As I reviewed my last Message, I find it hard to believe it was just a few short months ago. I was excited about the upcoming events and looking forward to some new endeavors! Shortly after writing that message, I was contacted by a gentleman who had been involved in the Cape Fear Highland Games that happened here a few years back. He was seeking SSOW’s assistance in crafting a new Highland Games event to be more culturally appropriate by recruiting Clan tents, suggesting vendors, etc. “And when do you plan on holding this event?” “May 14.” “Um, THIS May 14?” Here we are a few days past the event, and we actually pulled it off! See below for more on the Games and other events held in the first half of the year.
And we have more yet to look forward to in the second half of the year! We will be represented at the Grandfather Mountain, Scotland County and Crystal Coast Highland Games, we'll have a Fall Cèilidh, the Annual General Meeting and St. Andrew's Pot-Luck, and more.
Have you checked out our brand-new website? It's still a bit of a work in progress, but coming along. It has a great deal more information about the SSOW, our events and various projects, and links to some great ways to get more information on Scottish heritage and history. We also now have SSOW logo apparel available from Queensboro Shirt Company!
Since you received this email, you are already on our mailing list, but I urge you to visit the new site and set up your profile to become a subscriber. And if you are not yet a member of SSOW, please consider supporting our efforts with a modest membership of $20 for an individual or $30 for a family membership. We're doing some great things, but they are not free, and we have many more email list subscribers than members. We can't sustain that imbalance for the long term. Please join today!
2022 Burns Night
Due to ongoing Covid concerns and lackluster ticket sales, we made the decision to go virtual with the Burns Supper again this year. Thanks to the work done last year, it was a smooth transition, and close to 30 people joined us via Zoom for a fun evening that came close to being the real thing. Several members joined in at home with their own haggis and fixings mail ordered from Scottishgourmetusa.com.
Many thanks to Dick McGraw for being our Master of Ceremonies, Bob Livingstone for the Address to the Haggis and the intro to Auld Lang Syne, Bob McLeod for the Selkirk Grace, Jason Bell for the Immortal Memory, Dan Johnson for playing the pipes, toasts from Otis White, Brian Gardner, Scott Cromartie and Taylor Cromartie, and Katie Wiedmeier for her Highland dancing! We’ve proven, two years in a row, that we can have a proper celebration of the Bard of Scotland whether we are together in a room or not, but we don't want to have to do it again.
Stay tuned for more in the coming months about the 2023 Burns Supper. We are currently looking for a new venue, but it will most likely be held on Saturday, January 28, 2023. To get the latest news about it, sign up for updates by clicking the button to the left.
First Annual SSOW/UNC-W Bagpipe Festival
Our first in-person event of 2022 was one of our new ones. In collaboration with Prof. Dan Johnson and UNC-W’s Music Department, the day included beginner and advanced workshops, and a recital followed by a reception in UNC-W’s Beckwith Recital Hall. The event featured Bill Caudill as the guest artist and workshop leader. The workshops were well attended, and over 140 people attended Bill’s recital. Light refreshments were served after the recital.
We would like to thank Carolyn McLeod Atkinson for providing several trays of wonderful cookies and treats. They were wonderful! Thanks also go out to SSOW members Barbara D’Allesandro, Sam McPhail, Otis White, Joyce Elliott, Bill MacSorley, Nel Nichols and all those who helped make this inaugural event a success.
We will be holding a Second Annual Bagpipe Festival next year, so sign up for updates on the event by clicking the button to the left.
The SSOW has really gotten off to a good start in 2022!
Our annual Robert Burns Supper was once again held virtually, several members joining in at home with their own haggis and fixins mail ordered from Scottishgourmetusa.com. It is our intent to meet in person again next year, look out for details coming soon.
We also co-sponsored the UNCW Bagpipe Festival and Recital in conjunction with the music department of UNCW. We were really pleased with the attendance, almost filling the recital hall. We plan to sponsor this event next year as our partnership with UNCW grows.
