Glasgow Lands festival brings Scottish sights, sounds, feats of strength to Look Park

  • Fiddler Sarah Michel improvises for a rapt audience Saturday during her set at the Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival at Look Park. FOR THE GAZETTE/Sabato Visconti

  • Sabato Visconti—Copyright.2022

Staff Writer
Published: 7/17/2022 9:04:29 PM
Modified: 7/17/2022 9:01:32 PM

NORTHAMPTON — With a fern tucked behind the Clan Donnachaidh pin of his Scottish beret tam and the colors of the Duncan tartan on his kilt, Scott T. Duncan proudly marched out when his clan was announced Saturday at the 27th annual Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival.

“Garg ‘nuair dhùisgear!” Duncan forcefully shouted his clan’s war cry in Gaelic, while thrusting a flag in the air. “Fierce when roused!”

Growing up, Duncan, a resident of Manchester, Connecticut, and Connecticut state representative of the Northeast Branch of the Clan Donnachaidh Society, didn’t carry on or practice many of the traditions pertaining to his Scottish heritage.

But sharing the history of his clan and shouting the battle cry of his ancestors is something he looks forward to as he has been attending the annual event since the late 1990s.

Duncan was among countless others sporting kilts of their clans and showcasing their Scottish pride at Look Park on Saturday. Thousands attended the daylong event, which returned to the area after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival is the only Scottish festival in Massachusetts, and according to the festival committee, is the second largest one in New England, behind the New Hampshire Highland Games and Festival, held annually in Concord.

The first Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival was held in Blandford in 1994 at the local fairgrounds as a way to raise money for the restoration of the town’s historic church. Initially, it was thought that the event would be held once, but the response was so positive that it has become an annual event, according to Peter Langmore, chairman of the festival committee.

After five years in Blandford, the festival was moved to Stanley Park in Westfield. In 2004, the festival was moved to Look Park and has been held there ever since.

The festival is also a nonprofit organization whose mission it is to promote Scottish heritage and culture. The word “clan” derives from the Gaelic word “clann,” which means children — one large family where loyalty could extend for many generations, said Langmore at the event. Those associated with a clan are bonded by blood, marriage or allegiance to the chief, and many of them resided in neighboring communities.

The Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival also assists other nonprofits with money raised at the event, including Northampton human services provider Viability Inc. and mental health services provider River Valley Counseling Center in Northampton.

Throughout the day, attendees could see traditional highland dancing, a competition of pipe bands, snare drumming and a number of competitors test their athletic strengths with the heavy hammer and caber toss.

Another clan that was represented at the festival was that of Clan Fraser. Decked out in the clan’s tartans were Emily and Edward Groner, and their daughter, Kori Thompson. Together, the family runs Highland Ledge Farm, a business that creates hand-crafted blends of sweet or spicy jams as well as simple syrups and mustards. The family from Savoy has traveled to more than 120 fairs selling their wares.

After her husband retired, Emily Groner tagged him to help her with what she described as a “hobby.” Together, they made 10 cases of everything in hopes that it would all last the year. But before they knew it, Thompson said, her mother called her where she was living in North Carolina and asked her to join in the business as well.

As members of the Clan Fraser, Thompson said buying decorative items for the business has been more challenging in the last few years.

In recent years, the clan has become one of the most well known thanks to the best-selling book series by Diana Gabaldon as well as the Starz TV series, “Outlander.” The show features Scottish highlander Jamie Fraser and his time-traveling wife, Claire, and stars actors Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe.

“At first, I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t find any ribbon with Fraser colors and then it hit me: Oh! Outlander!” said Thompson.

In addition to those who were well-versed with their lineage was a table set up for those who aren’t as familiar. Cynthia Mulcahy, a genealogist from Springfield and a descendant of Clan MacPherson, ran the Genealogy Corner booth.

After her mother died when she was a young girl, Mulcahy said she wanted to learn more.

“I have a passion and love for where I came from; it defines who we are and how we are now,” said Mulcahy. “And I’ve found that oftentimes, it can tell you where you’re going.”

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.
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