Highland Games 2017: The Calling of The Clans

Category:  News
Wednesday, September 13th, 2017 at 3:27 PM
Highland Games 2017: The Calling of The Clans by Hannah McDonald
Photo: Hannah McDonald

On Friday night, just as the sun had finished its descent below the horizon, people gathered for the 24th annual “Calling of The Clans.” A scene such as this sounds like it would take place in Edinburgh, Scotland, but instead, it was happening on the grounds of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.

Rainy weather throughout much of the day on Sept. 8 led people to believe that the event would be canceled.

The Calling of The Clans requires a large bonfire and much of the wood had been exposed to the precipitation. Luckily, Jim Dahle, director of environmental health and safety at the university, declared that the festivities could continue as planned after a slight delay.

This Calling of The Clans ceremony is part of the much larger Highland Games, an event that takes place annually at Edinboro University. Dr. Timothy Thompson, the Highland Games director, was in attendance at the bonfire. He is the head of the communication, journalism and media department at Edinboro University and the one who started the event.

Before coming to Edinboro, he had witnessed a Scottish festival in Ohio that inspired him to create what would become the Highland Games.

When Thompson began working at Edinboro University in 1990, he thought: “Fighting Scots, Edinboro, we would have an event like that, and we didn’t! So, I went and talked to the president and the VPs and said, ‘hey do we want to do this?’” At first, his idea was rejected because it would cost too much. Still, Thompson was motivated to get his concept off the ground and with the help of a few of his classes, he made it happen.

“So, I got some classes working on creating an event for the spring and then it just took on a Scottish tone,” Thompson said. “So, it became the Spring Highlands Festival...then it’s kind of evolved into the Edinboro Highland Games.”

While Thompson spoke, bagpipes played in the distance, signaling the start of the event.

Slightly past 8:30 p.m. — only 15 minutes past the originally planned start time — the ceremony began on the shores of Mallory Lake. Along the path and around the gazebo, members of various clans slowly paraded to a large tipi-like structure of wood that was set to be the bones of the massive bonfire. Many individuals in the procession wore kilts and carried torches to help ignite the fire.

When the wood was set ablaze, under the supervision of local firefighters, members of each clan loudly announced the name of their clan into the darkening night. It was a sight to behold; sparks dancing into the sky while dozens of people surrounded the fire, announcing their heritage.

Once all the clans had announced their presence, a lone bagpipe player began performing. As people slowly began to abandon the glow of the fire and go home for the night, the music played on, as it would, for the remainder of the weekend and the 24th Edinboro Highland Games.

Hannah McDonald is the assistant news editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at eupnews.spectator@gmail.com. 

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