December 2020     Title   Past Issues

In this Issue:

  Next Gathering & Society News   RAF Cadet Memorial
  President's Letter   Pipes of Christmas event
  November Rúla Búla Gathering   Christmas at the Castle
  Scotland's Hidden Gems   Snippets from Scotland
  Research Your Scottish Ancestry   Our Clan Representatives
    A Word from our Advertisers

Society News

Next Gathering on Zoom - All are Invited - December 10

Scotland in the Desert The Society is hosting a Zoom meeting aimed at attracting new members and boosting our membership in these difficult times.

Entitled ‘Scotland in the Desert’ the meeting will be held on 10 December at 7pm. A variety of speakers will outline the advantages and opportunities that accrue from joining the Society, the premier Scottish organization in Arizona.

The short talks will address topics including Scottish events and culture in the Valley; the traditions of the annual Highland Games including the heavy events, athletics, and massed pipe bands; Highland dancing groups in the area; discovering your Scottish ancestry; and the concept of the Scottish clan system and its importance In today’s world.

Members will also discuss how joining the Society allowed them to enter into the heart and soul’ of Scotland, and how they established long-lasting friendships with others who can boast Scottish heritage.

Music is a major part of Scottish culture and Board member Kevin Conquest, an accomplished piper, will talk about the hair-raising spectacle of hearing pipe bands.

Membership is the lifeblood of the organization and all those who join will receive a free book and t-shirt. Attendance on the 10th is limited to 100 so please let us know if you can join. Details of how to participate are available on the Caledonian Society of Arizona Facebook page

Burns Supper Postponed
Don Finch, Burns Supper Committee

Thanks to all who responded to our recent survey about a 2021 Rabbie Burns Supper in the Valley.

Tartan Burns NightThe questionnaire was sent on November 7th to our email list of 883 names and 74 responses were received. 56 people were in favor of holding an event, with the preferred location being either Central or East. As someone once said, "statistics are pliable", so when we look at the number of respondents that indicated how many would attend, a large percentage were willing to pay up to $75 p.p. The most popular choice was a ticket price of 'up to $50 per person' There were also 13 folks that offered to serve on the planning committee - a heart-warming response rate....thank you!

However, after careful consideration by the Board, we have decided not to put on a Burns Supper in January of 2021. Our concern is the increased number of Covid cases since the survey date of early November.

We look forward to perhaps participating in virtual events on Burns night in January and will publicize other events that might be held to honour Scotland's national poet, the Bard of Ayrshire.

President's Letter
David McBee, President

David McBee Stay safe and sterilize with your sanitizer of choice. Scotch recommended.


Rúla Búla Gathering in November

The Society’s first attempt at a real-life gathering since the coronavirus struck went extremely well. More than 25 people met up at Rúla Búla Irish bar on Mill Avenue, Tempe, on Sunday 22 November for some food, drink, and good banter.

Rula Bula 2020 Rula Bula 2020

On a typically pleasant November Arizona afternoon, our hosts seated at us at tables on their patio outside. We were assigned two waitresses who provided first class service, and the Rula Bula management made sure we were well looked after.

Two members of the Mesa Caledonian Pipe Band, piper Foster Burton and drum major Kevin Conquest, provided some stirring Scottish pipe tunes. Thanks to them for making the effort to come along and entertain us.

Rula Bula 2020 Rula Bula 2020 Rula Buila 2020

We hope all those who attended had a good time and anticipate another event sometime in January – if Covid allows.

Scotland's Hidden Gems - The Borders Abbey Trail
Iain Lundy, Editor

The Scottish Borders – complete with its rolling hills and lush farmlands – tends to be overlooked by visitors who flock instead to Edinburgh, Stirling, and the Highlands.

But they are missing out on a treat. The small towns and villages dotted to the north of the English border retain a sense of quaintness and olde worlde charm. And the area is awash with Scottish history, much of it dating back hundreds of years.

From the Wars of Independence in the late 13th and early 14th centuries up to the union of the crowns in 1603, every time Scotland and England went to war, the Borders armies travelled through the area taking what they needed and often destroying what they didn't.

The spectacular abbeys of the region were frequently targeted during the wars that raged between England and Scotland. Although now mostly ruined, they have survived as a lasting legacy of their importance to Scotland and its history.

Dryburgh Abbey Melrose Abbey

Dryburgh Abbey was founded in 1150 and was burned down twice in the first 200 years of existence. After a brief period of stability, it was destroyed in 1544. Among those buried here was noted Scottish author Sir Walter Scott.

