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Monday, October 20, 2008

Stone Mountain Highland Games 2008

It's been a while since I've had a post to this blog, but rest assured I've been keeping busy. This past weekend was no exception, as I attended with the Scottish Tartans Museum the Stone Mountain (GA) Highland Games, Oct. 18-19, 2008. We had a wonderful time, I have lots of great photos, and thought it a wonderful opportunity to revisit my neglected blog!

First -- the weather. We were a bit trepidatious when we drove down from Franklin, NC, to Atlanta on Friday. We drove through rain the entire time, and despite our prayers it did not let up at all once we got to the field to set up. The temperature was if anything too warm (all the humidity made it feel warmer than it really was), and we had to set up our entire gift shop display in rather damp and muggy conditions. The good news is that the weather reports we heard earlier proved true, and Saturday and Sunday were both sunny and cool. In fact, this is the first year I can remember where I was able to keep my jacket on throughout the day. I think I took it off for about an hour during the afternoon on Saturday and not at all on Sunday. Plus, the rain we had Friday kept the notorious "Stone Mountain dust" at bay until late Sunday afternoon (so now we know it takes about a day and a half for the field at Stone Mountain to dry after a rain storm).

Second -- how did we do? Well, as many readers are aware, Stone Mountain is one of the few times when we travel with our museum's gift shop inventory to vend at a games or festival -- normally we distribute information only. Stone Mountain is a wonderful fundraiser for us, and we greatly appreciate the opportunity afforded to us by the Stone Mountain board of directors each year. To be quite honest, we were prepared for a dismal year, what with the floundering economy and the high gas prices. And Saturday morning, the crowds looked pretty light. It seemed our fears would be realized. However, by Saturday afternoon the crowds were growing to their usual size and we were keeping relatively busy. I was telling people that sales were "doing well, but we weren't breaking any records." Well, I should have held my tongue because Sunday the crowds continued to be high and when all was said and done we ended up having our best ever sales weekend on record! Don't ask how we did it, but we are very grateful to all who came out and supported the Scottish Tartans Museum. The funds generated this past weekend will make our slow winter season much more manageable. (Come to find out by talking with the folks running the games, the parking lot was full to capacity on Saturday and 3/4 full on Sunday, which is higher than usual).

Finally -- the pictures! One of the Highlights of the weekend for me was the opportunity to meet Sir Malcolm MacGregor of MacGregor, 24th chief of the Clan MacGregor, and his wife, Lady Fiona MacGregor.

From Stone Mountain Highland Games Oct 18-19, 2008

Lady MacGregor's maiden name was Armstrong, and that is the tartan I am wearing in my kilt. My maternal grandmother's maiden name was also Armstrong. Both Lady MacGregor and I publish monthly columns in the Scottish Banner newspaper, so it was nice to get to meet a fellow author.

I have always admired Sir Malcolm MacGregor as a model of proper Highland dress. Whenever I have seen photographs of him in the kilt, he always seems so well put together, as a Highland gentleman should. In fact, I confessed to him that whenever I need a good example to show someone of proper, dignified Highland attire, I refer to him and Prince Charles!

I should not have been surprised, then, to discover that his lady wife also has impeccably good taste. Standing next to her in the above photo, I felt as if I were standing next to a member of the Royal Family. She was, hands down, the most well dressed woman at the games (you cannot quite make it out in the above photo, but notice the tartan detail on her hat, as well).

A few comments about Sir Malcolm's outfit -- first, the sporran. You may immediately notice it is an antique. I asked him about it, and he related the story in his family that it was found on the Culloden battlefield and gifted to his great-great-great grandfather (I believe I have the number of "greats" correct) some 70 years after the battle. It has been in the family ever since.

From Stone Mountain Highland Games Oct 18-19, 2008

The top of the cantle is engraved with the year "1736" (I believe -- I am forced to go by memory as silly me did not get the top of the cantle in a photo). The leather bag, which is very old, is assumed not to be original, though he did not know when it might have been replaced.

Another part of Sir Malcolm's outfit that I noticed were his hose. As my wife is an avid knitter, and I have a great appreciation for hand-knits as a result (especially kilt hose), I asked him about his own hose.

His were knit by his great-grandmother, whom he said was apparently a very avid knitter of kilt hose, as there are quite a few made by her hand still in use by the family! What a tribute to the durability of quality hand-knit goods! Notice the fine gauge, marled yarn, and St. Andrew's cross detail on the cuff.

I was very pleased to hear that Sir Malcolm and Lady Fiona were planning to spend part of this coming week in North Carolina, and they planned to make a visit to the Scottish Tartans Museum in Franklin on Thursday. I greatly look forward to their arrival and my opportunity to play host to this fine couple.

