Clan Sinclair Association (Canada)

Clan Sinclair Association, Canada Gathering, 2000

The Chief's journal of the 2000 Sinclair Gathering was published in Roslin O Roslin, Autumn 2000 and Winter 2001 
(Vol 3 No 21 and 22). Enjoy the pictures below, then, scroll down and enjoy the Personal View by Malcolm Caithness.  

Chief Ben Sylliboy receives the Sword of Peace from the Earl of Caithness - Chief to Chief . 

Barbara Sinclair Barnard, president of the Clan Sinclair Society of Nova Scotia.

The Hon Rita Joe PC reads a poem for the Sword of Peace Ceremony. 

Mi'kmaq dance of friendship.

Sinclair 2000: A Personal View by Malcolm Caithness

Click on each date below to view the Chief's journal.   

Tuesday 25th July - London: film launch, reception 

Tuesday 25th July - by Malcolm Caithness

Some of us - David and Gloria Bouschor; Bud Bouschor, Donald and Mary Sinclair, Amy and Andrew Sinclair, Alice, Martin and Marc Miller, Mary Allan, Tony and Anna Sinclair, Lena and Mats Lofstrom, Denise Fiennes, Iona, Berrie and me - had met the day before to go up the London Eye. Mary Selver wisely waited below as she thought the vertigo would be too much for her. However today was the true start of the Gathering.

In the morning those Commissioners that could attend the press launch of Andrew Sinclair's film The Secret Scroll at BAFTA in Piccadilly did so. Not as many press were there as I had hoped but it had been well trailed and written about the previous weekend so it was not "new". Andrew was delighted with how it went and he is generously going to share the profits with the Clan Sinclair Trust.

Denise Fiennes and Lorraine Verra not only organised BAFTA but the reception desks in the Central Park and Paragon Hotels where everyone was given their packs with instructions, tickets, labels and brochures and the labels for the UK contingent at the Lords.

In the evening the House of Lords Reception marked the official launch of the Gathering. The receiving line consisted of John and Marion Thurso, Berrie and me. The moment of truth - have they stayed at home? Did they make it? They are here!! Two years of planning reaches fruition.

It was lovely to see some old friends; put faces to people whose names I recognised and to meet everyone. Over 215 were there although there was a "travelling core" of 163 and it was good to have so many of my family and relations there. The weather was kind and the Terrace was well used.

Lord Reay, chief of Clan Mackay, was there as was Baroness Masham in her wheel chair so she had a good talk with Annette Smith from Australia. Lord Crathorne took the official photographs.

Just as I was preparing to make the speech of welcome the Division Bell rang which was an interesting experience and gave everyone a small insight into our political system. After voting I returned to make a few welcoming remarks and to think of those who would have loved to be with us but couldn't for various reasons. Time to chat to people but before I knew it, it was time to finish, as it was 8.30. It all went so quickly but I had really enjoyed it and if the others had we were off to a good start. Back home to pack and get organised for tomorrow.

Wednesday 26th July - en route by bus to Edinburgh 

Wednesday 26th July, by Malcolm Caithness

An early start with Niven's car arriving to pick Berrie and me up at 08.30. What a help that was. Quick stop at The Paragon, where everyone was getting ready to put all our luggage on the coach too and then off to the Lords to be there to greet everyone and organise the guides.

The coaches were a little late because of the traffic but suddenly they were all there together and Niven appeared out of nowhere and began handing out the Sinclair  baseball hats. The guides sorted people into groups and soon the tour of Parliament began. I roved between groups and pointed out the mosaic in Central Lobby of Queen Margaret holding the Holy Rood and the family connection. With that over, which everyone seemed to enjoy, we got on the coaches in high spirits to head North.

