March 2021     Title   Past Issues

In this Issue:

  March Gathering on Zoom   Valentine's Night on Zoom
  President's Letter   David Grefka - Dubliner Pub
  Clan Macpherson Chief Passes   Scottish Sunsets
  John Mallard, Aberdeen University   Snippets from Scotland
  Scotland's Hidden Gems   Our Clan Representatives
  Research Your Scottish Ancestry   A Word from our Advertisers

Society News

Next Gathering on Zoom - Scotland’s Clans and Tartans

Multiple tartans Does your Scottish family tartan stretch back centuries? Or is it a more modern ‘invention’?

Join us for a special Zoom tartan meeting on March 11 to find out the answers.

The presentations will include the history of tartan, the move to establish and officially register clan tartans.

Also, a look at the massive upsurge in tartans – some of them weird and wonderful – in recent decades.

Tartans nowadays are not restricted to the clans that once dominated Scotland such as the Stewarts, Camerons and MacPhersons. There are many hundreds of corporate tartans including one for use on Arnold Palmer products, and another for the Pipes and Drums Band of the Coeur D’Alene Firefighters in Idaho. Tartans can be pretty obscure these days.

Most states in the US, including Arizona, have their own tartans, as do most world nations. Even the Lady Boys of Bangkok have their own tartan.

So join us on Zoom at 6.30pm next Thursday (11 March), wear a little bit of family tartan if you have one, and of course bring along the obligatory wee dram of Scotch whisky.

NOTE: Those who sign up for the Event will be sent the Zoom link through our Facebook Event, or the Caledonian Society Email List.

President's Letter
David McBee, President

David McBee

Last month’s whisky, chocolates, and Valentine was our best attended Zoom event yet with approximately 60 people in attendance. The feedback was very positive. Could be due to the libations but I do believe it was more from the quality effort invested by all of the presenters and organizers. Thank you very much Ginni, Ian and Iain.

I was able to venture out with Pat and Nikki Schuller to the Westin Kierland last Friday for the first night of the return of Michael M. to the sunset piping there. It was excellent and a heartwarming time in a special place.

The patio also provides excellent service for drinks and food that is second to none. Michael will now be playing there each weekend in March from Thursday to Sunday. Come out in support if you can rekindle a bit of romance to pipes and our heritage. I hope to run into you once or twice.

Our March Zoom has been planned. See you there!

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



27th Chief of Clan Macpherson

Chief of MacphersonThe 27th Chief, Sir William Alan Macpherson of Cluny and Blairgowrie died at the age of 94 on 14 February 2021. He passed his 50th year as Chief of Clan Macpherson in June of 2019.

Known as ”Cluny” to his clansfolk, Sir William was commissioned in the Scots Guards in 1944, and trained with 21st Special Air Service Regiment – of whom he was made honorary colonel in 1983.

Sir William is succeeded by his son James Brodie (Tanistair of the House of Cluny-Macpherson) as 28th chief to the clan Macpherson.

Read articles from the Clan Macpherson Association and from The Scotsman

John Mallard, Aberdeen University

John MallardEvery time a patient receives an MRI scan, anywhere in the world, Aberdeen University in Scotland receives an ‘intellectual property’ payment.

The man who developed Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Professor John Mallard, died last month aged 94. His work put the Aberdeen research team at the forefront of medical science.

Professor Mallard was born in England but made his home north of the border. He was awarded the Freedom of the City of Aberdeen in 2004, and millions of patients suffering from cancer, dementia, and other conditions, have been helped by his pioneering work. Read the tribute from an industry magazine.

Scotland's Hidden Gems - Blair Atholl
Iain Lundy, Editor

Travelers on the A9 motorway that links Inverness with Scotland’s Central Belt whizz by signposts for small villages and towns that are nowadays bypassed. It’s a great shame because some genuine ‘hidden gems’ are among them.

A case in point is the historic village of Blair Atholl in northern Perthshire. Its crowning glory is Blair Castle, painted a gleaming white, home of the Duke of Atholl (family name Murray). The Duke’s claim to fame is that he commands the only private army in Europe, the Atholl Highlanders, which is housed at the castle.

Blair Castle

Visitors to the castle, which has been open to the public since the 1930s, may be lucky enough to see the Atholl Highlanders parading in the grounds. The interior is stunning, and the family was involved in almost every great event in Scottish history.

The village of Blair Atholl itself is picturesque and tranquil, with the River Tilt flowing through it. The historic watermill is still in operation and incorporates a coffee shop. And if leafy old churchyards are your thing, then it is worth the walk to nearby Kilmaveonaig Church, a mile or so outside the village.

Blair Atholl has a railway station on the line running between Inverness, Glasgow and Edinburgh so getting there is easy. It’s an ideal place to break your journey if you are looking for somewhere quiet and historic on your next Scottish trip.

