The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Uncovering new and old heritage traditions

By Hazel Schaeffer

Besides offering an opportunity to herd sheep and hopefully interrupt classes with bagpipes, the “first annual” Scottish Heritage Day prompts the question: from where exactly does our heritage come?
I have personally wondered if there was anything more to it than the Scottish sounding “Mac” in Macalester. The random sample of students I asked about the issue were equally clueless. No mention of Scottish heritage is displayed on the college’s current history page. An older version devotes a full paragraph to our roots. Apparently our Scottish link comes from the college namesake and benefactor (but not founder) Charles Macalester. In the 1940s his heritage became a “living force at the College,” according to the college Web site, and in 1948 “the Chief of the Clan of MacAlister in Scotland, Lt. Colonel Charles Godfrey Summerville McAlister of Loup and Kennox, adopted the College into the Clan.” The tartan of this clan is featured on the garb of the student Pipe Band and Highland Dancers.

Though it might seem rather arbitrary to derive our identity (the school’s Scottish tie) from the heritage of our benefactor, I suppose most school mascots are random.

Scottish Heritage Day is sponsored by the program board and was planned by Allison Greenlee, assistant director of campus programs, Lea Barron, manager of special events, and Katie Agnew ’10, chair of the Program Board. Agnew, who has been working on the event since the summer, recounted how the event has come together piece by piece. The idea for the day came when a Scottish dancing group randomly contacted Greenlee, requesting to perform at Macalester for free. Greenlee wanted to build upon this single performance to promote Scottish culture. Learning about the existence of a fund to support Scottish heritage events convinced Greenlee that she could actually plan something worthwhile. The fund, set up by a donor a few years ago, provides an annual sum of roughly $1,000, has not been used for several years so this year there was three times the amount usually available.

Greenlee, Barron, and Agnew brainstormed ideas that went with the Scottish theme. One woman Agnew worked with for Orientation preparation owns and herds sheep, which prompted the demonstration at 4:30 P.M. today.

Agnew noted the planning committee rejected many ideas for the heritage day, in favor of making it “relatively small this year” as a trial run.

Scottish Heritage Day is funded by the Program Board, because the money from the fund was given to the pipe band last minute, Agnew said. “This year the program board is totally sponsoring it. We hope it won’t be that way in the future.. It was disappointing not to be able to use [the fund].”

“I was part of the planning process and, last minute was able to give the financial support,” which Agnew noted was roughly $3,000.

Though today may be the “first annual” Scottish Heritage Day, it is certainly not the first of its kind. The Scottish Country Fair took place every spring at Macalester from 1973 to 2002, and in turn replaced the Highland games, which ended in 1970. According to the college Web site, the Scottish Country Fair featured “bagpipe competitions, highland dancing, ancient games of brawn, and Scottish foods.” One such game was the caber toss. Each contestant would attempt to “stand a 100-pound, 18-foot telephone pole on end and throw it so that the top lands first,” according to a Mac Weekly article from the 1980s. Maybe it is arbitrary to celebrate the ancestry of a benefactor, but any excuse to see men in kilts and feel like I’m in Braveheart-to for one day be a warrior-is fine by me.

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