Niven, Rory, Berrie and I all took a coach and I just hoped we had not left anyone behind. A slow journey out of London because of the traffic but the motorway was clear. A ten-minute pit stop at a service station followed by a longer stop at Leicester for a late lunch. We started showing them the videos - "Sinclair Castles", which Niven and I had put together, and Andrew Sinclair's "The Secret Scroll". (This turned out to be a three-minute trailer for the main film and was a slight anticlimax but got a laugh and some interest as to what the full film would show).  Some dozed, some talked and some just thought about what they had already seen and wondered how the Gathering would continue after such a start. Time dragged a little but it is a long journey. A further stop for an early supper at the last service station that could accommodate us all in reasonable time.  

We took the Carter Bar road and soon the scenery and the nearness of Scotland began to perk people up. We stopped at Carter Bar (the border) for five minutes for air and to admire the view.

What was that noise? Yes, the pipes were out already and there was David Sinclair Bouschor (Ex President USA) with his Sinclair tartan bag closely followed by Rory (Secretary Canada) playing us "home". The mood changed and we were all back on a high. The first of the tears started, a few hugs - made all the more poignant by looking across land that once had been part of the Sinclair "empire".

We were tired but happy when we arrived late in Edinburgh. The two coaches that were meant to go to the Capital Moat House got there and the two for the Mount Royal also made it with all the right people aboard. We had transferred to the Mount Royal at short notice as the Apex had been flooded and our rooms were unusable. All the luggage finally reached the right rooms.

There was no food available at the Mount Royal so some just collapsed while others went out in search of liquid and solid refreshment. A small party of us found an underground bar with a "live group" and the conversation ranged from "how much do they get paid for this" to "they must do it for free" to "they must pay to be allowed to perform".  All good fun and so far no disasters.

Thursday 27th July - Rosslyn Day, HMY Britannia, Edinburgh Castle
  • Thursday 27th July, by Malcolm Caithness

    Rosslyn day. The two coaches from the Capital Moat House went to Rosslyn as did Niven and had a good morning there at the Chapel and the Castle. Whilst there Rory presented his pipe music composition The Rosslyn Chapel Suite to Peter and Stuart.

    Berrie took a group to the HMY Britannia and I took the others to Edinburgh Castle.

    We all met up for lunch at Harry Ramsdens, which worked well but the queue for the bar was a bit slow. Edna Kerr and Deidre Kinloch Anderson gave a talk and demonstration about the old and modern kilts. The microphone was not very good so some did not hear but they dressed Ward Ginn up in the traditional garb.

    In the afternoon the coaches reversed roles. Rory took a group to Britannia, Don did the Castle and Berrie and I went to Rosslyn.
    What an effort Peter and Helen Rosslyn had made. They took a week's holiday to be up there for us and they gave us free run of their Castle to wander as we wished.

    Stuart Beattie (the Curator) also did well in the Chapel and apart from a short sharp shower in the afternoon most saw both places in sunshine although a little rushed.

    Soon after five the two buses from Edinburgh returned in time for the evensong Service. The Chapel was full with seats in the Lady Chapel: Peter and I read lessons; Michael Fass conducted a moving and memorable Service. When was the last time so many Sinclairs were in the Chapel and it came so alive?

    We ended with the hymn Amazing Grace and after the organ stopped Rory played two refrains on the pipes - the second as he walked out of the Chapel and it faded away. Many more tears and another surprise that worked.

    Peter had a farewell gift for everyone with his and my coat of arms on it to commemorate the occasion.

    We all returned to the Capital Moat House Hotel for a buffet supper and were joined by Yves Walker, an old friend, who takes private parties around Scotland and who had advised on the itinerary and the Hon Matthew St Clair (son of Lord Sinclair).

    Quick dash to get as close to the Castle as possible to take our seats for the Royal Tribute - a memorable parade and display of Pipes and Drums, Massed Bands and dancing to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's Centenary. Slight hiccup as I had Berrie's ticket and was with a different part of the group but thanks to the mobile phone we sorted that out.

