LAURINBURG — Next weekend’s 25th Scottish Heritage Weekend will bring centuries of Scottish history and its influence on the Carolinas to life in its liveliest format yet.
Founded in Fayetteville as a celebration of the 250th anniversary of the first group of Highland Scots to arrive in North Carolina, the event will celebrate its 20th year at St. Andrews University beginning on April 4 with a series of lectures, demonstrations, and activities.
With advance registrations already in from Florida to Ontario, Canada, the weekend usually attracts more than 100 people with interests in genealogy and Scottish history.
“We’re in the heart of what was at one time the largest Scottish settlement in North America,” said symposium organizer and Scottish Heritage Center director Bill Caudill of the region between the Cape Fear valley and upper Pee Dee. “There were several thousand Scots who settled here after the Revolutionary War and a long time afterward — immigration continued here for about 100 years.”
Check-in will begin at 12:45 p.m. on April 4 at the William Henry Belk Center on the St. Andrews campus, followed by a lecture from Bruce Durie on “Scottish Roots and How to Dig Them Up.” Durie is currently chief genealogist and historian for ancestral specialists MacDonald and Rees, Ltd. He also teaches at the University of Edinburgh.
Other weekend lectures will include Douglas Kelly’s “The Presbyterian Customs and Traditions of Carolina Scots,” Michael Newton’s “The Origins of Scottish Highland Dance Traditions,” which will be followed by a dance demonstration and audience participation activity, and another lecture by Durie on “How to Re-Cross the Atlantic: Approaching Problems in Scottish Genealogy Research.”
Included in the symposium is attendance to the Friday evening Scottish Heritage Center Awards Banquet and a prior reception, beginning at 6 p.m.
The center will present the inaugural Saltire Award, recognizing the efforts of an individual or group to preserve and interpret Scottish culture, to Newton. As a technical lead in the Digital Humanities Lab at the University of North Carolina, Newton has published numerous articles on Scottish language, history, culture, music, and literature.
The Pine and Thistle Award, presented for the first time this year, will henceforth be given to individuals and groups within the Carolinas which have represented the legacy of the areas Scottish settlers of the Carolinas through their work. Mill Prong Preservation, Inc. will be this year’s honoree.
“What we’re doing is trying to honor people who are doing outstanding things in helping to preserve Scottish history and culture,” said Caudill. “We’re trying to help people recognize that there are other types of history outside of American history and southern history that have an impact on our own region.”
Following the awards banquet, St. Andrews will host the launch of Newton’s book “The Naughty Little Book of Gaelic: All the Scottish Gaelic You Need to Know to Curse, Swear, Drink, Smoke, and Fool Around.”
Also during the symposium, Celtic violinist Jamie Laval will speak on “An Instrumentalist’s Approach to Scottish Dance,” prior to performing at 7:30 p.m. on April 5 in St. Andrews’ Avinger Auditorium with the university’s pipe band.
A resident of Tryon, Laval won the U.S. National Scottish Fiddle Championship in 2002. The most recent of his three albums, Murmurs and Drones, won the popular vote for “Best World Traditional Album” in the 2012 Independent Music Awards.
The Saturday concert, “A Musical Celebration of National Tartan Day,” is free and open to the public.
On April 6, the weekend will close at Laurinburg Presbyterian Church with a Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans worship service, followed by lunch. The service, which traces its origins to Scottish-Americans rallying patriotic spirit during World War II, will begin at 11 a.m.
Cost for the Kirkin’ of the Tartans lunch is $10 per adult and $5 for children under 12. For information and registration for the lunch, call 910-276-0831.
The two days of lectures, banquet, book launching and concert costs $140 per person. Cost to attend only the April 4 reception and awards is $40. Registration closes on Monday. For information, call 910-277-5236.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-276-2311, ext. 17. Follow her on Twitter @emkaylbg.