I like to think we’re all a wee bit Scotch! After all, these hardy folks helped found this great nation. Many of them settled the wild western frontier in the 1700s, which then was Western Pennsylvania.
In June of 1763, Native Americans attacked eight British forts, burning them to the ground and killing most of the soldiers. The unlucky survivors were burned at the stake.
The largest British bastion was Fort Pitt, covering 17 acres. A town called Pittsburgh grew up around the fort. In May of 1763, the fort was attacked by more than 500 native warriors under Pontiac, the chief of the Ottawa tribe.
With the garrison trapped inside, the Indian raiders ran wild throughout the frontier, killing settlers and soldiers alike.
General Jeffrey Amherst, the British commander of North America, sent a Colonel Henry Bouquet to relieve Fort Pitt from nearby Fort Ligonier, which had beat off two attacks. Most of Bouquet’s men were Scottish Highlanders from the 42nd Black Watch and 77th Montgomery’s Highlanders Regiments.
Near my childhood home, the relief column was ambushed by combined tribes. Bouquet was forced into a fighting retreat, withdrawing to a small clearing where he ordered his soldiers to build a flour bag fort from the hundreds of bags of supplies for Fort Pitt.
British casualties continued to mount as the Native Americans tightened the noose. After a sleepless night, Bouquet send two companies of Black Watch to withdraw as if they were retreating.
Instead, the Highlanders attacked the rear and flanks of the surprised Indians, routing the natives while causing heavy casualties. Fort Pitt was finally relieved and it was the end of Pontiac’s war.
Even today, we’re reminded of our Scottish past. I’m writing this on a Mac (MacIntosh) computer after eating a big mac at the local McDonalds Hamburgers. Many friends worked at the McDonnell Douglas aircraft factory in Long Beach.
My brother traced our ancestry back to Castle Drum in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. For centuries, it has been the ancestral home of the Clan Irvine. William de Irwyn was gifted the Royal Forest of Drum and the Tower of Drum by King Robert the Bruce in 1323.
While my family enjoyed the popular Highland Games near Fort Ligonier many years, I was always too embarrassed to wear a kilt or participate in the Highland games. What would the other kids say?
So when I heard about the Scottish Festival coming to the Queen Mary this weekend, I was interested in reliving my youth and remembering my heritage. I decided to wear my kilt this week to show my pride in my heritage. To show that Scottish Americans helped make this country what it is today.
I even wore my kilt to my friend’s birthday party in Naples. The hostess said she loved men in kilts, maybe I have better looking legs than I thought! Maybe I should have shaved them!
Naturally, there were those who questioned by choice of wardrobe. “I didn’t know this was a costume party?” one woman asked the hostess.
“It’s not a costume if you’re really Scottish,” my friend replied. “Rich is just honoring his heritage.”
And I’ve been wearing my kilt in Seal Beach. While most people smile and nod at me, one gentleman in a Main Street bar remarked that I must be some kind of lord.
“I’m not a Laird,” I thought as I continued on my stroll. “I’m just Scotsman.”