Saturday, 25 July 2009

The Gathering - report

On Saturday 25th July, the Gathering commenced in Edinburgh, the first of two days of festivities celebrating Scottish culture, clan affiliation and all the things that make this country so enjoyable to be a part of! It wasn't a hooly, it was a hooly and a half - the following report will give a quick flavour of some of what I experienced, but believe me, you really had to be there!

My wife, two boys and myself arrived just after 11.00am and found the queue - I hope the Guinness Book of Records was there, they'd have had a roaring trade today! The longest queue I've ever been in, but thankfully, the fastest moving queue I've ever been in - we were in it for maybe seven or eight minutes tops!

Having gained entry we made our way to the main arena. Difficult to see quite what was happening if it had not been for the huge TV screen conveying the activities. We arrived just in time to see the Duke of Rothesay (Prince Charles) formally declare the event open, after which the festivities commenced in the main arena.

Following this, we took the boys in to see the Highland dancing competition. They'd not seen this before and were absolutely delighted with it, so we stayed for a good twenty minutes to let them get an idea about it all!

Now here's a weird thing. Both my eldest son and myself are huge Doctor Who fans, not just the new revived series, but the old series with the wobbly sets! Last night, we sat down and watched on DVD the very last story of the second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, which saw him depart the series in 1969 along with his two companions Jamie and Zoe, played by Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury. So who did I bump into today? None other than Frazer Hines, who many will also remember as Joe Sugden from Emmerdale Farm! Frazer was there recording a Radio 4 documentary, and clearly having a whale of a time. One of many personal highlights in the day!

Not sure which was the more intimidating - the Duke of Atholl's own private army or the Tartan Army!

How exactly did plaids get used in the days of old? Demonstrations galore...

There was also plenty of music, with some of the best being a series of Gaelic 'puirt a beul' (mouth tunes) at the end of a set by Julie Fowlis. Direach sgoineil...!

Inside the Scotland Lives Auditorium were several groups selling useful genealogical material, such as the Scottish Genealogy Society and publisher Birlinn, as well as many organisations offering hands on advice, including the ScotlandsPeople team and the National Archives of Scotland. Pictured below is GROS staff member Audrey Wyper, but also around were Duncan MacNiven, Registrar General, Paul Parr, Deputy Registrar General, and none other than Alistair Moffat, my former boss from Scottish Television almost a decade ago, who was there to give a talk on the Border Reivers.

Also at the tent were Dee Williams from ScotlandsPeople and Hilary Bowman from Discover my Past Scotland magazine, and I managed to record a short video interview with each which I will put online in due course - both with some excusive revelations of things to come in the next few months! There were some interesting finds also. The new fifth version of "Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors - The Official Guide" was released today - I received a copy from the nice folks at Birlinn which will be reviewed in the next issue of DMPS - whilst the folks at the University of Dundee have now started a Postgraduate Certificate in Family and Local History by Distance Learning - see, or call 01382 385543.

At the Clan Village, I stopped at a few of the tents to see what they had on some of the lines in my blood - Currie, MacFarlane and Chattan amongst them - and caught up with a bearded Graham MacDonnell, a fellow student at Strathclyde a couple of years ago, in full regalia at the MacDonald tent. As my mother was a Graham, I also had to catch up with An Greumach Mhor, James Graham, the 8th Duke of Montrose, who kindly managed to share some useful information as to the origin of the Northern Irish branch of the Grahams (we're thieves and vagabonds all from the Scottish Borders!), as well as a branch of the Grahams found within my father's line from the Port of Menteith some moons ago.

Finally towards the end of the day, I bumped into a good friend, Alisdair MacDonald, a fellow student on the postgraduate course I studied at Strathclyde from 2007-08.

Needless to say, there was plenty of other happenings - Highland games, a story telling tent in which my two boys learned of Fionn MacCumhaill, and plenty of other goings on. The downside - I never got to the Talisker tent for a sample! We ended up leaving at 5.30, sadly unable to stay for the clan parade later that evening at 8.00pm.

Further coverage of the event from the BBC, including the presence of the Duke of Rothesay and Wee Eck himself, Alex Salmond, First Minister, is found at the following links:

UPDATE 26th - there's a further BBC news report on last night's clan parade up the Royal Mile at

Alba Gu Bràth!!!

Professional genealogical problem solving and research


Ina said...

what happened to the wee utubes that were here this morning?


Chris Paton said...

Hi Ina,

There were no vids in this post other than the BBC links mentioned at the end. I have done two interviews at the Gathering, with Dee Williams of ScotlandsPeople and Hilary Bowman of Discover my Past Scotland - they are in subsequent dedicated threads.