Letters from the Highlands
The 2009 Highland Ball:
Dear and loyal friends,
As I take pen to hand I smile. Fond memories from exactly one week ago
arise to cheer the countenance.
The 2009 Highland Ball may well have been our largest we have ever had
and lays claim to being perhaps the most enjoyable as well.
While working on photos I am struck again at the great beauty of the We
Make History family. Truly we have many living examples to attest to the
maxim that inner beauty shows forth and thereby enhances outer beauty as
What a fine time we had.
Remember gathering the clans upon the lawn? The weather was beautiful
but not outdone by the smiling families of We Make History.
You arrived in plaid from such diverse locations as Tucson, Sahuarita,
Gilbert, Phoenix, Litchfield Park, Sun City, Wickenburg, Heber, Clay
Springs, Prescott, Cottonwood and of course Flagstaff.
And the Ball itself!
Dancing, singing, capering, piping - jigs, reels, laughter!
Truly it was one of the finest Balls we have enjoyed together in some
How good to acknowledge achievements, milestones in life and give
opportunity for talents to "exhibit". These are the sorts of things that
After the Ball many tired but happy faces gathered for an hour of
friendly banter, happy chatter and laughter.
And the Highland Picnic?
Again, such beautiful weather and beautiful people!
Green grass. Sunshine. Cool breezes. Mountain views and mountain air.
Family and friends.
Parting farewells, goodbyes but not forever.
I remain amazed
at how we have been blessed.
Your humble servant,
The Bonnie Prince
I greatly enjoyed myself and I believe that my sister did as well.
Thank you and have a great week.
My Dearest Bonnie Prince Charley & Flora
This year's Highland Weekend is probably the most beautiful and emotional
one I've attended yet. The Highland lasses all displayed overwhelming grace
and colour, and the lads were all strong and noble! And my brethren of Clan
Tucson -- aye, the lads can put shivers down any redcoat's back.
I thank you for everything that went into this evening. To my great
delight, you gave me and my Highland compatriots two opportunities to
I especially appreciate your words on finding true love: instead of
concentrating on finding the right person, we should focus on being
the right person. Those are words I've been trying to live by.
You said GOD brings people into our lives so that we may uplift them, or be
uplifted. That is certainly true. Brothers and Sisters in Christ enjoy each
other's elegance and company, and very much enjoy dancing together. It
brings me great joy to share the joy and happiness I find in historical
pursuits with others, and I will share this gift with as many as possible.
Thank You So Much, and may GOD continue to Bless the family of We Make
Your Humble Servant And Friend,
Christopher the Jacobite Nobleman
our self-imposed hectic lives, we forget to tell people how much they are
loved. From all the Cooks...you and yours are so appreciated!
WONDERFUL event that I was very grateful to be a part of. What perfect
weather, music and camaraderie!
I greatly enjoyed the music from the symphony sized orchestra
at the Highland Ball. There is nothing like live music.
May God bless
you and your family. Thank you for doing these Balls for us. We are in
Memories of the
We Make History
2009 Highland Ball From the Journal of Christopher
the Highland Nobleman
"We need eight brave volunteers to step to the centre," the Bonnie Prince
At once, at least ten lads and lasses step to the center of the room.
"The two favourite dances of the Scots were the jig and the reel," our host
explains. The reel shall come in good time, but for now, we shall commence
with the jig. And how does one dance a proper jig? The method, the Bonnie
Prince explains, is as individual as the person.
Three of the other lads fix their falcon eyes on me, revealing a tinge of
"I know," I say. "I know. I know."
"Sir Christopher," our brave leader calls out. "We will not have any
immodest high kicks. We are not the French!"
I have waited for this moment for nearly a year. I pined for it from the
moment I sat in the back of an ambulance, weeping over a broken arm and a
broken heart. It is time to make the last stitch in the mending process,
complete the weave, finish the task. I had requested a second chance with
every good reason to be denied, and here was the Prince bestowing upon me
The music begins, and I raise one hand into the air as I attempt another
Highland Fling -- with study ghillies this time, and sounder sense of
I labour no acrobatics, no showing off in some sort of dance-off with my
The gathered around me watch and clap, and perhaps a few hold their breaths.
I wonder if Clan Tucson, in their brown tartans evoking the desert sand,
will flank and surround me as they begin their war dance.