    A long day but thoroughly rewarding. Organiza­tionally the most taxing due to strict timing and so many changeovers and options. Having given everyone strict instructions to stay on the same coaches we had to shuffle them today to fit everything in but they all ended up back in the right place. If we can do this without a major hitch the rest should be OK.
Friday 28th July -  en route by bus to Caithness

Friday 28th July, by Malcolm Caithness

There was slight confusion about the departure time of the coaches from the Mount Royal as they, firstly, had to pick up the Cape Town Highlanders Pipe Band. They were in this country to take part in the Royal Tribute, which we saw last night, and the Tattoo next week. Their Commanding Officer David Mitchell (a Sinclair) had arranged two weeks earlier that they could be at our disposal for the weekend and we, at short notice, had arranged to take them to the Halkirk Games.

The band was not ready and we were an hour late leaving which was a bad start but thanks to everyone helping we had the luggage sorted and ready on the pavement for a quick loading and off.

The Capital Moat House Hotel coaches left on time. We saw them briefly at Blair Atholl - a successful stopping point - where they could spend a bit longer than planned and caught up fully at Aviemore for lunch. The mobile phone proved its worth as we had to delay lunch and it was a hot set meal at either the Cairngorm Hotel or No 1 Restaurant with Bruce Wilson (Nicky Sinclair's father). Just the job - hot soup and beef pie.

That noise again. One of the band pipers came through piping and my equilibrium returned to normal. We were all back together - a wee bit later than planned but that is not the end of the world. All the coach leaders had journey notes from Edinburgh to point out the various landmarks en route, which was making the trip more interesting.

What a great crowd we have with us - all such fun and determined to enjoy it. Spirits were right back on high as we set forth on the penultimate leg to Dunrobin Castle for tea. The sea haar [sea mist] was in but a few telephone calls soon confirmed that the falconry display - another surprise - would take place. Many watched that, went round the Castle and Gardens and had tea after the initial welcome from Lord Strathnaver, the son of the Chief of Clan Sutherland.

Rory, who had gone ahead from Aviemore with Shaun Williamson to pick up his hire car in Inverness, arrived just as people were getting ready to leave. I highjacked him and slipped away ahead of the coaches to the Ord - the County boundary. Ian from Noss and Ron were there, kilted and brandishing claymores, with the first of the welcome banners and the engrailed cross flag in place as planned. Rory was amazed, quickly changed into his kilt and got his pipes out in readiness.

Berrie, who was the only other person in on this one, was in the lead coach with instructions to go as slowly as possible but not to stop as it is too dangerous. We lined up, waited under attack from midges, and then Berrie was on the mobile to say they were almost there.

What a great sight as the first coach came into view around the corner and the clan was piped back into their homeland. Emotion took over completely and I will never forget it. The piping, the cheering from the coaches and the waving is a lasting memory as is the way the coaches tilted over as everyone in them moved to the left to see what was happening!

Back into the car and we soon caught up with my coach and flagged it down so I could reboard. In all the excitement I had taken the journey notes with me so they had had no commentary since Dunrobin so I had some catching up to do.

Another test for the planning was coming up. The coaches were going to different hotels (Weigh Inn, Ulbster Arms, Park, Station, and St Clair) and hopefully everyone had colour coded their luggage for the appropriate hotel and it worked. At each hotel there were at least two locals to meet and welcome the clan and see they were all settled in properly.

The minibus we had hired to transport the Strathmore household there and back from Halkirk was in position at the Ulbster Arms thanks to Patrick and Nicky Sinclair. Those in Thurso would have seen the other "Clan Sinclair welcomes you" banner strung across the entrance to the pedestrian precinct.

However, as much fun as the journey had been, we were all glad to unpack and get an early bed. Niven and his two drivers, including the ever helpful Daniel, Judy Fisken, Berrie and I crammed into his jeep and went to our hotel at Castletown where we were to stay for one night before moving into Thurso.

