Although a large percentage do live here in the UK, due to circumstances both current and historical not all recognised clan Chiefs live in Scotland nor are they in fact all male.
Here is a fascinating article by Alexander Irvine of Drum published in the 20th edition of the Royal Celtic Society newsletter, giving an insight into his personal journey. It is intersting to note, in a similar vein to the Holmains line in the past where India was the port of call for many Scots, the Middle East has for many years taken over that mantle.
A Chief Returns Home
To be honest, it felt a tad impertinent as a returning emigré (almost an incomer some might say), to think I could write anything remotely of interest, but while seeking inspiration from MacGoogle, I realized that I am in the same boat in which many other Scots have sailed over hundreds of years. The tradition of “Scots Abroad” is wonderfully told on the National Library of Scotland’s website and databases which preserve the stories of Scottish emigration.
For the history buffs, it is a marvellous resource: https://digital.nls.uk/emigration/ identity/index.html
In February 2019 while working in Qatar, I received the news one prays will never come. My dear father (David, XXVI [26th] of Drum and a member of RCS) had died peacefully in his sleep in Aberdeen after a short illness and I was filled with regret that I was thousands of miles away. It sometimes takes a shock to bring one to one’s senses. I knew then that I would have to start seriously thinking about returning home to Scotland, primarily to be closer to my dear mother, but also to take on the formidable task of stepping into my father’s huge shoes as his woefully inexperienced successor.
By that time, I had been working for the last 15 years across the world in the oil and gas industry for a major subsea contractor, as a corporate energy lawyer. It is fascinating work and one feels privileged to have been a humble lawyer advising extremely smart engineers, offshore managers, ROV operators, project managers and a whole host of other technical experts, many of whom were Scots. I have had the pleasure to meet my fellow countrymen in the energy business in Stavanger, Copenhagen, Paris, Lisbon, Moscow, Cairo, Lagos, Luanda, Maputo, Houston, Mexico City, St John’s, Bangkok, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Perth (to name but a few).
Our work involved dealing with complex engineering projects laying deep sea pipelines and installation of platforms in some of the deepest offshore waters for international oil companies in their expensive search for ever harder to reach hydrocarbon reservoirs located deep below the seabed, in up to 3000 feet of water (Malaysia), and up to 40,000 feet below the seabed (Qatar). For the last five of those years, I had been settled in Qatar working for an operator which pumped approximately 300,000 barrels of oil per day from the Al Shaheen Field, one of the world’s largest, with 34 platforms. Qatar is also the world’s largest exporter of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) which is gas made into a liquid by cooling in “trains” to minus 162 degrees Celsius (minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit) and this is then shipped across the world in specialized LNG tankers. Qatar Petroleum has recently confirmed the world’s largest single order for 100 LNG supertankers at a cost of $20 Billion US dollars. The heavy industry shipyards owned by Daewoo, Hyundai and Sumsung will be busy until 2027. There are many Scots engineers and marine architects based in Qatar who are involved in these major acquisitions.
The Al Shaheen oil field, while producing a tidy $5 billion US dollar revenue per annum for the State (with low production costs of around $11 US dollars per barrel), is dwarfed by LNG, which takes the lion’s share of around $40-50 Billion US dollars per annum and is paying for the World Cup to be hosted in Doha in 2022. Capital expenditure has been running at $500 million US dollars per week for the last 5 years as Qatar spends on lavish infrastructure projects to welcome its football fans. Imagine the herculean task (and cost) of constructing eight air- conditioned football stadiums which are open to the skies and the heat /humidity of Qatari winters (as high as 22-25 degrees at 70% relative humidity) yet cooled to 18 degrees Celsius.
