Clan Means Family

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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.

Clan Means Family title meme

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.

Clan Means Family First Dinner
First dinner together as family, at the Angel’s Share Hotel.
Clan Means Family Glenkinchie Distillery
Exploring the museum at Glenkinchie Distillery.
Clan Means Family Lauderdale Aisle
Sitting quietly in Lauderdale Aisle, above the family burial chamber.

Becoming Family

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 New Club
Drinks on the New Club balcony, in Edinburgh.
Thirlestane Castle Dining Room
Exploring Thirlestane Castle together.
Clan Means Family Lochcarron
In the Lochcarron showroom.

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.

Clan Maitland at Thirlestane Castle
Clan means family…at Thirlestane Castle in Lauder, Scotland.
Clan Chief Ian Maitland, 18th Earl of Lauderdale
Clan means family…to our beloved Chief.
Clan Maitland Collage
Family collage. Ian and Cindy. John Maitland, Ian’s son, and Debbie. Cindy, Crawford and Debbie. Ian and Debbie.

Saying Goodbye

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.

Clan Means Family Formal Dinner
Clan Maitland, gathered.

Check out the other Clan Maitland posts:

Clan Maitland Gathers

Maitlands in the Borders

Rosslyn Chapel & Thirlestane Castle

Traquair House

If you are a Lauderdale or Maitland descendant, join your kinsmen!

Clan Maitland UK

Clan Maitland North America

 


 

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Traquair House

 

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

On our last day of exploring together, Clan Maitland members visited Traquair House, the oldest continually inhabited house in Scotland. Maitlands owned this property for a short time. The interest in visiting this house, beyond its own incredible historic value, is that Thirlestane Castle began life as a house very similar to this one.

Upon arriving, our large group divided into two smaller groups and off we went on our tours.

Traquair House Title Meme

The History of Traquair House

The word traquair is Celtic in origin, from tret or tre  meaning “a dwelling place or hamlet” and quair meaning “a winding stream”. The name is perfect for this incredible house. The Quair Burn joins the River Tweed a few hundred yards from the house.

The earliest mention of Traquair House dates to 1107, when King Alexander I signed a royal charter there. The property served as a hunting lodge for many of the kings and queens of Scotland. In the museum room a mural painting dating back to the early 1500s depicts a hunting scene from this time.

It is likely that a tower with three stories and an attic created the beginning of Traquair House and now occupies the north corner of the present structure.

In the mid 13th century Traquair belonged to Thomas de Mautelant, ancestor of the Maitland line of Earls of Lauderdale. He passed the house on to his son, William when the young man married. That line eventually failed to produce an heir and the property passed to the Murrays in 1464.

From there Traquair House changed hands several times until 1478, when the estate sold to James Stewart, Earl of Buchan, uncle of King James III. The Stewarts have remained in residence since. Expansions and additions enlarged the house through the years, with the last of these completed in the late 1600s. While the interior underwent extensive remodeling in the 1800s, the exterior is relatively unchanged.

Traquair House Exterior
The exterior of Traquair House is relatively unchanged since the 1600s.
Bear Gate
Bear Gate built in 1738.

Bear Gate

There’s an interesting story about the gate at the end of the original driveway. The 5th Earl of Traquair built the pillars in 1738 and topped them with sculptures of bears holding the family crest. The bear gates closed following a visit by Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1744, with a vow to keep them closed until a Stuart king sat on the throne once more. The gates never opened again and remain closed to this day. A smaller driveway, called the “temporary drive”, allows entrance into the property.

Traquair House Bell System
I loved the bell system at Traquair, which reminds me of the popular tv series, Downton Abbey!
High Drawing Room
The largest room in the main house, the High Drawing Room.

Touring the Main Floor of Traquair House

My group had such a fun tour guide! Kenneth speaks with a soft Scottish brogue and displays a wonderful sense of humor. His stories illuminate the history of the house while adding whimsical elements too, all punctuated by that dry Scot’s humor.

