Highland games and gatherings occur throughout the world and not simply in Scotland. They are events where those of Scottish blood and heritage, celebrate their culture with pride, wherever they reside. In the same vein as other cultures, competitions to prove strength, endurance, skill and honour became a central hub to these events. However, they are much, much more as they have evolved into an all embracing celebration of our heritage, history and culture allowing us to share it with the world.
Fergus, Ontario in Canada is located north-northwest of Guelph and sits on the Grand River. It is near many natural settings such as the Elora Gorge and Conservation Area, and Belwood Lake. Fergus is a mostly residential community filled with streets lined with trees, many stone buildings, modern schools, and attractive parklands. It is laid out on a rectangular grid, with the Grand River flowing through the downtown heritage centre, its limestone riverbanks surrounding it.
The Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games is a huge event and is one of the top Scottish gatherings in North America. It was started in 1943 as the brainchild of Mr Alex Robertson and is now in its 74th year. Initially it was held in the Victoria Park, and recently in the Centre Wellington Community Sportsplex (Fergus).
We are advised that it is strongly committed to upholding all that is Scottish in tradition to include clan and family structure, and ensures those making claims of rank or nobility are who they say they are.
Each year a Grand Chieftain is chosen for the games. In the past one if the mainstays was the musician and TV personality, John Allan Cameron, who served as Chieftain for over 20 years. John is the Godfather of Celtic music in Canada, his influence on the same cannot be ignored. He played at the Grand Ole Opry in 1970 and was named to the Order of Canada in 1973. John sadly passed on 2006 but his mark on Scottish culture will never be forgotten.
Those shoes have always been difficult to fill, however this year the Grand Chieftain is none other than the Lord Lyon himself. Dr Joe Morrow is known throughout the Scottish world in his role as Lord Lyon and the process of the Lyon Court, which is there to eliminate the charlatans and fraudsters wishing to abuse our Scottish heritage, is highly respected.
Although some claim the heraldic laws of Scotland do not apply outside the Lyon’s jurisdiction, his influence and the respect for his authority remains in the heart of every person who has pride and passion for ‘the blood’ surging through their veins, irrelevant from where they hail.
The organisers of Fergus obviously feel this way. This is taken directly from the Fergus Scottish Festival website and accurately conveys the Lord Lyons responsibilities.
Lord Lyon, King of Arms responsibilities:
- overseeing state ceremonial in Scotland,
- for the granting of new arms to persons or organisations,
- for confirming proven pedigrees and claims to existing arms,
- recognising clan chiefs after due diligence,
- registering and recording new clan tartans, upon request from the clan chief.
The Lyon Register (officially the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland), on which the Lord Lyon records all Scotland’s coats of arms, dates from 1672.
The following Information is taken directly from the Fergus site itself with addendums added, which we deemed are pertinent to the Carruthers family
‘One of most distinguishing elements of Celtic and Scottish history is Clanship. Many Clans claim origination during the reign of the Celts whose Empire at its height stretched from Northern Ireland to the Steppes of Russia.
The origins of the Clan systems modulate to include some Celtic mythological beginnings. Clan Donald claimed progenitorship from both Conn, a King of Ulster (second Century) and the infamous Cuchulainn.
The Campbell’s, on the other hand claim progenitorship from Diarmaid the Boar, while Clans like the MacGregors trace their roots to Gregor, the son of King Alpin who united Scotland in 843.
The majority of Clans cannot trace their origins prior to the 11th century with most finding their roots in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries’.
(‘Carruthers’, being a topographical name, may well be able to trace their beginnings or origins as a group of indigenous peoples living in Strathclyde, prior to that date. Although, like many clans and families, the first ‘Carruthers’ was only recorded in the early 1200’s, in the reign of Alexander II, 1215-1245 Ed.)
‘Social and political upheaval paved the way for a clan structure to succeed. The early battles between the Scots and the Norse in the 13th century and the numerous northern rebellions saw many war chiefs enter battle followed by their kinsman.
The wars of Independence fought against the English in the 14th century encouraged Clanship as did the feudal tenures introduced to regulate the use and ownership of land. Clans were highly organized independent states living on one landmass. Unless united with other Clans to fight a common foe, they fought between Clans for reasons too numerous to mention here’.
(The Reivers, were no less different in their habits and similar process and bonds of family kinship existed with in the reiver clans and families all along the Marches of the Anglo-Scottish Border. Ed)
‘Under Robert the Bruce, the Chiefs of Clans were given the right to dispense justice in addition to supporting the constant fight against English rule. Therefore the Clan system can be defined as “a product of local association, kinship and feudalism”. All of these elements were reinforced by Scottish law and further connected, in the Highlands by ties with the Gaelic language’.
