With many of our members
new to the Clan Cameron Association since 2001, the date of the last
International Gathering at Achnacarry, the question will surely be asked “What
is a Gathering?”
For over half a
millennium the Chief of Clan Cameron has made the occasional “call” for his
clansfolk to gather or – in terms of military action – muster.
In centuries past this was done by sending runners throughout Lochaber,
each with a burning torch or cross. At
some pre-designated sites there were well situated pyres of timber, which were
lit to notify clansfolk in adjacent glens and along the shore of lochs.
Word spread quickly and excitement was in the air.
Later, newspapers and letters notified all those loyal to Lochiel.
Today, word is spread via modern conveyances, but the message remains the
same “Unite - Gather.”
The 2001 International
Gathering at Achnacarry consisted of an active, long weekend of events.
Beginning on a Thursday, a group of over 50 members made a group ascent
of Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest peak. It
was a chilly, rainy day, but clansfolk took great pride in reaching the 4406’
summit. The following day Achnacarry
opened its gates and welcomed visitors to a tour of the Lochiel Estate.
Lectures were given, detailing the modern day management of land, and a
field trip was undertaken, demonstrating some of the estate resources, including
sheep shearing, red deer stalking and salmon farming.
That same evening, Lochiel officially welcomed everyone to the Gathering,
with a Clan Cameron Reception at a hotel in nearby Fort William.
Clansfolk turned out in their finest apparel, and hundreds had the chance
to rekindle old friendships and begin new ones.
It was obvious that this was going to be a very special weekend.
With the arrival of
Saturday, the “main event” commenced. The
grounds of Achnacarry, spanning from the impressive Clan Cameron Museum over to
Achnacarry Castle, were opened and an estimated 800 visitors joined in events.
A commemorative oak tree was planted on the grounds, marking the former
Lochiel’s 50th year as Chief of Clan Cameron, and a Cameron Cairn was
dedicated next to the museum, with a time capsule masoned into the middle.
Stone were brought by clansfolk, and many were engraved, noting their
origin. The grounds were soon
teeming with clansfolk, and an official march by the reviewing stand commenced,
which was followed by speeches and ceremonies, on a beautiful day in the West
Highlands. The castle was opened to
visitors and events including dancing, piping, fencing, archery, falconry, skeet
shooting and even helicopter rides were all featured, in addition to a huge tent
filled with vendors of unique Cameron-oriented items.
The day was a lengthy one, for the evening continued at a nearby hotel,
where a Clan Cameron Ceilidh was held. Live
music was featured, and everyone enjoyed the chance to wind down after a
wonderful day of culture, kith and kin.
The Gathering concluded on Sunday with a beautiful church service at St. Ciarnans, near Achnacarry and a shinty (Highland field hockey) match that afternoon between Clan Fraser and Clan Cameron. Afterwards, a venison barbeque was held and regretfully clansfolk said their goodbyes. A vow was made by many to await Lochiel’s next call to gather, and after eight years they will soon return to the West Highlands. Although most everyone planned other events and days to their trip in Scotland, the Clan Cameron Gathering was the centerpiece, that larger than life memory that will remain in their hearts and in legend for generations to come. With well over two years to plan and prepare for a visit to Lochaber, it is hoped that the members of Clan Cameron will answer the call and march with their kinfolk onto the field at Achnacarry, to salute Donald Cameron of Lochiel, XXVII Chief of Clan Cameron.