In the High Drawing Room, the largest room in the main house, we studied a section of the original ceiling, covered over when the 5th earl redesigned the interior. The original beamed ceiling was discovered in 1954 and two small sections are on display. Also in this room is a rare harpsichord crafted in 1651 by Andreas Ruckers. The harpsichord is restored to perfect working condition. Kenneth played a few chords on it, and joked that his cds are available in the gift shop.

We also viewed a bedroom and dressing room, complete with furnishings, that Mary Queen of Scots used. The queen, her husband, and infant son James visited the house in 1566.

Traquair Dressing Room
The dressing room on the main floor of Traquair House.
Original indoor toilet in Traquair
Traquair House boasted an early indoor toilet, supposedly used by Mary Queen of Scots.
Tour Guide Kenneth
Our guide Kenneth on the house’s main staircase, a stone spiral one.

The Upstairs at Traquair House

My group moved upstairs to continue our explorations, by way of the main staircase in the house, a set of narrow stone steps that spiral upward.

There was much to see on the upstairs floors, as we wandered through bedrooms, a library, a museum room and the priest’s room.

The household maintained a Catholic tradition within Traquair, in spite of the dangers of doing so at that time. Mass was held in secret in the priest’s room on the top floor. If necessary, the priest could escape through a concealed passageway hidden behind a cupboard door and flee down a small twisty staircase. The room remained in use until the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1828. There is now a chapel on the property that is used for services and special events such as weddings.

White Bedroom Traquair House
I loved this pretty bedroom upstairs.
Priest Room Traquair House
The priest room at the top of the house, where secret mass was held. Note the escape staircase concealed behind the cupboard door.
Maze at Traquair
Rain prevented us from getting wonderfully lost in the maze on the grounds.

Saying Goodbye to Traquair House

We concluded our tour with visits to the two side wings, added to the house in the 1600s. The laundry room and chapel occupy one wing, along with a gift shop and ale tasting room. Kenneth told us a funny story of Americans who got married in the chapel. He noticed, right before the ceremony fortunately, that the groom and his groomsmen all had their kilts on backwards!

In the other wing we viewed the formal dining room and sat in the blue sitting room, while Kenneth entertained us with more stories.

I loved the daring tale of Lady Winifred Herbert, Countess of Nithsdale, whose portrait hangs in the dining room. She rescued her husband William, charged with treason for being a Jacobite, from the Tower of London in 1716. On the night before his execution, Winifred visited him, accompanied by several maids. They dressed him in women’s clothing. William walked out of the tower with a maid, wearing a dress and the “nithsdale cloak”, which is still held by the family. Lady Winifred remained in the cell and pretended to talk to her husband, before making her own escape. She joined William in Paris, to live out the rest of their lives together. I love a happy ending!

In twos and threes Clan Maitland members walked up the driveway, in the pouring rain, and finished our afternoon with lunch at the cozy Traquair House Café.

Laundry Room at Traquair
Doing laundry at Traquair House required strong muscles I think!
Formal Dining Room
The lovely formal dining room.
The Blue Sitting Room at Traquair
My group sat in the blue sitting room and listened to Kenneth tell stories, until it was time for lunch.

Back to Edinburgh

After a wonderful lunch at the café, enjoyed with pots of hot tea and lively conversation, we boarded our coach for the trip back to Edinburgh. En route we stopped at Lochcarron Mill. There we looked at the Maitland Tartan and several had fittings for kilts.

The Maitland Tartan is a private one and products are only available at Thirlestane Castle and by special order here at Lochcarron. How grateful I am that we could purchase tartan products during this trip. Debbie and I picked up scarves and sashes and Maitland Clan badges to wear at our final former clan dinner.

The dinner marked the end of our time together as family. I’ll share thoughts about that evening in my next post.

Maitland Tartan
The Maitland Tartan, created in 1953, is a variation of the Lauder Tartan.

Read more Clan Maitland Gatherings:

Clan Maitland Gathers

Maitlands in the Borders

Rosslyn Chapel & Thirlestane Castle

 


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Rosslyn Chapel & Thirlestane Castle

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

On our third day together, exploring in the Borders, Clan Maitland toured two magnificent structures. Rosslyn Chapel and Thirlestane Castle are each impressive in their own right, and full of historical significance. One intrigues visitors, due to its many mysteries and connection to popular culture. And the other, well it is my family’s ancient home. I felt excited to see both!

