In 2009, Scotland hosted its first ever Homecoming year, which was a country-wide programme of events and activities to celebrate the rich culture and heritage of Scotland and its contribution to the World. It was held in the year of the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, Scotland`s national poet and international cultural icon.
Clan Grant took part in the 2009 Clan Gathering in Holyrood Park in Edinburgh. The Clan Grant Society had a tent in the clan village and on Saturday evening they took part in the"March of the Clans"; a ceremonial procession up the Royal Mile to the Castle led by massed pipers and drummers followed by thousands of Clansmen and women. The weekend was well attended by Clans members from far and wide and despite some initial negative press and opinions regarding the organisation of the event, lack of publicity etc. most found it an enjoyable weekend.
The Homecoming Scotland event in 2014 Bannockburn Live was held in Stirling in the same year that Scotland hosted the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup and on the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn. Clan Grant was not able to take part in the event this time, but the Association of Highland Clans and Societies (AHCS) were happy to take over our pitch and distribute copies of our leaflet and other Clan information to interested visitors.
A Letter to Queensland
Extracts from reports printed in Standfast magazine (issue 35, Winter 2009).
A letter written by Peter Grant to his nephew Peter.
As promised on your return to Queensland here is the report on the `gathering` held in Edinburgh last weekend (25/26 July 2009).
The first thing to say is that not only did the sun shine on the Clans but it was a far greater success than I ever anticipated but still leaving room for improvement should the event be held again in the future. I don`t think that the majority of the 47,000 who came through the gates or the 20,000 who lined the Royal Mile for the march of the Clans went away disappointed.
Saturday dawned a real cracker after some very nondescript weather so we started the long trek to Holyrood by bus and shanks pony. As I told you, large parts of the city are currently dug up to put in place a new tramway system with the result that bus routes can change daily sometimes during the day and the best way around is a good pair of legs.
Both sides of the Royal Mile were crowded with a tidal wave of tartan rolling down to engulf Holyrood and the park, quite a sight. Although we queued to get in the organisation was very slick and we were in the games in no time at all (not a luxury afforded to those who came later and had to wait for a very long time to gain access to the ground).
The site was part of Holyrood Park, the section to the north of Queen`s Drive and one could say the back lawn of the Palace. The Park proper covers the whole of Arthur`s Seat and the Salisbury Crags which dominates the city, a magnificent setting with the town and Holyrood Palace to one side and the Crags overlooking the site from the south.
We made our way to the clan village. There were 124 clans and societies represented at the Gathering, all the tents were of the same design like medieval jousting tents and they made a braw sight. I am sure that there were clans next to rival clans who last met in anger such is the history of Scotland but no harm seemed to be done and goodwill and a few drams prevailed. This was a large gathering with plenty of space to circulate in, possibly to the detriment of intimacy. The Stone Mountain games in Atlanta was also a large gathering but somehow managed to engender an atmosphere of intimacy at the same time.
We were presented with a large events arena with large TV monitor for those who were not able to get a clear view of events - food and drink outlets (rather overpriced Ed.) - craft areas - specialist outlets - in fact something for everyone and for those canny Scots perched on the crags with a good pair of glasses, all for free!
The day then became for us over-ambitious - the March of the Clans, which was I am sure the high point of most ex-pat Scot`s trip, started at 19:30 hrs. We had decided that this was one we could miss but we would watch from the route having marched last year at the Stone Mountain. having trekked back across Edinburgh and then back to the route already fairly tired we found we had over an hour`s wait before the head of the march came into sight.
Nothing for it but to join in the banter and atmosphere of the waiting crowd which as usual was full of quick wit and asides - the cheer for the poor cyclist on his rickshaw puffing up to the Radisson Hotel with an overweight cargo; the gentleman quietly reading his newspaper sitting in his wheelchair at the kerbside waiting for the off; the ironic booing when Clan Campbell came past (they can always unite the rest of the clans!); the smart turnout of the Atholl Highlanders; our own clan still going strong with a lot further to go - our sympathies with them but by then my legs were past their sell by date.
It has been said that being a highlander is more a state of mind meaning that wherever you live and regardless of when your forebears left Scotland a part of you is always Scottish and I am sure that for all those from outwith Scotland who did march up to the castle felt that too. marching up Scotland`s most historic route in its capital city with your clan, behind your chief wearing the kilt and listening to the crowd cheering you on - well if you were too wabbit to remember I do understand so can I tell you that you all did very well and were a credit to your clans as well as a bonny sight.
Watching the march was watching a microcosm of a section of Scottish country society. there were immaculately turned out chief`s. to the Glen born, beautiful tailored tweed, finest tartan kilts resplendently set off with the correct number of eagle feathers, generations of breeding and the ability to hold on to their estate followed by the `gentlemen of the Clan` doctors, accountants, professionals of many hues, the modern day tacksmen aping their chief followed by the great hoi polloi of clansmen and women wearing everything and anything from the very best to Princess Street`s worst. There was the aged chief and his wife absolutely determined to cross the line - no way were they going to give up - their grandson proudly holding up the chief`s banner.
But for us it was time to crawl home for a very large dram, a quick fry up and bed. Summing up the day it was far better than I had expected from the information which I had had, great setting, well organised crowd control and I am sure a rewarding experience for all of the overseas visitors.
The Edinburgh Gathering and Games
By Paul Grant, Chief`s Standard Bearer
... The Clan Village was well set-out with good sized tents in groups of four (2 x 2 back to back) which formed wide, straight avenues for excellent access by visitors and we were very pleased to receive a good number of interested enquirers at the CGS tent who signed several pages of the visitors book. I made myself known at other Clan tents, where I collected items of interest, such as their Clan journals, and dropped off a few of our own in return, which I have to say is far more interesting than any of the other publications that I saw and which were well received by the visitors who took them away with them.
I was amazed by the vast number of Eagle feathers being worn, in threes, twos and ones, by clan Chiefs, Chieftains and Armigers, some of which were massive in size (the feathers, that is!) and at around 11am I noticed that all the feathers were flocking in a particular area. I was pleased to meet two old acquaintances from my army days at the gathering, who have done rather well for themselves, as they too were wearing eagle feathers and I was invited to dine at Balgonie Castle on Sunday evening, which was a bit of an improvement on the students burger-bar speciality which I had expected to be consuming later that day.
I was told that the Chief`s were being introduced to HRH Prince Charles so I hot-footed it back to tell the Chief, who then headed in that direction.
On Saturday evening, all the Clans gathered at Holyrood Park to commence the march from there, up the Royal mile to the castle, which was an enjoyable occasion, more a casual stroll than a march, where eight hundred pipers and drummers led seven thousand Clansmen and women, and this was observed by a further twenty thousand cheering, flag waving spectators who crowded the pavements and hung from every window and balcony along the route. I heard many of our American cousins describe it as "Awesome!" which I am told means "rather good". Overall a most enjoyable occasion and I am looking forward to attending the next one.