A shuffle round of coaches. Instead of the numbers that we had used to date there would be one allocated to Halkirk to cover the Ulbster and Strathmore groups and one each to the Station, Weigh Inn and Park. Those of us at the St Clair would "float" between them.

Saturday 29th July - Halkirt Games Day, Ceilidh

Saturday 29th July, by Malcolm Caithness

Halkirk Games Day. The day was cloudy but after early morning drizzle dried up. The forecast was fair - almost ideal for the Games.

At 10.00 Don Sinclair (the senior USA Commissioner and representing Brad), Bill Sinclair (President Canada), Jamie Sinclair (John's son), Niven and Berrie, who were to be the banner party for the church service the next day, met at the Church for the rehearsal. That over, we went to Halkirk to check out the tent etc. Ian and the Noss team were there with the new mobile shop full of goods parked next door to the tent. Banners were raised and everything made ready.

Walked down to the Ulbster Arms where people were beginning to assemble and said hello to the Games Committee. Iona drove past the Police "No Entry" sign and arrived in my car, which she had picked up in Inverness, where I had left it with the Bowens three weeks earlier, after her night sleeper journey north. Linda Hellmann lent Iona her room in which to change.

The coaches arrived; Gunns and Sinclairs milled around chatting; the pipe bands - The Grampian Police and Cape Town Highlanders tuned up and then we started to assemble. Margaret Thurso as Chieftain in the first row; Iain Gunn, John Thurso, Margaret Carmichael and me as usual in the second, then the bands followed by the Gunns and Sinclairs side by side, with Berrie leading carrying the Clan notice. We outnumbered the Gunns over one and a half to one.

Like a huge crocodile we marched onto the field - another first. When I reached my allocated position and stopped I looked back and the Sinclairs were still coming onto the field - a wonderful sight. Margaret opened the Games and then we all went to the clan tent for a delicious buffet lunch.

Halkirk is a lovely small village games where everything takes place in one arena so you can see it all happening without having to move.

Rory competed in the piping and was commended for his musical ability. Others took part in some of the sideshows like the clay pigeon shooting. The tent was busy all afternoon and the shop did a brisk trade.

Soon after five the tent started to fill up and as the evening chill was starting it was a good time to have a dram. Old Pulteney, the local Wick distillery owned by Inver House, had kindly sponsored twelve bottles of their 12 year old malt and we soon had a dozen empties but were feeling better for it. In the middle of it the Clan Sinclair pipers Rory, David and John MacIntyre from Australia played for us.

As we topped up peoples glasses I recall Donald JH saying he had had enough but I told him his wife, Mary, wanted to say something to him. When he turned round to hear her I filled up his glass - and he drunk it!

The coaches went back to their various hotels and everyone had a free evening.

The drum major of the Cape Town Highlanders wanted some heather so Iona and I went to Strathmore to pick some. We listened to both the bands playing outside the Ulbster Arms in the evening, which is the traditional event after the Games have finished and the Cape Town Highlanders were superb. The locals reckoned they were the best band to play at the Games - bad luck on the Grampian Police who are pretty good too.

Then on to the Weigh Inn with the Cape Town band following as they had agreed to perform for us there. After the formal performance outside on the Terrace with the Orkneys and the Pentland Firth as a backdrop Iona presented them with a Scottish thistle and Mary Selver with the heather. They then came inside and an amazing Ceilidh started.

I have never heard the like! The African drummers got that instinctive beat going - it can never be taught - and joined by a solo piper following as best he could. It was a memorable performance. The word spread and soon locals were in the bar too and they were amazed. What a day! what a party! what a great clan we have!

We bade farewell to the band who had to return to Edinburgh the next day to prepare to play in the Tattoo there and headed for bed.

Sunday 30th July - Church service in Thurso

Sunday 30th July, by Malcolm Caithness

Following a quick check of the Thurso hotels I had time to walk to the Church in good time for the Service. Met Brigid Hadfield (Episcopalian) and Bishop Mario Conti (Catholic and whom I knew) and then went through some points with Ronnie Johnstone (Church of Scotland), the host Minister.