Research Your Scottish Ancestry

Robert WilbanksThe Scots-Irish

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

With the month of March upon us, and since in America March is often noted for the Irish people and St. Patrick’s Day, this would be a great time to talk about Ireland’s connection to Scotland.

The people of Ireland and Scotland have a common ancient heritage to the Celtic Peoples who existed all over the European Continent possibly as early as the Bronze Age, 1200 to 500 BCE. On the eve of the British Iron Age, which began about 800 BCE, Celtic peoples from Europe began migrating into the British Isles. By the end of the 6th Century BCE, all of the British Isles spoke the Celtic language. Eventually the languages and cultures of Ireland and Britain began to split into two, or more, different branches.

By the 4th and 5th Centuries AD, as the Roman Empire began to collapse and remove itself from the British Isles, the Picts of north Britain were pushed eastward by the invasion of the Scots from north Ireland into western Scotland. Eventually a merger of the Scots and Picts in north Britain created the Kingdom of Alba by 900 AD.

By our modern time, Ireland and Scotland had become two entirely different lands, with different peoples, different cultures, and different religions. But both countries had a common enemy . . . the Kingdom of England. England began the invasion of Ireland under Henry II in 1171 AD, and Edward I began to take control of Scotland in the late 1200s to early 1300s AD. By the mid-1500s AD, the Tudor Kings began the re-conquest of Catholic Ireland, and later began the plantation system, taking Irish lands and resettling them as colonies with Protestant English and Scots.

The Ulster Province in Northern Ireland was the last part of Ireland to surrender to the Tudor Armies when James VI of Scotland was now James I of England. Ulster was converted to a Plantation Colony settled by over 20,000 English and Scottish Protestants by the 1630s. These settlers primarily came from the Scottish Lowlands and Northern England. By 1697, over 200,000 Scottish Presbyterians had settled in Ulster.

While in the British Isles these people are more commonly referred to as Ulster Scots, in the United States they are mostly, incorrectly but familiarly, referred to as Scotch-Irish. These Scots-Irish people became a significantly important part of early American history, with over 200,000 migrating to America between 1717 and 1775. Mostly settling in the back country of the original colonies, these Scots-Irish people greatly influenced American growth, religion, politics, music, and so very much more. Commonly recognized early American Scots-Irish names include Calhoun, Jackson, Crocket, Boone, and many more. Twenty US Presidents have Scots-Irish ancestry.

So, for the many Americans, and Canadians, whose research encompasses the Scots-Irish, beginning with the typical research in American and Canadian records is to be expected. Identifying where specifically in Northern Ireland the family is from is the key objective. Once that is accomplished, then understanding genealogy research and records in Northern Ireland is the next step. As always, the FamilySearch wiki on Northern Ireland Genealogy is very helpful in getting started in learning about Northern Ireland records and resources.

The following link is to a great FamilySearch webinar on “The Scots-Irish: Plantation and Settlement of Ulster in the 17th Century” by Craig Foster. This video outlines events surrounding the plantation schemes and the settlement of Northern Ireland from the London Companies and the large landed Estates in Scotland. Craig will walk you through the key sources for tracing the Scots-Irish in Ireland and their specific origins in Scotland.

As always, researching history, locality about records and resources, and more, is very important in your continuing genealogy research. There are many websites, blogs, videos, webinars, and more, where you can better learn about Scots-Irish American or Canadian history and research, history and genealogy research in Northern Ireland, and of course eventually leading to research in Scotland’s records.

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.

Valentine's Night on Zoom

Our Valentine Zoom meeting in February was another great success with more than 60 people in attendance and some spirited presentations and debate.

We were delighted to welcome Kris and Cassie from Chateau Tumbleweed who made some tasty wine and chocolate recommendations; and Brian Dvoret from ImpEx Beverages who spoke about the best combinations of whisky and chocolate. In fact, Brian was inundated with whisky questions from those in attendance and took time to answer them all, so well done, Brian.

Iain Lundy spoke about how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Scotland, the world’s most romantic country. And a special thanks to those who recited or played their favorite romantic verses.

The Zoom meetings have been attracting good audiences so let’s hope we can continue the trend.

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David Grefka
by Iain Lundy

The Society was saddened to hear of the death of a well-known member of the Celtic community in the Valley. David Grefka was manager of the Dubliner Irish Pub in Thunderbird Road, Phoenix, and passed away last month after a battle with cancer.

Over the years David helped organize many Burns Suppers at the bar and was always a gracious and welcoming host.

A Facebook post from the bar said, “We will always remember your sense of humor, your kindness, your dedication and hard work, your fairness in dealing with issues, and the respect that you gave to your customers. The Dubliner will not be the same without you.”

