February 2022     Title   Past Issues

In this Issue:

  Scottish Games Update   Burns Celebration 2022
  Meet the Members   Favorite Songs
  Famous Events   Snippets from Scotland

Phoenix Scottish Games Update

2022 Games poster

Preparations are now well advanced for next month’s Scottish Games, a welcome return following an enforced one-year break due to Covid. The event will take place on March 4-6 at Gilbert Regional Park at the south-east corner of Queen Creek and Higley Roads in Gilbert.

Although the venue has changed from recent years when the event was staged at Steele Indian Park in Phoenix, the attractions remain the same. Traditional dancing, piping and heavy athletics competitions will be the main draws, as they are at Highland Games throughout the world.

There will, however, be much more for attendees to enjoy. Dozens of clan tents representing ancient Scottish families from Armstrong to Urquhart, with Mackinnon, Macfie, MacLachlan and many more will be represented at our clans section; there will be music provided by a host of entertainers; the British car show, which has been a staple of our Games for years; a host of vendor tents selling everything from Highland outfits to traditional Scottish food; a genealogy tent to help visitors trace their Scottish ancestry; and a whole lot more.

Scan for tickets On the evening of Friday 4 March, the pipe bands and other musicians will be staging a special concert and pipe band tattoo from 7pm to 8.30pm. On Saturday and Sunday, the two traditional Games days, gates will be opened to the public at 9am, with more entertainment through the day.

Volunteers are needed in many areas of the event. All volunteer offers will be gratefully accepted. To check what how you can help and sign-up, visit Volunteer at the Games

Find the full Games information at phoenixscottishgames.com

We look forward to seeing you all at the Games and to making it an event to remember.

Meet New Members

Carolyn and Richard Kunz

My name is Carolyn Kunz, my maiden name was Robertson, and I was born in Motherwell, Scotland, the oldest of four children of parents who were both teachers. My father also danced on the White Heather Club television show that was hosted by the famous Scottish entertainer Andy Stewart.

Years ago, Motherwell was a prosperous industrial town supported by the massive Ravenscraig Steel Works and Motherwell Bridge Works factories. I also lived in Hamilton, East Kilbride and Perth before my family returned to Motherwell where I attended Dalziel High School. After school I decided to become a nurse and trained at Yorkhill Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow and then Perth Royal Infirmary.

Carolyn and Richard Kunz In 1981 I was recruited to Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas with 24 other British nurses for a one-year contract. That was a culture shock in many ways. I arrived in Dallas on January 5th, 1982, to a sunny 70 degrees after a cold frigid morning in Glasgow.

By the end of 1982 only five British nurses remained and four of us married Americans. In July of 1982,

I met my husband Rick who was from Minnesota but was working in Dallas and we were married in 1983. We have one daughter who is married and living in Gilbert with our two grandchildren.

We were active members of The Scottish Society of Dallas. I was also in The Daughters of Caledonia and The Transatlantic Brides and Parents group where we enjoyed all the usual Scottish functions.

In 1995 we moved to Utah where we and fellow Scots organized and held our own Burns Supper catering to 60-90 people complete with homemade Haggis. I remained active as a nurse in the operating room till we retired in 2019 and moved to Maricopa, Arizona.

Famous Events - The SS Politician Sinks
Iain Lundy, Editor

Editor's Note: From this edition of the newsletter onwards, we’ll be taking a look at a story or event that happened in Scotland on that particular month.

Kicking off the series is the remarkable tale of the SS Politician which sank off the west coast with a cargo of whisky and inspired a book and a Hollywood movie. The following account appeared in the Scotchwhisky.com magazine.

On the morning of 5 February 1941, the SS Politician was heading north past the Outer Hebrides, having cast off from Liverpool two days earlier. Its final destinations? Kingston, Jamaica, and New Orleans.

After passing the Isle of Man, the weather had worsened, the winds had risen to gale force and the ship’s Captain, Beaconsfield Worthington, changed course as a result. This was an unwanted distraction and difficulty for a crew anticipating a winter crossing of a U-Boat-infested Atlantic.

Then things got considerably worse. As the winds drove SS Politician further off-course, at 7.40am a lookout glimpsed land; in desperation, the ship swung away, only to founder on the unseen sandbanks off Rosinish Point on the Isle of Eriskay.

Events moved quickly after that. The ship’s fuel tanks were ruptured, and its engines gave up minutes later, leaving the crew to await rescue – and salvage of their cargo. To the locals, beset by the privations of war and rationing, this was too good an opportunity to miss. Unofficial local ‘salvage parties’ began to form, with the men even donning their wives’ old dresses to prevent their own clothes becoming stained by incriminating ship’s oil.

The SS Politician was carrying all manner of trade goods, from cotton to medicines to biscuits, but the ship is best remembered for the contents of Hold Number 5: some 264,000 bottles of Scotch whisky.

