A Highland gathering in the Lowcountry 

Devin Clarke is just 2 1/2 years old, but you can bet he’ll be wearing his kilt on May 8.

That’s the day the 28th Annual Savannah Scottish Games and Highland Gathering will be held. “Our children grew up doing this,” says Devin’s grandmother, Sharon Clarke, of Rincon.

“Devin thinks he’s something special when he has his kilt on,” she says. “He likes going with his granddaddy, and he loves bagpipe music.”

The event is sponsored by two groups -- the Coastal Scottish Heritage Society and St. Andrew’s Society. The Savannah games are a descendant of an ancient tradition.

“A long time ago, the Scots got together clan-wise,”Clarke says. “They gathered in certain localities to socialize, and they competed. They would toss sheaves of hay, they would toss the caber.”

The competitions came from routine activities. “Everything came out of the things they did every day,” Clarke says.

“The modern Scottish games get different clans together to celebrate our heritage,” she says. “There is a professional level of competition, but Savannah has an amateur competition.”

The games are open to anyone who is willing to try them. “If anyone wants to walk in off the field and compete, they can,”Clarke says. “It is open to both men and women.

“We also have children’s games,” she says. “There is even a miniature caber that they toss.”

There will be a mass pipe band and four pipe and drum bands. “We also host a dance competition based on traditional Scottish dance,” Clarke says. “The winner will go on to another, higher competition.”

There are some new activities this year. “We have a gentleman coming with border collies,” Clarke says. “The dogs will be herding sheep and ducks.”

The Savannah Harp Society will have a tent where members will demonstrate Scottish harp music. “The harp is a favorite instruments of all the Celts,”Clarke says.

The various clans will gather under tents. “You will see everything under the sun as far as Scottish dress,”Clarke says.

“There will be vendors under the pavilion selling clothing, bagpipes and music, pottery and jewelry,”Clarke says. “There will be several food vendors.”

One Scottish culinary favorite is the meat pie. “It looks like a turkey pot pie, but is made with mutton,”Clarke says. “It can be wrapped in paper and carried with them and is the Scottish version of the sandwich.”

There will be pastries, and Hamish’s Kitchen will sell Scotch Eggs. Visitors will have the opportunity to trace their own Celtic ancestry. There also will be a Parade of Tartans.

Each clan has its own tartan, a cloth that is woven in a specific pattern. “There is a Georgia tartan that is registered that is beautiful,” Clarke says.

The kilt not only is the traditional dress of Scottish men, it once was a necessity. “At one time, they were made of yards and yards of woven material,” Clarke says.

“They took the fabric and gathered it around the waist and cinched it in with a leather sash,” she says. “It provided clothing and warmth, because at

night, they rolled up in it like a sleeping bag.”

This is the 28th year the Savannah

Scottish Games have been held, but this year’s event will be at a new location. “Most have been held at Old Fort Jackson,”Clarke says. “Because of the river widening project, we can’t have it there this year.”

Instead, the games will be held at J.F. Gregory Park in Richmond Hill. “There will be signs on the highway to direct people,”Clarke says.

The gates will open at 8 a.m. and the games will begin at 9 a.m. The evening entertainment will conclude at 11 p.m.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children under 18 and free for children under 12. Be sure to bring lawn chairs and blankets.

You don’t have to be Scottish to enjoy the Scottish Games. “We love spectators,”Clarke says. “Most of the Scots who attend these things are pretty blase, and it’s the spectators who make it exciting.”

This year, military families will be particularly welcome. “We’re very much aware of the families who have a loved one involved in the Middle East,”Clarke says. “We want them to come out and enjoy the day and take their minds off their worries for a while.”

The day will close with a Ceilidh (pronounced KAY-lee) or Scottish party, which will begin at 6 p.m. The Ceilidh is free to anyone who has a games admission wristband.

Clarke says that the Scots were among the first settlers to arrive in Georgia. “The English subjugated them like they did the Irish,” she says. “Wherever there are Scots, they have a tendency to find each other.”

Both Clarke and her husband, Gil, who is the chairman of the Scottish

games, have Scottish ancestors. “This is part of our life,” she says. “Part of our interest is making sure the games go on.”

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