Rosslyn Chapel & Thirlestane Castle title meme

History of Rosslyn Chapel

This beautiful place is another that I’ve had on my list of places to see in Scotland. Honestly, I didn’t know exactly where in the Borders Rosslyn Chapel was located. How exciting to receive our Clan Maitland Gathering itinerary and realize the chapel was a planned stop.

Founded in 1446 by Sir William St Clair, the chapel, originally called the Collegiate Church of St Matthew, took forty years to build. The chapel today, located in the village of Roslin, Midlothian, Scotland, is a portion of the intended structure. Building stopped and the larger church was never completed.

After the Scottish Reformation in 1560, the chapel closed to the public. It reopened in 1861. Since the 1980s speculative theories have connected Rosslyn Chapel to the Knights Templar, the Holy Grail and Freemasonry. These speculations continue to circulate due the chapel’s feature in Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code and the film adaptation by the same name.

Rosslyn Chapel remains privately owned by the St Clair family.

Rosslyn Chapel
Rosslyn Chapel exterior. Photography was not allowed inside.

Touring Rosslyn Chapel

The Maitland group arrived on our coach, just before the chapel opened. And shortly after we gained admittance, a wonderful guide shared some of Rosslyn Chapel’s mysteries and stories with us. She had a wonderful Scottish brogue and spoke with passion and humor about the chapel. I could have listened to her all day!

The chapel contains 14 pillars that form 12 arches around three sides of the nave. One of these pillars is called the Apprentice Pillar and has a good story associated with it.

Legend says that in the 18th century, a master mason, in charge of the stonework in the chapel, traveled to see an intricately carved column. He left his young apprentice behind while he sought inspiration. Upon his return, he discovered that the apprentice had created a gorgeous carved column on his own. Enraged and jealous, the master mason struck and killed his apprentice. As eternal punishment, the master mason’s face was carved into a corner opposite the pillar, to forever gaze upon his apprentice’s work.

Rosslyn Chapel Doorway
Such a beautiful 15th century structure.

Carvings in Rosslyn Chapel

One of the most intriguing features in the chapel is the collection of carvings throughout the building. There are nods to Celtic and Norse mythology. Hundreds of cubes protrude from the pillars and arches and carved stars adorn the ceiling. Stone angels, including one playing the bagpipes, share space with dragons, flowers and a figure known as the Green Man. In fact, there are 110 carvings of the green man, depicted as a human face with vines coming out of his mouth, in the chapel.

Over the years there have been many theories about the symbolism behind Rosslyn Chapel’s carvings. No one really knows. They do seem to tell a story, however what that tale is remains open to interpretation. I could spend days in Rosslyn Chapel, studying those fascinating carvings.

My sister and I concluded our explorations of the chapel by going down into the crypt. There are burial chambers beneath Rosslyn Chapel. The entrance to those was sealed off many, many years ago. However the crypt, or lower chapel, is open to the public. Debbie and I had our own mysterious experience while in the crypt. While looking around, we began to feel short of breath accompanied by a tightness in the chest and throat. Climbing the stairs back to the upper chapel, both of us suddenly felt very dizzy. A walk through the gift shop did not ease the dizziness. We headed back to the coach and only when we reached its interior did the strange feelings pass. What caused it? We don’t know! It’s our very own Rosslyn Chapel mystery.

Rosslyn Chapel Mystery
I love the moodiness of this photo.

Thirlestane Castle History

The majority of the day, for Clan Maitland, was spent at Thirlestane Castle.

Maitlands originally occupied a tower, built in the 1400s, near the present location of the castle. In 1586 John Maitland, Lord Thirlestane, bought land just outside the village of Lauder. The large house built in 1590, with its corner towers and turrets, now forms the core of the present castle.

