December 2013

In this Issue:

 Happy Birthday Bonnie Prince Charlie  Coming Events
 I'm Dreaming of a Scottish Christmas  December Celebrations
 Who Am I?  Society Officers
 Know the Clans

2013 Family Christmas Party

Be sure to join us for our special Family Christmas Party to be held on December 12 at ICC.  Bring the entire family, children, grandchildren nieces and nephews to enjoy a visit from the Guy in the Red Suit.  Bring a baked item to share for refreshments. SEE YOU THERE!!

Happy Birthday to Bonnie Prince Charlie

Charles Edward Stuart, commonly called Bonnie Prince Charlie, was born on December 31, 1720 in Rome, Italy, where his father had been given a residence by Pope Clement XI.  Charles, also known as "The Young Pretender" was the second Jacobite pretender to the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland.  This claim was as the eldest son of James Francis Edward Stuart (The Old Pretender) who was himself the son of James II of England.  Young Charles is perhaps best known as the instigator of the unsuccessful Jacobite uprising of 1745, in which he led an insurrection to restore his family to the throne of the Kingdom of Great Britain, which ended in defeat at the Battle of Culloden that effectively ended the Jacobite cause. 

Charles' was the son of Prince James ( uncrowned James III) whose father was the exiled Stuart King, James II of England.  James II, Charles' grandfather, had ruled England from 1685 to 1689, at which time he was deposed when Parliament invited the Dutch Protestant, William of Orange and his wife the Princess Mary to replace him in the Revolution of 1688. James II had aimed to bring England back into the Catholic fold and, in the process, had irritated and alarmed the powerful statesmen of the day.  Since the exile of James II, the Jacobite Cause had striven to return the Stuarts to the thrones of England and Scotland.

Charles Edward's childhood in Rome was one of privilege.  He was raised a Catholic and staunchly believed in the Divine Right of Kings.  The talk of regaining the thrones of England and Scotland for the Stuarts was a constant topic of conversation in his household.  The young Prince was trained in the military arts from an early age.

After the defeat at Culloden and his subsequent flight back to France, Charles indicated to the remaining supporters of the Jacobite cause in England that, accepting the impossibility of his recovering the crowns while he remained a Roman Catholic, he was willing to commit himself to reigning as a Protestant.  Accordingly, he visited London incognito in 1750 and conformed to the Protestant faith by receiving Anglican communion.  However, his dream of regaining the crowns for the Stuarts was never realized.

Charles Edward Stuart died in Rome in January of 1788.  His life became the stuff of legend and is commemorated in the popular folk song "The Skye Boat Song" which can be heard today at most Highland Games and Gatherings around the world.

How Might a Scot Celebrate Christmas Today?

Many individuals believe that there are few remaining traditions for such a celebration, they are greatly mistaken.  Many customs, both old and new, survived the antipathy of the post-reformation period in Scotland.  Looking back away, Christmas itself was banned in Great Britain by an act of Parliament in 1652, citing it as pagan and "pope-ish."  When the holiday was reinstated, a decade or so later, it never truly regained what it had been in Scotland, a very special time of the year.  How can these traditions, mostly dating back well over 350 years, be incorporated into your Scottish Christmas plans?

The Christmas Tree
In ancient days it was juniper and mistletoe that decorated the homes of the Highlands.  Today, the Christmas tree of Scotland, if there were such an official distinction, would have to be the Scots Pine, the only pine native to Scotland.

The Yule Log
This "burning heart of the season, the living symbol of all the warm emotions and bright thought," in Scotland at least, must be Birch wood.  Traditionally, the log must be cut at least by the summer time and allowed to dry properly.   Stripped of its bark, the Yule log may be displayed at the beginning of the holiday season next to the fireplace, decorated with greenery and plaid ribbons.  On Christmas Eve the log is placed into the fire which has been kindled with the remaining wood from the previous year's Yule log.  It is considered the worst of luck (after all, superstitions were prevalent in the Highlands) to let the fire go out on Christmas Eve, since that was the time when the elves are abroad and only a good, roaring fire will keep them from slipping down the chimney to help themselves of one's Christmas Eve meal.   Each year the remaining wood from the Yule log is placed under the bed of the lady of the house as a "charm" against fire.