I change from foot to foot, raised arm to raised arm. The ghillies are
lighter than my infamous buckled shoes, but I can feel something holding
them down, some weight that keeps this a low-impact jig. I could be top
heavy, wearing a red weskit and a lace jabot in addition to my Royal Stewart
tartan and plaids. Those diced red-and-white hose could be the chains upon
my feet. Or perhaps it is something else acting as a counterweight as I
swing one foot back and forth behind the other and step with
uncharacteristic grace for a Highland warrior.
Lads and lads cut in, and I am tapped out to the sidelines, but not for
long. I weave my way back into the centre and tap another Highland warrior
to continue my fling. Other Highlanders join us and fill the floor, raising
their hands high in Flings of their own. If they are following my lead, I am
grateful. I wouldn't expect anybody to follow me down, but I remain on my
feet, without even a hint of a slip.
"HUZZAH!" we cry upon the conclusion. "HUZZAH!"
"You survived it!"
"Redemption," I say, between breaths.
I arrived to meet my beloved Scottish brethren the same way I left.
"HUZZAH!" they cheered back, welcoming me with smiles. I tarry not in my
bows, many bows, as the clans gather on the lawn outside the hall. The
Highland Ladies emerge from the bottom of the hill, and they keep arriving.
The beauty and colour of their gowns leaves me with nothing to do except
smile. I greet a large gathering of lasses, and a lady graciously introduces
me to her daughters and their friends. I bow all around to them, one at a
time, as she names them. Their smiles are warm and heart-piercing. They
surround in a half-circle. Twenty years roll off my age in sixty seconds.
Among the lasses, however, is a lady dear to me, in a bright red tartan
gown. She has prayed for me through my tribulations, and now I have invited
her to join me here. She is my cheerleader as well as dancing companion, and
she is mesmerized by the architecture and the beauty of the building before
us as the sun sets and a cool Highland breeze takes over from a cloudless
We pose for pictures, many pictures. Like Brigadoon emerging from the mist,
we find ourselves in this spot only once a year.
The grand march to begin the dance is a march indeed.
"What are we fighting for?"
"FREEDOM!" I shout.
As we weave around the hall in a circle led by the Bonnie Prince and Flora
MacDonald, I feel the inspiration to add a few stomps in the spirit of the
Jacobites march through the Highlands, through Edinburgh and then south to
London. And to my delight, I hear more stomps, building from a soft thumping
to a pronounced and precise boom, enough to put fear into a British
regiment. This is our drill. Now come the maneuvers.
"All gentlemen to the centre!" the Bonnie Prince calls out.
"All wearing plaid!"
"All those from Tucson!"
"All those from Phoenix!"
"All those from Flagstaff!"
"All those over 6 feet tall!"
"All those under 5-6!"
"All those over 200 pounds!"
under 100 pounds!"
No clan is left out here.
"HUZZAH! HUZZAH! HUZZAH!" echoes through the gathering.
The Scots are known for their economy, although some would substitute
another word. So it is quite fitting that our Royal Leader chooses those
lively dances with the simplest moves. My lady companion and I head a set
for the first dance, "Stirling Castle," and find it quite unencumbering. A
do-si-do, a left-hand turn, a see-saw, a right-hand turn. We arch our hands
over the lines, as we run past the lads and lasses before sashaying down to
the foot of the set. When we dance "Race To Edinburgh," the lads and lasses
chase each other about along the lines before sashaying and swinging and
starting all over again.
"Who here is wearing a white cockade?" asks the Bonnie Prince.
"Aye, do ye know the story of the white cockade?"
"In the final rebellion," I begin in my brogue.
"Rebellion?!?" His Rightful Majesty exclaims.
"Fight for freedom," I rephrase. "When th' Bonnie Prince returned to
Scotland and got offa th' boat, he picked a white rose from the ground and
put it inna 'is hat. So all th' supporters of th' Bonnie Prince wore a white
cockade in their hats!"
They wore Royal Stewart tartans as well, hand-made in a process we honour
with a dance called "Weaving The Tartan." Start with three couples in a
circle, maneuver them into a star, let each lad pull a different lass from
the spindle of hands and promenade them around the hall into another circle
of three couples like the thread working through the cloth. Three couple
stars grow to four.
"Congratulations! You just have just woven a four-colour tartan!"
Five layers of dancers follow, and then six and seven. That thread is having
a tough time working its way through the cloth. I would love to see the
Highlander brave enough to wear seven layers in the notorious Arizona dry
heat. Maybe Clan Tucson is up to the challenge.
