In 1909, three brothers got together (one of them my 4th or something Great Grandfather), and decided to have a picnic. The next year, 1910, there is a photograph of the Clan all gathered. In that year it went from a simple picnic, to a Reunion. I guess they had so much fun at the first, they decided to make it an annual event. And so it was for all these years.
In 2009 the Clan Chief even attended the 100th, and he was in attendance again this year.
The picnic is held at the heart of this wee hamlet. A service is held at the Old little Church in the morning, and the picnic itself begins in the afternoon, and used to be held next door at the hall. This year it was held in the basement of the church, as a new Antique business has moved into the hall.
This old Church (built in 1857) was that Great Grandfathers church I mentioned, as well as the church of quite a few of his descendants; most of whom are buried in the cemetery behind. My Grandmother went to church here growing up, and went to school across the road (which is now a private home).
This family is part of a larger group of families that were moved to Ireland from Scotland in the middle to late 1600’s. To have our little picnic attended by the Clan Chief, therefore, is quite an honour. However, he mentioned today that in actual fact his wife was a Canadian, and he met her 2 concessions North of that very spot. So you could say he has a certain fondness for the area, and Canada in general.
When I told my sister I even sat at the table for lunch with him, she’s like “how’d you score that?” Ahhhh connections, child, connections.
So today was the first time I’ve really been back to this picnic since 1989. It still astounds me to have been once again in that church, and maybe even sitting in the very pew as so many of my ancestors.
Like today, perhaps it was a humid early summer day. Maybe they got to church early to get a window seat, and the whole service that lovely wind blew on their faces. With those big church windows open, if there is any breeze at all, you are sure to catch it.
It feels like I’ve come full circle with this hunt I initiated in 2002; which was to find out more about my family. My sister and I grew up with this cast of ancestors, and I finally wanted to know what of it was true, and what our families story really was. I’ve learned alot over the last 11 years.
Sitting there today made me feel like I was truly becoming part of something. Beginning to become someone who actually helps to preserve and document history, to be witness to, and help to support and therefore help to ensure these types of gatherings remain for the coming generations.
I am the family historian, I suppose. I am the only one to pass the history of our family on to my nieces, and to let them know these tales of our ancestors passage to this “new” world. To let them know that they may have been simple, honest, hard-working farmers, but these three brothers sought to bring with them to their new home a piece of their old one. I guess maybe they too had that strong passion to preserve as much of that community spirit as they could. So they decided to gather the clan, once a year, and to celebrate new additions, or to honour the passing of a beloved.
And now, as then, these lines have all been intertwined, and as so often happens, long lost cousins found each other today. And more connections in the web are formed, and what was a tiny piece, grows into a whole new set of relations.
Next year I know where I want to be. I know the place, I know the time as it has remained the same for over a century. I know there will be new faces, and old. I know if I go I will know that I again am part of something larger then myself. And again I will feel blessed to be able to celebrate the strength of community.