Melrose Abbey, on the right, Cistercian monastery, is slightly older than Dryburgh, having been founded in 1136. The heart of Robert the Bruce was buried here, in accordance with the King's wishes.

Kelso Abbey Jedburgh Abbey

Kelso Abbey, pictured on the left was founded by French monks known as the Tironensian Order - often called Grey Monks because of the color of their habits.

Jedburgh Abbey, is a ruined Augustinian abbey, dating to the 12th century. It was the wedding place of King Alexander III and Yolande, Countess of Montfort. The abbey monks founded Jedburgh Grammar School.

The Borders Abbeys Way takes in all these sites, which are within a 30-mile radius, about an hour's drive from Edinburgh.

Research Your Scottish Ancestry

Robert WilbanksHoliday Family Gathering

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

In this column, I regularly provide insight on how to research our ancestors, family, who have come and gone before us. We work to find this family, learn who they were and discover their stories. It is an adventure, and for most of us it is very exciting to learn their stories, who they were, where they came from, where they went, and how they lived, etc.

However, when you really think about it, it is, in a certain way, rather sad that we need to go to such effort to discover that which was lost to us.

When families migrate, and distance themselves from family and their homeland, over time family names, stories and traditions can become forgotten. So today we go to great lengths to discover the people and information that were lost to time, and the stories that were never shared and passed down through the generations.

In addition to researching our family history, joining ethnic and cultural organizations like The Caledonian Society of Arizona, or the German-American, Irish-American, or Italian-American Societies, etc., is another way we can recapture and reconnect to the culture and traditions of our family that were lost to us. However, as great as genealogy research and these ethnic cultural organizations can be, there is really no substitute for the most important resource of your family and cultural history and traditions . . . that being today’s living family.

This year, 2020, has been a difficult year. As we approach the Holidays, and begin to close out the year, we will be reflecting on 2020, and looking to 2021 with hope. And of course, during this time we will be reflecting on and spending time with our family. The Holidays is a time for Family. The Holidays is about Family. It is a time to engage with those loved ones who are still with you.

So rather than writing about genealogy research techniques and resources in this month’s column, I would instead like to greatly encourage you to engage with your family this season. More importantly, I would like for you to learn or share your family stories and traditions; receive them from your elderly family members and/or pass them on to the younger family members.

What are your Family Stories? What are your Family Traditions? Are they Scottish? German? Uniquely American? Do you have family recipes to pass down? What do your children know about your parents? What do your grandchildren know about you? What do you really know about your children or grandchildren?

Don’t only pass on the histories and traditions of the previous generations that you may have discovered in your research. Also share your own stories, your own life experiences, such as your time in college or the military, world travels, meeting your spouse, your wedding, your honeymoon, your career, etc.

Additionally, don’t just share them orally. Write them down. Or perhaps even recording them in audio or video media. Especially consider video-recording the elder family members as they tell you their stories. Their and your stories do matter, both old and new. Pass them on. Don’t wait. Take the time today, and tomorrow, to share all the family’s yesterdays.

I would like to share with you a 3-minute video that was recently brought to my attention that is very moving and should bring home my point of this writing. I hope you will take the time to watch it. It is in Spanish with English subtitles. Carefully pay attention to the subtitles, and be sure to watch the people as well.

Wishing you a very Happy Holidays, and a most successful, healthy and prosperous New Year to you and all your family.

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.

RAF Cadet Memorial

The Society was as always represented at the annual Remembrance Day RAF Cadet Memorial Service at Mesa City Cemetery. President David McBee laid a wreath on behalf of the Society, while Drum Major Kevin Conquest also presented on behalf of the Mesa Caledonian Pipe Band.

RAF 2020 RAF 2020

The event was held to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the deaths of 23 British pilots and seven of their American instructors who died during training at Falcon Field in Mesa.

Among the dignitaries who attended were Mesas Mayor John Giles; British Honorary Consul to Arizona Hank Marshall; and Flt. Lt. Dan Brown of the Royal Air Force.

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Pipes of Christmas
by Iain Lundy

Pipes of ChristmasThe annual Pipes of Christmas fundraiser event staged by the Clan Currie – or the Learned Kindred of Currie to be accurate – can be heard online every Sunday from now until 20 December.

Since 2013 the event has provided money for a variety of sponsorships to help young people study Celtic music and the Gaelic arts.

