Life is fleeting, moving swiftly along through good times and bad; leaving behind memories. Sometimes an event that changes our world is stronger in remembrance than they were in the original moment.
These were my thoughts when visiting the Clan Donald Centre on Isle of Skye for a plaque dedication for my father, Douglas K. Macdonald, this past June. He was a New England Regional and then High Commissioner of Clan Donald USA; a board member of the Clan Donald Lands Trust, managed at the Clan Donald Centre; and a councilor to the chiefs of Clan Donald under the aegis of the Finlaggan Council. In addition to his work with Clan Donald in North American and Scotland, my father supported the Scottish Games culture in New England as a Chieftain of the New Hampshire Highland Games, and the Maine Highland Games. He was also an honored guest at various other Highland Games.
It all began when Dad attended the 1975 New Hampshire Highland Games at Loon Mountain. He was entranced. In 1976 he asked me to go for a ride and we ended up at the Highland Games at Loon Mountain, a smallish affair then that took up only part of the parking lot and the area around the gondola. Today it’s a 3-day event that requires major planning strategies to navigate our way around the tens of thousands of people who attend, parking, food, clan tents, athletic events and music venue, as well as the dramatic massed bands marching down the mountainside.
From there he joined Clan Donald USA, and became involved with the organizers of the New Hampshire Highland Games. We, his family, went from near total ignorance of Scottish culture and highland games (constant listening to bagpipe albums and a brief attendance at a Highland Gathering in Brookline, MA, to pick up my drunken father when I was 3 or 4 not withstanding), to being regular members of the Clan Donald tent at various Highland Games and Gatherings around New England.
We became skilled at providing information to attendees and filled in where needed as color guard members, children’s game coordinators, and any other job that needed to be done. And we all increased our ownership of kilts and kilted skirts, jewelry, sporrans, and as much regalia as you can imagine. It was a fun and educational time. Soon Dad was an officer in Clan Donald and was tapped for an ever-expanding roster of roles. As his roles and responsibilities changed, so did ours. Sometimes I and my siblings were asked, and sometimes we discovered we had been volunteered for service.
When the opportunity to be crew members on the inaugural sailing of Galley Aileach, both Dad (at 64) and his brother (at 69) jumped at the chance to row around the western part of Scotland in 1993. It was an adventure that neither they nor the other crew members ever forget. Including the story of the ‘ghost’ that guided their footsteps as they climbing the hill on Rhum in the dark.
Dad’s involvement in all things Scottish continued until close to his death in 2015. His last visit to the Clan Donald Centre was in 2008 for the Land’s Trust meeting. My mother passed away a few weeks later. His last visits to both the New Hampshire Highland Games and the Clan Donald USA AGM were in 2013.
We, his family, were excited when we learned that the Trustees of the Clan Donald Lands’ Trust offered to have a plaque dedicated to Dad on the wall at the Clan Donald Centre. While all four of his children and his three grandchildren wanted to be there for the dedication, both daughters’, a granddaughter and a son-in-law were able to attend. Another granddaughter and possibly one of his two sons will visit the Clan Donald Centre, view the plaque and take in the sites of the Isle of Skye in 2017.