Last week we were blessed with a bagpiper playing in the school yard behind our house. He was obviously practising for something – he marched up and down along the back side of the school in a depression where he probably thought no one would notice him… its hard not to notice bagpipes playing.
I personally love the sound – it strikes some deep ancestral chord in my brain and makes me very happy. My husband, however, found it nerve wracking – he obviously doesn’t have any Scottish blood in him (that Welsh/French Hugenot!)
My maternal grandfather was a Nova Scotian Scot and proud of his long and celebrated heritage. His people lived in Nova Scotia since the early 17th century. It was on May 28, 1625 that his direct ancestor, Sir Robert Innes, became a baronet of Nova Scotia and was the first Scot to receive a land grant of 30,000 acres from King Charles I of England. The land was eventually parceled up and sold – and my Grandfather grew up on some of the remaining land in Porter’s Lake, Nova Scotia.
The family history goes back even farther to Christmas Day in 1160 when the knight Berowald was given a charter of land for service to the crown from King Malcolm of Scotland. The charter included the land along the seashore between the rivers Spey and Lowssie and henceforward was known as the Barony of Innes.
My Great Grandfather had been raised to believe that he and his family were in line to inherit the mythical and great Innes fortune. He did extensive research into the family history, even hiring a lawyer to travel to Scotland to push his case. The lawyer’s papers were, however, mysteriously destroyed by fire on-board ship while crossing the Atlantic.
By the time my Grandfather was old enough to take an interest in the family tree himself, the fortune was gone and it was discovered that my family had no claim to it anyway. But my Grandfather still carried on the with the research and even traveled to Scotland in 1961 to visit his ancestral home called Innes House. At that time the Lord Lyon of Arms was an Innes.
My Grandfather was a proud and persistent Scot, even after leaving Nova Scotia when he settled in New York. His neighbor in Bronxville, NY (Mr. Varley) liked to play his opera records very loudly on his porch in fine weather, and this drove my Grandfather mad. For revenge he would aim his stereo speakers out the back window and play bagpipe music even louder to drown out the arias… it must have been something to hear that battle going on.
I gather from reading the book that my ancestors were considered a pretty tough bunch even back then – for example in 1584 Lady Innes (Isabelle Forbes) took revenge upon her husband’s murderer:
“There was no mercy for him, for slain he was, and his hoar head cut off and taken by the widow of him whom he had slain, and casten at the King’s feet, a thing too masculine to be commended in a woman.” from the book Ane Account of the Familie of Innes written in 1698
Way to go ancestral lady!
I grew up learning that eating oatmeal and being a penny pincher were Scottish traits that my Grandfather and Mother both admired and shared. I do like my porridge every morning and I do worry about money all the time, but not to the same extent or with the same delight that was taught to me through family lore.
My mother made sure that we had Innes tartan around all the time. We had it made into pillows on the sofa, made into jackets, neckties for my father, vests, scarves, shirts, and of course homemade kilts.
The year before we were married my husband and I went to London for a couple of weeks and naturally I was thrilled to order a custom-made, authentic kilt in Innes tartan. Alas, I was a tiny wee lass then and the kilt only fit until I got pregnant with my first child – and then even letting it out didn’t help. It still sits in my closet waiting to be remade into something else… someday I will honor my family heritage and make something I can use out of it – a sleeve or the leg for a pair of pants perhaps.
My Grandfather called me a “Sturdy Wee Lass” when I was a toddler, and that I was. Sadly my Grandfather died when I was little more than 3 so I don’t remember him at all. But his legacy lives on in my heart – and someday I hope to go home to Scotland and visit the castle my people built all those years ago and listen to lots of bagpipes and eat lots of porridge.