SALADO — The 58th Scottish Gathering and Highland Games closed out Sunday with a bagpipe band competition, dog parade, live Celtic music and children’s games.
Dave Swarthout, director of Salado Museum and College Park, which sponsors the games, said the festival’s Clan Village is the largest gathering of Scottish clans in Texas. Scott Fletcher, games chairman, said more than 40 clans were represented, and that more clans were indirectly represented through their association with the larger clans.
Fletcher is of the Fletcher Clan, he said, not directly represented at the games. He was decked out in Scottish garb, with a kilt and sporran, and had a knife tucked in his hose, called a sgian dubh.
“It’s the only knife you’re allowed to carry into someone’s house, and the only knife you’d eat with at a meal,” he said, referring to the old days in Scotland. It’s also called the “black” or hidden knife, he said.
The St. Thomas Episcopal School Pipe Band, which has attended the Salado games for many years, was competing once again. The school’s B Band marched into a small square partially surrounded by vendors’ tents, and under the direction of Lyric Todkill, played a march medley of four Scottish tunes.
Nick Hudson, one of the school’s piping instructors, said it was the B Band, primarily made of middle school students. The A Band primarily has high school students, he said.
St. Thomas also has a C Band, or beginners band, Hudson said.
“We start them in the fourth grade,” he said. “We start them on a recorder, a practice tuner. That lets them get the fingering. We wait until they’ve got five tunes. Then we start them on the bagpiping. That can take six months to a year and a half.”
Hudson said he and Todkill got their musical degrees at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
“We did learn some other instruments, but our specialty was bagpipes,” he said.
Hazel McWhinnie of Houston introduced her son, James McWhinnie, a tenth-grader who plays bagpipes in the band. She’s Scottish, she said, and used to dance at Scottish games.
“This is the music part of his life,” she said. “This is something he’s always wanted to do. He’s only been doing it since the ninth grade. He’s come a long way.”
In addition to the medley, James McWhinnie said that on Saturday he played in another medley and in a solo competition, where he placed seventh.
“It was a really enjoyable experience,” he said of the competition. “I got to hang out with all my friends today.”
He’s going to be a marine biologist, he said.
“Maybe when I’m older I’ll join the alumni band for St. Thomas,” he said.