January 2020     Title   Past Issues

In this Issue:

  Upcoming Events   Whisky, Whiskey?
  President's Letter   Christmas at the Castle
  Hogmanay   Snippets from Scotland
  Scotland's Hidden Gems   Coming Events - Valley & Nearby
  Research Your Scottish Ancestry   A Word from our Advertisers  

Upcoming Events

Robert Burns Dinner
Knights of St. Andrew To celebrate the birthday of Scotland’s Bard Robert Burns in 2020, Caledonian Society of Arizona members have been invited to join the Knights of St Andrew at its Burns Supper on 1 February in Glendale. The event starts at 5 PM.

The event will feature traditional songs and speeches, as well as haggis, neeps and tatties, all washed down with good Scotch whisky.

It is being held at the KSA’s new facility at 7726 North 59th Avenue, a mile north of the Glendale Avenue Historic District. Onsite parking is available.

The ticket price is expected to be $40 per person, and ordering information will be available at the Caledonian Society website soon.

President's Letter
David McBee, President

David McBeeI hope to see you at the Burns Dinner with the Knights of St. Andrews on Feb 1.  May your new 20s year be roaring.

The primary focus of our activities right now is for the planning and production of our 56th Games.  Come join us.  Applications are beginning to arrive, sponsors are coming on board, people are getting excited but as always, it is the volunteers that make it all happen.

We have several openings on the Society’s Board including Treasurer and Secretary.  If you have past experience in such roles, please consider giving your services to the Society.  There are many areas needing help this year on the Games as well.

Here’s hoping  you have a great New Year.



As we bid farewell to an old year and usher in the 20s, we should bear in mind that New Year celebrations have traditionally been far more important than Christmas in the Scottish calendar. Christmas only became a public holiday in Scotland in 1958. The Presbyterian Church took a rather dim view of commercialism encroaching on a Christian festival.

If you have never experienced a Scottish Hogmanay, then it should be on your list of ‘things to do before you die.’ Make sure you have a strong constitution because it involves a lot of singing, dancing, drinking, and general carousing into the wee sma’ hours.

There are a few traditions associated with Hogmanay. It is considered unlucky in Scotland to welcome the first guests of the new year into an untidy or less than clean house. Traditionally the cleaning up involved taking the ashes out of the coal fire.

Every household waits to see who becomes the ‘first-foot’ – the first person over the threshold after midnight. A tall, dark, handsome male was a sign of good luck, supposedly because centuries ago, the appearance of a blond-haired Viking was not a good sign. First-foots should bring traditional good luck gifts including a lump of coal, whisky, black bun, and even salt.

The singing of Auld Lang Syne, written by Scotland’s National Bard Robert Burns, happens on the stroke of midnight. The practice is carried on worldwide, wherever there are Scottish ex-pats.

Hogmanay is the old Scottish word for the last day of the year – or New Year’s Eve.

Scotland's Hidden Gems - World's Longest Beech Hedge
Iain Lundy

Last month we revealed that the World’s oldest Post Office stands in the small Scottish town of Sanquhar. Scotland has many ‘oldest, newest, largest, smallest’ boasts, including the slightly bizarre claim of having grown the tallest beech hedge in the world.

Meikleour Beach Hedge

The Meikleour Beech Hedge is truly a sight to behold. It is 100ft high and one-third of a mile (or 530 meters) long and is a major tourist attraction in rural Perthshire. In November 2019, the hedge was given its first trim for 20 years.

The hedge dates to the time of Bonnie Prince Charlie. It was planted by landowner Robert Murray Nairne and his wife Jean Mercer on the Meikleour Estate. Nairne and the men who had helped with the planting were either killed at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 or fled into exile in France. None came back alive, and the hedge was left to grow towards the heavens in their memory.

It stands on the A93 road four miles south of the town of Blairgowrie. The colors of the leaves change in quite spectacular fashion with the seasons. In spring, the light is reflected in the hedge’s young green leaves, while autumn shows the leaves in russet and gold. Since 1966 it has been recognized in the Guinness Book of Records as the tallest beech hedge in the world.

The cutting and measuring of the hedge are carried out by the Meikleour Trust. It takes four men six weeks to complete and involves the use of a hydraulic lift and hand held cutting equipment.

Meikleour Beech Hedge

To see the dramatic hedge, take the A93 between Perth and Blairgowrie. There is little in the way of parking nearby but the best idea is to park in the nearby village of Meikleour.

