Hauer ya gae! Tartan Week Celebrations, Part I – the Ceilidh

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Mike Ogletree and Caitlin Boyle boogie down

How it’s New York: In its 10th year, this is NYC’s version of the national observation of all things Scottish – with a cast of thousands…of proud, fun-loving New York Scots.

How it’s  [Scottish] Irish In Scotland, April 6th marks the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath  in 1320 at Arbroath Abbey, when Scottish nobles declared Scotland to be an independent nation with the right to live free from rule or oppression by other countries. It also claimed that Scottish independence was the right and responsibility of the Scottish people, not the King – and that the nobles would choose another king if they had to.  

This document was used as a basis for the American Declaration of Independence.

Tartan Day in Scotland was inspired by this historical occasion to celebrate all that is good about Scotland – its people, its heritage, its history, its culture, and its amazing legacy.

Sue Sylvester attends the pre-parade ceilidh at the New York Caledonian Club and finds herself in awe of Scottish people!
After an entire week of amazing events and activities (including a kilted 10k run!), local Tartan Week celebrating wound up NY-style: with a parade up the Avenue of the Americas. But never let it be said that an occasion in NYC was ever that simple: there was the pre-parade dance, a special ceremony in a church beginning with bagpipes and ending with brunch, and lots and LOTS of post-parade parties, proudly hosted by NYC’s two largest Scottish societies, the New York Caledonian Club and the St. Andrew’s Society of the State of New York.
Right at the top, I have to say that I am never more in awe of the Scottish people as when they’re happily partying. Not only are they endlessly hospitable and fun (They’ve always shown this woman a good time!) but, after they’ve been drinking, eating, and dancing half the night, they can get up the next morning and march all over the City playing bagpipes! The only word I can think of for this phenomenon is: stamina.

The pre-parade ceilidh was hosted by the New York Caledonian Club (“NYCC”). First, the doors – and the bar – were opened. Fifty minutes later, a mini-parade of pipers, drummers, and flag bearers (NY Scottish Pipes & Drums), dignitaries, and a haggis-bearer marched into the room. Then honoured guests, members of the Scottish Parliament, were introduced, followed by a warm, welcoming speech by Chief John Mauk Hilliard. 
Here’s the Haggis!
After Andrew Macmillan and John Grimaldi gave a [highly] dramatic recitation of the Scottish poet Robert Burns’ “Address  to the Haggis” – a poem that extols the virtue of a traditional dish made of oatmeal and bits of sheep’s innards stuffed into the animal’s stomach, then simmered – the entertainment really took off…and the lids were taken off the “other” food, too. 
Miked singers competed with the ruckus of folks chatting-and-chewing on delicious catered fare, but quite a number of us listened, and joined in singing with, the musicians: Caroline Bennett singing plaintively lovely Gaelic songs; John Grimaldi, ever the showman, juggling, singing with the Islanders, and being MC; and Mike Ogletree and Caitlin Boyle, dressed in traditional garb, singing Robbie Burns’ ballads. 

And then the first half of the dancing began: traditional country dancing, accompanied by the Madra Confach Cèilidh Band, and led by Fergie and Susan, two dancing teachers with flawless technique, endless patience, and a fine sense of humor. Many a doubt-filled fellow was dragged onto the dance floor, bluffing his way through the Virginia Reel (Remember learning that in second grade?!) and even the elaborate “Strip the Willow”, only to find out that no one cared if he knew a polka step from a do-si-do as long as he tried to keep up with the music. 
Then the great Scottish band Scocha took over and galvanized the place with a concert. When
Scocha
everyone including Scocha was ready to drop, the dancing started again. The evening was officially over with the singing of another Burns ballad, “Auld Lang Syne”, at about 11:30pm – with the caveat that we’d better get some sleep so we’d be ready for the festivities and parade the next day.

There was one small, sad moment: “Wee Maggie”, Margaret MacLeod Block, who had passed away just before Tartan Week, was remembered with a reverent moment of complete silence. She was one of the backbones of the NY Caledonian Club: John Grimaldi called her “the heart, soul, and pantry” of the NYCC. She had been a member of their Board of Directors for many years, and had served as the Chairman of the Hospitality Committee. Maggie was known for her personal hospitality as well, which inspired Chieftain Lesley MacLennan Denninger to remember: 
“…Margaret, a native Gaelic speaker, opened her doors just about monthly to a group of Caledonians who gathered not only to learn the language, but to sing it as well. Now this always included some sort of libation to oil the pipes, and ended with some of Margaret or John’s homemade baked goods.” 
I knew her briefly, but I realized she was a force to be reckoned with:  an intelligent, funny, spirited woman! Rest well, Maggie, and may we strive to measure up to your example.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my jo  [my dear], for auld lang syne,
We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

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