Scottish Sunsets

Arizona can justifiably claim to enjoy some of the word’s most incredible sunsets. But when the conditions are right, nothing can beat a Scottish sunset.

Conditions were certainly right on a recent Monday evening. Just look at this collection of sunset pictures sent in to the BBC.

Scottish sunset

Snippets from Scotland

Press and Journal logo

A lifeboat station on Scotland’s north coast has benefited from the sale of a rare bottle of whisky. The bottle was produced in the Wolfburn Distillery in Thurso and the proceeds donated to the local lifeboat.

The Courier logo

Fears have been raised about the structural safety of a Scottish castle with connections to Robert the Bruce. Red Castle, near Arbroath, has been battered by east coast storms and there are fears it could collapse.

The Scotsman

2021 looks like being another difficult year for Highland Games the length and breadth of Scotland. Covid restrictions on large gatherings have already forced the cancellation of 13 events with many more in the pipeline.

Our Clan Representatives

Clan Bell - Lester Bell

Clan Bell has enjoyed a long association with the Caledonian Society of Arizona and has been a participating clan for many years. My wife, Carol, and I were introduced to the games back in 2006 when they were held at Mesa Community College. At the time, we met Fran and Jim Bell from Tucson, who hosted the Clan Bell tent for so many years. Their dedication and commitment to Clan Bell and the Scots community cannot be measured. Eventually, Fran and Jim had to make the decision to retire from tent hosting and that is when we were contacted by David Bell and Clan Bell North America to ask us to take the mantle as tent hosts for Arizona.

Clan BellWe were excited to do so and Carol and I have been hosting the Clan Bell tent for the last six years. We have had such a great time being part of the Phoenix games. Each year we meet new people and new friends. The 2020 games were huge, with the athletic competition the best we have ever seen. We love the opening ceremonies and the clan parade and the beautiful music from the pipe bands and local talent. Each year we learn something new from one of our neighbors on how to set up our tent more efficiently, or make it more appealing to the patrons and spread the story about the history of the Bells. We are always excited when we get so many people signing our guest list to get more information about Clan Bell and in many cases, asking how they can join.

Clan Bell has two organizations in US that represent the clan and our mission of bringing all Bells together in unity and friendship and providing Bells and everyone information on our history, genealogy and heritage as it relates to their roots in Scottish and ancient history. Clan Bell North America (CBNA) has been in existence for several decades and you can find more information about them at A new organization, Clan Bell Society, formed in 2019/2020 with the same mission of promotion of the Bell family and friendship and is beginning to grow with tent hosting and participation at Scottish games and events across the US. More info about the can be found at

Even with the tough times we have endured, the Caledonian Society of Arizona rallied to keep the local Scottish community together. The virtual events they hosted have been terrific and the continuous updates and communications from the leadership has kept everyone’s morale high and our hopes high as well for a return to normal soon and the games to return.

Clan MacFarlane International - Shawn MacFarland

I have been hosting the International Clan MacFarlane Society, Inc. Clan booth for the State of Arizona for about 10 years. To answer the popular question of what it takes to run a booth for the Games, the simple answer is that you need the basics: an EZ-Up tent, a table, chairs, and information on the clan you are representing. However, I think the goal for which any booth should strive is to figure out how to personalize your booth and make it more inviting for guests.

Clan MacFarlane I usually use two EZ-Ups so that I can invite guests to sit down inside my booth while I talk to them; this means also having plenty of chairs. Within the booth, I have a variety of books, maps, and swords that guests can use to find out more about their heritage (I also make sure to have goodies for the kids that stop by). However, it is the outside of the booth that convinces guests to stop.

I have two pop-up banners that provide most of the clan information that’s in my hand-out brochures. I also surround my booth with a variety of flags (some historical, some for fun) that are a great conversational icebreaker.

Most of the people who stop by the booth are those who have genealogical links to the clan or who are trying to find out more about their clan or sept. Some stop by for historical information, while others want to learn what Highland Games are. Therefore, it is always a good idea to know a lot of general Celtic-based information so you can point guests in the right direction. Some of these guests end up becoming highly involved members over time, and a few even become so interested that they help run booths at different Games. While booth setup can be done by a single person, I usually get help from my girlfriend Meredith Young, who has been helping me for over five years.

Clans tend to have strong connections with one another, and they often spend time pranking each other and sharing inside jokes (along with numerous drinks) at events. The MacFarlane Clan has an ancient feud with Clan Calhoun, so, while Calhoun was represented in Arizona, I used to prank their booth in ways that were historically relevant. I have made a decent number of friends from other clans, and we often try to have our booths arranged close by at the Games so it is easier for us to share stories, drinks, and general camaraderie. In addition, clan members are proud of their shared heritage, and with the help of Celtic vendors they can purchase commemorative shirts or other items that allow them to show their clan pride during and outside of Games.

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