Like Highland Games the role of the Chieftain is surrounded in myth and mystery, lost in the mists of time. Highland Games are probably in the same category as The Olympic Games, although somewhat further down the “pecking order”!!
Games were arranged and organised whereby military leaders (the sovereign) and clan chiefs could select the biggest, strongest and fastest of the competitors to take a lead role in their armies. Thus the sovereign or clan chief would be in attendance to select the individuals he/she considered best suited for the various roles in the military. In effect we like to think the chieftain selected at the modern games, and certainly at Bute Highland Games, is representing the Monarch and, as such, he/she becomes King/Queen for a day .
Certainly in our experience, those fulfilling this important role at our event feel that this is the case. Since the advent of the modern Bute Highland Games (1947) the organisers have selected a wide range of interesting people as their Chieftain. Without naming specific individuals, over the years the following occupations have been represented – chief constables, fire masters, politicians, royalty, the acting profession, TV personalities, captains of commerce and industry, the military (Army, Navy and Air Force), Olympians – the list is endless!
For some forty years The Chieftain at our Games has received a Cromach (a shepherd’s crook) as a symbol of their office. The Cromach has an ornate silver collar naming the individual and the date of the Games inscribed thereon. A unique souvenir of their very special day.
In November 2012 the organisers of Bute Highland Games were surprised and delighted to receive a five figure donation from Commander Ian Hamilton (RN Retd) a former resident of Bute. Sadly he died in 2014 at the magnificent age of 103, having enjoyed the wonderful care of the staff at Erskine Hospital toward the end of his life. In recognition of his extremely generous donation the organisers of the Bute Highland Games decided to name the ceremonial Cromach, in perpetuity, “The Commander Hamilton Cromach”.
For our tribute to Commander Hamilton please click here.