Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Upcoming Highland Games in the Carolinas

This month there is only one upcoming Scottish Highland Games event in the Carolinas. The other has been cancelled due to recession difficulties. Please check out the linked sites below for specific costs, location, and details. If you know of any others for the month of April, please list them in the comments section. Thanks.

April 17th - 19th, 2009
Rural Hill Scottish Festival and Lock Norman Highland Games
Huntersville, NC (north of Charlotte)

May 1 & 2
Triad Highland Games
Greensboro, NC
*Postponed to 2010!*

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Scotch-Irish: A Social History of Scotland

by James G. Leyburn

Growing up in North Carolina, I always knew we had a huge group of Scotch-Irish settlers in the Piedmont of the Carolinas, but I didn't understand their ancestry. Were they from Scotland or Ireland? Many of them had been here for so many generations that they no longer knew where they came from--my family included. I was left to assume the Scotch had intermarried with the Irish and that is why they were called the Scotch-Irish. But as I've recently discovered, there is much more to the story.

I've finished reading The Scotch-Irish: A Social History by James G. Leyburn published by the North Carolina University Press. It begins with Scotland in the 16th century and lays out the lifestyle and condition of the Scottish families and Scotland as a country on the political front. What I have discovered is sad, but the spirit of these people was never broken. They have endured and sought new opportunities to better themselves, and many thrived when given the chance. They had strong convictions and they lived by them, even through oppression and persecution.

Most families were living in poverty and renting their farmland and homestead from an overlord, who considered it his responsibility to protect the tenants on his land. With so much lawlessness, families and neighboring villagers were dependent upon each other from other Scots raiders. Feuds often broke out among the overlords regarding land boundaries, while the number one cause was cattle stealing. It seemed that Scotland was in a constant state of undeclared civil war, while always fighting the English. These people had a hard life and to other countries seemed barbarious in the way they lived.

The borders between Scotland and England were very difficult to maintain under control, but in 1603 when James VI of Scotland became James I of England after Queen Elizabeth's death, both countries finally had a common ruler. He enforced military retaliation against border raiding, and appointed English and Scottish commissioners to catch criminals that tried to escape passed the borders. They were sent back to their own country to be tried by the court. By 1610, the borders were under control enough for safe travel and prosperous trade between the two countries. The lowland Scots adapted to this new way of life, but the Highlanders in the up country of Scotland continued to live in their barbaric ways. The Highlander prided himself on how well he could reive a Lowlander's cattle and almost thought of it as a sport. This developed a dislike between the Highlanders and the Lowlanders.

England decided to try and subdue the Irish who they saw as wild and untamed as the Highland Scot. While the Reformation achieved its purpose in Scotland and many were converted from Paganism and Catholism to Protestant, no such reformation had occurred in Ireland. Queen Elizabeth decided to colonize Ulster of Ireland, a province of the counties of Armagh, Cavan, Donegal, Derry, Fermanagh, and Tyrone in northern Ireland. Her hope was to transport English families there to bring change, but many English had no desire to be transplanted. But the Scottish families were ripe for establishing the colony. They were Protestant (Presbyterian) and they were looking for an opportunity to leave their poverty stricken homes for the hope and promise of new lands, prosperity, and a chance to do better for themselves and their families. In 1609, England opened the Ulster Colony to Scotsmen.

Over the next century the colony prospered. The Irish were not happy losing their land and being forced to give up what was theirs, but over time they began to accept the Scottish. Some Irish families intermarried with the Scottish and new generations had begun to think of themselves as Irish even though their ancestors were Scottish. These were the Scotch-Irish.
In 1717, their landlords began raising rents higher than the common people could afford. The English colonies of America were sending representatives to Ulster hoping to hire indentured servants and find Ulsterman who would work on their plantations. They promised a land of opportunity, prosperity, and a chance to save enough money to purchase their own land. Many couldn't pay for their own passage, so they sold themselves as indentured servants for four to seven years. At the end of their indenture, some would receive an agreed upon sum of money and even a tract of land, and some basic farming tools. After the first wave of Ulsterman emigrated, they wrote back to their kinsmen of their success. Things in Ulster had grown worse and between 1720 - 1750's a mass emigration of Scotch-Irish arrived to the colonies. Many of them came to the Carolinas and settled.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

