Clan Gathering 2014 Outstanding review by Roddy

2014 saw the 700th celebrations of the Battle of Bannockburn and that in itself was always going to make any Gathering memorable. We first met up on Friday, 27th June on the Esplanade at Stirling Castle, first for a visit to the castle itself and then for the Parade through the streets of Stirling. It was a fantastic start to a brilliant week. Oliphants; descendants of Oliphants and spouses came from all over the world. There were members of the family from USA, Canada, Australia and South Africa as well as from Scotland and England. It was a great turnout and wonderful that so many Oliphants had really come a long way to be there.

The next two days at Bannockburn were fascinating, not just because of the celebrations, events and side shows but because it was the first time that the members of the clan were able to relax and to really start to connect with each other. Everyone had a story to tell about their family history and for me that was the best part of the weekend, as I love Oliphant genealogy. There were also some who came to the tent who we knew nothing about, people who have Oliphant ancestry but who have never been in touch before. They were at Bannockburn for the battle and had not expected to meet us.

On Sunday evening we moved to Strathallan School, it was the beginning of the Oliphant part (in earnest) of the Gathering. It has been nine years since we used Strathallan as a venue and much has changed in the world in that time. Apart from anything else, it also gave me the opportunity to change the style of the Gathering as well. So much more information is available on the internet and so much more is known about the Oliphants than nine years ago that it was important to have a series of lectures in the evenings to try and dispel old myths and correct misconceptions. In some cases, all the information - even the myths and misconceptions - were new to the members of the clan.

The reasons for choosing Strathallan as a base are manyfold. Firstly there is the fact that at the core of the main building (Freeland House) is an old house which was once lived in by and possibly built by Thomas Oliphant of Freeland. In the grounds is another old Oliphant property called Barclayshaugh (Barclay's Haugh). In the same parish there are a number of old Oliphant properties, such as Condie, Newton, Rossie, Rossie Ochil, Culteuchar, Binzean, Ardargy, and neighbouring, are Drummonie (previously called Pitkeathley). On the opposite side of the valley from Strathallan are Aberdalgie, Dupplin and Gask. We were in effect, in the heart of ancient Oliphant country.

We had a busy schedule, as I wrote to one person prior to the Gathering (quoting the poem "If"), it is a matter of "filling each unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run". To which the reply came back "careful, I walk with a stick!"

The first day of our own Gathering (Monday, 30th June,) we went to the summerhouse at Stobhall; we drove past Ardblair Castle; we went to Glamis Castle, where they did a bespoke tour for the Oliphants; we visited the gardens of Hatton Castle, which was a first for us and a lot of fun; we drove past the site of old Balcraig Castle and then on to Arbroath Abbey, where the Declaration of Arbroath had been signed in 1320.

Each day was as busy and eventful as the one before and over the week we went to Killicrankie; Culloden; Hopetoun House; Newton of Condie; Rossie House; Forgandenny Churchyard; Drummonie; various churches and cathedrals; Kellie Castle was as impressive as ever - a real statement to the Oliphant's considerable wealth and influence years ago.

The Clan Conference was a key part of the Gathering, because it is at such events that we decide the direction in which we want the Clan Association to go for the next five and ten years. We also elect officers and decide on the priorities for the immediate future. The last great Conference was in 2005 and this year's was it's equal.

The Barbeque, like all the catering, whether breakfasts, packed lunches or normal suppers excelled in the abundance of food. We were incredibly fortunate in that we were so well looked after and every dietry requirement was met.

After a somewhat shaky start to the negotiations in 2013, Strathallan came through and really delivered. With the exception of the wifi (and the need for cushions in the chapel), the facilities were perfect for us. Tracy worked long and hard to overcome our smallest obstacle.

The climax was the Friday (4th July!). We had a few hours of seeing Pitheavlis Castle; St Ninian's Cathedral; the Salutation Hotel; Oliphant's Vennel and Greyfriar's Churchyard in a short space of time. We had lunch at Aberdalgie Church, seeing Sir William Olifard's effigy and the Oliphant tomb. We then spent the rest of the afternoon at Gask House - it rained but it was still the highlight of the whole Gathering.

Being American Independence Day, we celebrated. We had a ceilidh, haggis 'neeps and 'tatties and of course, apple pie for pudding. We had a raffle and raised money for the costs of forming an Oliphant "501c3". We just had a lot of fun, friends and kin, who had all worked hard to make the Gathering an exceptional event.

Haste ye back to Scotland!



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