Friday, March 25, 2011

The Clans - violence, honour and obligation

I was listening yesterday to a programme about Easter Island in the South Pacific; the commentator referred to 'rival clans'. Around Christmas in London I was in a taxi driven by a man from Somalia, who talked about the 'clans' who are controlling certain areas there. In both (random) cases there is an implication of violence: the clans in Easter Island finally eliminated one another and uncontrolled 'clans' was the reason that my Somali taxi driver was disinclined to return to his Somaliland home. The violence in 'Klan' is self evident.

My Shorter Oxford Dictionary (pub. 2007) gives four definitions for 'clan'; none has any violent or negative association. I believe that this fine word is now being corrupted.

It comes from the Gaelic clann which simply means 'children'. Clan is in fact a wholly positive word which speaks of honour, of commitment, of people supporting each another. In his excellent book 'Clans & Chiefs' Ian Grimble writes, '...the office...required that the chief should place his undefined patriachal obligations before his absolute feudal rights'. This was fundamental.

There aren't so many examples nowadays of 'undefined obligations' taking precedence over 'absolute rights'. And of course the other side of the coin was that clansmen were absolutely bound to fight and die in any fight that might be picked by the chief.

How wonderful, though, that in 2011 the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs has a website ... and invites questions. An undefined obligation if ever there was one!

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Happy Tenth Birthday... to Us!

It was ten years ago that Scottish Clans and Castles Ltd emerged from a mixed bag of other tourism projects.

And I'm delighted to have traced our first client, Angie Anstee (now Eikebu)... "It was 18th April 2001, my Norwegian husband's first trip with me to Scotland and we liked it so much we stayed two nights instead of the one that we booked!" The place, unsurprisingly, was Castle Stuart, an enduring favourite of our clients. And dear Caroline Stuart, the Chatelaine, has just emailed confirming more honeymooners this September.

Then, as now, our clients were primarily looking for holidays tailored to their personal requirements and clan connections. But a couple of years later we ran our first 'Outlander' Tour, a guided trip for fans of Diana Gabaldon's novels. It went well. Of our four clients two re-booked for the following year (and one is now running her own guiding operation in Minnesota). And last year we ran three 'Outlander' tours during one of which our guests dined with Diana Gabaldon and her husband at Castle Stuart.

The Year of Homecoming in 2009 was a milestone for us and about 300 of our clients enjoyed 'The Gathering' in Holyrood Park, Edinburgh.

This year, on our tenth anniversary, we are delighted to be launching two new products - 'Scottish Castle Escapes' and 'The Ultimate Highland Castle House Party', the latter being a luxurious weekend at Aldourie Castle on the banks of Loch Ness with private tours of local castles.

Now then... I'm thinking of a Castle birthday cake, candle on each turret...