June 2022     Title   Past Issues

In this Issue:

  It Happened This Month   Alex Beaton
  Meet the Members   Favorite Songs
  Phoenix Scottish Games Update   Snippets from Scotland

      Please note:

There will be no Newsletter in July

It Happened This Month - June 1814

On 13 June 1814, one of the most brutal episodes in what became known the Highland Clearances took place in a remote glen in the north of Scotland. The Clearances, which saw tenants of large estates unceremoniously driven from their homes, resulted in one of the largest mass migrations of Scots to the US and other parts of the world.

The 1814 incident took place in an area known as Strathnaver in the county of Sutherland, in Scotland’s far north-west. The land was owned by the Countess of Sutherland and the evictions – which saw long-standing tenant farmers burned from their homes – was carried out under the supervision of the estate factor Patrick Sellar, a reviled figure in Scottish history.

There had been many other instances of forced clearances before then, but the Strathnaver event was notable for its sheer lack of humanity. The reason chiefly given for the people being cleared was that sheep farming was becoming more economic.

It is estimated that around 260,000 people were forced to leave Scotland on migration ships. Many fled to the Americas, notably the Cape Breton area of Nova Scotia.


The following is a short summary of the Strathnaver incident.

“On June 13th, 1814, The Strathnaver Clearances began on the Sutherland estates. Families were given half an hour to remove their belongings before their cottages were set on fire.

Strathnaver was part of the estate of the Countess of Sutherland and her husband the Marquis of Stafford. They had decided to “improve” their lands by turning them over to profitable sheep farming and were intent on moving their tenants to new villages built on the coast.

From 1814, the evictions were undertaken by the Sutherland Estate factor, Patrick Sellar. He was ruthless in his actions, destroying homes and burning crops to force people from their land. His actions were so extreme that in April 1816 Sellar stood trial in Inverness on a variety of charges including fire raising and culpable homicide. However, he was acquitted and returned to Strathnaver where he had leased a large area of the land to farm sheep.

In one incident a woman of perhaps more than 90 was too old and weak to be moved from her home. The neighbors pleaded for Patrick Sellar to show mercy for her. Sellar responded, “Damn her, the old witch. She has lived too long, Let her burn.”

Her house was out to the torch, even the sheets on her bed were set ablaze. Local clansmen and clanswomen tried to rescue her by taking her burned body to a nearby barn, but she died five days later in agony.

The actions of Sellar were so extreme that in April 1816 he stood trial in Inverness on a variety of charges including fire raising and culpable homicide (manslaughter). However, he was acquitted and returned to Strathnaver where he had leased a large area of the land to farm sheep.

There are the remains of many abandoned townships throughout the Strath, the best known of these being Rosal. This is mainly thanks to Donald Macleod, a native of that township, who witnessed the clearances and wrote passionately about them. He is remembered in a memorial close to the site of the settlement.”

Meet The Members

Kimberly Barnes

Halò a chairdean! My name is Kimberly Barnes. (Though most will know me as “Wee Wallace’s” mum) I live in Glendale with my amazing husband Rich and my two sweet boys Gabriel and Isaac (aka “Wee Wallace”).

Kimberly Barnes & family

I’ve been passionate about my family heritage since the age of 14, when I attended my first Highland games. Since then, I’ve devoted much of my energy into researching my personal lineage and studying Celtic culture throughout history. My Scottish ancestors derived from the MacGregor and Shaw clans. My most recent relative to immigrate was my Great-Grandmother Vera from Dundee.

Since the beginning of Covid in 2020 I have been endeavoring to learn Scottish Gaelic as a second language as well as learning to play the bagpipes. (A task I might add is very difficult for someone like myself with a neurological disability.) It has been my lifelong dream and I’m absolutely committed to seeing it through and I am also attempting to write a historical fiction novel based in Scotland and Ireland.

Like most lovers of Scotland, I had always dreamt of traveling to the land of my ancestors. This dream came true in 2019 when my now husband and I eloped to Schull in the south of Ireland then honeymooned in the lowlands and highlands of Scotland. It was the most incredible adventure; an adventure we hope to experience again in the next few years.

For anyone traveling to Scotland, I highly recommend setting aside several days for Edinburgh. There is so much to do and see in this historical city. We were only there two days and barely scratched the surface. Another must see location we visited on our journey is the battlefield of Culloden. Many believe the battlefield to be haunted, and I do not disagree. It is a somber walk along the gravel paths to each clan’s commemorative stone. Even the local wild life seem to know the land is sacred. Birds flew overhead and didn’t make a sound.

One key place that we sadly missed on our adventure was the Isle of Skye. Most of my novel will take place on Skye, therefore, I am hoping to visit and do a great deal of research to make my novel as accurate as possible. If any members reading this have personal experience relating to the Isle of Skye, I would love to hear any stories and descriptions you have! Thank you for taking the time to read my little blurb. I hope to see my fellow members at one of the next society events!

Phoenix Scottish Games Update
by Society President David McBee

Our 2022 Phoenix Scottish Games were a belt-tightening games with a shot at the survival of this heritage event in spite of lockdowns and evaporating funding. Many comfort items and areas were cut out this year just to be able to hold the event. Board members reached into their own pockets to deal with new funding surprises from various suppliers to our Games. It was a little scary at times.

