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June 29 to July 3 2010

The latest in a series of International Carmichael gatherings - each organized by Chief Richard and his family since 1983 - was held at Carmichael Scotland in late June and early July 2010. Previous gatherings have been held at the rate of three a decade and this year’s event was the first hosted by Chief Richard with son Andrew and grandson Fraser in support.

The theme this year was to celebrate the life and offspring and descendants of Elizabeth (Kathleen) Carmichael mistress to King James V. Their son James Stewart’s birth was legitimized by decree of the Pope and this was confirmed by James V's sister ; Mary Queen of Scots. James Stewart became Prior of Coldingham Priory and we visited the priory and followed the incredible lives of two of his children. Francis Stewart, Earl of Bothwell, who plotted against King James VI and nearly became King, and Marjorie Stewart who married William Bruce of Sumburgh and settled in Shetland. In the Shetland isles we looked at the castles and legacy of Robert and Patrick Earls of Orkney half brothers of James, Francis and Marjorie. Our long standing tearoom restaurant operator had resigned two weeks before the gathering started so Jackie Waugh, Linda Struthers and Faye Craig became our emergency team. They did a spectacular job throughout !

Main Gathering Schedule

Tuesday June 29th 2010 Gathering Day. We met at Carmichael in Clydesdale (source of our name) for a welcoming dinner. The gathering welcome dinner this year was held in the Carmichael Visitor Centre restaurant and included a sumptuous lamb and feta dish (the favorite Mediterranean dish of the family) and using Carmichael single estate reared and slaughtered lamb. We welcomed guests from the UK including Hamish and Stephanie, from the US Arthur, Alana, Claudia, Clifford, Alan & Patricia and many members of their families and Katriona from New Zealand.  During our welcome speeches we sadly noted the death this last year of lots of old gathering friends including Alana's husband Mark Nigro, Anne & Jack Carmichael from Quatemala and Helen Carter from Maine as well as Yvonne, Hamish's wife. 

Wednesday June 30th. Borders and Edinburgh Day.  After a Carmichael breakfast of venison rashers, eggs and local bacon cooked by  emergency stand in Linda Struthers in our tearoom we set off by Silver Choice coach to Edinburgh for the underground old city of Mary King's Close. This put us firmly in our age for the late Sixteenth century and after a light lunch at Belhaven Fruit farm at Dunbar we arrived at Coldingham Priory on a lovely sunny afternoon.  The priory was wonderful and gave a great feeling of antiquity and peace as well as thoughts of Elizabeth's offspring. Moving on from here we went to the spectacular Borthwick castle to have a real banquet in a real medieval castle hall. Here we were met by Gaylord Adrian Carmichael from Paris (son of Bruno and Aline Carmichael ) descendant of the Dundee Jute family that moved to France in the nineteenth century.  He had come to join the gathering for the remainder and to learn English at Carmichael during the month of July. Returning home to Carmichael around 11pm made it a long but interesting day.

Thursday July 1st. Carmichael History Day. We gathered at the Eagle gates and marched  behind the piper to kirk hill the source of our name where we had memorials for the departed and then proceeded to Carmichael castle ruins the caput of the Barony. A lovely luncheon followed in a marquee in the walled garden gathering field and this was followed by mini highland Games where the team led by Andrew Carmichael of Carmichael (called the Randy Stags) marginally defeated the team led by Kip Carmichael Lowery (called the Thunderboxes). This amazing feat was achieved on the tug of war event at the end of the competition and was the result of Chief Richard urging on the stags so loudly with on the line "heave" support that he lost his voice for the remainder of the gathering. The mid afternoon finish allowed time to change for the medieval banquet fancy dress in the lower restaurant at the Carmichael visitor centre. A tight fit but the whole pig had prime position. The spectacular costumes were supported  by the Crafty Beggars medieval music family. This banquet was an actual event reenactment and the guests of the King and his mistress were treated to the "game" (wild pig?) they had hunted that day and a surprise pudding of a clan malt and a gold nugget. This signified the gold from Leadhills on Crawfordjohn moor.

Friday July 2nd  Glasgow Day. We visited Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow to see the Glasgow Boys Exhibition and  after a slow light lunch took off to see nearby Glasgow Cathedral , the home of the church that founded our name in the eleventh century. In the evening we had a farewell Gala dinner in the 55 Restaurant in Biggar.

