EDITOR’S NOTE: The columns of Bill Duncan are being reprinted in The News-Review. Duncan, who died in November 2011, wrote a weekly column for The News-Review and The Capital Press of Salem from 1981 to 2011. Duncan wrote the following column in February 1996. His thoughts are still pertinent to today.
I hope my son-in-law, Bruce, never finds out about the call of the clans at the Douglas County Scottish Society’s sixth annual Robert Burns Evening in Roseburg.
Robert Burns Evening is an event staged by the society each year on or near the Scottish poet’s birthday, which is Jan. 25. It is an evening of music, folk dancing and of course readings from the famous poet’s works.
The hills of Roseburg resound on this annual occasion with the call of the pipes. Midway through, there’s the traditional piping of the haggis with a reading from the poet about this Scottish delicacy.
There is another reason, I suspect — it is the one day a year when male Scots can wear their kilts.
About as close as I will come to that attire is to put on my Duncan tartan tie. Nor will I partake of haggis. Scottish traditions only go so far.
It is that tie, however, that brings me to my son-in-law, Bruce.
He claims to be of Scottish heritage himself and is a bit of a braggart about his particular clan. I’ve never quite understood his claim, since I have been unable to find his surname in my list of Scottish clans and tartans.
My daughter, Sue, knowing the pride I have in my Scottish heritage, wanted to buy me the tie woven of the greens, the blacks, the reds and the whites of the Duncan tartan.
Braggart Bruce informed her it would be difficult to find since the Duncans were a minor clan.
A minor clan indeed.
In fact, he told her the name Duncan was merely a Gaelic personal name.
It wasn’t even spelled the same in the early days of Scotland, he said, but eventually was phonetically simplified to “Duncan,” from “Donnchadh.” He couldn’t quite explain how the first name of some Gaelic ancestor led to a whole clan of people named Duncan.
Minor clan indeed.
Does he not know that the Duncan clan dates back in Scottish history as one of the oldest on record? Does he not know that we come from a long line of kings? Perhaps he never heard of Macbeth and the treachery of his wife, Gruoch?
A minor clan indeed.
Needless to say my daughter found the tie and I’ve proudly worn it for the past six years, especially to the Robert Burns Evenings.
For the first time in my memory this year, at the conclusion of the evening — just before we all sang Robert Burns immortal “Auld Lang Syne” — society president Robert Kincaid led a roll call of the clans, accompanied by a drum roll from the Southern Oregon Scottish Pipe Band of Medford. Representatives from each clan made their way to the stage.
There were the usual MacAlisters, MacAndrews, MacLeans, MacAuleys, MacDonalds, MacGregors and a MacKenzie or two, along with some Campbells, Camerons, Douglases, Fergusons, Grahams and the like, but not one Duncan was called.
For the shame of it.
Bruce would love to have this bit of salt for the wound. Minor clan, he’d say, not like his clan, the MacKenzies.
What I’d like to know is how he got the surname, Payne, if indeed he is a MacKenzie.
Oh, I’ve heard him say many times that he is Scottish on his mother’s side. She was a MacKenzie and, of course, the MacKenzies are a major clan.