford of
Australia won the title on 1st January 2000 to become the first World
Champion of any sport in this new millennium. It will be 1000 years before
any other sport or sportsman can take over this distinction from Matt Sandford and
Highland Games. Matt successfully defended his world title at
Pleasanton USA in 2001 and 2002.
This year, as always, invitations to compete are sent to the
foremost athletes, such as those of Canada, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand,
England, USA, Netherlands and possibly Germany. There are good
Highland Games circuits in all these countries except for the latter. There is a
circuit in Germany where Highland Games are held annually at Berlin,
Krefeld and Hamburg. The outstanding German athlete, Omar Orloff,
competing internationally in 2002 and is creating a very good impression.
National organisations have recognised and supported these events
on many occasions. Civic Heads and dignitaries of the highest calibre,
including Foreign Ministers and Ambassadors, have attended them. Royalty has
attended other Highland games organised in conjunction with the International
Federation. Having had past experience of the fine games at
Antigonish we know that contestants and visitors will receive a very warm welcome in
THE WORLD HIGHLAND GAMES HEAVY EVENTS CHAMPIONSHIPS HAS A
PEDIGREE SECOND TO NONE AND THE ORGANISERS OF ANTIGONISH HIGHLAND GAMES ARE VALUED
PARTNERS IN PROMOTING THESE.
OBE is the abbreviation of a British honour bestowed by the
monarchy. The full title is "Officer of the
Most Excellent Order of the British Empire." Her Majesty Queen
Elizabeth personally presented this award to David Webster for his outstanding
services to sport and the community. The investiture took place at
Buckingham Palace in 1995, soon after the Commonwealth Games in Canada, where he
was General Team Manager for Scotland's largest team until that date.
VENUES AND WINNERS
Iceland and Germany have indicated that they will bid for future
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