Scottish Events — a different view

Of special interest to colgaffneyis and friends.

St. Paul’s Scottish Ramble coming this weekend. It is timely to mention an article I found about Gaelic culture and how it is distorted at Highland Games and similar events.

The author, Michael Newton, has written extensively about the Gaelic culture of the Scottish Highlands, both on the web and in print. I read his Handbook of the Scottish Gaelic World a couple years ago and it completely changed my view of Scottish history and what we do in Clann Tartan.

Clann Tartan is also known as “Colonel Gaffney’s Regiment of Pike and Shotte”. These were the standard weapons for regular infantry throughout western and central Europe. There is nothing particularly Scottish, let alone Highland about them. The “modern” use of pikes was pioneered by the Swiss two centuries before. In the previous century the Spanish had integrated firearms with the pike blocks. The Dutch and most recently the Swedes had further refined the system.

Consider our portrayal of Highlanders fighting for Gustavus Adolphus in the 30 Years War: Our scenario is a recruiting camp in the Highlands, where Highland men, often still dressed in their Gaelic clothes (belted plaids) are being trained in the ways of fighting with pike and musket. The expectation is that our new recruits, shipped off to Germany, will soon discard their plaids and wear the normal European dress of breeches (perhaps made from part of a plaid) and doublets. Our camp includes “veterans” who have already done so. Our officers wear the same finery as their Lowland and Continental counterparts, with no trace of their Highland origins. This is historically correct–the Highlanders in the Swedish army did abandon their traditional ways in favor of the common European norm. So the mix of dress in our camp plausibly reflects the real historical situation. Thus, what we are showing (and implicitly celebrating) is the assimilation of the Highlanders into the European mainstream and the loss of their distinctive culture.

I find this to be profoundly sad.

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