The risk was rewarded with a very well received and attended event that raised much needed funds to operate on this year regarding our 501c3 responsibilities and to also have funds on hand to finance next year’s Games.

The Games will be held in 2023 at the Gilbert Regional Park again from 3/3/2023 through 3/5/2023. Setup will be on March 2nd, load-in on March 3rd, and tear down on the 6th.

We will have the funds for guest comfort items such as tables and chairs, possibly more shade options and a larger portion of the park with the return of some of our regular areas from the past. Much was learned about holding an event of our size at this location and it will be included in our planning for 2023.

My Clan chief’s comment was that this year’s event was simply beautiful. Nearly half of the attendance came from our new location, we think. and had never been to a Games before. That alone is a very good thing.

Alex Beaton

Alex Beaton Alex Beaton, arguably the best-known Scottish performer at Highland Games throughout the United States, died this week aged 77. Alex was born in Glasgow and had been left paralyzed since suffering a severe spinal cord injury in 2011.

Alex immigrated to the US in 1965 and appeared on television music shows in New York state. During the Vietnam era, he joined the US Army and entertained his military colleagues both in the US and Germany.

On return to civilian life, Alex spent some time in New York, Colorado and Phoenix, where he played in local restaurants and clubs.

His sister lived in Phoenix until her death in 2016, and Alex played at the Caledonian Society’s Scottish Games on several occasions.

He was a genuine Scottish musical pioneer to this country, introducing American audiences to scores of traditional Scottish folk songs. Many people will remember him best for his rendition of the song ‘These Are My Mountains”.

Society member and piper Len Wood met Alex many times and paid the following tribute, “When I heard of Alex Beaton’s passing, I was gripped with sorrow and yet Alex had been sick for so long it wasn’t unexpected.

I felt like a friend of his and yet I can’t remember ever spending but just a few minutes in conversation with Alex at any one time. He had a knack for remembering your name and some small things about you and that made you feel like you had known him forever. My wife, Kathy and I opened for him at a couple of concerts, one at the Irish Cultural Center and another in Sun City and would run into him at Stone Mountain, here in Phoenix and at contests in Southern California.

Alex had a great singing voice and presence. He was known for a song after an old joke about a passed-out Scotsman. The joke known as the “Blue Ribbon” was overheard by Mike Cross at the Stone Mountain games and he put it to music. While Mike was pretty well known in the East, it was Alex who made the song famous.

It’s odd but it seems that when we hear of someone’s death, someone we knew there is a tendency to say, “the last time I saw him was…” For me it was the Stone Mountain Highland Games in Atlanta. He had only just gotten out of the hospital and was making the rounds to visit friends. In spite of not being able to move, he carried the big Alex Beaton smile and was very upbeat, even laughing. It is hard to explain, but in spite of feeling badly for him, he left you feeling good.”

Alex's web site

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Favorite Songs

Surely someone who sings Scottish songs for a living would have no trouble selecting a favorite? So, we asked Society member Sarah Noble, one half of the Noble McCoy Band, to choose. She picked from the repertoire of the great Dougie MacLean.

Sarah said, “Dougie MacLean is such an amazing and underestimated song writer. His song, ‘Ready for the Storm’ really seems to convey problems you may be facing in your life, how you might be facing them alone, and how scary the situation might become. My favorite line is, 'And when you take me by your side you love me warm, you love me. And I should have realized I had no reason to be frightened' because it reminds us that no matter how scared we are or how horrible the problem is that we're facing, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Dougie MacLean performs his song

O the waves crash in and the tide pulls out.
It's an angry sea but there is no doubt
That the lighthouse will keep shining out
To warn the lonely sailor,
And the lightning strikes and the wind cuts cold
Through the sailor's bones to the sailor's soul
Till there's nothing left that he can hold
Except the rolling ocean.


But I am ready for the storm, yes sir, ready.
I am ready for the storm, I'm ready for the storm.

Give me mercy for my dreams
For every confrontation seems
To tell me what it really means
To be this lonely sailor,
But when the sky begins to clear
And the sun, it melts away my fear
I'll cry a silent weary tear
For those that need to love me.


But I am ready for the storm, yes sir, ready.
I am ready for the storm, I'm ready for the storm.

But distance, it is no real friend
And time, it takes its time,
But you will find that in the end
It brings you me, the lonely sailor.
But when you take me by your side
You love me warm, you love me,
And I should have realized
I had no reason to be frightened.


But I am ready for the storm, yes sir, ready.
I am ready for the storm, I'm ready for the storm.

Snippets from Scotland

Snippet from The Scotsman

Plans are under way for a memorial to be erected in a Scottish town to commemorate the execution of 27 women in one day. They were all found guilty of witchcraft, hanged, on a local hill, and their bodies burned.

Snippet from The BBC

Attention motor racing fans. The story of Formula 1 racing legend Jim Clark, who grew up in the Scottish Borders and died in a crash aged 32, is to be turned into a musical

Snippet from The Press and Jouornal

Tom Stoltman, from Invergordon in the Highlands, has won the World’s Strongest Man title for the second year running. He pair tribute to the massive support from his local area.

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