Saturday July 3rd. BBQ lunch with Carmichael farm meats was held at Westmains. Venison beef and lamb burgers the product of Carmichael single estate farms were cooked by Chief Richard.

The Thirtieth Chief’s Final Highland Tour

July 4 to July 9 2010

During the past thirty years I have taken clan tours after each gathering to all parts of Scotland and to the Western Isles and Orkney as well as to Mont St Michel(s) in Cornwall and Normandy and to the Bauge battlefield in Anjou and Orleans city France. This year’s final tour completed the set and followed the fortunes of the descendants of our most famous mistress in Scotland’s most northerly territory, the Shetland Isles.I am calling it a day for the tours to avoid duplication for those who have been to every one (sic) (actually only Alana and I have been on them all ) and to allow the next generation more input into future gatherings and the format they take. The tour group included Arthur, Alana, Claudia, Hamish, Stephanie, Alan, Patricia, Jim & Valerie, Rodger & Jeannie and Alex and Ariana and myself.

Sunday July 4th.Clan and community Church service in Carmichael village Cairngryffe Parish‘s 1750 Carmichael kirk . We left immediately thereafter for the Chief of Carmichael’s Highland Tour to the Shetland Islands flying from Edinburgh with Flybe and staying at the Sumburgh hotel. Very appropriate as Marjorie Stewart (Elizabeth's granddaughter) had married William Bruce of Sumburgh and they produced heirs including John Bruce who discovered Jarslhoff in the nineteenth century.

Monday July 5th We toured 4000 year of habitation on one site and the old Laird's house ruin (home to William and Marjorie Bruce in 1599) by touring Jarlshoff in the morning and returned to the hotel for lunch before setting off for the Sumburgh heads cliffs and RSPB bird sanctuary. Puffins with fish in their mouths ! Amazing close up birds and cliff views. After dinner we were entertained to Island Tails by Elma who had little  good  to say about our beastly Scottish laird ancestors the Bruce's of Sumburgh but did admit at the end that she was also a Bruce descendant. The young fiddlers accompanied her and her Shetland tales were truly amazing

Tuesday July 6th We took the Mousa ferry to the isle of Mousa and to the best preserved Broch in the world. 2000 years old and still standing strong and returned via the Warp & Weft visitor centre cafe for a light lunch before moving on to the capital Lerwick to stay at the Queens Hotel. Very handy position but some awkward unhelpful staff with attitude.

Wednesday July 7th The next morning we took the Seabirds and Seals cruise to Noss with Dr Jonathan Wills and crew /skipper Alan. Although the sea was a bit rough we took the northern approach to Noss "the chicken run" and still managed to get to the bird city cliffs but not as far as the cradle rock. Instead of the caves on the southerly approach the underwater camera was dropped below the pier at Lerwick. Otters ,Skuas ,seals and many thousands of gulls were admired. The great skua taking ginger biscuits direct from Patricia's hand. Lunch of seafood chowder in the fantastic Lerwick museum followed by a visit to Fort Charlotte and the Lerwick shops.

Thursday July 8th. We drove north to the Shetland Jewelry factory workshop and then on the Braewick before walking on the cliffs at Esheness. The Atlantic rollers were crashing in on the spectacular rocky shore ! That night we stayed at Busta House hotel and Hamish got out his guitar ! The rowdy sing song was a tribute to America and possibly also to the quality wine bought by Alan and Arthur jointly and the malt whisky that followed dinner.

Friday July 9th. We visited Scalloway castle built by Robert Earl of Orkney in 1600 and then went via Bigton to St Ninians Isle before meeting our well travelled bags at the airport for lunch and return flight to Edinburgh.

It was a memorable trip with a great group and  better than expected weather and a very fitting finale to my series of Highland Tours of Scotland and Carmichael relevant sites in Cornwall and France over the past thirty years !

Thanks to all who participated in both gathering and tour and in particular to Faye Craig for her fantastic help and to Trish , Andrew, Terri and Fraser plus Sarah and Randy. Mario & Goshia even managed to put in a late appearance and do great works at Carmichael whilst the tour was in progress.

Richard C of C 20/07/2010