The thought of running Highland Games in the Upper Hunter had been around for a couple of years prior to the first Games held in 2000 and stems from the observance of National Tartan Day. Two Muswellbrook identities, John Flood and Charles Cooke, in conjunction with some of the local business houses began by wearing kilts to work on Tartan Day and by dressing up shop windows.
The township of Aberdeen, which is situated on the New England Highway between Muswellbrook and Scone in the Upper Hunter of New South Wales, was dealt a stiff blow with the closure of the Aberdeen Meatworks after over a century of operating, putting some 400 people out of work. The Games committee, composed of a broad cross-section of the local community, wanted to create a catalyst around which the people of Aberdeen could rally, lifting their spirits and providing the community with much needed assets.
On the 1st July, 2000, the inaugural Aberdeen Highland Games were held on Jefferson Park , Aberdeen in the Upper Hunter Valley of NSW. In initiating the Games the Committee wished to combine the celebration of National Tartan Day with the traditional events of highland games in an area that has very strong Scottish ties. It was decided to run the Games along similar lines to that of Bundanoon, where it is not competition that matters but participation and enjoyment by all.
There were several factors that led to Aberdeen being selected as the site for the inaugural games:
- The name of Aberdeen obviously lends itself for such an event, together with the names of Scone, Muswellbrook, Rouchel, Roxburgh and Strathearn to name but a few. Further, Aberdeen has the street names McLeod, McAdam, McQueen, Perth and MacKenzie.
- Jefferson Park is perhaps the sporting and recreational ground in the Upper Hunter and includes tennis, golf, bowling, cricket and football facilities.
- The closure of the meatworks after over a century of operation were a tremendous blow to the town, and the Highland Games represents an opportunity to brighten both the town and lift the local community.
- With the 1st of July being National Tartan Day, the first Saturday in July is a most appropriate day for the Highland Games.