Clan Maitland Gathers

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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!