(In 1587 an Act of the Scottish Parliament was passed by James VI; ‘For the quieting and keeping in obedience of the disordered subjects, inhabitants of the borders, highlands and isles. 51 ‘Clannis’ were named, 34 from the highlands and islands and 17 from the border lands of Scotland. One of the 17 families named was that of Carruthers. Ed)
‘The Battle of Culloden in 1746 and the horrors of The Act of Proscription saw the dismantling of the Highland way of life with the outlawing of the wearing of tartan, the playing of the pipes, the speaking of Gaelic, traditional worship and the dismantling of the intricate and complex organizations of the clan system.
Additionally, the Agricultural Improvement Act witnessed sheep spread throughout the Highlands, gnawing away at the little that was left after Proscription. Proscription was lifted within fifty years and the connection between kin and Clan re-emerged. Despite what can be called a romanticism surrounding a great deal of Clan associations today, the elements that sustained clanship continue to be the ties that bind Scots to their past and secure them steadfastly in the present’.
(This continued through both the highland and lowland clearances, which saw many families split and dispersed. However the ties remain to this very day by all those who respect and take pride in our Scottish culture and heritage. This is reflected in the huge turnout at the Fergus games. Ed)
‘Scottish immigration around the world (therefore) results in Clanship followings on all continents. Festivals like the Fergus Scottish Festival and other such celebrations worldwide encourage participants to discover their roots and find the Clan to which their kinship evolved’.
Is it time to find YOUR roots, by joining the Clan Carruthers Society International, and filling in their Roll Call at www.clancarruthers.com
Carruthers at Fergus
Our clan and family were represented by the Society’s Executive Secretary, Graham Carruthers and the Canadian Regional Secretary, Zelda M Carruthers.
Zelda, who was just out of hospital and still in some pain chose, like the Reiver she is, to accompany Graham who also took time out of his own busy schedule to represent us at Fergus.
As our clan representative on CASSOC (Clans and Scottish Societies of Canada), Graham’s previously made contact with various Clans and Executives certainly made their paths smoother throughout their visit. As such they were very warmly received as the official representatives of the Clan Carruthers Society and enjoyed a fantastic day.
On arriving they were both lucky enough to be present for the Lyon’s lecture in the Fergus Heritage Tent on the subject of the ‘Clans and Families of Scotland Today’. During his talk he went into a few scenarios and descriptions of his experiences in his office which related to the subject, one of which stuck in their minds.
The story related to Clan Gunn whom, after 20 years of having a Commander in place, were advised that Lyon had refused to renew or recognise the position. They couldn’t figure out why, so they wrote to him to ask the Lyon to renew the Commander’s role and he said no. They really couldn’t understand this and again wrote asking if he would explain to them that after 20 years he would not recognise their Commander. The Lyon’s response was classic; “You don’t need a Commander, for it was time to confirm him as the hereditary chief of Clan Gunn”.
A Scottish chief may only be confirmed by the Lyon to bear the chiefly arms, once the genealogy to the chiefly line is robustly proven or, as in the case of Clan Gunn who had no direct lineage to the last chief, after holding a gathering and Derbhfine (election) under the supervision of the Lyon Court, and electing a Clan Commander. The Commander heads the clan for a period of years, the required time being designated by the Lyon, before being accepted as the clans hereditary chief. Only the Lord Lyon has the authority, to confirm an individuals right to bear the chiefly arms of a Scottish family or clan.
Clan Gunn has therefore to be congratulated on two counts, firstly they followed the correct path through the Lyon Court to attain a Commander. Secondly, for the first time in 250 years, as of 25th September 2015 they have a chief; Iain Alexander Gunn of that Ilk, who will be recognised, respected and accepted as such worldwide.
In 1978, the Chief of Clan Keith and the then Commander of Clan Gunn signed a peace treaty at the site of the Chapel of St Tayres, officially ending the feud between the two clans which began in 1478.
Meeting the Lyon
Both Graham and Zelda were given access to the Lyon by the organisers of the festival and had a brief chat with him. He advised them that had made a decision on a Carruthers chief and he would inform us officially in due course.
He did however take the time to comment very positively on Zelda’s Red Carruthers tartan sash after which he then went on to relate to them some of his experiences in his role as Lord Lyon. They have both expressed how much they enjoyed their conversation and that it is something that they will not soon forget.
There were 54 clans present, all proudly displaying their tartans, badges and flags and where appropriate and legal, feathers in caps were worn by their Chiefs, Chieftains and Armigers.
Our representatives were met by Paul Eliott, a member of another reiver clan and close neighbour from the Scottish Borders. in this case Clan Eliott. Paul is a board member of CASSOC and representative of Clan Elliot and Graham had met him previously at the meetings. It seems that he has Carruthers in his distant past, which he proudly shared.
Paul had a long chat with them on clan and festival matters and the information was gratefully received. Clan Elliot’s Chief is Margaret Eliott of Redheugh, 29th Chief of the Name and Arms of Eliott.
