January 2013

In this Issue:

 Happy Hogmanay  Coming Events
 The Mother Burns Club  January Celebrations
 Selkies in Folklore & Mythology  Society Officers
 Know the Clans  

Happy Hogmanay

While New Year's Eve is celebrated around the world, the Scots have a long rich heritage associated with this event—and even have their own name for it, Hogmanay.  Historians believe that we inherited the celebration from the Vikings who, coming from even further north, paid more attention to shortening days of winter.

Tradition says that before midnight your house must be cleaned and the grate empty of all old ashes, signifying a new beginning.  All old debts should have been paid before "the bells of midnight." 

Here for your great, good Hogmanay is a blessing for the New Year.

  • Great good luck to the house, good luck to the family,
  • Good luck to every rafter in it, and to every worldly thing in it.
  • Good luck to the horses and cattle, good luck to the sheep.
  • Good luck to everything, and good luck to all your means.
  • Good luck to the good wife, good luck to the children,
  • Good luck to every friend, Great fortune and health to all.

We have decided to retain our traditional meeting day of the SECOND Thursday of each month at 6:30 pm at the Irish Cultural Center located at 1106 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix.

The Mother Burns Club

Contrary to expectation, the first Burns Club was not founded in Ayr,  ( the town nearest to Robert Burns' birthplace, Alloway) nor even in the county of Ayrshire.  It was established in Greenock, up the coast at the mouth of the river Clyde.  This is a distinction of which the club is justly proud, to have been the first of 80,000 clubs, the present membership of the World Federation of Burns Clubs. 

The Greenock Ayrshire Society, a chartable organization founded in 1795 was the progenitor of the Greenock Burns Club, which came into being in 1801.  Some of the original members had known Burns. 

The aims of the Burns club were to encourage people to read the poet's works and sing his songs and to foster national pride in the man.  To honor Burns' birthday, the club membership--40 all told—gathered for their first anniversary dinner on January 29, 1802  in the White Hart Hotel.  The following year, it was discovered during a visit to Alloway that Burns had actually   been born on January 25.

Throughout its history, Greenock Burns Club has kept to the original reasons for its existence—to cherish the name of Robert Burns, to foster a love of his writings and generally to encourage an interest in the Scottish language and literature, and the present membership will doubtless continue to pass on the inheritance.

Selkies in Folklore and Mythology

The selkie (pronounced "silky") and also sometimes known as  "silkie" or "selchie" is a seal who comes to land and sheds its skin to become a beautiful woman or a handsome man.  The legend apparently originated on the Orkney Islands, where "selch" or "selk(ie)" is the Scots word for seal.  Selkies are supposedly most commonly found off the shores of Scotland (particularly on the Northern Islands, Orkneys, Shetlands and Herbides) and in Ireland, along with some traces in Iceland and Norway.  Norsemen who arrived at Orkney in the 8th century named it "Orkenyjar" the seal islands.

Popular nights to come across a selke in human form is on Midsummer's night and All Hallows, two nights that are festivals of the fae.  Some think that these are the only days that they can come ashore while others think that they  most often come to shore on these days to participate in the festivals.   

Selkies are able to transform to human form by shedding their seal skins and can revert to seal form by putting their selkie skin back on.  Legend has it that the female selkies were often captured by separating them from their magic skins.  Without these skins they lost their transformation powers and  were trapped in human form.  Once deprived of their powers, they were generally forced into marriage with human men, but they always wanted to return to the sea.

No matter how strong a selkie loves a mortal the pull of the sea is always stronger and they always end up leaving their mortal lovers and sometimes the children that had come of the union.  If there are children that result from the union, the selkie man will sometimes come back after seven years to claim his child to take with him back to the sea.  In return he pays the mother for looking after her own child for the seven years and she never sees them again.

The selkie's skin is what allows them to transform from human to seal.  Each skin is individual, which means that the skin only works for the selkie that it belongs to.   No one can use the skin to transform into a seal except the selkie.  A selkie skin is quite enchanted in that if it is ever lost, it always finds its way back to the selkie, even if it take 100 years.  There are several theories of what happens to a selkie if her skin is destroyed.  One theory suggests that she dies and others suggest that she is doomed to be miserable forever as a human. 