The Church was well attended but some did not make it as they had gone to Orkney, as it was the only feasible day it could be done. I would have liked everyone there but I cannot blame them. They were so close and it was a great opportunity.

The service was incredibly special and moving. During the first hymn the banner party came in - Don carrying the American one, Bill the Canadian one, Niven the one for all the Sinclairs, Jamie the Sinclair of Ulbster one and Berrie mine. With Iona standing next to me I felt so proud of my two children and they are such a support to their Dad.

The plaque to commemorate the Gathering which was carved in Caithness slate by Shaun Williamson, the Clan Sinclair Trust stonemason, was handed over to Ronnie and it was hanging in the entrance vestibule as we left. The service had a wonderful theme to it - the importance of the clan but not as an elite club. Brigid contrasted the good system with her experience of Northern Ireland where it had failed.

During the last hymn - The Battle Hymn of the Republic - the banner party formed up in the front, were given their banners and then turned to face the congregation. You could have cut the emotion with a knife and the singing nearly took the church roof off.

The banner party were the first to leave and stood at the bottom of the steps so the clan had to pass them. I was then caught by surprise for as Margaret Thurso, John and I left last, Rory was on hand again with his pipes to play us down the steps of the Church.

Margaret Thurso hosted a small lunch for the three Ministers and then John and I did our final detailed planning for the days ahead. Berrie accompanied by Mary Selver took Iona to catch her plane at Inverness and I went to dinner at Strathmore hosted by Clan Sinclair Canada.

Monday 31st July - Girnigoe Day

Monday 31st July, by Malcolm Caithness

Girnigoe Day. Although another day of quite detailed timings with Sinclair and Girnigoe Castles; Noss Head and Clan Sinclair Study Centre and Wick Heritage Centre to see it didn't matter so much if things went wrong as we were up here and all was going well.

They didn't! The only slight hitch was the Glass factory was not functioning fully due to holidays. We had borrowed two longwheelbase landrovers (one driven by Berrie) to ferry people between the coaches, the Castles and Noss, where we also had the mobile shop open. What a difference that made and saved a huge amount of time.

The haar swirled in and out but Girnigoe was a picture whatever it did. Lachie Stewart, the Clan Trust architect, was on hand to explain what they saw and what our plans are.

The three Thurso coaches rotated between the sites, doing one in the morning and two in the afternoon, so there was never more than one coach at a time at any one place. This was made all the more important with the single-track roads. The Halkirk coach only went to the Heritage Centre and Glass factory and then they had the afternoon free.

I went to Noss Head to collect the wine, whisky and medals for the banquet on Wednesday and even drove my car down to Girnigoe as the road is so good and it was dry. Marion Thurso took the goods back to Thurso East and she and Camilla Sanson stuck on the wine labels I had printed on my computer.

After some chores at Noss I also went to Thurso East where John and I started to do the placement for the Clan Banquet. It was not working so gave up, went back to the hotel and slept for a bit.

After a quick supper with Iain and Annabel Laird at the Station Hotel we all went off to the Ceilidh at the British Legion Hall. It was organised by Donald and Maureen Sinclair and compèred by Peter Murchieson. It had been very well arranged with a good array of local talent - piper, Caithness Gaelic Choir, the solo Gold Medallist from the Mod, highland dancers, accordionist and fiddle player.

They were all very talented and were supported by the Clan Sinclair Pipers. In addition Rory and the Rev. Malcolm Sinclair did a duet of pipes and songs including Malcolm's version of Amazing Grace written for the occasion.

It was Iain Laird's birthday and I arranged for his daughter Sarah (aged 5) to wish him a happy birthday over the microphone. There was an interval in the middle for tea and biscuits.

