The Gathering Edinburgh 2009
by James Graham Clyde
Clan March The Gathering 2009
Attending “The Gathering” in Edinburgh with my girlfriend this summer was the thrill of a lifetime.
Blessed with excellent weather, kilted clansmen and clanswomen began arriving Saturday morning, July 25th in Edinburgh, striding proudly down the Royal Mile, kilts swinging, all headed to the fields behind Holyrood Palace where clan tents, vendors and entertainment venues had been erected.
As I strode down that ancient cobblestoned street, I felt a strange emotion…I was suddenly overwhelmed with the feeling that I was, at that moment, representing all of my Scottish ancestors who had gone before… my Clyde, Graham, Smith, Livingstone, Buchanan, Douglas, MacFarlane, Scott, Niven, Duncan and Anderson forebears were all represented by me and I freely admit that I shed a wee tear. They were coming home.
At 10 o’clock, the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay (Prince Charles and Camilla), opened the games preceded (and followed by), a panoply of tartan, banners, marching pipe and drum bands, athletes and thousands of kilted clansmen. As I was waiting to hear Charles, I turned to my right and recognized Murray Nicholson and his wife standing right next to me! Kleine Welt!
The Highland games were complemented by performances by The Red Hot Chili Pipers (fabulous!), Chris Tate with his excellent impersonation of Robert Burns (riveting), storytellers (amusing), drum bands (cacophonous), whiskey tasting (what can I say?) and innumerable vendors selling everything from elegant bottle-green velvet Prince Charlie jackets to mallard duck sporrans to custom dirks (expensive, expensive, expensive!).
At around 7:00 pm Saturday afternoon, the clans began to assemble in alphabetical order in front of Holyrood Palace with pipe bands intermittently placed every 5-6 clans.
Once organized, the march of the clans to the Esplanade took about an hour and a half with the Royal Mile lined by literally thousands of enthusiastic Scots who cheered each clan as they marched by. I had the opportunity to meet my clan chief, His Grace, James Graham, the 8th Duke of Montrose… what a kick! (Because he also sits in the House of Lords, one addresses him as “Your Grace”).
At around 9:00 pm the assembled clans were treated to a dramatic theatrical production of “Aisling’s Children”, the story of one Scottish family, the MacLeans and their generational journey from an ancient highland seer, to a Lady-in-Waiting to Mary Queen of Scots, to a Jacobite at Culloden, to a victim of the Clearances and finally to Colin MacLean, a present-day sheep farmer in Australia. “I’m an Aussie born and bred but a Scot through and through”. Each succeeding generation related its own story in an extremely well-choreographed and very moving presentation. Even the surface of the esplanade was chalked with colored lines to represent tartan! The production ended with hundreds of pipers and drummers marching to “Scotland the Brave”.
Sunday was as exciting and well-attended as the previous day… Personally, I had a hard time deciding whether to patronize the oyster bar, the smoked salmon purveyor, the genealogical tent, or rock to the Red Hot Chili Pipers!
For the first time since Sir Walter Scott gathered the clans in Edinburgh in 1822 for King George IV, “The Gathering” united over 8,000 clansmen and women representing over 120 different clans and crowds topping 70,000.
The video that best conveys the excitement of the clan march can be viewed on the Clan Graham Society web site. Go to “Clan Graham Society” and click under the shot of Prince Charles. Scroll down to the three videos and click on the first one. Be sure to turn your speakers UP!
Cherrio th’ noo!
James Graham Clyde.