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TITLE
Tossing the Caber, Skye Games, Portree
EXTERNAL ID
SLD_182_024
PLACENAME
Portree
DISTRICT
Skye
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
INVERNESS: Portree
DATE OF IMAGE
1973
PERIOD
1970s
CREATOR
Olivia James
SOURCE
Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre
ASSET ID
39469
KEYWORDS
highland games
Highland Games arena
pipers
Skye Games
heavy event
heavy events
tossing the caber
cabers
Tossing the Caber, Skye Games, Portree

One of the officiating judges seems to be standing perilously close to the landing spot of the caber that has just been tossed at the Skye Games arena in Portree. The 'Heavy' events in the Highland Games, which take place throughout northern Scotland during the Summer months, include Throwing the Hammer, Putting the Shot and Throwing a Weight over a Bar, but probably the most iconic is Tossing the Caber. This event may have originated in the past with the need to ford burns or gullies by throwing a length of wood or newly felled tree across. Technique as well as brute strength is required to toss the caber accurately.

The caber is a trunk of Scots Pine or larch measuring approximately 5 - 6 metres (16 - 20 feet) in length. The competitor has to lift the caber in both hands and toss it so that it flips over on its end in as direct a line as possible. Distance is not the objective. Instead, degrees of height reached and the final position of the caber are taken into account when deciding the winner.

Although looking like a natural amphitheatre, the arena used for the Highland Games and other events was mostly created when stone was quarried for building work in Portree, including the Skye Gathering Hall. An early reference to "Lord Macdonald's Games" occurs in 1833 and these were undoubtedly a precursor of the modern games. They took place at Home Farm in Portree until land was purchased in 1892 at the Meall, or the "Lump", as it is more often referred to. The first Skye Games took place on 6 September 1877 and were linked to the annual Skye Balls held in September. The events are now independent of each other and the Games are a prominent feature of the summer tourist season on Skye, taking place on the first Wednesday in August. Due to recent increases in the number of visitors, certain alterations have had to be made to the retaining wall round the cliffs. A new external walk has been created and this gives good views of Portree harbour and the loch.




Olivia James
The images in this collection are a selection from a set of high quality Agfachrome slides taken by Olivia James. Mrs James, a semi-professional photographer, took the photographs on visits to Skye between 1968 and 1989, using a Pentax S1A camera and CT 18 film. They record a variety of locations, people and activities which have now changed or indeed disappeared, and provide one person's view of the island through the camera lens. Born in Elderslie, Renfrewshire on 26th April 1932, Olive Grace James (née Purcell) moved to England in 1944, trained as a teacher and married Richard James in 1956. Her husband's forbears were from Skye and they began visiting on a regular basis in 1968. In addition to the slides, Mrs James has written an evocative account of her memories of places, events and people on Skye which she named 'Skye Magic', a copy of which is held at the Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre.
'Skye Magic' has been incorporated into her privately printed autobiography 'Neivie, Neivie, Nick, Nack' which she has kindly donated to various institutions including the Clan Donald Library on Skye, the Mitchell Library in Glasgow and the Weaver's Cottage, Kilbarchan.


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Tossing the Caber, Skye Games, Portree

INVERNESS: Portree

1970s

highland games; Highland Games arena; pipers; Skye Games; heavy event; heavy events; tossing the caber; cabers

Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre

Olivia James Collection

One of the officiating judges seems to be standing perilously close to the landing spot of the caber that has just been tossed at the Skye Games arena in Portree. The 'Heavy' events in the Highland Games, which take place throughout northern Scotland during the Summer months, include Throwing the Hammer, Putting the Shot and Throwing a Weight over a Bar, but probably the most iconic is Tossing the Caber. This event may have originated in the past with the need to ford burns or gullies by throwing a length of wood or newly felled tree across. Technique as well as brute strength is required to toss the caber accurately.<br /> <br /> The caber is a trunk of Scots Pine or larch measuring approximately 5 - 6 metres (16 - 20 feet) in length. The competitor has to lift the caber in both hands and toss it so that it flips over on its end in as direct a line as possible. Distance is not the objective. Instead, degrees of height reached and the final position of the caber are taken into account when deciding the winner.<br /> <br /> Although looking like a natural amphitheatre, the arena used for the Highland Games and other events was mostly created when stone was quarried for building work in Portree, including the Skye Gathering Hall. An early reference to "Lord Macdonald's Games" occurs in 1833 and these were undoubtedly a precursor of the modern games. They took place at Home Farm in Portree until land was purchased in 1892 at the Meall, or the "Lump", as it is more often referred to. The first Skye Games took place on 6 September 1877 and were linked to the annual Skye Balls held in September. The events are now independent of each other and the Games are a prominent feature of the summer tourist season on Skye, taking place on the first Wednesday in August. Due to recent increases in the number of visitors, certain alterations have had to be made to the retaining wall round the cliffs. A new external walk has been created and this gives good views of Portree harbour and the loch.<br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> <b>Olivia James</b><br /> The images in this collection are a selection from a set of high quality Agfachrome slides taken by Olivia James. Mrs James, a semi-professional photographer, took the photographs on visits to Skye between 1968 and 1989, using a Pentax S1A camera and CT 18 film. They record a variety of locations, people and activities which have now changed or indeed disappeared, and provide one person's view of the island through the camera lens. Born in Elderslie, Renfrewshire on 26th April 1932, Olive Grace James (née Purcell) moved to England in 1944, trained as a teacher and married Richard James in 1956. Her husband's forbears were from Skye and they began visiting on a regular basis in 1968. In addition to the slides, Mrs James has written an evocative account of her memories of places, events and people on Skye which she named 'Skye Magic', a copy of which is held at the Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre.<br /> 'Skye Magic' has been incorporated into her privately printed autobiography 'Neivie, Neivie, Nick, Nack' which she has kindly donated to various institutions including the Clan Donald Library on Skye, the Mitchell Library in Glasgow and the Weaver's Cottage, Kilbarchan. <br /> <br /> <br /> This image may be available to purchase.<br /> For further information about purchasing and prices please email<br /> <a href="mailto: skyeandlochalsh.archives@highlifehighland.com ">Skye and Lochalsh Archives</a>