Christmas Morning
The first thing Christmas morning family members awaken to the smell of their own piping-hot bowl of new sowens, which is brought to them in bed.  Traditionally the husks and siftings of oats, boiled to the consistency of molasses, their modern day equivalent would be oat bran.  If this sounds as generally unappetizing as it truly is, regular oatmeal will do just fine.  Once each person finishes their sowens, they may proceed promptly to the Christmas tree, where they longingly inspect their wrapped presents while awaiting the rest of the family.

Christmas Fare
Christmas fare traditionally consists of Scottish versions of mince meat pies, wassail and oatmeal bread.  The traditional mince meat pie used to actually contain minced meat, but over the years has been taken over by dried fruit and spices.  Wassail is unique in Scotland.  The drink usually consists of ale, roast apples, eggs, sugar and spices, but Scotch has found its way into the ingredients in Scotland.  Christmas dinner should include cock-a-leekie soup, "neeps and tatties" and the vastly popular plum pudding.

Christmas day is usually a quiet, pleasant time which is spent visiting family and attending church services.  The Yule log is restoked, since on one would want the elves to enter and abscond with all the newly acquired presents. 

Who Am I ?

I was born in East Lothian in 1838.  My family came to America when I was 11 years old.  In 1868 I arrived in California and began a campaign to conserve the beauties of nature in that state, especially the area of the Yosemite Valley.  I was voted "The Most Important Californian of All Time."  Some call me "The Father of Conservation". Who am I?

(Answer at the end of the Newletter)

What's in a Name
By Ron Dempsey, FSA Scot

Bain / Bean

The surname Bain is from the Gaelic "ban" meaning fair.  Clan affiliation has it under two clans, MacKay and MacBean.  MacBean is from the Gaelic "MacBeathain" stemming from the son of the servant of life.  It would be easy to see where Bain and Bean would interchange, especially when it is translated into English.

Clan MacBean seems to have been found around Clan Cameron and possibly MacKintosh lands


In both French and English "gibbon" is the name of a type of monkey, but let me allay any fear by saying that the Gibbon name has nothing to do with our simian friends.  Gibbon is a pet form of "Gibb", which in turn is a pet form of the personal name Gilbert, a popular name in the Middle Ages.  Gilbert in all its forms must have traveled north with the new Norman lords across the highlands, and over the generations, it was used by the Gaelic population where "mac" was added in order for it to become a surname.  While Gibbon has been noted as a personal name on documents dating as far back as the 1400's, the first document with the surname MacGibbon was in 1511.


This name has been shortened from the Gaelic "Mac Gille Eoin", the last element translated as John.  So the name is literally the son of the servant of St. John.  In Gaelic it became "Gillean" and eventually "lean", the "L" being the only part salvaged from Gille.

The MacLean Clan was prolific and owned lands in Mull, Tiree, Islay, Jura and Knapdale as well as Morvern and Lochaber.    As with all clans and major families in Scotland there were rivalries with other clans.  The MacLeans had their confrontations with Clan MacKinnon.  They were allies of Clan Donald and the Lord of Isles in the early centuries of the last millennium.


Coming Events

December 12 Family Christmas Party
December 25 Merry Christmas
December 31 Happy Hogmany
January 1 Happy New Year
January 9 Membership Meeting
January 25 Robert Burns Supper

SOCIETY MEETING Regular membership meetings are held the second Thursday of each month at the Irish Cultural Center, 1106 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ. Beginning at 7 pm. Come join us or log on to

December Celebrations
If you 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 and it will be included in our Celebration list.

December 1 John & Lori Steadman -Anniverary
December 2 Don Hoeck - Birthday
December 9 Harold & Pam Stewart -Anniverary
December 21 Karen Murdock - Birthday
December 27 Paul & Genie Smith -Anniversary
December 30 Edna McDonald - Birthday

Who Am I ?

John Muir

Caledonian Society Officers
President: Mark Clark
Past President: (2010 – 2012) Jean Latimer
1st Vice President, & Membership Chair Don Finch
Secretary: Thom Von Hapsburg
Treasurer: David McBee
Games Chair
Jason Temple
Trustee 1: Mark Pelletier
Trustee 2: Michelle Crownhart

Newsletter Editor:

Jo Ramsdell