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After five days together, our Clan Maitland group gathered one last time, for a formal dinner. Each of us arrived in the Maitland tartan, in the form of kilts, ties, sashes, scarves and skirts. For my sister and me, it was our first time to formally wear our clan’s tartan and attend such an event.
When our group gathered for the first time, some of us were strangers to each other. Others were connected on social media but had never met in person. Several sibling groups traveled together to attend the clan gathering. Debbie and I fit in this category. Those from England, Scotland and France knew each other well. The strong thread that bound us all was our heritage, our kinship connection. Ian shared on our first evening together that clan means family. By our final dinner together, I felt the deep truth of those words.
Maitlands and Lauderdales
Truthfully, I didn’t know what to expect of a clan gathering. I’ve been a member of Clan Maitland for years, however I’ve never had opportunity to attend a gathering. Debbie and I added extra days around those allotted to the gathering so that we could explore and enjoy Edinburgh. We looked forward to meeting our kin and yet kept our expectations neutral.
A part of me wondered if being Lauderdales, the American branch of the family, would make us feel a bit like outsiders. Debbie and I also wondered how we should address our clan chief. Ian is the 18th Earl of Lauderdale The proper title for an earl is Lord. We wisely decided to see how others in our group addressed him!
Ian quickly set the tone for the next five days during our first evening together. While we dined, he moved from table to table, introducing himself and chatting with us. After dinner, he shared a couple of stories that I appreciated, about the family’s origination in Normandy. Placing a hand on his chest, our clan chief said simply, “I’m Ian. Clan means family. We are all kin.”
He answered the question of how to address him…and he established kinship. I loved and appreciated my chief immediately.
Between that first dinner and the last one, our group shifted from strangers to family. During our days exploring in the Borders and sharing meals, an amazing thing happened. The historic locations that we visited, connected to the Maitland family, became touchstones marking our journey in the past and bringing us together in the present.
These places told different parts of our story, a story shared between us. It changed perceptions, hearing ancient family stories and seeing how alike we are, rather than how different.
I loved that when Ian shared historical accounts, he often began with the words, “Your kinsman…”. He didn’t say, “My ancestor….my kinsman…”. No, he fleshed out people I’d only read about and made them real to me. He told stories from personal knowledge, which gave such depth to those I’d only known as a name printed on a page. And in the process, he connected them to me, to us, as our family, our kin.
Clan Means Family
During my time with my kin, I learned that clan means family, indeed.
Curious, I looked up the word. The Cambridge dictionary defines clan as “a family or a group of families, especially in Scotland, who originally came from the same ancestor.” Ian’s claim is absolutely true.
Further, the root word for clan is the Latin word planta, which means “sprout”. That word became the Old Irish word cland, and the Scottish Gaelic word clann, meaning “offspring, family” which eventually became the word as we know it.
I love the idea of a sprout, a plant that comes from a single seed and grows, spreads and matures. A clan embodies the concept of a family tree, with the single trunk and the many, many branches that connect to it.
Those branches of the family gathered for a final dinner, to conclude our time together and say goodbye. I love formal Scottish dinners with their different courses. Dinner isn’t a hurried affair, but a meal to be savored and enjoyed.
At our large round table sat family members from Virginia, Arizona, Paris, France, Missouri, Oklahoma and London, England. It was so representative of our shared days and the way we came together to become family.
The food was excellent. Our glasses remained filled with fine wine. Conversations and laughter flowed around our table and outward, around the room. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening.
Our meal finished, we exchanged email addresses. The group gathered on the stairs for a last family photo. We snapped pics of each other too. And we hugged and kissed cheeks, promising to remember our time together and stay in touch. My heart felt so full of love and appreciation for these, my kinsmen. I felt sad to say goodbye and yet so grateful for the connections.
Debbie and I will never forget our trip to Edinburgh together and the Clan Maitland Gathering. We left Scotland enriched by the experience and determined to return to that beautiful country as often as we can. Scotland feels like home. It always has to me. And now I know why. It IS home. I belong here. The Maitland Clan is my clan. And clan means family.
Check out the other Clan Maitland posts:
If you are a Lauderdale or Maitland descendant, join your kinsmen!
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