I made a mistake at the end when, after a few "housekeeping" announcements - I had to take the few occasions we were all together to do these - I said the coaches would leave at 11.15. That was in twenty minutes time, which allowed for the final two acts to be performed. However I had so drummed into people the need to be on time that most got up straight away and started to leave! Confusion reigned and John had to do a quick vote of thanks and it finished earlier than planned.

Some remained and so the accordionist and fiddler agreed to play a Dashing White Sergeant and we taught those who did not know. That was very popular and it finally ended on a high note.

Tuesday 1st August - castle of Mey Day

Tuesday 1st August, by Malcolm Caithness

Castle of Mey Day. Thick haar again which meant that no one would get the fabulous views over to Orkney but at least it was not raining. Given the choice I would take the haar. It was my dread that we would have a downpour and take 170 pairs of wet feet round Mey the week before Queen Elizabeth arrives.

The coaches had staggered departure times and it was carefully planned so no two coaches would coincide at John O Groats, Canisbay or Mey. It did not quite work out like that as two overlapped at Mey but that did not present a problem. We had a "local" on each bus to talk them along the coast and explain the County to them.

At Mey I met them off the buses and spelled out the rules; Berrie took the first fifteen or so to the front door where John was. Inside were three guides Martin Leslie, the factor, James Murray, assistant factor and Barbara Hiddlestone, the historian. We also had a member of the Caithness committee in each room. Parties went round at 5-8 minute intervals with Berrie and Graham Dunnett organising that.

People were free to walk round the gardens before and after the tour. On the way out through the old front door leading onto the courtyard they were asked to sign their names on a special card and these then became the birthday cards to Queen Elizabeth.
It all worked smoothly and towards mid-day the haar began to clear and the sun appeared. Most people were surprised by how small Mey is but really appreciated it. We were the first group tour ever to be allowed round and therefore very much on trial.
Having finished just before lunch as planned, the Thurso coaches had the afternoon off, but after lunch Berrie and I went to Girnigoe to show it to the Halkirk coach, as they did not see it yesterday.

It was a lovely afternoon and I was given a super surprise. Just as I was taking the group towards the entrance I heard that noise again. Yes - it was Rory who had hidden himself away and at the right signal "ambushed" me and piped me into the Castle. You could feel the "old girl" hum and she was so alive with all the activity. It was also quite emotional.

It is over 300 years since the Earl was piped into Girnigoe but then it wasn't through the dungeon! We spent time there and then went up to Noss where Bill (President Canada) presented a small replica of the memorial at Guysborough, Nova Scotia which I had helped unveil two years ago at Prince Henry's 600th Anniversary celebrations there. It will stay at Noss Head until we have the Clan Centre up and running.

Then back to finish off the placements for the banquet and take it over to John to type up. A relatively early night.

Wednesday 2nd August - Highland Council, Clan Meeting, Banquet 

Wednesday 2nd August, by Malcolm Caithness

A casual start and then down to the British Legion Hall for 10.30 and the Reception of tea, coffee and biscuits hosted by the Highland Council before the Clan Meeting at 11.00 am.

John compèred the whole thing beautifully. It started with a welcome speech by Cllr. John Rosie who had four other Councillors with him as well as Brian Whitelaw, the Chief Executive. A good effort from them and much appreciated by all. I thanked them and we then got on with the meeting.

Besides John and me on the top table were the senior representatives from the Associations present - Margaret Thurso, Bill Sinclair and Don Sinclair. (I hope there will be more next time).

I gave a short speech of welcome which was started by dedicating the meeting to five people who would have loved to have been here - Rory's parents who founded our first clan association, John's father Robin and my parents. John then called the secretaries of the Associations Rory (Canada) followed by Don Sinclair who read out a message from Brad (President USA), Mary (USA), Kay Dunnett (Caithness) and Lena Lofstrom on behalf of Australia – to their sadness as there were six Aussies there – to update us on what was happening in their countries.

