Monday, July 27, 2009

Clan gathering draws 30,000

Published Date: 26 July 2009
By David Leask and Tom Peterkin
THEY came in their tens of thousands, from the old world and the new, a tide of tartan marching down the Royal Mile to Edinburgh's Holyrood Park.
Scotland's clans and lowland families last mustered like this when novelist Sir Walter Scott coaxed King George IV north of the Border in 1822. But yesterday's gathering of more than 30,000 people was far bigger than its 19th century predecessor. By last night fully 124 clans and families were said to be represented in the Park for a Highland Games that preceded an 8,000-strong clansmen's evening march back up the Royal Mile to the castle.

The Homecoming Year Gathering, launched by Prince Charles at Holyrood Palace, attracted visitors, as the Scottish Government had hoped, from across the world. Pouroto Ngaropo, a 40-year-old of Scots and Maori descent, travelled to the events from Whakatane, Bay of Plenty, in New Zealand. "Maoris and the Scots are very similar people – we have a clan system, too," said Ngaropo, who has a traditional moko, or tattoo, across his face. "I lead a hapu, or sub-tribe, of 841 people and we have many similar rituals, including long wakes."

Dick Boyd from Stratham, New Hampshire, said the meeting provoked strong emotion.

"This is a coming home for me, as I can trace my family back to the Clan Macintosh in the 1100s," said Boyd, his eyes welling with tears. "I am a direct descendent of the Seventh Earl of Kilmarnock and we Scots Americans are fiercely proud of our roots."

As the clans gathered in the tented village in Holyrood Park, the parliament hosted a Diaspora Forum.

The lead speaker, Scottish historian Professor Tom Devine, bemoaned what he called a "national education scandal", arguing that Scots knew far too little about their past.

He was speaking after the Culture Minister Mike Russell had welcomed delegates from all over world and told them of the Scottish Government's efforts to maximise the benefits from developing the relationship between Scotland and the 40 million expats across the world.

Devine said: "Our population is so... historically illiterate because of the glaring inadequacies of the teaching of the nation's past and culture."

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