North American Gathering, Canada, August 2000

By Isobel and Trevor Clasohm

We were fortunate to attend the Clan MacLeod Gathering held at Guelph University which is about 30 miles out of Toronto, Canada.

On arrival, we were given the keys to our dormitory (No. 237) and ventured off to find our way around the 4 or 5 story building.  It had basic dormitory rooms of 2 single beds and shared toilets, and showers down the corridor.  The interesting and enlightening Uni complex, was of some old and new buildings and gardens.  There were squirrels around the extensive gardens, which we appreciated on our walking tour.

At registration in Lambton Hall, there was basic formality.  Six small trading tables in the adjoining hall where Clan Tee shirts, Tartan and other souvenir shirts were for sale @ $20 (US).  Oddly enough one stall was trading in $US, one in $Can., and one in Stirling, which made it a bit difficult to purchase in cash.

There were material wall hangings framed in MacLeod tartans with a lot of members’ names and photos from different branches, some painted and embroidered.  North American and Canadian maps hanging on the wall showed cities where MacLeods are prominent, especially in relation to early settlement and Nation founding.

Breakfast was from 7am in Creelman Hall 8 minutes from dorms.  (Did Trevor do it in 15 minutes?  Running there in 4 minutes but needing 11 to recuperate half way?)  Dinners were from 5 – 6.30pm.  All meals including Lunch were buffet style offering very good food.

The overall programme provided 10 workshops including Poetry, Highland Games, Gaelic Song, Scottish Textile Tradition, Scottish Food, Scottish Highlanders – Indian Peoples, and an Archival seminar.

Wednesday evening was the Welcome Reception.  It was very good, barring the expectation that Trevor and I might have been acknowledged, along with the only other Australians Ian and Ruth MacLeod (WA), and the 3 New Zealanders.

Thursday offered the Opening Ceremony, with speeches from the Mayor, and Clan dignitaries.  Morning and afternoon had workshop options.  The evening programme was of Scottish Entertainment - a Ceilidh Band and a Silent Auction.  (I’m not familiar with this, is there something peculiarly Scottish about a Silent Auction?  A Scot is reputed to be reserved with his money, but does parting with it, leaving them speechless?)

Friday was a day of various meetings and workshops.  The evening was in the University Centre for a BBQ buffet, which turned out to be an excellent silver service meal along with a Clan Ceilidh, and of course more speeches.  (This is consistent with the aforementioned hypothesis).

Saturday we were bussed to attend the Fergus Highland Games, about 30 miles north of Guelph.  It was the spectacular highlight of the Gathering.  About 20 massed bands demanded everyone’s attention.  Some 35 Clans marched and assembled on the oval for the official opening.  Of course Clan MacLeod was by far the largest assembled and the 350 plus MacLeods marched as guests of honour.  There were hundreds of dancers, hundreds of pipers, caber tossing, concerts etc. in this grand event.

Back at the University on Saturday night was the Trilliums and Tartan Ball, featuring more fine food, music, and an exceptionally fine young female violinist.

On Sunday we had the Kirkin o’ th’ Tartan Service at War Memorial Hall.  It was a very good conclusion to the Gathering.

Having stated that we enjoyed the North American Gathering, we were a mite disappointed, because we attended the Bendigo Clan Gathering in May 1999, and we expected it to be of similar grandeur, however Bendigo surpassed all expectations.  Bendigo was fortunate to have their own MacLeod Highland Pipe Band, as well as the attending New South Wales MacLeod Highland Pipe Band.

We made some lovely friends from New Zealand, Canada, South Carolinas, and Massachusetts.

After the Gathering, we were invited down to Florence, South Carolina, where we stayed with friends from the Friendship Force whom we met on exchange to Mt Barker.  They both work at the McLeod Hospital, where Dianne is Administrator of Endoscopy Section, and Kendall is Administrator of Hospice.  We had a VIP extensive tour of the facility and the history of  Dr. Frank Hilton McLeod who founded the Hospital in 1868, and his son Dr. James G. McLeod who took over in the 1930’s.  The Hospital offers 331 beds specialising in cardiac, cancer, neurological medicine and surgery, and women’s and children’s care, emergency and outpatient services.  (It also has a 21 million electron volt linear accelerator, which sounds similar to what our local speeding hoons must have in their hot cars).

This was certainly an added bonus to our MacLeod Gathering tour.  It is well worth seeing if visiting the area.

Many thanks to Isobel and Trevor for providing this article, and especially for you being Australian MacLeods at Guelph.