Manly games, athletic sports and the commodification of Scottish identity: caledonian gatherings in New Zealand to 1915

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the development of Caledonian Gatherings in New Zealand from their first emergence in the 1860s until 1915. As one of the defining features of Scottish immigrant community life in the Diaspora, the Gatherings are a global phenomenon. In New Zealand, their development is intrinsically bound to that of Scottish associations, with Caledonian Games being, in fact, the crucial motor for the associations’ rise. The assessment of Caledonian Gatherings hence provides the key to understandig the Scots’ associational culture in New Zealand. At the same time, however, the Gatherings were not an exclusive Scottish event, the article documenting their wider community relevance. Outside of the tighter circle of Scots intent on the promotion of Caledonian sports, the Gatherings soon became a favourite holiday pastime throughout New Zealand. From the late 1880s, greater emphasis was placed on the athletic components of the programme. This is suggestive of the the tensions between Scottish traditionalists keen on maintaining the Games’ authentic character, and those seeking to promote them as amateur or professional athletic gatherings. By scrutinising the ways in which ‘Caledonia’ was commodified, and developed as a successful brand, the article explores the Gatherings’ dual purpose. Though born out of an ethnic tradition – hence serving as a site of memory – the article argues that Caledonian Gatherings were a central means for the Scots involved in their organisation to claim respectability in civic life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-247
Number of pages24
JournalScottish Historical Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010


  • scottish identity
  • New Zealand
  • Scottish immigrant

Cite this