As is our custom we once again participated in the wreath laying ceremony commemorating the 1776 Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge where so many Scottish Highlanders fought and died. As we get closer to the 250th anniversary of American independence, these events will gain more recognition. Won’t you come out and join us next year?
We had planned to participate in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade with our Irish friends, but unfortunately the weather caused the parade be canceled. Come and march with us next year!
246th Commemoration of the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge
The SSOW once again participated in the first live Commemoration since 2019. We have the honor of placing a wreath at the Loyalist Monument, in addition to the larger wreath-laying ceremony with many participating organizations such as DAR and SAR Chapters from around the State. Jon Evans from WECT was once again the MC, and Congressman David Rouser gave the keynote speech.
Following the ceremony, we had an SSOW information table in Patriot's Hall, and the Trakimowicz Family guided a children's game area featuring Colonial-era toys and games. The hoops were a particular favorite of the games donated by Poplar Grove. Honoring a commitment made in 2020, the SSOW also provided lunch for the volunteers and re-enactors.
Many thanks go to Catherine's cousin, Barbara Bush, for helping us prepare her award-winning Brunswick Stew, even though she kicked Bill, Joyce and Catherine out of the kitchen when she added the seasoning. The Stew was such a hit that people told the officials they'd come back next year if we served it again.
We will be back again, so sign up for updates by clicking the button to the left.
Our 2022 Spring Ceilidh was held at a new venue, Hi-Wire Brewing. It was a great place with plenty of seating, a really good selection of beers and our favorite Celtic band from Raleigh, Barrowburn. We had a really good turn-out and made many new friends. We even got some college kids to try Haggis, and they liked it!
Click on the button to the left to sign up for updates on the next Cèilidh!
Port City Highland Games
Highland Games returned to Wilmington after a few year’s absence. The new sponsor was Paws4Vets, a great charity. The SSOW participated. However, our president, Catherine Fort, dove into the project and in only four months’ time from inception to completion, put on a very successful and well attended game. There were food vendors, pipes and drums, including our own Dick McGraw, wall-to-wall athletic events over the course of the day, a Celtic music session, Highland dancers, herding dog demos, and a British car show. Our Society and several clan, as well as other informational tents, were along “Clan Row."
Based on the enthusiastic response of the community, next year’s games should be even bigger and better! Click on the button to the left to get the latest updates on the 2023 Games!
Mill Prong House
Your society was represented at the annual meeting of the 1795 Mill Prong House, a National Register of Historic Places, Scottish Heritage House. This house is located in Red Springs, NC. This is the area where so many of the early Scots including Flora MacDonald settled prior to the American Revolution. It is still recovering from damage sustained during Hurricane Florence. If you are interested in the preservation, they are accepting donations:
Mill Prong Preservation, Inc.
P.O. Box 220554
Charlotte, NC 28222
We are once again preparing for the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in the North Carolina mountains. These have become the largest event of this type in the country, and have been going on since 1956 (except 2020). They run from the torch light ceremony on Thursday, July 7 through Sunday, July 10. Both the SSOW and the Scottish Immigration Memorial Fund will have tents. There are normally about 100 clans and organizations represented. Please drop by and visit while you are there (click on the button to the left to sign up for updates on SSOW's participation, such as our tent number).
In the fall we also plan to be at the Crystal Coast games in Beaufort as well the Scotland County games in Laurinburg, NC. Details of those games will be in the next issue of “The Thistle," or click on the button to the left to get the latest news on SSOW at the Crystal Coast games.
Scottish Culture with Lloyd MacAskill
What is a ”Kirkin' O' The Tartan?” This is a church service that can be celebrated at any time of the year. Many Highland Games have a “Kirkin'” in their schedule. Many Presbyterian churches have a “Kirkin'” as part of their annual schedule.