CFBA Book Review - A Passion Redeemed

Revell (September 1, 2008)

Julie Lessman is a debut author who has already garnered writing acclaim, including ten Romance Writers of America awards. She is a commercial writer for Maritz Travel, a published poet and a Golden Heart Finalist. Julie has a heart to write “Mainstream Inspirational,” reaching the 21st-century woman with compelling love stories laced with God's precepts. She resides in Missouri with her husband and their golden retriever, and has two grown children and a daughter-in-law. A Passion Most Pure was her first novel.

No man can resist her charms. Or so she thought. Charity O'Connor is a woman who gets what she wants. Her stunning beauty and flirtatious ways have always succeeded with men. Until Mitch Dennehy, that is.

Brilliant and dangerously handsome, Mitch is a no-nonsense newspaperman who wants nothing to do with her. Charity burned him once, destroying his engagement to the only woman he ever truly loved. He won't play with matches again. But Charity has a plan to turn up the heat, hoping to ignite the heart of the man she loves. And she always gets what she wants--one way or another.

Or does she? Will her best-laid schemes win his love? Or will her seductive ways drive him away forever? Book 2 in the Daughters of Boston series, A Passion Redeemed will captivate your heart and stir your soul with a story of faith and redemption rising from the ashes of temptation, desire, and shame.

Praise for the first book in the series:
"Full of romance, humor, rivalry, and betrayal, A Passion Most Pure will captivate readers from the first page." --Historical Novels Review "Superb! Incredible!

"I loved Julie Lessman's A Passion Most Pure from the second I picked it up until the very last moment I stopped reading." --Armchair Interviews

"I devoured this book and loved every single page. . . . This is a thick, juicy read, and one I would pick up again in a heartbeat." --christianreviewofbooks.com

If you would like to read an excerpt from A Passion Redeemed, go HERE.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Carolina Tartan

Even though I was born and bred in the Carolinas, it was only recently that I discovered that the Carolinas had their very own tartan. No other two American states share the same tartan except North and South Carolina.

Peter MacDonald designed the Carolina Tartan in 1981, but it was his father, Micheil MacDonald who came up with the idea. The design was taken from a pre-1800 sample from the Prince Edward Charles Stuart tartan. Since King Charles II of England was the last king of Scotland to be crowned at Scone, January 1, 1651, and it was said that he wore a jacket of ribbons suspected to have been the Royal Stewart Tartan. King Charles II opened the Carolinas through a land grant in 1663.

For further reading, visit:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Truth About St. Patrick

Who Was St. Patrick Anyway?
Patrick was born to wealthy parents in Britain around the end of the 4th century. Most scholars believed he may have died on March 17th, (460 A.D.).

His father was a Christian deacon. At 16, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who attacked his family's estate. He spent 6 years in captivity, working as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people in Ireland. It was during this time of loneliness and uncertainty that he turned to his faith for solace and became a devout Christian.

He finally escaped from prision after another 6 years. According to his writing, he believed God told him in a dream that it was time to leave Ireland. Back in Britain, Patrick experienced a second revelation in a dream in which an angel told him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Patrick trained over the next 15 years in the ministry. He was ordained as a priest and sent to Ireland.

Since he was familiar with the Irish language and culture, Patrick used traditional rituals when teaching Christianity rather than attempting to destroy the Irish pagan beliefs. For example, to celebrate Easter, he used bonfires since the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire. He included a sun on the Christian cross to create what is now widely known as a Celtic cross. These tactics helped to make things seem more natural to the Irish.

Celebrating in America
The first St. Patrick's Day parade took place in America, not Ireland. Irish soldiers in the English Army marched through New York City on March 17, 1762. The parade helped the soldiers reconnect with their Irish roots and introduced their music to other colonists.