Due to Covid restrictions, this year’s Pipes of Christmas is taking the form of a series of YouTube advent broadcasts and can be heard every Sunday in December. To see the full details and to learn how to donate go to the Pipes of Christmas website

Christmas at the Castle - December 12

One of the most popular events in Arizona’s Celtic calendar, the annual Christmas at the Castle event, is being held on Saturday 12 December at the Irish Cultural Center on Central Avenue.

Always a genuine family occasion, this year’s event will start at 6pm. Those planning to attend should bring a blanket as a screening of Disney’s The Santa Claus will be staged in the courtyard.

There will be a cocoa bar to help people keep warm. Space is limited this year do to social distancing and anyone planning to attend should RSVP to

Snippets from Scotland

Herald of Scotlan

More than half a million people have signed up to a new app to help them learn Scottish Gaelic. The figure is almost ten times the number of native speakers.


The latest addition to the Scottish whisky-making scene has the potential to be a major attraction. The Port of Leith Distillery in Edinburgh will be the country’s first vertical distillery and is due to open in 2022.

The Scotsman

A museum that tells the story of the Highland Clearances, which led to tens of thousands of Scots fleeing to America and Canada, has launched a fundraising campaign to safeguard its future.

Our Clan Representatives

Continuing our series about the clan tents that help brighten up our Games every year, we spotlight two regular attenders, Clan Urquhart and Clan Stewart.

Vincent Zangari – Clan Urquhart

My family and I have been attending the Phoenix Highland Games since 2014, and we hosted our first Clan Urquhart tent in 2017. In early autumn 2018, I had been named the Clan Urquhart Commissioner for Arizona and had taken over the duties of Web Master for the website, along with a few other sites that belong to Clan Urquhart, such as and

We had a hiccup at the 2020 Phoenix Games with the new tent frame we bought online: the frame snapped the very first time we tried to open it! I had to run out to Costco to buy a different one and we didn’t get to set up our tent until Saturday morning. Looking back now I can laugh, but I remember unloading our trailer, just to have to load it all back up again, so we could buy a new tent. It was very stressful – we had never had a tent break like that before!

Clan Urquhart

Even with a few minor hiccups, the 2020 Phoenix Games were still my favorite Games thus far, because I was surrounded by family, and all around us were the many friends we had made over the years as well as some new friends; I feel very blessed to be among you all.

I am always humbled and thankful for all the great volunteers and staff who make the Phoenix (and all other) Games possible, as well as thankful to people like Scott Steehler from Clan Cameron (RIP Scott), Taz and Larry Junker of Clan Gunn, Mike and Debbie Croft from Clan Sinclair, Dan Lamont from Clan Lamont, Les Bell from Clan Bell, and many more. To me, these people really are the meaning of Clan: Family. We may be dysfunctional at times, but that is also still a family. To all those who I have not spoken to or seen of late, I hope you are all well and I look forward to seeing you all in 2021

Jack Stewart – Clan Stewart

Thanks to our father, as wee ones, we grew up attending the Pacific Northwest Highland Games and Clan Gathering in Enumclaw, Washington, where we loved to hear the sounds of pipes and drums and watch these huge fellows throwing telephone poles and big rocks around. It was great fun. Attending the Games every year became a must do item on our list.

Having moved to Arizona in late 2013, we had to find out if, when and where the Highland Games would be happening. In March of 2013, we found the Clan Stewart tent, and met the Regional High Commissioner for Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, and Hawaii, Marie Stewart Cormier and her husband Bob. The information and knowledge they shared with us that day was the catalyst that inspired us to accept her invitation to "take the torch for the Clan".

With her help and guidance, we gladly accepted, and we keep growing each year. The more knowledge and history we acquire about the Stewarts, the more we want to share. We continue to gather books and items from far and near, some we have brought back from Scotland, to educate and enhance the Stewart tent experience.

Clan Stewart

While we still go north for the games, Phoenix has been the gathering point for our family and friends, traveling from as far away as the east coast, Washington State and California to share in this "family" event, and to be able to pass our heritage to the next generation this way is priceless. All of Clan Stewart eagerly looks forward to the Phoenix games every year with anticipation of seeing both old and new friends we've made from other clans. The camaraderie is special.

The Caledonian Society has done a wonderful job of showcasing our Scottish heritage, and we are honored to be a part of it. Let's stay in touch throughout these difficult times, and continue to build together this great tradition.

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