bhg2016-wrestling-03When free-style, or to use it’s correct name “catch-as-catch-can”, spread all over Scotland in the early 20th Century, only a few areas continued to specialize in the old traditional Scottish backhold style. Bute was one of the most important and helped to keep the sport alive.   Backhold wresting is practiced all over the North of England and Scotland.  In fact, in Scotland there are two native variations, Carachd Uibhist (Uist wrestling) and Scottish backhold, which is almost identical to that found in the North of England where it is called Cumberland & Westmorland Style.

Scottish backhold wrestlers grip each other around the waist at the back, with the right hand under the opponent’s left arm and the chin resting on the opponent’s right shoulder.  When the referee is sure that both wrestlers have a firm grip he shouts “Hold” and the bout begins.  Should either wrestler break his hold or touch the ground with any part of his body except his feet, he loses. There is no ground wrestling and bouts are usually best of five falls.  The main difference from a style such as Graeco-Roman, the original style of the modern Olympic games, apart from the ground wrestling in Graeco, is that in that style trips and attacks against the legs are not permitted, but in Scottish backhold wrestling they are fundamental.

After World War II  many of the traditional games were persuaded to become ‘amateur’, in other words not to give money prizes, and there arose a division between the ‘amateur’ and ‘professional’ games which split wrestling.  The modern Bute Games were founded in 1947 and T B McMillan, the founding secretary, was also the secretary of The Scottish Amateur Wrestling Association, so Bute Games from the start were resolutely amateur.  Both backhold and catch wrestling were competed for as in many other Highland Games.

In Bute wrestlers from the mainland’s industrial belt won the catch-as-catch-can competitions as the sport was not practised on the island, whilst the Brandanes dominated amateur backhold competitions all over Central Scotland.  Famous names from those days are engraved on trophies still used – Big Jock (Farouk) McMillan of Eskechraggan; Ian Fraser; “Lum” Simpson; the McAlisters; the Macfies; the Taits and many other local families dominated the amateur Highland Games’ circuit. One particular example of their superiority at that time was decisively demonstrated at the Cowal Games in 1957 when Jim McMillan, the Scottish 11st 7lbs champion, easily threw the famous ex-heavyweight champion and thrower, 20st George Mitchell of Glasgow Police – but times change.

Gradually the young people on Bute became more interested in football and, as the old stars retired, the practise of wrestling died away, but the Games’ Committee decided to make a new start.  In 2012 we commenced by hosting the British 11st 7lbs championship for the T B McMillan Salver and, as Luss Games were flooded that year, also temporarily hosted the Scottish 14st 7lbs championship for the Littlejohn Quaich.

We are certain our agreement with the governing body for traditional wrestling, the Scottish Wrestling Bond, has helped us not only to encourage women to participate more actively in the sport but also to rekindle interest amongst our young people, and in 2013 a start was made when three young men from the island entered the competition.  In 2015 we went on a step further to introduce a junior wrestling section as a consequence of which we believe that in time we will further develop skilled wrestlers on Bute able to hold their own in any arena, be it Scotland or abroad.

This year, at senior level, we were delighted to welcome and host competitors not only from around Scotland and the UK but also further afield, to include representation from America and the Icelandic national team.


Operated under The Scottish Wrestling Bond (www.scottishwrestlingbond.org)
Backhold Wrestling


1.  11st 7lbs  (British Championship – Trophy – The T B McMillan Salver)
2.  12st 7lbs
3.  14st 7lbs
4.  Open


5.  10st 7lbs
6.  12st 7lbs
7.  Open


8.  10st 7lbs
9.   Bute Schools’ Open
10.  Bute Schools’ Junior Open



Event 1

1st Prize  –  £66
2nd Prize  –  £44
3rd Prize  –  £22
4th Prize  –  £11

Events 2 & 3

1st Prize  –  £45
2nd Prize  –  £30
3rd Prize  –  £22
4th Prize  –  £11
3rd Pool A  –  £5.50
3rd Pool B  –  £5.50

Event 4

1st Prize  –  £66
2nd Prize  –  £44
3rd Prize  –  £22
4th Prize  –  £11
3rd Pool A  –  £5.50
3rd Pool B  –  £5.50

Event 5

1st Prize  –  £22
2nd Prize  –  £11
3rd Prize  –  N/A

Event 6 & 7

1st Prize  –  £22
2nd Prize  –  £11
3rd Prize  –  £5.50

Events 8, 9 & 10

Not applicable


Please note …

1.   Weigh-in, showers and changing facilities will be available in the Bute Shinty Club
2.   Wrestling is due to commence at approximately 12.10.pm all competitors should report to Wullie Baxter or Kenneth Barrowman for the weigh-in no later than 11.40.am in the Shinty Club
3.   All junior competitors should be of secondary school age during the current academic year
4.   Events may not run on the day in the sequence shown
5.   All the above events will be held on grass at The Public Stadium in Rothesay


£3.00 per event  –  For men and women

£1.00 per event  –  For boys and girls who are not pupils of Rothesay Academy

Important  –  For insurance purposes, in order to participate senior competitors must be members of The Scottish Wrestling Bond.  If not already registered day memberships can be arranged on the day of the Games for a fee of £10 per person.

(Entries will not be processed unless fees have been paid)


Men and women competitors

Wrestlers are free to enter on the day by speaking with one of the officials.  They compete within the weight classes identified above but lighter wrestlers can enter heavier categories where a pool system applies.

Junior competitors

Please Contact Us

If further assistance is required please contact the following …

Enquiries – Men and women competitors

Wullie Baxter
Tel.No.  –  01419 564873
Email  –  wulliebaxter@ntlworld.com

Kenneth Barrowman
Tel.No.  –  07973 833917
Email  –  kennethpb2@gmail.com

Enquiries – Junior competitors

Please contact us