Another good friend of the Society is Mr Steve Logan, who also has some Carruthers blood in his family line. Steve along with the Vice President of Clan Logan, kindly discussed the processes and requirements involved in ‘hosting’ at a festival and games. Zelda and Graham were very interested and a hale and hearty conversation ensued. As an official clan society, we were also kindly given an early invitation to the 2020 Montreal games.
Clan Logan are still reserching and evidencing the genealogy for their heriditary Chief although a putative Chief, who is likely to be defendable before the Court of the Lord Lyon, has been found.
It seems it was a very fruitful experience for both Zelda and Graham and through them, our clan. It was reported that everyone was so kind and helpful in taking them around and that they felt that the Clan Carruthers Society was warmly welcomed and supported.
Graham had talked to Dave Radley, Past President of the Festival at the CASSOC AGM prior to this. Dave is a great fan of doing things right and ensured us that if individuals aren’t officially recognised by the Lyon, people making false claims would definitely not be accepted nor welcomed at Fergus.
Part of the report we received reflects just how wonderful and memorable the day was and although much of it is included in the body of the text above, some personal snippets below help set the scene
“The sound of the pipes playing in the background the whole time was awesome”
“This is my first Scottish Festival and there is so much to see and absorb. Saturday, August 10th was BEAUTIFUL weather, bright sun, with a breeze that later in the day picked up so much that the Highland Dancers personal shade gazebos went flying in all directions with some carrying the actual dancers to new heights”.
“The “heavies” were amazing and I sure would have liked to have seen the finals, but another time”.
“One of the Pipes and Drums team came all the way from California, it is amazing”.
“54 gazebos dedicated to 54 clans with their history and artefacts being well displayed”.
“The advice we received from all was to start simple and small and build with experience AND involve all generations including the wee bairns”.
“The pinnacle of our trip was walking up to the Lord Lyon, extending a hand and being mesmerised by the man in person, before listening to his speech. After his speech he had to rush off to the opening of the Festival. BUT we did manage to meet up with him again several times and one time for our picture taking! He held my hand the whole time and we were impressed with his easy ways and a wonderful sense of humour”.
(During the Lyon Court hearings for the Carruthers Clan Chief, the Lyon remained the same; sharp witted, intelligent, precise but exceptionally kind, considerate and compassionate in his approach. Ed)
“So this may have been our first but it certainly won’t be the last and next time we will experience the entire Festival with plenty of rest times. And to give kudos where due, we met a wonderful world-renowned individual in the Rev Dr Joseph Morrow, the Lord Lyon, King of Arms. We are deeply impressed to have met and spent time with such an esteemed personage”
“I couldn’t believe the beautiful and true resemblance of the actual Highland Cows to all the photos and videos I’ve seen and the fact that the sheep seem to prefer their grass soaked in urine”!
Therefore whether attending by yourself or with the entire clan there’s something for everyone, Scottish or ‘nae’ at the Fergus Festival! Celtic Music, crafts for the kids, heavy events championships, bagpipes, drums, tug of war, bands, Highland dancing, storytelling, singing, genealogy and heritage, beer tents, and vendors galore!
Everything to whet the appetite and stir the blood of any Scot or anyone interested in their culture and traditions is here.
This year’s festival itinerary featured a huge array of events: World and National Scottish Heavy Event Competitions (Traditional ‘Heavy’ events may include: Tossing the Caber, Hammer Throw, Shot Put, Weight for Height and Tug o’ War.Ed.), Canadian Scottish Athletic Federation Women’s Championship, Pipe Band Competitions, Highland Dancers, 54 Clans, Heritage Tent, research tools and lectures in the Genealogy Centre, Clash of the Regiments, McKiddie’s Centre, Celtic musicians and over 100 international vendors. Graham and Zelda watched many events and networked around the clan tents.
Our Society, as the official representatives of Carruthers worldwide, has always been keen on building bridges, rather than knocking them down and we feel that we have achieved much by our presence. However if you are a Canadian Scot, or one who just appreciates our culture and traditions, this has to be a festival of a lifetime.
On a personal note, both Graham and Zelda have been great supporters to our cause during much of this process. They both continue to work tirelessly, communicate regularly and more importantly are always actively involved. Theylike us, give their time freely and ask for nothing in return and all for the benefit of the clan and family in general. The time and hard work they do is recognised by the Executive, but as a clan we should all commend them for the same.
Therefore on behalf of the whole Society, please accept our kind and heartfelt thanks to you both.
I would also ask that any others wishing to assist and volunteer in supporting the CCSI in the US, Autsralia, Canada, the UK or anywhere else, please contact us through the clan facebook page, or the Society webpage and we will put you in touch with the appropriate persion in your region.
Working always for the many, not simply the few.
Promptus et Fidelis