Qataris are fiercely independent (witness their resilience in the face of the three year blockade against Qatar which only ended recently) and each is proud of their respective clan. They are innovative as well, devising a plan to airlift 4000 head of cattle, Holsteins, to establish their own Dairy operation when the supplies from Saudi Arabia abruptly stopped when the land border was closed. I am fortunate to now count among my friends many Qataris and their warmth and hospitality was remarkable in a region which is known for its indifference and passive hostility towards foreign workers. They welcomed me into their homes and family majlis where we feasted on slow roasted lamb and goat with copious mounds of rice. I joined them on camps in the desert and dune bashing in their much- loved 4x4s. Their religious festivals of Ramadan and Eid involved many family gatherings to which I was invited and enjoyed long conversations sharing stories about Qatari and Scottish history and culture.
Looking back, I feel very lucky to have been able to see the world on the back of oil and gas business. I have always felt at home wherever I have travelled, joining fellow Scots for a welcoming pint and a dram after a long day’s work, along with a good blether into the night about the state of politics at home and the fortunes (or not) of our rugby squad. It is, however, slightly odd to spend Hogmanay in tropical climes, and first footing is not the same without a lump of coal, but there was always a good Burns Supper to be had at the local St Andrews or Caledonian Society. If we were lucky, a half-decent ceilidh was thrown into the bargain. One should add that wearing a heavy woolen kilt in 40 degrees Celsius and high humidity is an experience best avoided.
I have also been struck by the twinkle in the eyes of the citizens of many countries I have worked in, when they find out that Scotland is my home. Something magical happens when a Russian taxi driver or a Mozambican barman, on hearing the word “Scotland”, becomes much more friendly and often the words whisky, Braveheart and Alex Ferguson are uttered with a fist raised, as if they are the sum total of all things Scottish. If nothing else, it is a great icebreaker.
All of this brings me to where I am now. Sitting in my study in Liberton, Edinburgh looking out over the Pentlands and reflecting on my times and travels, far and wide. We returned to Scotland in September 2020 and I took up a new role in the local government of Edinburgh and it is delightful to be home. I shall not miss the blistering heat and dust storms of Qatar that play havoc with the lungs, nor the humidity of Malaysia which drowned one with perspiration. Nor shall I miss the military roadblocks on dark nights in Maputo, with AK47s casually poking through the window of the taxi with a friendly request for “some coffee money boss”. Likewise, the bewildering chaos in Saigon of thousands of scooters swarming like demented mosquitos but ridden by folk with such friendly smiles, all with a single purpose of “getting there as fast as possible” – a sight to behold.
All very nice memories, but I will now take a view over the Pentlands with a dram in hand, in front of a roaring fire, while the wind howls and rain pelts down outside, as comforting reassurance that we have returned home.
Clan Carruthers would like to send a warm welcome to Alexander 27th Clan Chief of Irvine, Baron of Drum back to Scotland.
Interstingly, in 2002 the previous Chief of Clan Irvine entered into a peace treaty with the 13th Earl of Kintore who is the Chief of Clan Keith, at an elaborate ceremony on the banks of the River Dee to end their 600-year feud.
Irving of Bonshaw
Interestingly, the highland clan of Irvine of Drum it seemsshould not be confused with the border clan of Irving/Irvine of Bonshaw, who on their website state:
Due to the geographical, economic and historical isolation between the Irvines & Irvings in the Highlands and those in the Lowlands, the common-sense conclusion is that they are two separate Clans sharing a common Name. This is not an uncommon situation as can be shown with some of the notable Clans in the Highlands.
In fact, Lyon Clerk at The Court of the Lord Lyon states that “ … there are two distinct families, Irving of Bonshaw and Irvine of Drum. Each family has a person who is recognised in the respective name (Irvine of Drum, Irving of Bonshaw) and who has been granted arms.
” In his Interlocutor dated 25th August 2014 the Lord Lyon confirms this position – this is a judicial decision that cannot be altered.
NB: Captain Robert A.S. Irving RN (Retd.) FIL & Arabic Linguist, 19th Clan Chief & Chief of the Name and Arms of Irving of Bonshaw, passed away peacefully in his sleep at home in Chapmanslade, near Westbury on 17th February 2021.
He is succeeded by his eldest son Rupert C. Irving of Bonshaw as Chief of the Name and Arms of Irving of Bonshaw