UMPQUA — Despite having no Scottish ancestry at all, Gary Williams, of Renton, Washington, ate five servings of haggis Saturday and placed second in a haggis-eating contest.
It was all part of the fun at the 2021 Highland Games & Clan Gathering at Henry Estate Winery in Umpqua Saturday.
Williams said it was the first time he’d eaten the traditional Scottish dish.
“It was kind of a spicy, I don’t know, oaty flavor. I thought it was good,” he said.
It was chewy, though.
“You couldn’t just take a couple bites and swallow it. You had to chew it up pretty good,” he said.
Charles Lamb, of Roseburg, broke down the ingredient list for haggis.
It’s made with lamb heart, lamb liver, Scottish oatmeal, onions, cracked black pepper and a little beef suet all stuffed into a lamb stomach. Then it was served with “neeps and tatties,” or rutabagas and potatoes.
It’s a hearty meal, he said.
“It was at a time when Scotland ate primarily oats for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so this was a real treat,” Lamb said.
Mention you have Scottish ancestry and Pat and James Mcclean, of Beaverton, will literally pull out a book of names to look up your family surnames and tell you what clan your family is part of.
The Mccleans, naturally, sat at the Mcclean clan’s booth Saturday, one of many clan booths spread out at the winery for the gathering. They’ve been attending gatherings like this for 40 years.
Pat Mcclean said her favorite part of highland games is helping people find their Scottish ancestry. And if their ancestry is “the dreaded E word” — English — she has this advice. “You just tell your family you’re from southern Scotland.”
James Mcclean was one of many men wearing kilts at the event. His was green, made with the Mcclean family’s hunting plaid. It’s very comfortable, he said.
“I’ve got a kilt on maybe 100 days a year,” he said.
Over at the Wallace clan’s booth, Mark Nelson explained that despite being of a different Scottish bloodline, he became part of the Wallace clan by becoming friends with a clan chief.
“He brought me in as a member of the clan under an old feudal term called bond of manrent, which means I pled my fealty to the chief and then I became a full clan member,” he said.
Nelson wore a bright red Wallace modern tartan and a “mask sporran” bag made of muskrat at his waist.
Nelson is proud of his Scottish heritage and said it’s one many Americans share.
“A lot of them ended up here in the New World and ended up creating the country that we have now,” he said.
Some of those who turned out Saturday came simply to watch the games, listen to the pipe music and enjoy the food.
Jessica and Anthony Wyatt, of Myrtle Creek, were among them.
Jessica Wyatt was adopted but knows she has some Scottish ancestry thanks to a 23 and Me genetic test. Anthony Wyatt, her husband, said he has none, but he wore a brown kilt to join in the spirit of the event.
As they watched the sheaf toss, contestants stuck a pitchfork into a burlap bag filled with straw and tossed it as high as they could over a bar. Anthony Wyatt said he liked watching the games, which reminded him of watching track and field competitions in high school.
“It looks like something I’d like to try actually,” he said.
For Jessica Wyatt, who is a nurse at CHI Mercy Medical Center and has been spending a lot of time dealing with death and tragedy during the pandemic, it was a welcome break.
“I like the bagpipes, so just hearing it throughout the whole time walking around. It definitely puts you in the feel of being back in Scotland,” she said.
FIRST place in Haggis eating contest is Kate Traynor,
of Sutherlin. She ate SIX Haggis! Yay for her and
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