The Duke of Lauderdale remodeled and expanded Thirlestane in the 1670s, adding on wings and creating a new front entrance. The ninth earl added more wings, to the south and north, and installed modern living accommodations.  However, by the 1840s the grand old castle showed signs of age and decay.

In 1972 the castle passed to the grandson of the 15th Earl, Capt. Gerald Maitland-Carew. He assumed the huge task of restoring the castle and preventing further deterioration. He also opened the castle to the public and created the on site café and tea room. Eventually the castle and its contents became a part of a charitable trust that brought in much needed funds to help with the upkeep of the gorgeous structure. The Maitland-Carew family occupy one wing of the castle as their personal residence.

Gerald’s son Edward Maitland-Carew and his wife Sarah now continue the care of Thirlestane Castle. They host events such as weddings, car shows and outdoor plays, and created five apartments for guests to lease for short term stays.

Clan Maitland at Thirlestane Castle
Our Clan gathers on the front steps of Thirlestane Castle. That’s the Clan Chief in the middle, next to me, and Edward Maitland-Carew in the blue jacket on the far left, front row.

Touring Thirlestane Castle

I’ve visited the family castle three times. However, this was the first time I’ve explored the castle with members of my clan, listened to Ian tell family stories and met Edward. Truly, it was a magical experience.

We began with a wonderfully prepared lunch in the former castle kitchens and then walked outside to begin our tour at the entrance to the castle. How amazing this place is and how full of history. I marvel at each room, study the paintings of long ago ancestors on the walls, smile at the familiar tingles of energy that tickle my scalp.

This tour, this time, seemed surreal. Ian entertained us with memories and stories handed down through time. Edward shared his experiences growing up in a castle and playing hide and seek in the corridors and secret passages with his brother and sister.

Edward is passionate about being “this generation’s caretaker” of the castle. I appreciated his earnestness about his role and his obvious love for this place.

Thirlestane Castle Grand Dining Room
The grand dining room at Thirlestane Castle with family portraits on the walls.
Thirlestane Castle Sitting Room
Exquisite plaster ceilings in one of the sitting rooms.

Tea at Thirlestane

After wandering through rooms in the castle and viewing the new apartments, we all met in the tea room for afternoon tea. I didn’t even take photos. We simply gathered in small groups at the tables and enjoyed chatting together as we sipped hot tea. Edward introduced us to his lovely wife and then moved around the room, telling more stories and answering questions.

As I have on previous visits, I felt a bit sad leaving Thirlestane Castle. I’m so appreciative of all the measures that have been taken, to keep this historical treasure standing and thriving. It’s no small feat. I’m deeply grateful for Ian and Edward, for sharing their wealth of information about the castle and the family. And I’m thrilled that I spent time at Thirlestane with kinsmen who feel the way I feel about this place. Strong connections now existed with these dear people who were strangers only a few days before. The afternoon was a shared experience I’ll cherish always.

What a day, between the mysteries of Rosslyn Chapel and the beauty and connection at Thirlestane Castle. One more day together, and our Clan Maitland Gathering would draw to a close.

The cranes of Thirelstane Castle
Posing with the Thirlestane Cranes. I have my own crane story that connects to these Scottish counterparts.

Learning more:

Discover more about Rosslyn Chapel HERE. And pick up a copy of The Da Vinci Code below or order the film on DVD.

 

Learn more about Thirlestane Castle and accommodations  HERE.

And read about other Clan Maitland Gathering fun with these posts:

Clan Maitland Gathers

Maitlands in the Borders

 

Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

Clan Maitland Gathers

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

Beyond my desire to explore Edinburgh, another purpose drew me to Scotland this year. Members of Clan Maitland, the Scottish clan I am part of, gathered in the city. To meet kinsmen I am connected to has long been a dream of mine. Five days after arriving in Edinburgh, that dream became a reality.

Clan Maitland gathers in Scotland every ten years.  Family members descended from Maitlands and Lauderdales arrive from the countries they’ve scattered to.  This year the US, New Zealand, England, France and Scotland were represented.

The next few posts will share details about our fun time together and the family related historical sites we explored.