Even today, many Irish descendants gather to share a traditional meal of corned beef and cabbage. People are supposed to wear green and if they aren't, they might get pinched.

Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to explain how the Trinity represents the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as separate elements of the same entity. His followers adopted the custom of wearing a shamrock on St. Patrick's Day. This custom came to American in 1737 in Boston.

So have a great St. Patrick's Day and be sure to wear your green!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Early Highland Warror Clothing

When I decided to write a Scottish medieval novel, I discovered that my "idea" of what a medieval highlander would wear was completely incorrect. What I had seen in photos and movies like Braveheart and had read in other Scottish novels had given me the wrong impression. Even after I discovered this, my opinion of the movie didn't change. I still love it. But the depiction of the characters in my book would be different.

I wanted them to be as accurate as possible, but I didn't want to throw people out of my story by using terms such as "leine" when most people would be unfamiliar with the term. So I chose to use the terms "plaid" and "tunic" to refer to my hero's clothing. The other alternative would have been to use the specific terms and include a glossary in the back. I don't know about others, but when I read for education, I don't mind a glossary, but when I read for pleasure, I would find it annoying. I'd love to hear some opinions on this.

Modern kilts as we know them today date back to around 1725. It’s similar to a skirt with pleats from the waist down to slightly below the knees. However, it is not a skirt.

The Great kilt or Belted Plaid dates back to 1594. The great kilt was an untailored garment made of cloth gathered up into pleats by hand and secured by a wide belt. The upper half could be worn as a cloak draped over the left shoulder and secured by a brat (clip) or draped down over the belt and gathered up at the front. In cold or wet weather, they might have brought it up over the shoulders or head for protection against weather.

Before the Great kilt or belted plaid, they wore a long shirt that is known as a "leine" in Gaelic and thought of as a "tunic" in English. A plaid of wool cloth would have been draped over the shoulders and around the arm and fastened by a brat. The tunic came down to the knees on a man and was much longer on a woman. Because of the length on a woman it was similar to what we think of as an English chemise.

The association of clan family specific tartan colors and plaid designs was a late development in the 17th & 18th centuries. However, much earlier family clans that lived within a region would wear similar plaids and colors because they used the same seamstresses in the area. And of course, families that intermarried typically lived in the same region in medieval Scotland, especially in the highlands. Much of the clan colors and design patterns associated with specific family clans probably derived from this regional practice.

For more detailed information, visit these sites:

  • http://albanach.org/kilt.html - The Early History of the Kilt by Matthew A. C. Newsome
  • http://albanach.org/leine.html - The Leine by Matthew A. C. Newsome
  • http://www.geocities.com/~sconemac/kilt.html - A MacCorkill, History of the Scottish Kilt
  • http://reconstructinghistory.com/ - This site has some excellent resource material
  • Tuesday, March 10, 2009

    Book Review - A Passion Most Pure

    by Julie Lessman


    Faith O'Connor refuses to settle for anything less than a romantic relationship that pleases God. She arms her heart against her desire for Collin McGuire, a man with a rakish reputation and a magnetic appeal that keeps tugging at her. But when Collin tries to win her younger sister's hand, Faith isn't sure she can handle it. Tension escalates in the O'Connor household when Collin sets his sights upon Faith, while still courting her sister.

    With the Great War raging overseas, new fears arise as America initiates the draft and the story is carried to Ireland. Filled with passion, romance, rivalry, and betrayal, A Passion Most Pure is a captivating saga that will grip readers from the beginning and not let go until the last page.

    I loved this book! Many books I have read in Christian fiction are so careful to keep the romance on a surface level that you hardly see the relationship developing, until the end when they suddenly declare their love for each other. At the end of a book like this I'm left wondering, when did that happen? But not with A Passion Most Pure. This book shows Faith's simultaneous attraction to Collin while she wrestles with the choice to reject him. It doesn't hide temptation, but shows how a Christian must sacrifice certain desires for the sake of our Lord's blessing.