Research Your Scottish Ancestry

Robert WilbanksUpcoming Genealogy Events for 2020

by Robert M. Wilbanks IV, B.A.
Chief Genealogist & Historian, C.S.A.

I often talk about the importance of “Networking and Ongoing Learning”. As you progress in your genealogy, while discovering new and interesting facets of your family history, you will find that there is always something more to learn about the research process and resources available. Finding others with common research interests, but with more practical experience, is an important and fun aspect to genealogy. Whether it is finding a distant cousin who has made more progress in the researching of your common family tree, or learning from a record type expert, or research locality expert, networking with others to learn more is just one aspect of becoming a more skilled researcher. The other key aspect, is just straight forward genealogy education. Getting out there and learning more. Self-learning and continuing education is very low cost and readily available in a variety of formats and locations.

Even though you may not have Arizona ancestry, local genealogy societies across the state are a great place to network, learning from others, and attend meetings, and learn from great presenters on a variety of topics. With the beginning of a new year, I thought I would let you know of a variety of highly significant genealogy conferences and seminars coming up in the next few months hosted by various Arizona genealogy societies. Don’t hesitate to take the time to go out and learn more. Here is some information about a few genealogy groups around Arizona, as well as links to a few events coming in January through March.

The Pinal County Genealogists (www.pinalctyazgen.com), will be hosting their annual conference, 2020 Genealogy Workshop, on Saturday, January 25th in Casa Grande. Registration ($20 before January 11th; includes a lunch) is now open and the syllabus of speakers, topics and handouts, is now available on their site as downloadable PDF files.

The Tucson Family History Center (www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Tucson_Arizona_Family_History_Center) will be hosting their annual Free All Day Event. The 2020 Family History Fair on Saturday, February 8th, 8am to 4pm, with 35 classes. Visit their website for more details. By the way, I will be the opening Keynote Speaker for this All Day Event.

The West Valley Genealogical Society (azwvgs.org) is the largest genealogy society in Arizona and operates its own genealogy library with over 4000 square feet of books and more, plus access to a wide variety of subscription-based genealogy databases. In addition to their monthly meetings, the Library provides a number of “How-to” genealogy classes on a variety of topics. Their Facebook Events page has a long list of special classes from software to DNA to researching a variety of other countries https://www.facebook.com/pg/WVGS12222/events . Their annual all day seminar on February 15, 2020 will feature Dr. Thomas W. Jones (https://azwvgs.org/seminar.asp).

The annual seminar of the Southern Arizona Genealogy Society (azsags.org), south of Tucson in Green Valley, Arizona, will be on Saturday, February 15, 2020 featuring Blaine Bettinger, Ph.D, J.D. “The Genetic Genealogist”. A Friday Night Workshop is also included.

The Pima County Genealogy Society, in Tucson (azpimagensoc.org), is one of the larger genealogy societies in the Tucson area. In addition to their monthly meeting programs, they have an extensive variety of classes at various locations around Tucson. Visit their website for details and registration information.

The Family History Society of Arizona (fhsa.org) has about seven chapters around the valley that each meet a different day of the month. They also have a Virtual Chapter that meets monthly. You could theoretically attend all eight meetings monthly. Their 2020 annual meeting will be March 20th and 21st featuring Maureen Taylor “The Photo Detective”, a nationally recognized speaker and author, who will be presenting five different topics.

There are many other Arizona genealogy groups, historical and heritage societies that you can find through the Arizona Genealogical Advisory Board (AzGAB) (azgab.com), promoting genealogy and history by addressing the educational needs and interests of Arizona’s genealogical community through cooperation by the various groups and individuals. They have an impressive calendar of genealogy events around Arizona.

This is another of a series of articles in which I show you the basics of searching for your family history, discussing the use of family records, public records, and online resources nationally and internationally, etc. The previous articles are now available on the Genealogy Section of this website.   See “Genealogy” in the menu options at the top of the web page.

Genealogy volunteers are needed for the Phoenix Scottish Games
March 7 and 8. Please read this "Call for Volunteers"

Whisky, or Whiskey?

So, what is it, whisky or whiskey? And why does the spelling vary in different continents? The following article by drinks expert Leon Dallaway goes some way to offering the answers.