People came from as far afield as Lewis and, according to reports at the time, few if any regarded what they were doing as stealing; the foundering of the ship made its cargo theirs to save under the ‘rules of salvage’.

The authorities, however, did not share this view, not least because the whisky was destined for the United States – and so no duty had been paid on it. There followed a second, attempted, land-borne salvage operation, with the police raiding villages and crofts in an effort to recover the liquid cargo – and the locals secreting their ill-gotten gains wherever they could. Or else they just drank them.

Some, however, ended up in court, with a few even serving short jail sentences, but many of the estimated 24,000 bottles of whisky ‘salvaged’ from the wreck by the islanders were never seen again.

As official salvage operations were called off, the ship’s hull was dynamited to destroy any further temptation to explore its contents; but the odd bottle was still washed up on nearby beaches, and a local diver found eight bottles of whisky in the wreck as recently as 1987. Two of these were sold for just over £12,000 by Scotch Whisky Auctions in 2013. So far, so familiar. It’s an obviously romantic tale, and one which inspired the 1947 book Whisky Galore by Compton Mackenzie and the 1949 film of the same name directed by Alexander Mackendrick and one of the most enduring and loved of the Ealing comedies (bizarrely retitled Tight Little Island in the US).

How much of the whisky was taken by the sea, and how much fell prey to the impromptu salvage operations mounted by the locals of Eriskay, Barra, North and South Uist, and Lewis? We will almost certainly never know.

Five other February dates:

  • 2 February 1782 - Birth of James Chalmers in Arbroath. He went on to devise the adhesive postage stamp.
  • 5 February 1723 - John Gifford, who later signed the US Declaration of Independence, was born in Gifford, East Lothian.
  • 8 February 1587 - Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded at Fotheringay Castle.
  • 11 February 1895 - Scotland’s coldest temperature recorded, -27.2C at Braemar.
  • 17 February 1540 - A law was passed by King James V which recognised Scotland’s gypsies.

Burns Celebration 2022

The Haggis Around 65 Society members and guests enjoyed a hugely successful Burns Supper on Saturday 29 January in the side room of Fibber Magee’s Irish bar in Chandler. As befits a traditional Burns Night, there was a great deal of merriment and laughter.

There were speeches and toasts in celebration of the Scottish Bard and, by all accounts, healthy sales of whisky and other beverages. Exactly the way a good Burns Supper should be.

The gathering was well entertained by piper Neil Bacon, who kept our toes tapping with a string of good stirring Scottish tunes. Scotsman Robert Nee, who had traveled from Idaho, gave the traditional Address to the Haggis.

Piper Neil Bacon and guests

Ian Warrander delivered a thoughtful and witty Immortal Memory to Burns; and the comedy turns of the evening were Tim Wallace with his Toast to the Lasses; and his wife Sue with her Reply on Behalf of the Lasses. All our contributors were excellent.

Guests in tartan

So, Burns was well and truly toasted in the Valley. A good start to the Society’s 2022 event calendar.

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Favorite Songs

Editor Note: In a new feature in the newsletter, we plan to ask Society members what is their favorite Scottish song and poem, and why?

Long-time member James Grant has chosen the song Road to the Isles. He has fond memories of visits to Scotland and the song being sung by his grandfather, also James Grant, a master tool and die maker who lived in the Banffshire coastal village of Portsoy.

The song dates to the early 1900s and namechecks several well-known Scottish places including the Cuillin mountains of Skye; Lochaber; Loch Rannoch; and Shiel Water. It was reputedly played on the bagpipes on D-Day during World War 2.

       Road to the Isles

A far croonin' is pullin' me away
As take I wi' my cromach to the road.
The far Cuillins are puttin' love on me
As step I wi' the sunlight for my load.

Sure by Tummel and Loch Rannoch and Lochaber I will go
By heather tracks wi' heaven in their wiles.
If it's thinkin' in your inner heart the braggart's in my step
You've never smelled the tangle o' the Isles.
Oh the far Cuillins are puttin' love on me
As step I wi' my cromach to the Isles.

It's by Shiel water the track is to the west
By Ailort and by Morar to the sea
The cool cresses I am thinkin' of for pluck
And bracken for a wink on Mother´s knee.

The blue islands are pullin' me away
Their laughter puts the leap upon the lame
The blue islands from the Skerries to the Lews
Wi' heather honey taste upon each name.

View a performance on You Tube

Snippets from Scotland

Snippet from The Scotsman

If you’re looking into your family history and think there might be a link to Robert Burns, Scottish researchers have made a breakthrough that will help you.

Snippet from The BBC

Calls have been made for the reopening of an ancient route in one of the most historic parts of Edinburgh. It has been closed for three years due to safety concerns.

Snippet from The Press and Jouornal

A loggerhead turtle, normally found in warm tropical waters, has been washed ashore on the Scottish island of Iona. It is now being looked after at a rescue center.

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