I announced the formal setting up of Clan Sinclair New Zealand. Ian told them about the work at Noss and I went through the work of the Trust and Sinclair Bay Trading.

It gave everyone a good idea of where we were. The Clan is certainly active throughout the World. Then came the presentations. The Canadians gave Niven, Berrie, John and I a book each and then I was totally surprised.

The tune Rory had played at Rosslyn as I came out of the Chapel, as the coaches crossed the Ord and as I entered Girnigoe was his own composition for me - The Earl of Caithness' March and he gave me the Music. He has also put it on a CD with the Rosslyn Chapel Suite and some other tunes and songs by Malcolm (including his version of Amazing Grace). Part of the profits from the sale of it will go to the Trust.

Next was a surprise presentation to Niven of a Dirk with his name engraved on it and he was thoroughly overcome.

The Americans gave me an inscribed glass bottomed tray with a decanter and four glasses. People are so generous and kind and these lovely gifts were really undeserved for it has been a team effort. The Canadians have agreed to give Rory something in glass made by Shirley Elford with all their signatures on it. The Americans gave Mary a whole selection of things mostly from our mobile shop.

We moved onto the medal presentations. John and I had decided that every office holder of the clan should be given a medal for his/her term of office so we had an enamel engrailed cross made with the motto and Clan Sinclair engraved on it. On the neck ribbon was the office they held i.e. Treasurer USA or President Canada.

John presented me with one after I had sworn the oath to the Clan and then I did it to him. The various office holders were sworn in and medals presented. These medals will be handed on to their successors. The two past Presidents David Bouschor (USA) and Mac Sinclair (Canada) were given medals to keep.

John and I had also agreed that I should give the Chief's Commendation to those of outstanding merit. I read out the citations for Margaret, Viscountess Thurso, Ruby Sinclair, Gloria Sinclair Bouschor and Niven Sinclair. They were sworn in.
John then got everyone who had not received a medal to stand and swear the oath, which read:

"Do you swear before the clan here assembled to uphold the dignity and honour of the Clan and to promote and further its ideals of friendship, kinship, honour and justice with all your might and power"

Tears were freely flowing after all that emotion.

I had made a Pinsel (a triangular flag) for each President of the Clan but they had not arrived. In olden days when the chief was not present with his banner the next most senior person flew a Pinsel which showed he represented the chief. These can be used by the President or his appointee whenever they think it is appropriate. The Pinsels arrived that afternoon and were displayed at the Banquet before being given to Bill and Don.

I gave a short farewell speech and asked everyone for his or her input and thoughts through the secretaries so we can improve the clan and the next Gathering. Also announced was the date of the next Gathering - 2005 - with a mini one in 2002.

The top table was then piped out. A short informal meeting was held with the Commissioners from the USA and the Canadian Trust Committee as to how to build on the good will the Gathering has generated.

Don said he was going to see Brad on his return and they had their side in hand. The Canadians would be aiming to set up a tax efficient arm for the Trust. We all thought it would be good to reflect on the last ten days when we were back at home and discuss it among ourselves.

After lunch John, Marion and I finalised the placement for the dinner and set it out in the room. It was beginning to look really good with the flowers arriving and commemorative medals on everyone’s place. The menus, which were too big to fit on the table, had to be put on everyone's chair.

Having completed putting out the place cards John said "If we’ve got it wrong we will know as there will be a deathly silence!" The idea was that the "senior" UK Sinclairs would each host a table - Margaret, the two Patricks, Niven, Ian, Ruby, David, Angus, Donald, Marion, Berrie, Kay, John and I - and we tried to arrange that no family or travelling group were sitting next to each other. I don’t know whether we succeeded in that but certainly everyone talked when it came to the banquet.

Back to change. Was it really time for the banquet? Time had flown by and there were lots of people I wanted to talk to. I wish there was more to come but we are also quite tired, as we have not stopped. Judy had managed to get the photographs of the House of Lords Reception printed and these were on display where the reception was to be held with order forms for everyone interested. A bit last minute but it will work.