The reader of this blog may recall some time back a post I made about the MacGregor tartans, which was relating the position of Sir Malcolm regarding his clan's tartans. Sir Malcolm told me he has recently added more information to the Clan Gregor web site about the MacGregor tartans -- here is the link. (Note: I just noticed three articles I have written are in the links section of that site -- neat!) I think it is fantastic that a Highland chief has taken such an interest in tartan -- not all have -- and it is a great service to his clan.

Here is a shot of the couple from Sunday of the games. As before, impeccably dressed, both of them.

Sunday they were both outfitted in the Rob Roy tartan, which, according to the chief, should more properly be known as "MacGregor, Red & Black."

Speaking of other MacGregor tartans, there were many men outfitted on Sunday in the MacGregor of Deeside tartan, aka MacGregor of Glengyle. Here is a photo of a group of them on the field while their chief gave an award (I believe one of the piping awards).

The gentleman on the far right is Lamar Adron Britt, maker of the Ferguson Britt sporrans. We had many of his fine sporrans on display in our tent this past weekend, and Lamar was kind enough to spend part of the day with us, despite the fact that he was quite busy with the Clan MacGregor Society all day (they were the honored clan).

Here is some of the staff and volunteers who helped man the museum's tent this weekend. From left to right, there is Chuck Coburn, Lamar Britt, Ronan MacGregor, and Jim Akins. Not pictured are myself, my wife Joannie, Jim's wife Kathie, Ryan and Alan Ross, Bisell MacWilliams and his fiance Amanda. Sort-of pictured is Ronan's wife Mary (behind Chuck). Notice the many nice t-shirts hanging in the background. They are part of a new line we've introduced in the museum's gift shop. Not all of them are up and listed on our web site yet, but some are. Keep your eye here.

A few other assorted notes and comments about the weekend. I had the wonderful opportunity to chat with Alistair Buchan, owner of Lochcarron woolen mills. I always enjoy getting to "talk shop" with Alistair, and this past weekend was no exception. He and I took the opportunity to discuss the topic of my upcoming November Scottish Banner article (no spoilers here!). Speaking of the Banner, I also had the pleasure of seeing once again my editor, Val Cairney, doing what she does best -- promoting the Banner of course!

(I should also say it is nice to be in a place where my children are not the only ones with names like "Malcolm" and "Alister" -- our spelling of the name.)

In fashion news, I belive I saw fewer Utilikilts this year, though my wife swears she saw more. Maybe I just chose not to see them! As always, Highland dress by those in attendance was a mixed bag. Walking among the other vendors, we did see one that had several racks of kilts bearing this infamous label.

However, I was pleased to see other traditional kiltmakers fighting back, with tactics such as this sign outside Geoffrey (Tailor)'s tent.

One trend we have noticed the past couple of years is fewer and fewer people asking basic "what's my tartan?" questions, and asking things such as "what is the difference between modern and ancient tartans?" and "what is the difference between 'Mac' and 'Mc'?" We were still asked this sort of thing, mind you, just not nearly as much it seemed. Others I talked to noticed the same trend. I can happily say people seemed more educated in these basic matters. Most people I spoke to knew the tartan they wanted to wear and their Highland dress questions were more specific and directed. Maybe we are doing a good job educating the public after all! Perhaps we are seeing the same group of people attending these festivals year after year and after a while people all know what their tartan is? Or perhaps the more readily availalbe tartan information on the internet now is helping? People can now plug in their surname at the Scottish Tartans Authority site, for example, and have their recommended tartan appear. So they show up at the Scottish Highland Games already armed with basic information. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues.

As usual, we were set up right next to the Scottish Spinning and Weaving Society tent, where weaver Marjorie Logie Warren and spinner & knitter Betty Johnson were demonstrating. Both are great friends and it was very nice having them so close by. Here the two of them are looking up the details of a tartan, it would seem. (Or did they come up to the museum's tent to shop for some shortbread?) Betty is on the left, Marge on the right.

One regret I have is that I did not get a photo of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police pipe band (wearing their new kilts made by Lochcarron). Betty and Marge did, however, have to run off at one point on Sunday to have their photo taken with a Mountie (or as they put it, "get their man!"). They asked my wife, Joannie, to"man the shop" for them while they were off on their quest. Joannie did a great job answering people's fiber arts questions while they were gone. So I thought I'd close off on this random post with a shot of my beautiful wife "at the wheel."

1 comment:

Holly Greenfield said...

Loved the post, Matt. I can hear your enthusiam all the way through. Thanks so much for sharing!!