Eilean Donan, Scotland
Scots, wha hae wi Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome tae yer gory bed,
Or tae victorie.
Robert Burns, 1793
Clans and Family Societies
The clan system which arose in Scotland around the 11th century was a complex society. The clan family was headed by a Chief. While many of the clansmen were blood relations others might be tenants of the clan lands. The clan also included those who married into the clan as well as other unrelated individuals and sMallar families or clans (septs) who joined the larger clan for protection and support. A "sept" moved into a region or moved out of a region and changed allegiances. As a result some "septs" are allied with more than one clan family. The clan system was based on the economics of the times and functioned, for better or worse, much like a family business.
The word clan is from the Gaelic word clanna meaning "children." Originally each clan was made up of the descendants of one man and his children. The clan names which are in use today have come down from the founders of the royal dynasties of the Picts, the Scots and the Vikings in the Highlands as well as the noble families of the Britons, Flemish, Normans, Angles, and Saxons in the Lowlands and Borders.
Historically, a clan was made up of everyone who lived on the chief's territory, or on territory of those who owed allegiance to the said chief. Through time, with the constant changes of "clan boundaries", migration or regime changes, clans would be made up of large numbers of members who were unrelated and who bore different surnames. Often those living on a chief's lands would over time adopt the clan surname. A chief could add to his clan by adopting other families, and also had the legal right to outlaw anyone from his clan, including members of his own family. Today, anyone who has the chief's surname is automatically considered to be a member of the chief's clan. Also, anyone who offers allegiance to a chief becomes a member of the chief's clan, unless the chief decides not to accept that person's allegiance.
It is this brotherhood, beyond rank, sex, religion, success, or failure, which links the Scots together. We are all one interrelated family; the branches of the family are the family names, clan, and septs. As a result, all bearers of Scottish names share in the rich pageantry and experiences of our common ancestors.
Almost all Scottish clans have more than one tartan attributed to their surname. Although there are no rules on who can or cannot wear a particular tartan, and it is possible for anyone to create a tartan and name it almost any name they wish, the only person with the authority to make a clan's tartan "official" is the chief. In some cases, following such recognition from the clan chief, the clan tartan is recorded and registered by the Lord Lyon. Once approved by the Lord Lyon, after recommendation by the Advisory Committee on Tartan, the clan tartan is then recorded in the Lyon Court Books. In at least one instance a clan tartan appears in the heraldry of a clan chief and the Lord Lyon considers it to be the "proper" tartan of the clan. By the way, never refer to the Tartan as "Plaid". That has a very different meaning in Scotland.
Today clan family societies are generally formed for educational, literary, social, or beneficial purposes, to further friendships and share the heritage of the clan family to collect and preserve its relics and, in the case of some larger societies, to assist in the maintenance and acquisition of former clan territories in Scotland. Visit the clan area and meet your family.
The Scots and their descendants are extremely proud of their long and colorful history so while you are attending the NTIF, make it a point to visit the Clan area. You will have no problem finding them. Look for brightly colored flags, tartans and banners flying. You'll be as welcome as you can be and you will find many gracious and interested folks who will be more than happy to help you with any questions you might have. The Scottish Village is located at the east end of the Automobile Building across from the Urchin Street (children's) area.
I will not yield,
To kiss the ground before young Malcolm's feet,
And to be baited with the rabble's curse.
Though Birnam wood be come to Dunsinane,
And thou opposed, being of no woman born,
Yet I will try the last. Before my body
I throw my warlike shield. Lay on, Macduff,
And damn'd be him that first cries, 'Hold, enough!'
"That Scottish Play!", William Shakespeare