The history goes back to the 1700’s after the defeat of the Jacobites in Scotland. Laws of Proscription were passed in order suppress the feudal Scottish Highlanders. Bagpipes, swords and other weapons, as well as clan tartans were banned. This prohibition lasted for almost 70 years, with harsh penalties. During certain church services at this time, congregants would take hold of a small piece of family tartan that had been hidden in their clothing to be blessed in this service. The following, was submitted by member Lloyd MacAskill:
Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan Returns
If you haven't been to a Kirkin' o' the Tartan recently, most of us haven't. Live services of this kind were canceled or suspended in many places due to the pandemic conditions. On April 24, the St. Andrews Society of Washington, DC resumed its Kirkin' tradition at National Cathedral in a service as high church and formal as any you would find outside of London.
Watch the service here
If you don't wish to view the entire 88-minute service, after watching the entry of the pipes and drums, you could fast forward to 1:04 where the pipes and drums reenter and the actual Kirkin' begins.
A noteworthy feature in this year’s Kirkin’ was the changing of the guard in the family that has been serving as St. Andrews’ Sargent of Arms for the past 70 years. David McKenzie is well-known in North Carolina as a regular at the Grandfather Mountain and other Highland Games, where he has been involved with Highland athletics and in other capacities. Dave took over the Sargent of Arms role 45 years ago from his father, the Rev. Stuart McKenzie, and now he has literally passed the ceremonial mace on to his son-in-law, Travis Cody Haddock. The mace-bearers can be seen on the video as they enter and depart the ceremonies.
The Kirkin’ tradition itself began in DC in 1941 as a wartime observance at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, under the leadership of Dr. Peter Marshall. Other congregations have continued Kirkin’ services, sometimes in connection with local Highland Games. In Wilmington, the First Presbyterian Church holds a Kirkin’ on the fourth Sunday in October. In earlier years it had been held in February in connection with the annual commemoration of the nearby Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge, in which emigrant Scottish Highlanders had charged Patriot positions.
In closing, we hope that you will have a chance to participate in one of these local observances. In the meantime, just enjoy the video highlights of the recent Kirkin’ linked to above. Click the button to the left to sign up for updates on the 2022 Kirkin' at First Presbyterian.
Local Scottish History
Anyone who lived in Wilmington prior to 1968 would be familiar with James Walker Memorial Hospital. Who was James Walker? Why did this Scots immigrant build the most modern hospital in the state and then give it to New Hanover County? The current New Hanover Regional Medical Center was formed when James Walker, the “white” hospital, and Community Hospital, the “Black” hospital, were combined. James Walker, was an extraordinary individual as illustrated below:
James Walker (1827-1901) was a Scots-born builder, contractor, and brick mason who came to Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1857 to supervise construction of the United States Marine Hospital for his brother, John Walker, the contractor for the project. James stayed in Wilmington the rest of his life, becoming one of the leading builders and a noted philanthropist in his adopted city.
According to his obituary in the Wilmington Star (March 16, 1901), James Walker emigrated from Scotland to the United States at age twelve, and worked in Washington, DC and other locations. The newspaper said that Walker had resided in Wilmington since coming to the city in 1857 as “contractor and supervising architect to build the Marine Hospital.” Although in actuality his brother John had been the contractor, James was on the local scene managing the work, and doubtless was remembered locally as the contractor.
Contracts and correspondence for the Marine Hospital, which survive in the National Archives, document the Walkers’ involvement in the Wilmington project. In 1857 John Walker, then in Petersburg, Virginia, gained the Federal contract to construct the hospital, an Italianate edifice of brick, stone and iron designed by Boston architect Ammi B. Young. John Walker was then working on the Custom House in Petersburg. His winning low bid was for $28,968.25, the only one under $30,000, and considerably lower than that of popular Wilmington builder Robert B. Wood (of Wood Brothers), who bid $37,061.31 and offered letters of local support. Possibly Walker’s low bid reflected his unfamiliarity with local circumstances, most notably that because of the absence of suitable local stone, Wilmingtonians imported their building stone from the north. Although this situation was pointed out by bidder Wood and other local informants to the Federal authorities, whether the authorities or Walker took this information into consideration is an open question.
