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Utah, United States
One night while tucking Abby into bed she sweetly chimed, "good night! Sleep tight! Don't let the bed bites bug you!" I like her thinking. Sometimes life bites. The trick is to not let it bug you.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Wha's Like Us?

I've been a little immersed in Scottish-ness for the past couple of months, and our Highland Games tour took us to Payson last Saturday for one of our favorite events. The beautiful park venue, friendly vibe and nonexistent entry fee lends to a casual, family-friendly feel at the Payson Scottish Festival. The Salt Lake Tribune did a nice write-up which included the photo of Abby, above.

The night before Payson, Abby and I attended a fantastic concert at the Sandy Amphitheater by Kiwi performer of Scottish-themed music, Steve McDonald. His music is sentimental but exuberant. I bought a CD and he signed it. Abby and I have now listened to it at least 10 times. If I've been immersed in any Scottish-ness, I have no one but myself to blame!

The CD we purchased is titled "Highland Farewell," with a collection of songs that tell the story of the "Highland Clearances" that took place when land owners drove poor farmers off their lands and replaced them with herds of sheep, prompting an exodus which led some of the highlanders overseas. This song is about the strength of the Scottish people who did indeed "rise again" and thrive in many different places on earth. Now, apparently over 120 million people around the world claim Scottish clan heritage. Could you even fit 120 million people in Scotland? That number would surely spin the head of the guy who first said "wha's like us? Damn few and they're aa deid!"

Anyway, while searching for Steve McDonald videos on You Tube, I happened across a neat series of documentaries called "the Clans of Scotland." Very interesting, if sometimes harsh stuff. I did want to thump the host a few times as he brusquely detailed the history of Clan Campbell, although I appreciated his pointing out that over 800 Campbells were slaughtered in 1644 by the MacDonalds in Inverary, prior to the unfortunate and more well-known events of Glencoe (in which 38 MacDonalds were killed).  Frankly, pretty much every different clan episode I've watched has outlined a bloody progression of battles, squabbles, and land-grabs. My favorite line from a sturdy highland reenactor was: "If you were'nae fat and strong, you did'nae survive!" This sentiment may become my new motto.

This link will take you to the 2nd in a series of 3 videos that complete the Campbell episode. It explains how the Campbell and MacDonald feud was wrapped up in the religious reforms of the time. I've included it here, mainly because I love the dude who speaks at 3:30, Professor Ted Cowan. His enthusiasm for the subject (and his FABULOUS Glasgow accent) made the whole series for me.

Growing up, I remember Gran always expressing her distaste for history class because "history was so bloody." If this was the stuff she was getting in school, I don't blame her for feeling that way! Gran was a Campbell, as were some of my ancestors on the other side of the family. Though I've connected myself officially to Clan MacNicol recently, I grew up understanding that my family felt its strongest connection to the larger, more widely renowned Campbell clan. When I was 9 and my my family was on a road trip through the Scottish highlands, my father's loyalties were embedded in my brain when, after reading "CAMPELLS NOT WELCOME" on a sign on a restaurant door, my disgusted dad marched back to the car announcing, "we're not eating here!"

Now I'm married to someone with MacDonald (and other) clan lineage. I'd like to think that modern thought allows us to look past the old clan biases, but the fact that I put so much effort into trying to not think about the rift only shows how some old ways of thinking might just be embedded in DNA. It is fun going to different highland games, though, and walking from clan tent to clan tent with my kids telling the people, "we have some Rosses! We have some Nicols! We have Campbells and Mac Donalds!" It's much more enjoyable to revel in the bonds than in the rivalries. I hope that my kids will take pride in all their Scottish connections.
MacNicol tartan

My Aunt Jean once said to me, "there are none so Scottish as those who leave Scotland." This may be true, and judging by the turn-outs at local Scottish events, applies to plenty of folks who never lived there in the first place! My Scottish friends and family may think my fixation is a little ridiculous, but I'm sure having fun with it.


Deidra said...

That is a wild Tartan! Love it.

Have you read the historical fiction books by Sharon K. Penman? Lots of Scottish and English history and they are VERY good. Read them in order!

Also, just read a book that had stuff about DNA memories, etc. in it and I thought that was so wierd that you mentioned it. It was an easy fiction read called Cottage by the Sea.

Love your Scottishness!

Karen said...

Thanks, Deidra! We must have been reading each others' blogs at the same time. I was feeling your traveling-with-kids-and-getting-no-sleep pain. You guys are troopers!

Thanks for the reading recommendations- I will totally look for those books, and Cottage sound like just the kind of wacky stuff I love reading about!

apple slice said...

i am coming late to this enchanting post. i love everything about it. i have realized of late that as young as we may think we are, we are the history-keepers.