Stories concerning selkies are generally romantic tragedies.  Sometimes the human will not know that their lover is a selkie, and wakes to find them gone.  Other times the human will hide the selkie's skin thus preventing them from returning to seal form.  Stories of selkies have appeared in many books through the years.  J.K. Rowling included selkies in the Harry Potter series.  They appeared in The Goblet of Fire and The Half-Blood Prince.  They are classified as a species of merpeople who have grey skin, wild green hair, yellow eyes and wear bones and teeth around their necks. They live in the lake in the school grounds and when above the water, they speak a screechy language called Mermish. 

Know the Clans:
What's in a Name?
By Ron Dempsey, FSA Scot


There is more than one family name that people associate with larger clans that can stand alone in their own right.   Fleming is one of these.  Fleming is the name of someone who is from the land of Flanders, an area that is the Low Countries of modern day Belgium and the Netherlands.  The Flemings were known for their business acumen and were invited to establish trade in markets in newly erected market towns in Scotland by the early kings of Scotland.  The earliest recorded of the name was Baldwin Fleming, who with his entourage was given land in Lanarkshire by King David I.

This same Baldwin became sheriff of the county in subsequent reigns.  Robert the Bruce had the assistance of Sir Robert Fleming at his altercation with the Comyn in 1306.  Nobility came to the family when Malcolm Fleming was created the earl of Wigton in 1342.  Another Malcolm of the name was knighted by Robert III.  This second Lord Fleming became Chancellor of Scotland in 1517.  The third Lord Fleming was Chamberlain of Scotland and married the natural daughter of James IV but was killed at the battle of Pinkie.  The fourth Lord Fleming retained the title of Chamberlain under the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots.  The sixth lord, named John, regained the title of Earl of Wigton.

The family was devout Jacobites and the title became dormant in 1747 with the death of Charles Fleming. 


The Celtic version of this name is MacSween.  They are connected to clan Donald.  It is said that the MacQueens offered to escort a daughter of Clanrauald who was marrying a MacIntosh chief.  Because of this they settled on the Findhorn River and became a member of Clan Chattan, where the main family became lairds of Corrybrough.  Dugal McQueen was born c. 1690 Corrybrough, on the Findhorn River, Invernesshire.  He fought for the Jacobite cause in 1715 and being captured by the government forces was sentenced to transportation.  He arrived in Baltimore, Maryland in 1716. 


Coming Events

January 10 Membership Meeting
  Robbie Burns" - come learn of few simple Scottish dances to be ready for the
  Feb 2 Burns Supper event
February 2    Burns Supper - Fiesta Inn - Tempe
March 22 Pipe Jam - Westin Kierland
March 23 Celtica Concert - Crescnet Ballroom
March 23-25 Scottish Gathering and Highland Games
February 2 Burns Supper - Fiesta Inn - Tempe

January Celebrations
We are attempting to up-date our Celebration list to add information for new members and remove those from the list that are no longer relevant. If you are a dues-paying member or just a “friend” of the Society and would like your special date recognized in our monthly newsletter, we need to hear from you. Please let us know your correct birthday and anniversary information by email to anjrams@cox.net and it will be included in our Celebration list.

January 1 Happy New Year
January 5 Michelle Campbell & James Weber
  - Anniversary
January 16 John Steadman - Birthday
January 18 James & Janet Grant - Anniversary
January 20 Diane Dawson - Birthday
January 28 Donna Groves - Birthday

Caledonian Society Officers
Area Chairperson
President: (2012 – 2014) Wendy Hurley
Past President: (2010 – 2012) Jean Latimer
1st Vice President: Mark Clark
Games Chair
Jason Temple
Membership and Programs Chair Don Finch
Trustee: Mark Pelletier
Trustee: Andy Walker
Newsletter Editor: Jo Ramsdell