Construction on the Marine Hospital proceeded slowly, owing in part to difficulties in obtaining materials including pressed brick and iron from northern manufacturers. The major problem proved to be getting the necessary stone. Eventually John Walker had to open a quarry near Petersburg, Virginia, from which to send stone to Wilmington. On June 24, 1858, the local superintendent, T. H. Ashe, reported to the secretary of the treasury, “Mr. James Walker—brother to the contractor—under whose supervision the work has been carried on—left yesterday for Petersburg to try and expedite things.” After the project was completed in 1860, John Walker evidently continued his career as a builder in other cities. James Walker, however, decided to continue in Wilmington, where he had evidently made friends and gained local respect.
Having supervised the complex Marine Hospital project, James Walker was well suited to build projects involving coordination of local artisans with designs by other urban architects. When antebellum Wilmingtonians commissioned buildings from nationally known architects, they frequently employed builders or superintending architects with urban experience to manage their projects. James Walker served as local architect or superintendent of construction for the ambitious First Presbyterian Church designed by Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan and completed on the eve of the Civil War.
Walker continued his building career after the war. One of Wilmington’s most striking buildings of the 1870s is the Temple of Israel (1875-1876), a twin-towered edifice in bold Moorish Revival style, for which the design has been credited recently to Samuel Sloan, with James Walker as supervising architect. According to a contemporary observer, James Sprunt, Walker made some changes to the design as built.
A major opportunity came, as reported in the Wilmington Star of December 28, 1875, when Walker was appointed to serve as “Master Builder” to superintend construction of the immense and complex Western North Carolina Hospital for the Insane, designed by Samuel Sloan, and built near Morganton, North Carolina. Construction took several years (1875-1883). After Sloan’s death in 1884, Walker may have been involved in work on additions in 1886, planned by Sloan’s assistant architect A. G. Bauer. In any case, he was working outside Wilmington in the mid-1880s, for on August 4, 1887 the Wilmington Messenger noted: “Mr. James Walker, the well-known contractor, in again in this city, his former home, and is stopping at ‘the Orton’”.
Over the years, Walker built numerous Wilmington residences and commercial and institutional buildings, of which only a few have been identified. He and a partner also operated a marble yard known as Walker and Maunder.
Like many builders of his era, Walker’s professional identity and role were fluid. He was listed in the 1870 United States census as a “house builder” in Wilmington, but in the 1880 census, when he was listed in Morganton, where he was working on the hospital, he was noted as an architect and builder, and he had the same identification in the 1900 census in Wilmington. Wilmington city directories generally showed him as a contractor and a builder, but in 1900 he was listed as an “architect,” with his office at 216 North Front Street and his residence at 1602 Market Street.
During his long career in Wilmington, Walker earned a reputation as “one of the most thorough and competent workmen in this section of the country.” As his obituary stated, “His personal and undivided attention was given in every detail of building which he undertook and many handsome structures in Wilmington notably the Marine Hospital, First Presbyterian Church, Y. M. C. A. building, and the splendid State Hospital for the Insane at Morganton testify that he was complete master of his profession.”
James Walker never married and he lived, according to the obituary, “a quiet, unostentatious life.” Having amassed “a fortune” as a builder, and after consultation with friends, he decided to give the city a much-needed modern hospital, which he helped build as well as funding its cost of about $30,000. The James Walker Memorial Hospital, completed shortly after his death, was named in his memory. A portrait of Walker painted by a local artist was commissioned and installed in the new facility (the painting is now at the Cape Fear Museum in Wilmington). Walker was buried in Oakdale Cemetery.
