A History of the Scottish Society and its Highland Games
By E.F. Holcombe
In July of 1971, after several years of unsuccessful efforts to plan so that the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and the family vacations of the Charles A. Oliver and Edwin F. Holcombe families fell on the same week, these events did coincide. The tow families camped at Foscoe, near Linville, N.C., the week of the Grandfather Mountain Games.
The Olivers had attended these Games for a number of years, but this was the first exposure of the Holcombes to the Scottish atmosphere of a Highland Gathering. The Olivers’ fifteen-year old son, Jamie, was already involved in piping competition at the Games and was a student of Ludovic Grant-Alexander of The Citadel. The Holcombes’ fifteen-year old son, John, was so exchanged by the Scottish heritage motif (his great-grandfather Mackintosh came here from Scotland and his mother was a Morrison) that, after wearing Jamie Oliver’s outgrown Kilt at the Ceilidh and Games, he came away from Grandfather Mountain with a practice chanter, a College of Piping instruction book, and a determination to become a piper. He also became a student of Grant-Alexander.
In September of 1971, GA, as he was fondly called, suggested that these two students, along with a third, Furman Reynolds, form a pipe band with him. Bruce, the Olivers’ oldest son, became the snare drummer, and Charlie Oliver, the base drummer. They were soon joined by Malcolm Swan’s daughter Jennifer, Royce McNeill’s daughter, Terry, Nancy Bynum, Tina Causey, and Len Wood, an accomplished piper stationed here with the Navy. Royce became the Drum Major of the band.
After several months of practice, it was decided to hold a covered dish supper and invite all the parents for a night of fellowship and to hear the band play. This first ceilidh of record was held at St. Mark’s Methodist Church. The band was named the Midlothian Pipes and Drums, after Edinburgh’s county; they wore the Edinburgh District Tartan.
There was, at the same time, an organization in Charleston named the Scottish Lassies Club. It was primarily made up of Scottish girls who had married and come to this country with their U.S. Navy husbands. The purpose of the club was to assist and orient these newcomers from Scotland. The members heard about the ceilidh and asked to attend the next one. As I remember, Thea Williams, Esther McLaughlin, Victoria Widmer and Enid Causey were among the first to do so. Victoria sang, Enid played piano, Thea read Scottish poetry, Len Wood did the sword dance, and the band played. The Scottish Lassies also brought shortbread, scones and Scottish sweets. They raffled them off, took in $37.00 and donated the money toward the purchase of uniforms for the band.
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