The Homecoming was billed as one of the biggest parties Scotland has ever thrown, with invitations going out to the far corners of the globe, welcoming home all those with Scots heritage. We sent our acceptance to the party and began our personal journey with great excitement and anticipation. This was to be the largest Highland Gathering and Games in the World and from the moment visitors arrived in Edinburgh it was obvious the City was ready to celebrate. There were banners flying in the streets and an air of anticipation and gaiety.
Clan MacLennan had arranged an informal get together on the Thursday evening. We soon had MacLennan’s from USA, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia gather in the hotel bar and following initial introductions, the MacLennan ‘talking gene’ was soon in full swing! It soon became evident that our numbers were too large for the small bar area and that we were in no hurry to part company. We were having so much fun that we agreed to adjourn next door to an Italian restaurant. Approximately 30 of us shared a meal, and so began the beginning of a wonderful four days of friendship and shared memories.
A MacLennan Clan Parliament was held on the Friday, where Chief Ruairidh outlined his vision for the future of our Clan which our Chief will outline elsewhere. Friday evening was spent at a formal Clan dinner held in the beautiful building of The Scotch Whisky Experience in The Royal Mile. This was an opportunity for us all to indulge in some fine food and wine (and of course a wee dram), some excellent entertainment and to really get to know each other. It was a wonderful opportunity for the ladies to dress up with the addition of beautiful sashes and shawls in MacLennan colours and of course our menfolk were resplendent in their kilts.
Throughout Saturday the excitement was building towards what many of us had come ‘home’ for – to march with our Clan Chief and clansfolk up The Royal Mile to the Edinburgh Castle Esplanade, where the Homecoming centerpiece story, ‘Aisling’s Children’ would be performed. We began assembling around 7.30 pm at the bottom of the Royal Mile in huge numbers. The official estimate was later put at 8,000 marchers including approximately 70 MacLennans/Logans and 20,000 onlookers. Our chests filled with pride as we gathered and marched behind our Chief Ruairidh to the sound of the pipes, singing our Clan song ‘Return to Kintail’. The crowds cheered and called out ‘welcome home’ greetings and everyone was totally caught up in the genuine warmth and affection of the greeting. The march was all too short as we were carried along on the tide of pride and the cheers of the crowd.
The sun shone down on Edinburgh as the crowds gathered for the opening of the Highland Games at Holyrood Park on Saturday. They kept on coming throughout the day and we had many MacLennans and Logans from many parts of the world visit our Clan Tent and many locals dropped by to introduce themselves and offer support. The wide variety of home countries listed by visitors to our tent is a testament to how far and wide our MacLennan ancestor’s travels took them. Throughout the two day event there were pipe bands playing and the Highland Games area was constantly busy with visitors taking time out for a well earned snack or just to listen to one of the many entertainers with names such as the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, the Battlefield Band, Capercaillie being just some of the well known Scots groups entertaining the crowd.
On reaching the Castle Esplanade we were rewarded with bottled water and shown to our seats in the stands in readiness for the ‘Aisling’s Children’ spectacular. The air was electric as twilight faded to darkness, the torches were lit, music began and we were taken on a magical journey from the past and into the future. There were many poignant moments watching the story unfold, when one felt immensely proud of the courage of ancestors who’d gone to distant lands, hoping for a better life and future for their families. And here we were, their descendents, being welcomed back into the bosom of our ‘family’. It was a truly magical moment!
Following the performance, we spilled out onto the Royal Mile not wanting the evening to end. But it must, because we had another day of Highland Games and the chance to meet even more MacLennan’s and Logan clansfolk who kept popping in at the Clan Tent throughout the day. On Sunday evening, our final night together, 49 of us met for an informal meal at our ‘Clan Italian restaurant’ to say our sad, final farewells before heading off in our different directions. Many firm friendships were formed during The Gathering and a sense of Clan unity was forged. There are many committed and enthusiastic MacLennan’s throughout the world who are committed to ensuring that our Clan heritage and legacy is preserved and passed on to future generations. The Gathering 2009 in Edinburgh has lit a flame that we must all ensure continues to burn brightly for those that come after us.
More pictures of the Clan Gathering are in the Clan Photo Gallery – sign in first/stay signed in.