Clan Maitland Gathers Title Meme

Clan Maitland Gathers…for Tea

Clan members met for the first time on a Tuesday afternoon for a very Scottish tradition, Afternoon Tea. My sister Debbie and I walked the short distance from our apartment on Thistle Street to the Garden Room at the Kimpton Hotel on Charlotte Square. A few of our members, including our Clan Chief, would not arrive until evening, however this casual afternoon gathering proved a great way for people who are family yet strangers to break the ice.

What a joy to meet people I am connected with on Facebook whom I’ve never met face to face. We quickly embraced each other as kin and before long conversations and laughter flowed merrily around the room as we enjoyed a wonderful tea time.

That evening we all gathered at the Angel’s Share Hotel for dinner. The group from England arrived and I met Ian, the 18th Earl of Lauderdale and our Clan Chief. He immediately put us all at ease and entertained us with family stories. I learned that the Maitlands descended from the Mautalents of Normandy about 1000 to 1060.

Clan Maitland Gathers Tea Time

Afternoon Tea with Clan Maitland

Clan Maitland Gathers…on the Bus

The next morning we met early for our first full day of traveling and exploring together. Debbie and I smiled when we saw the bus, called a coach in Scotland, waiting for us. Lauderdale is such an uncommon name in the US. It’s fun to see it featured more prominently in Scotland.

Lauderdale Bus

Once on board the coach, we journeyed south to the small burgh of Haddington and our stop at St. Mary’s Parish Church and Lauderdale Aisle.

St Marys Collegiate Church

The Light of Lothian

St. Mary’s in Haddington dates back to 1139. With a length of 206 feet, it’s one of the longest churches in Scotland. Twice, in 1355 and again in 1548-49, the structure experienced extensive damage due to English invasions. The town repaired the west end of the church, erecting a barrier wall to seal off the east end, which remained roofless for hundreds of years.

In the 1970s restoration on the remaining section of the church began. Once completed the barrier wall came down and the church, called the Light of Lothian, continues to shine brightly in the community.

St Marys Interior

St Marys Organ
The magnificent pipe organ of St Mary’s, installed in 1990.

Clan Maitland Gathers…in Lauderdale Aisle

On the north side of the church, a small chapel awaited us. Because of the size of the room, our group of 30 plus people divided. Half of us toured the church while the others sat quietly in Lauderdale Aisle with Ian. Then we switched places.

I’ve read about Lauderdale Aisle, which once served as the sacristy of the church. It became a burial aisle for the Maitlands after the reformation of 1560. Entering through a stone archway, the marble effigies immediately draw the eye. The Renaissance monuments memorialize Sir John Maitland, Chancellor of Scotland under King James V, his son John, 1st Earl of Lauderdale, and their wives.

Beneath the aisle is a burial vault for the interment of the Earls and Countesses of Lauderdale. The  Duke of Lauderdale rests within this chamber as well. There are also niches for the ashes of other clansfolk.

The Doorway to Lauderdale Aisle

Marble Effigies

A Sacred Space

My group sat reverently on narrow wooden benches and listened to Ian share stories about the ancestors buried within Lauderdale Aisle. As he spoke a sacredness filled the room, shimmering in the soft light that filtered in through the window high on the wall.

I’ve so wanted to see this place. To experience it with my kinsmen, to hear stories told by my Clan Chief, created a surreal dream-like reality. I felt connection and awe, and deep gratitude for these men and women, long dead but surrounding us in spirit in this tiny room.

Ian concluded our time in Lauderdale Aisle by telling us that if we so wished, we could have our ashes brought here for interment as well. And he meant it. That amazing offer touched me in the part of my heart that declares itself Scottish and brought tears to my eyes.

St Marys Stained Glass Windwo

Clan Means Family

St. Mary’s Church and Lauderdale Aisle were the beginning of a long day together. We enjoyed lunch in Haddington and journeyed onward to two more places before returning to Edinburgh.

Ian told us that clan means family. I learned when Clan Maitland gathers, connection happens. When Clan Maitland gathers, stories are told. And when Clan Maitland gathers, adventures unfold.