Cape Fear Scottish Immigration Memorial Update
When dealing with governmental bodies, the wheels turn slowly. However, with the Brunswick Town project, we have an advocate in Site Superintendent Jim McKee. A formal proposal has been submitted to the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. We hope to hear a response within the next few weeks. This Memorial will be situated on a bluff overlooking the spot where the immigrant ships would have landed. The view from the Memorial across the river is essentially the same as what these 18th century Scots would have seen, since there are no man-made structures in sight.
The memorial cairn will be built from the actual ballast stones used by immigrant ships such as the “Cato,” which arrived in 1774 under ballast with “312 Highland Passengers.” There will be signage on the viewing platform as well as on the wall surrounding the cairn, telling the story of these Scots and of their destinations across the state.
At the Port City Highland Games, an informational tent was very well attended. We have received several donations from individuals, clan societies, and charitable foundations. If you would like to be a part of making this memorial a reality, please consider sending your donation to the address below, or click the button to the left to visit the website.
P.O. Box 7950
Wilmington, NC 28406-7950
A little about cairns, the traditional “all purpose” marker from member Lloyd MacAskill:
The proposal recently submitted by the Cape Fear Scottish Immigration Memorial Fund for a small plaza at Brunswick Town’s colonial landing site includes at its center a cairn or monument that would be built from ballast stones that were carried by immigrant ships. The English word "cairn" has the same meaning as Scots cairn, which in turn comes from the Gaelic "càrn." Cairn-like structures have existed since antiquity and can be found in other countries worldwide, but let’s look at some related customs and examples that might be particularly Scottish.
In Scotland, it is traditional to carry a stone up from the bottom of a hill to place on an informal cairn at its top. As a result, these cairns grow larger over time. An old Gaelic blessing is Cuiridh mi clach air do chàrn, "I'll put a stone on your stone."
In Highland folklore, it is recounted that before Highland clans fought in a battle, each man would place a stone in a pile. Those who survived the battle returned and removed a stone from the pile. The stones that remained were built into a cairn to honor the dead.
Among the best-known Scottish cairns are the Clava Cairns near Inverness. These are burial cairns, large flattish structures that are about 4,000 years old. They are different in appearance from the more vertical monument cairns that we might be familiar with. Close to the Culloden battlefield, they have been featured on TV’s Outlander series.
Our family discovered a Scottish cairn that we did not know about when we visited our ancestral homesite in Berneray, Harris in 2007. After a ferry trip from Skye to Harris and another the next day to Berneray, we met members of the Berneray Historical Society whom I had been in touch with and were therefore expecting us. They were kind enough to give us a tour of the island, including a short walk to the spot where the MacAskill family had been living before emigrating to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in 1828.
My great-grandfather, Donald MacAskill, was born in Cape Breton in 1829, but his next older brother Angus had been born in Berneray four years earlier. Angus grew up to be a big fellow and became well known for that reason. The memorial cairn that the Historical Society erected at his birth site measured 7’ 9” tall to match his height.
The Giant MacAskill Museum was opened in Englishtown, Nova Scotia in 1986, near Angus’ old home. It contains some of his possessions and other artifacts as well as a family tree of descendants of his brothers and sisters. A second Giant MacAskill Museum opened three years later in Dunvegan, Skye. Among other things, it has a life-sized statue of Angus and reproductions of some of his custom-built furniture.
Another look at the Berneray cairn shows that the stones that make it up are held in place by mortar of some kind. This type of construction provides more permanence to the monument than would be found in loosely stacked rocks that can be set up by anyone where rocks can be found. We hope that the Cape Fear Scottish Immigration Memorial cairn will enjoy the same degree of permanence as other monuments of the well-constructed type have had in the past. If it is still in place 4,000 years later like the Clava Cairns, we would be very pleased.
We have quite a few events planned for later in 2022. As these events approach, you will receive a reminder in your inbox. Please come out and get to know your fellow members. As a gentle reminder, a membership application that can be printed and mailed with a check can be found here.