Bagpipe players and drummers marching into the opening ceremony at the 42nd Maine Highland Games in Brunswick on Saturday. C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

There was no shortage of wailing bagpipes, barking border collies and kilted competitors at the 42nd Maine Highland Games in Brunswick on Saturday.

The Scottish festival, which is sponsored by the Saint Andrews Society of Maine, returned to Thomas Point Beach after taking the year off in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to officials, several thousand people attended the event which offered traditional food, athletic games, dancing, reenactors and more.

One athletic event included the light weight for distance toss, where people competed in throwing a 26-pound weight with a chain attached to it.

“It is about having fun and throwing far,” said Ken Gustavson, who has participated in Scottish athletic events for about 20 years. “There is very much a technique to everything.”

According to Gustavson, the game originated in early Scotland as a way for the lords to determine individuals’ strength and coordination in local peasants.

The Maine Highland Games also featured around 27 clans, which is a collected tribe of people who are connected through similar Scottish lineage. In total, there more than 500 clans.

According to Robert Currie, the commander of the Learned Kindred of Currie, members of the Currie Clan trace roots back to the west of Scotland.

As a clan society, he said, there are just over 5,000 worldwide members in Currie. At the event, the clan was offering children the opportunity to write poetry with a quill pen and ink.

Members of the 74th Highland Regiment outside at the Maine Highland Games in Brunswick. C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

“The Highland Games are a great opportunity to reunite with people on clan row that you know over the years,” said Currie. “I consider it a privilege that I was chosen by my family at large to play this leadership role.”

Officials from the New England Border Collie Rescue, an organization that rescues border collies in need throughout New England and New York, also attended the event and were offering agility demonstrations.

“We’re a network of volunteers and none of our dogs go into kennels, they are all fostered in foster homes,” said the organization’s president, Bea Hamm.

According to Hamm, border collies originated on the border of Scotland and Wales and were bred to herd sheep. The organization currently supports about 18 border collies.

The games also featured pipe bands, which compete against one another. Duncan Hurst, a pipe major in the Stewart Highland Pipe Band, said his group was competing against six other bands on Saturday, and typically competes at around five other events each year.

“I’ve been doing it for 15 years, and I’m not going to stop anytime soon,” Hurst said.

Bill McKeen, who has been involved with event for about 30 years and previously served as the chairperson, said that different Highland Games happen all around the country as a way to celebrate traditional Scottish culture.

“To me it’s the history, but shortly followed with the culture. I’m very interested in any kind of culture,” McKeen said. “The people in Brunswick, if they were interested in coming to the games, are very fortunate to have it here because many of the other New England games have closed shop.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.