I’ll be sharing more of those adventures in upcoming posts. Come discover my family roots, and some of the finest historical sites in Scotland, with me.

Clan Chief Ian with family
Ian sharing info and stories with us.

If you are a Maitland or Lauderdale, join our clan or read more about us HERE.

And check out these fun travel items by clicking below.

 


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National Tartan Day 2017

I am grateful once again for the Facebook Memories notification that I get each day. In the midst of a busy day, I quickly scanned through my newsfeed and notifications while eating lunch, and realized today is National Tartan Day. Being of Scottish descent, and a card carrying member of Clan Maitland, this is a holiday I must celebrate.

National Tartan Day 2017
Not only do I embrace this national day, I have an annual tradition of taking a selfie while wearing my plaid. After only a slight hestitation, as I thought about all that I still needed to accomplish during the afternoon, I wholeheartedly entered into the spirit of the day and grabbed my tartan scarf.

It was chilly outdoors today, and breezy, but the sun was brilliant and out into the yard I went with my scarf around my neck. The last two years I’ve worn my silver thistle pin as well. Today, wanting to create something different, I simply wrapped my tartan scarf around my neck and clasped the ends, going for a fun and casual look. Greg graciously acted as my photographer.

National Tartan Day 2017
This evening I spent time browsing through my Clans & Tartans of Scotland & Ireland book, by James MacKay. I read that the tartan originally was a piece of woolen cloth, about 6 1/2 feet wide and up to 20 feet long, that was worn by being gathered in pleats around the waist, wound around the back and over the shoulder, and secured with a brooch.

The distinctive patterns were created by weaving the cloth and dyeing it. The pattern’s purpose was to identify the origins of the wearer by the colors of his cloth.

National Tartan Day 2017
National Tartan Day 2017
I am a member of Clan Maitland. My tartan book describes the Maitlands as a powerful Lowland family that originated in Normandy. The earliest referenced family member is Thomas de Maltalent in 1227. Later in that same century Sir Richard de Mauteland acquired the Berwickshire estate of Thirlestane, near the village of Lauder. Several members of the Maitland Clan held high offices, including William, secretary to Mary, Queen of Scots and John, who became Duke of Lauderdale in 1672.

The Lauderdales of America are all descended from James Maitland, who immigrated to the US in 1714. His grandson, William, moved to South Carolina in 1817, and the Tennessee branch of the family descended from him. That’s my branch of the Lauderdale family tree.

National Tartan Day 2017
This September, I will be returning to Scotland with my mother, sisters and niece. We will visit Lauder, in the Borders, and tour the ancestral home, Thirlestane Castle. Distant relatives still occupy the castle, although it is now part of the Scottish National Trust.

My Scottish blood is strong within me. Scotland calls to me and haunts my thoughts. I am proud to be a Scot, honored to be a member of Clan Maitland, and thrilled to be visiting my homeland once again.

This afternoon I paused long enough on this day of recognition to don my tartan scarf and strike a pose. My heart sang…and answered the invitation that continually flows to me from my beloved Scotland…

Soon…

National Tartan Day 2017

Have Scottish or Irish ancestry? Find your tartan in James MacKay’s book:

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Surrender 97: National Tartan Day 2016

As an American with Scottish ancestry, I’ve looked toward to celebrating this holiday again. I had fun wearing the plaid last April 6, and this year, I wore my tartan scarf once more as I was out this afternoon. 

 

This holiday was established by a resolution in the US Senate in 1998. The date of April 6 was selected in honor of the Declaration of Arbroath, the Scottish Declaration of Independence, which was signed on this date  in 1320.
The Declaration of Independence created for the United States was modeled on the Scottish document. This isn’t surprising since nearly half of the American signers were of Scottish descent. 

  


The purpose of National Tartan Day is to commemorate the Scottish Declaration of Arbroath and to recognize the achievements of Americans with Scottish heritage. 

The tartan is a pattern of criss crossing bands in various colors. The first tartans were made of wool. Each clan in Scotland is represented by their own unique tartan. 