The world of whisky is full of buzzwords and terminology, from Scotch and single malts, to bourbons and blends. But one point that causes much confusion is the fact that the drink is sometimes spelled ‘whisky’ and at other times ‘whiskey’. So, what’s the difference?

‘Whisky’ derives from the Gaelic term usquebaugh which translates as ‘water of life’. Uisge means water. Beatha means life. It’s a term used for many types of invigorating spirits over time, for example Eau de Vie. In modern usage, whisky is from Scotland and whiskey is from Ireland.

The difference comes from the translation of words from the Scottish and Irish Gaelic forms. In the late 1800s, Scottish whisky was also very poor quality therefore the Irish producers wanted to differentiate their product. These days though, both Scotch and Irish are two of the greatest spirits on the planet.

The American spelling is whiskey most likely due to the large number of Irish immigrants setting up their stills throughout the US. Although the legal spelling is whisky, whiskey is generally preferred. Some distilleries do like to use the ‘Scottish’ version – see Maker’s Mark.

The Japanese spelling is whisky as it was two men’s study of Scotch whisky that inspired the Japanese whisky movement.

Let’s hope that explains it. Society Past President Don Finch is partial to a dram or two, and on a recent trip to Scotland he got up close and personal to some fine single malt Scotch whisky – not whiskey. But, as Don explains, it wasn’t entirely to his liking.

‘Last summer, on the Society’s tour of Scotland, organized by Lois Wallace’s “Authentic Celtic Travels”, we visited the Glengoyne Distillery at the base of Dumgoyne Hill, just north of Glasgow.

What’s unique about Glengoyne is that it produces a single malt whisky in the Highlands which is matured in the Lowlands. The Highland Line, the division between the Highlands and Lowlands, is the A81 road from Aberfoyle to Glasgow. It passes in front of the distillery, but the aging warehouses are across the road, to the southwest.

Hikers familiar with the 95-mile West Highland Way from Glasgow to Fort William are known to fortify themselves at Glengoyne which is immediately adjacent to the trail.

While part of our group toured the distillery, the rest of us enjoyed a dram of the Glengoyne 12-Year-Old as our bonnie guide Kirsten recounted the company’s history and a description of the whisky making process.

My first impression was how light and fruity it smelled and tasted; the result of no peat being used in the drying of the barley. Perhaps it was from reading that the Western Highlands whisky-producing region is not as favorable as Speyside or Islay, or my preference for peated or oaky malts such as Highland Park and Glenmorangie. Nevertheless, in a black and white world, I didn’t like it. Some of my whisky aficionado friends rave about the Glengoyne 18-year-old, but at $160 a bottle, it’s a bit out of reach.

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Christmas at the Castle

The annual Christmas at the Castle event, held on 14 December at the Irish Cultural Center on North Central Avenue, was once again a highly successful and well-attended evening.

CSA members gathered with our Irish cousins for a musical and cultural evening under the stars. Santa and Mrs Claus made their traditional appearance, delighting the children (old and young) in attendance.

There were songs, a few tipples, warming cocoa, and the Christmas Tree decorated by the CSA and the Desert Thistle Lodge of the Daughters of Scotia was placed first in the tree decorating competition. Well done to all. A great event as always.

Snippets from Scotland

The Scotsman

Given the popularity of piping, it seems incredible the practice might be facing some sort of decline. But a Scottish charity has sounded a warning note.


BBC News

Young Scots seem determined not to let the Gaelic language die out. More than 20,000 people have signed up for an online learning app set up in Scotland.


STV News

It’s a culinary delight to gladden the heart of all true Scots. Potato crisps (chips in the US) flavored with haggis, neeps, and tatties. Yum!!


COMING EVENTS and Highland Games in Arizona and Nearby

January 8 Games Committee Meeting
Location TBA
February 1 Burns Dinner
Knights of St. Andrew
March 7-8, 2020 56th Annual Phoenix Scottish Games
Steele Indian School Park, Phoenix

Membership Notice

All 2019 memberships are extended through March 2020. We will be realigning our membership year to coincide with the Annual Phoenix Scottish Games. Please look for further information in March.

Society Gatherings
Membership gatherings are often held on the second Thursday of each month, many at the Irish Cultural Center, 1106 N. Central Ave., Phoenix - others around the Valley - usually beginning at 6:30 pm. Please check our website for further details.

A Word from our Advertisers

Kilt Rental USA

Len Wood
Bagpiper USB

Lois Wallace


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