AN all-male games society backed by the royal family has voted to accept women members for the first time.
The 200-year-old Braemar Royal Highland Society, which enjoys the patronage of the Queen, felt they were “missing out on a lot of talent” by excluding females.
The group, which organises the Highland Games, currently boasts 120 male members.
They hope that their unanimous decision to make the change will boost numbers and help the society “move forward”.
The development means that children of female members who move outside the parish of Crathie and Braemar in Aberdeenshire can compete in the games.
Only children who live in the parish or whose father is a member of the society are entitled to participate at present.
Benefits include a £40 annual pension and a £250 lump sum to a spouse when a member dies.
David Geddes, president of the society, said: “I have felt for a while that it is time for a change.
“It’s not a very fair playing field. We need to move forward while keeping our heritage and traditions.
“It’s no longer the case that men are always the breadwinners. Women are more involved in business and we are missing out on a lot of talent in the village.”
He added that the proposal had been backed unanimously by members at the society’s annual meeting last month.
The move to allow women members follows similar decisions by prominent organisations in Scotland.
In September last year the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews voted to extend its membership to women, reversing a tradition that went back 260 years.
Five months later the Speculative Society, one of the oldest debating societies in the world, voted to open its doors to women for the first time in its 251-year-history.
The Braemar Royal Highland Society was formed in 1815, and was first visited by Queen Victoria in 1848.
It organises events such as the Braemar Gathering, which is held in September and attracts 20,000 visitors from around the world.
Senior royals including the Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Charles regularly attend.
This year’s event on September 5 will be a milestone, with about 300 people in Highland dress, led by 12 pipe bands, expected to march to celebrate its 200-year anniversary.
International athletes will compete in track events, and dancers and pipers including the massed band will perform throughout the day.