I often talk about my Appalachian roots, but my family tree was planted across the Atlantic in the peat hills of Scotland (McCallister), the rugged landscape of Wales (Claye), Scandinavia and the Mediterranean (names too many to list). When I lived “up north” it was easy to find events and groups that celebrated the various cultural heritages of the people who lived there. In fact, one of my favorite pastimes back in the day was wiling away Sunday afternoons with my FOOTMAD (Friends of Old-Time Music and Dance) comrades, gathered in a church basement or corporate auditorium with other like-minded folks where our common music, dancing and food ancestry was celebrated, in a family friendly atmosphere, on a monthly basis.
Rather than memorizing names and dates by rote, although I think that’s important too, I like to learn history by hearing about the people — their roles in society, and how they supported and entertained themselves. It gives a human component to history that’s often lacking in classroom learning.
After attending the Viking Althing at Fort King George a few weeks ago, I began to pay more attention to re-enactments being held locally. While not the days-long cultural festivals of my younger years, they certainly fill a void I’d been hard-pressed to find an answer for. Honestly, I don’t know why these well-done, and wonderfully attended events, had been off my radar for so long.
More re-enactment fun returns Saturday, when Scottish Heritage Day, A Colonial Re-enactment is held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Fort King George State Historic Site in Darien. Admission ranges from $4-$7.50 based on age.
McIntosh County, like many areas of the East Coast and Appalachian mountains, was settled by the Scots.
The British built Fort King George in 1721, near what would become Darien, according to site ranger Jason Baker. At the time, it was the southernmost outpost of the British Empire in North America. After being attacked by the Spanish in 1727, the fort was abandoned, but its remnants still constitute the oldest fort on the Georgia Coast.
Also according to Baker, in 1736, Scottish Highlanders, recruited by James Oglethorpe to act a settler-soldiers and protect the frontiers of Georgia from the Spanish in Florida, the French in the Alabama basin and the Indian allies of each colonial enterprise, established New Inverness (now Darien) in January 1736. The emigrants included 177 men, women and children. Darien was named after the Darien Scheme, a former Scottish colony in Panama. Among the first settlers of Darien was Lachlan McGillivray, who became a trader with the Creek people, and Lachlan McIntosh, an American Revolutionary War leader.
The McIntosh County Scots had emigrated from Inverness and most spoke only Gaelic.
It is those first settlers to whom tribute will be paid during Saturday’s event. Two highlights include the 10 a.m. unveiling of the fort’s newly rebuilt brick bread/brew oven made possible for the nonprofit “Friends of Fort King George” support group, and of course, a battle re-enactment.
At 3 p.m. Saturday, the Scots will be defending Fort King George against the Army of Spain from The Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Fla.
Baker said the re-enactors who attend the event come from all over the Southeast, with less than half of them being from within an hour’s drive away.
No cultural festival is complete without food and Saturday’s event is no exception. A food truck, owned by Molly McPherson’s Scottish Pub & Grill of Savannah, will be on hand to serve traditional Scottish fare, including Scotch eggs, neeps and tatties (potatoes and rutabaga) and of course, haggis. Haggis, for the uninitiated, is, according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, “a traditionally Scottish dish that consists of the heart, liver, and lungs of a sheep or a calf minced with suet, onions, oatmeal, and seasonings and boiled in the stomach of the animal.” No, thanks.
In addition to the activities already mentioned, the event will also feature cannon and weapon firings, Scottish games, the Highlanders of Colonial Darien, Native American weapons and skills, blacksmithing and more.
Sounds like a winner to me. And fellas, don’t forget to wear your kilts.