    Through this story God's faithfulness to his servants in granting them the desires of their hearts is so vivid as Collin develops a sincere relationship with God. Collin isn't only converted to Christianity, but the book shows his faith walk as he too must make decisions and choose new paths different from what he once took.

    Since this is Julie Lessman's debut novel, I'm very excited to see what the rest of her books in this series will hold. A Passion Most Pure is appropriately titled, as the passion is definitely present on so many levels--both romantically and spiritually. This is one of those satisfying stories that will move you to the same emotional level that the characters are experiencing. And when you finish reading it, you're sorry it's over.

    Thursday, March 5, 2009

    Rural Hill Farm - Scottish Heritage

    I wanted to tell you about a delightful place that my family visited last fall. It's the Rural Hill Farm - A Scottish Heritage in Huntersville, North Carolina. Rural Hill is on a colonial plantation that was owned and farmed by the Davidson family. They emigrated from Dundee, Scotland in the 1730's and arrived to the Carolinas by way of The Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania.

    The house above on the left is a reconstruction of a log cabin. The stone structures in the photo on the left are the remnants of the original Davidson Plantation home. It was built in 1788 and was the home of John Davidson and his wife, Violet Wilson Davidson. There is a watercolor painting of it what it might have looked like before it burned. The Davidsons advocated education and had two schools on their property one for white children and another one for colored children.

    Today, they have the Amazing Maize Maze you can wander through in the fall. They always do an educational theme and create a treasure hunt out of it. And don't worry, if you get too lost, they give your group a huge flag you can hold up for assistance. This was helpful as we had my father-in-law with us and he has a heart condition and couldn't finish. In the photo below, Dwayne, my husband, is holding the flag. Winston, my father-in-law is resting, Celina, my daughter, is next to him. Helen, my mother-in-law is next to her, and then me. They provide tents where they sell food, give hay rides and offer tours if you're interested in the history.

    You can tour their historical buildings and their preservation/recontruction projects. In the spring they have a number of events. They host the annual Loch Norman Highland games at Rural Hill, which usually occurs in April. Check out their website for more information if you're interested in attending, http://www.ruralhill.net/. Other events include Sheep Dog Trials and Kilted Clay Shoot, etc. They are also featuring a group trip to Scotland.

    I would love to visit that great country, especially since I have so many ancestors from there. (Frasers, MacGregors, Galloways, Mays, Currys) And my husband's family has ancestors from there as well. (Campbells, Hendersons, Grants) I guess my daughter is full of Scotch-Irish blood! But I can't afford the trip just yet. But I'm praying I will--soon!

    I'll be posting more Scotch-Irish/Celtic sites and historical information since Highland Blessings, my Scottish Medieval, will be released in May 2010! I'm also doing Scotch-Irish research on my family history and planning to write more books in this genre.

    Tuesday, March 3, 2009

    Book Review - Hearts in the Highlands

    by Ruth Axtell Morren


    Maddie Norton had long since resigned herself to her spinster's lot. Her life was devoted to her simple yet enduring faith, to good works and to the elderly lady whose companion she was. She believed herself content. But that was before her mistress's handsome nephew returned to London after many years spent abroad as an archaeologist.The shadows in Reid Gallagher's memory-haunted eyes touched Maddie's heart. When he asked her to travel with his family, to help with his work, she could scarcely refuse. And as she came to know this man better, amid the breathtaking beauty of the Scottish Highlands, she began to wonder if two solitary souls might yet find new life--and love--as one.

    This is a wonderful Christian story set in Europe with a romantic setting that will sweep you away to another time and place for a pleasurable experience. Not only is this an entertaining read, but one learns about archaeology and how biblical artifacts were discovered and preserved in the nineteenth century. The writing is true to the time period and the way Maddie and Reid come to care for one another is a true delight inspite of a few obstacles.

    Maddie is submissive to her faith, yet willing to take chances and seek adventure and live life to the fullest. Reid encourages her to ignore social protocol and do what is appropriate for the sake of her health, safety, and comfort. The two of them are an encouragement to each other. I would highly recommend this book to anyone seeking a faith-filled and enjoyable read.