At 6.30 John and I started receiving people and they came in through the Conservatory to a champagne reception. People looked marvellous and there was lots of Sinclair Tartan. We were going to sit down 199 Sinclairs to a four-course meal - numbers that had never been attempted before in Caithness - another first.

The senior person from each Country represented - Don Sinclair and Mary Selver (USA), Bill (Canada), John MacIntyre (Australia), Camilla Sanson (New Zealand), Jess Putterill (South Africa), and Lena Lofstrom (Sweden) together with our guest Bunty Gunn (the wife of Commander Iain Gunn, head of Clan Gunn, who could not make it as she had locked him out of the house and he was waiting for the joiner!) - were on the top table and were piped in after everyone else had found their places.

It was a great sight to behold and I made a short welcome speech and introduced the top table. I was also able to announce the engagement of Andrew Sinclair to Amy. The Rev. Malcolm Sinclair then said Grace and we tucked into a Terrine of Prawn wrapped in Smoked Salmon that was already on our places.

The wine was Henri St Clair New World 1398 Vintage and I remember catching Elaine Fowler’s eye, who was beaming with pleasure at it. The haggis was then piped in and David Sinclair Bouschor addressed it in good style to loud applause. A miniature bottle of 12 year old Old Pulteney was there for everyone who wanted the dram or to take it home.

A pause followed with music from the Thurso and Dounreay Strathspey and Reel Society.

The main course was marinated Saddle of Venison stuffed with oatmeal and apricots washed down with Sang Real Santo Claro Claret. Another pause with more music which, sadly for the band, was drowned by the increasingly voluble gathering! John who was doing an excellent job as Master of Ceremonies (Fear an tigh) and who had done most of the work on the dinner called for silence for two very pretty tunes.

Caithness Raspberry Cranachan was our final course followed by Coffee and Mints together with Port, Brandy or Malt Whisky for the toasts to come. I proposed the Loyal Toast and Camilla proposed the toast to Heads of States of Countries represented. Donald JH Sinclair proposed the Toast to Clan Sinclair in Caithness and John wrapped up the formal part of the evening by replying and proposing the Toast to Sinclairs Worldwide.

The meal was delicious and the wine flowed but it was time now to clear the tables from the centre of the room and dance. We had time for three reels before Auld Lang Syne and the coaches or walk home.

Everyone seemed thrilled by the evening and felt it had gone really well. Certainly the hotel did a good job in producing hot food quickly and getting the waiting done efficiently. It was a first for them and successful.

Thursday 3rd August - Farewells

Thursday 3rd August, by Malcolm Caithness

Oh no it is all over.

The coaches from the various hotels slowly assembled at the Weigh Inn and we divided those going South into two coaches for Edinburgh and two for Glasgow where it had been easier to get accommodation. Some had gone or were going their own way such as to Orkney so numbers were down from the journey North. Tears started to flow as goodbyes were said but luckily there was a good farewell group of locals to wave them away which made the pain less.

Rory, who was staying up for another week, was on hand again to pipe them away and the hotel staff were also waving from the windows. We all moved to the roadside when Berrie suddenly said "the banner". He rushed to the car and just as the first coach drew out he was charging back down the road towards it, kilt flying, banner waving on its pole - a truly great and memorable sight and just how a Jacobite charge would have been led.

The last coach went out of sight and a small group of us were left behind - a little forlorn and wiping away the tears. An idea suggested by John three years ago had become a dream, a practical proposition, a happening and a fantastic success.

We had not got wet nor bitten alive by midges. It was only later that I realised that many caught some dreaded throat/chest bug that took its toll on some in a major way afterwards. That seemed to have been the only disappointment.

All of this would not have been possible without the hard work and co-operation of so many people. It would not have been so inexpensive but for the generosity of Niven. It was a huge team effort and thanks are due to everyone for playing their part, being on time and remaining cheerful.