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This morning I loaded up the photo and recording gear and headed up to Furman for the 2009 Greenville Scottish Games. It was a great day to be outside – finally no rain, and not too terribly hot. I decided to check out the games, and see if I could get a bit more information on family history.
The crowds were gathering, but not too back. Shuttle buses were running from the parking areas, so I boarded one. I should have walked. The bus I was on circled the same route twice until it had enough people to head on up to the games proper. I was beginning to wonder if we were on some perverse infinite loop.
I made it to the games and shelled out the rather pricey $15 for admission. This gained me entrance to a wonderland of Gaelic activity. In one field were the athletic competitions – caber toss, sheaf toss, and hammer throw. In another were the sheep dog trials. A tent was set up for dancing competitions, and pipers were competing on a hill near Cherrydale. There were vendors for food and Gailic stuff set up near the stadium, along with a large tent with a stage for bands. The main field was ringed with the clan tents, and each of the aforementioned competitions were featured on the main field at one point or another. Quite a lot to see.
First I spent a few minutes watching the sheep dogs in action. These are amazing animals, able to keep their sheep in line with just a few whistles and points from their masters. I probably enjoyed watching them most of all.
From there I wandered over to the athletic field where the hammer throw was in full swing, so to speak. Men and women were competing in their respective categories. These guys (both genders) tended to be massive, and had the muscles necessary to toss the hammer a good distance. Even though I could respect their athleticism, I couldn’t help but think of the movie Matilda while watching the women’s competition.
For my next stop I wandered up the hill to the piping competition. Various stations were set up for the pipers. There was a tent for a single judge at each location, and a small platform where the pipers would walk up and down while playing their routines. The cacophony of so many bagpipes in close confines was astounding. I couldn’t understand how the judges could make sense out of any of it. Here’s a short audio clip I recorded…
I got to the main field just in time for the caber toss, the quintessential Scottish game. The object is to flip a long pole similar to a telephone pole, but a bit smaller. Points are awarded for how many degrees the pole lands from the direction of the throw. I saw one person make a complete flip while I was watching.
I wandered back down toward the vendors. There was Scottish and Celtic stuff of all varieties. You could just about anything with your clan’s tartan design on it, as well as some rather lethal weaponry.
Scottish fare was offered in this area, as well. I had to laugh, though. There was one food vendor offering shrimp and grits, and no one was in line. The longest line was for the vendor offering Haggis, meat pies, and Scottish eggs.
It was lunchtime, so I thought, “What the heck?” and got in line. Having visited Scotland before and sampled their, um, cuisine, I wasn’t up for haggis, so I ordered a meat pie and Scottish egg, washed down with sweet tea. The pie was tasty, with seasoned hamburger (I assume) baked into a small pastry. The Scottish egg was a boiled egg that had been wrapped in sausage and deep fried. It was actually quite good. I enjoyed my lunch while watching some of the bands perform under the tent.
Suitably sated, I left the vendor area and headed toward the clan tents and the main field. The last time I came to these games they had a mass pipe band gathering at noon, so I wanted to be in place for that. Unfortunately, the schedule had changed, so more athletic competitions were taking place. That gave me time to wander along the clan tents.
It used to be that you only saw folks dressed in various kilts and Scottish garb. However, ever since Braveheart came out in 1995, these games have also played host to many William Wallace wannabees. There were plenty of blue and white painted faces, and dudes wearing kilts carrying Claymore swords. Even the women and kids got into the act.
..a silly little bit of play-acting, but it was all fun.
Eventually I found my clan’s tent – the Cameron Clan. Here’s where I struck pay dirt with family history.
“Taylor” is one of the septs of Clan Cameron. Although I’ve got no genealogical evidence that our family is part of this sept, I’ve always heard that we were part of this group. The lady at the tent asked if I had ever been to Scotland, and was impressed that I had actually been there and had stayed with a Chandler family (another Cameron sept) while on the Isle of Mull. She provided me with some more information on our purported ancestor, one Donald Cameron, also known as the “Taillear Dubh na tuaighe“, or “The Black Tailor of the Axe.”
Donald Cameron was the illegitimate son of Ewen Beag Cameron, chief of the clan, and the daughter of the chief of the Clan MacDougall. According to Wikipedia and other sources, this is how our family got its name…
After Donald’s birth, Ewen kept his son, and had him nursed by a tailor’s wife at Lundavra in Lochaber (“Cameron country”). There, as an infant, Donald received the nickname An Taillear Dubh (an, a diminutive; Taillear, an occupational reference to the caretaker’s husband; Dubh, translated as “black” in the context of meaning “swarthy” or “dark tempered”).
Later, Donald distinguished himself in battle using the Lochaber axe, thus adding to his title. Donald’s descendants referred to themselves as Clann an Taillear Dhuibh Chamronaich (“Children of the Black Tailor of the Camerons”), and took the surnames Mac-an-taillear (son of the tailor), Macintaylor, and eventually just Taylor.
By this time the piping and Braveheart clones were starting to get to me. It was time to leave. Before going, I did stop by the British car show that was taking place out on Furman’s mall. There were Lotuses (Loti?), MGs, Jaguars, Austin-Healeys, Rolls, and Triumphs. There was quite a nice collection of vehicles.
All-in-all it was a great day, and I’m glad I made it out for the games.