The 1995 Gathering

The following appeared in the Autumn 1995 issue of Roslin O Roslin (Vol 3 No 1), Rory Sinclair, Editor:

The regular quadrennial meeting of the Clan Sinclair Association took place in Nova Scotia this past August. Your editor was in the midst of preparing a report on the proceedings when this appeared in the mail from Lee St Clair, son of Neil St Clair, the newly elected Vice-President of the Nova Scotia Society. Lee has not been involved in the Clan Association up to now and your editor found his report both eloquent and moving and much better than anything he could come up with. So here is Lee.

by Lee St Clair

As a kid in high school, I undertook the study of French because the name St Clair was French, and I thought that our family was of French descent. However, long after I'd left my high school romanticism behind, my father began looking into the genealogy of our family. His discovery that our family is descended from a young man who emigrated from Scotland shortly before the American War of Independence ultimately led me to my first Clan Sinclair Gathering in Baddeck, Nova Scotia in August 1995.

I thought I'd come prepared. Earlier in the summer I'd gone to see the movie Braveheart, the story of Sir William Wallace and his fight for the independence of Scotland from England. It was a stirring epic, men dashing about in kilts, swords held high with pride. I had read Andrew Sinclair's wonderful book, The Sword and the Grail, which I found quite by accident a year and a half earlier. I had joined the Prince Henry Sinclair Society and had read several books about his exploits. My mind and imagination were aflame with visions of William the Conqueror and the nine St Clairs at Hastings, Duncan and Macbeth, Rob Roy and the glorious history of Scotland.

Yet, when I stepped out of my parents' car and heard the haunting strains of a bagpipe coming from up the hill at the lodge where the gathering was being held, I knew I wasn't prepared at all. I had never been personal for me until that moment. It had all been legend and myth and movie magic. But to see a man, a dozen yards away, wearing a kilt and playing the pipes suddenly brought it home. Over the course of the weekend, I was to hear that young (! ed.) man play several more times. His name is Rory Sinclair, Clan Piper. And his music haunts me still as I replay it in my mind.

The first evening at the banquet, I thrilled to many sights and sounds and feelings: dozens of men in their kilts with the Sinclair tartan in its variety of forms that seemed to be calling to me from the past; women in their tartan dresses and skirts; eating haggis for the very first time; hearing speeches filled with the pride of our effort as an Association to keep our heritage alive; friendly people whom I had never before met saying without words: "We are strangers, yet we are Sinclairs and St Clairs. We have a history. We are Clan and we are Family - Welcome!"

I sat amazed and awed as Niven Sinclair, the guest speaker from Caithness and now London, told us about Prince Henry Sinclair and his voyage to Nova Scotia and the New World/ Can we know for a scientific certainty that he made that momentous discovery in 1398? Perhaps not. But I choose to believe he did. I choose to bask in the reflected pride that someone in our Clan accomplished something so noble and worthy. And if the proof is there to be found, which I believe it is, then Niven Sinclair is the man to lead the way in this discovery. I am proud to have met him, and prouder still to support him in his magnificent effort.

Saturday morning: the business meeting. I beamed with pride as my father, Neil St Clair was elected Vice-President of the Clan Sinclair Association of Canada. For me, it was fitting that the man who had inadvertently discovered our heritage should suddenly find himself in the very midst of trying to preserve it.

Saturday night at the Ceilidh: the music was not just good, it carried a very Sinclair flavour: Ian Sinclair and his cousin Joanne Sinclair sang a duet with Ian on the guitar and Rory Sinclair played two tunes he wrote himself, a lament for his father and a hornpipe for his mother. The company and conversation was excellent. Later, the film that Niven Sinclair brought highlighting the Templar connection to Scotland and the Clan Sinclair was intriguing.

Window at Forbes United Church, Loch Katrine - 
Click here for photos of the early days

And Sunday morning: the Church service at Loch Katrine. The men and women resplendent in their tartans. The stained glass windows with the glorious clan crests; the Clan Sinclair crest proudly taking precedence as the first of the windows to be installed. The music offered by Clan members. The noble, haunting tunes from the pipes of our Clan Piper. Pride in purpose, pride in family, pride in Clan. It all came together there, that Sunday morning.

And then it was over.

I came, thinking I was prepared. I left knowing that so much more lay before me. I have the reissue of Pohl's book on Prince Henry to read as well as my recently acquired A History of Scotland by J.D. Mackie. I have the Highland Games at Antigonish to attend and the Tattoo in Halifax. And I have the dream of a visit to Scotland itself, ever before.

I came thinking I was prepared, but I was not half prepared for the feeling of pride in being a St Clair, the pride of Scottish heritage, that I took home with me. It is a good thing to feel.


Well said, Lee! It should be added for the record that the new slate of officers was elected as follows:

  • Past-President: Jack G. Sinclair
  • President: William E. "Bill" Sinclair
  • Vice-President, Nova Scotia Society: Neil St Clair
  • Vice-President, Central Ontario: Glen Sinclair
  • Vice-President, Western Ontario: Heather St Clair Wilkerson
  • Secretary-Treasurer: Rory Sinclair


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