Duncan and Janet MacLachlan were the founding family of the Cambridge Scottish Festival. Born on Scotland and emigrating to Canada with his wife in 1954, the MacLachlans were always involved in their Scottish culture and heritage. Duncan helped found the Highland Fusiliers Band, the Kitchener Legion Band and the Waterloo Regional Police Pipe Band. Janet, a highland dancer who studied under the legendary Jack Muir, started Highland Dance schools in London, Kitchener, Woodstock and Stratford. Janet co-founded together with her husband the Cambridge Scottish Festival which went on to host the Ontario Highland Dance Championships. She also founded the Western Ontario Highland Dance Association and was recognized as dance historian.
Duncan MacLachlan, sponsored by the Waterloo Region Police Association, initiated the first Cambridge Scottish Festival at the Waterloo Region Police Association Centre near the Village of Ayr. The Games were an instant success. The first Games held on October 12, 1975, were scheduled to coincide with the popular Oktoberfest Festival in Kitchener-Waterloo. These games were the first and only Games held in the fall of the year. After that the Games were held during the summer months of August and July. The Games were moved to Churchill Park in 1987 where they continue to be held.
In addition to hosting prestigious competitions in piping and dancing, the Games held many of the commonly known athletic events such as caber toss and hammer throw (heavy events) both amateur and professional. With its reputation as a first class event growing, Cambridge Scottish Festival hosted pipe band competition for Grade 1 to Grade 5 bands as well as individual pipers and drummers. The Games were the site of the Piobaireachd Society's Gold Medal for piping, one of only 3 in the world. Upwards of 20 pipers from around the world competed for this esteemed prize although most would have drawn from Ontario and adjacent US states. Also hosted was the Canadian Pipe Band Championships, which were drawn from Ottawa in 1975.
The Ontario Open Highland Dance Championships were also held in Cambridge and were the largest such event in eastern North America. Together with the Southern Ontario Tug'o War Championships and other events and festivities the games drew as many as 30,000 spectators at their peak, underlying the claim to being the largest Scottish Festival outside of Scotland and the second largest in the world.
The games also attracted the attention of dignitaries and politicians. Among honoured guests have been the late Honourable John Deifenbaker, the late Honourable Flora MacDonald and General John de Chastelain.The Earl of Caithness, Malcolm Sinclair was guest of honour in 2003.
Since the initial Games in 1975, the Cambridge Scottish Festival have grown into one of the premier events in the Cambridge Area and in the Scottish Festival in Ontario calendar.
We invite all those with Scottish background or those who are interesting in enjoying a warm summers day with food, music and entertainment to come and visit the Cambridge Scottish Festival.