  


As a Lauderdale, I am a member of Clan Maitland. Maitlands have lived near the village of Lauder, in a castle, for centuries. There has been a long line of Earls of Lauderdale living in Thirlestane Castle, although the current earl lives in London. A Maitland that immigrated to America in 1690 took the last name of Lauderdale. 

I have a clan chief, and there are clan members scattered around the world. The Maitland tartan is private. As a clan member, I am allowed to order items made from the official tartan. That is an intention of mine, to purchase a Maitland tartan shawl and eventually a skirt. 

 

It’s been a fun day, wearing my plaid, checking out various sites to see how other tartan sporting American Scots are celebrating, and in general, having a raised awareness of my heritage and the country that I love so much. 

It has now become a tradition to capture a selfie commemorating National Tartan Day. I’m grateful for my Scottish ancestry and for this yearly opportunity to celebrate my family roots with the wearing of the plaid. 

  
  
  

Surrender 37: Looking for Margaret, Countess of Lauderdale

Today’s surrender evolved out of a request for information from my sister Debbie. She is working on her own copy of our family lineage, after she and my niece recently joined the Maitland Clan. To find the birth and death dates she asked for, I hauled out my genealogy notebook. 

  

This black binder, stuffed with pages and pages of notes and charts, represents years of research by my mom, my Aunt Annie and me. When I first connected to the Internet, back in the early 90’s, I made use of sites such ancestry.com, pouring over names and dates, building my own family tree based on the work of many others. 

However, it’s been a long time since I’ve done any fresh work. As I flipped through pages in my notebook, looking up info for Debbie, I paused by one particular name. 

Countess Margaret Cunningham 

b 1660 in Glencairn, Scotland

d UNKNOWN 

  
She was married to John Maitland, was mother of James Maitland, who traveled to America. She’s in my Scottish lineage, yet back when I had been doing research, I had not found much about her. I had nothing listed about her parents. 

Well the Internet has exploded since those early days of the World Wide Web. I googled her. I was not disappointed. A wealth of informative came up. Primarily using a site called GENi, I grabbed a pencil and began to fill in the blanks. 

  
What I discovered was more than her dates of birth and death. I found a whole new line of ancestors that includes more than 100 people, so far! I had intended to add Margaret’s info, and then color. But my curiosity compelled me to keep going. I surrendered to following that trail. 

I’m so glad that I did! Researching the Cunningham branch of my family yielded amazing finds. Back I went, generation after generation, to the old kings of Scotland, to Ireland, to Carthage, North Africa, Russia, and the ancient kings of Norway, Denmark and Sweden. 

Within Scotland I have newly discovered ties to the clans of Cunningham, Campbell, Gordon, Hamilton, Douglas, Lindsay and Montgomery. And I can show that I am related to Gandalf. Yes! One of my distant ancestors is Gandalf Alfgeirsson, King of Vingulmark in Norway. That may be the closest claim I have yet to Middle Earth! 

I loved coming across names in my family lines such as Ragnall mac Somhairle – Lord of the Isles, Raum the Old, Svadi the Giant and Auor the Deep Minded. Many of my ancestors died in battles, on land and sea, and one unfortunate, Ragnar Sigurdsson, a king of Sweden, died in a snake pit. 

  
My explorations today created nine pages of new notes – and I’ve only traced back about half of the names I wrote down – and re-ignited my interest in genealogy. Looking at the names, jotting down birth dates and death dates, all the way back to the year 320, I held on to the thought that these were real people, living real lives, loving, marrying, birthing the next generation, dying. They experienced great joys and great hardships. They laughed and cried. 

As the search for Margaret Cunningham Maitland, Countess of Lauderdale, took me all over Europe, and dipped into Africa and Russia, I recognized again, we are all ONE family. We are ALL connected. I see that just from looking back from one individual. When I look at all my known family, I can almost cover the globe. I am here, right now, because of all of these other people. That’s amazing!

I love the words of Native American writer, Linda Hogan: 

“Walking, I am listening to a deeper way. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.”

There’s even a Gandalf walking back there!