Now we come to the Reel, "Flora MacDonald's Reel," that dance where the lads
march around the lasses and the lasses do the same before the top couple
reels the set. A young lass gifted with fine footwork joins me, having
sought me out before I could even begin to find a lady to ask. Per the rules
of decorum, the ladies may tousle the hair of the gents as they parade
behind the lines. Our set adds a modern touch, letting the ladies and gents
high-five each other as they pass.
When the clans gather, we are all one family, one growing and changing and
moving forward in life. Children grow up and leave the Highlands for their
next mission. So three young lads stand before us now to mark a bittersweet
milestone: heading off to college.
"We expect the best from you," our host observes, "not merely because you
know it's the right thing to do, but because it's who you are."
News of engagements -- two of them among the clans -- reaches us next. Two
young couples from among the Highland family are making the commitment. One
of the lasses who will be taking the vows urges perseverance among those who
have not yet found their true love.
Instead of dwelling on finding the right person, concentrate on "being the
right person," our host adds.
A piper from the
lowlands of Litchfield Park honours them with a short tune before the
honoured lead off a waltz. They are accomplished dancers, gliding on their
feet in beautiful choreography, just as they have learned. They twirl and
step exactly in unison to the melodies of Bonnie Prince Charlie's Angels:
fiddles, mandolins, dulcimers and piano with a concertina and bass to round
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, my lady and I are determined
to make the most of it. When the opportunity comes, we begin our waltz by
circling round each other, right hands joined, left hands in the air as we
radiate our joy to all within reach like a lighthouse upon the banks of the
coast. We choreograph on the fly, my lady following my lead through small
hand motions indiscernible to the rest of the crowd as we set to each other
and turn round in place before stepping back together and joining hands.
This is like no other dance we know, inspired by the past but not shackled
to a rigid reprise. All we desire is something unique and beautiful beyond a
We are blessed to have among us a fine Scottish balladeer, a young gentleman
who has rehearsed for this moment a traditional tune of the Highlands. His
baritone envelops the entire hall, drawing us into his tale which ends in a
"I forget the next line," he admits to us, sheepishly yet honestly. But we
Highlanders are a supportive and encouraging bunch.
"HUZZAH! HUZZAH!" we shout and applaud. The Bonnie Prince offers some words
Fortunately, his ballad does not end. As I find my redemption, so too does
he find his with a second chance to entertain us all. He begins a second
ballad, a jaunty and lively tune which draws out our clapping. He forgets
not a word, propelled by our rhythmic approval.
"HUZZAH! HUZZAH!" we cheer for him.
Though we enjoy the singing, we long for the dancing. Couples sashay down
the room for the beloved Pineapple Dance. Our musicians play a spirited
tune, then an encore.
"We need six brave volunteers," our host announces.
Another jig. I get to partake of another? I briskly walk to the centre of
the hall and assume my Highland Fling stance. The music begins and I am
capering once again, from foot to foot, right hand to left hand raised, then
both hands in the air like the great Highland Stag. No one tries to tap me
out. All my energy flows into my hands and feet. The tips of my ghillies
latch onto the hardwood.
assumes their war dance again. One member dances a Fling with folded arms.
"That's not from Scotland!" I observe. "That's a Ukrainian Fling!"
Undaunted, they circle up and I join them, turning the fling and jig into a
round. A few lasses rush towards us. "May we join your circle?" they
politely ask before we politely crowd them in.
On the outside, the other lasses are forming similar ideas, forming their
own circle around our circle and prancing about before we separate again
into our respective jigs to each other -- or flings.
The Angels play on and on. Wind escapes my lungs, but I caper forth. Those
Jacobites marched through Edinburgh, to Derby and then back to the Highlands
to Culloden. A Fling before battle should whip us into shape for victory.
Exhaustion, however, weighs on my feet and drains my breath.
Do I fight or surrender? Neither. I fall back to the line and regroup,
replenishing my life force before advancing back to the centre of the hall.
When the music ceases, I am depleted in air once again, but filled with joy
and Thanksgiving to GOD for the opportunity -- and a second one at that.
Hugh Mercer knew well of second opportunities. After fleeing Scotland after
the disastrous Battle of Culloden, he came to America where he found fellow
Scots in Virginia and friendship with General George Washington, who made
him a commander. Though he lost his life after the battle of Princeton, New
Jersey, he ended up on the winning side of another fight for freedom. To
honour the second half of his life, we will dance the Virginia Reel. But to
honour his Scottish heritage, the lads will determine their lasses with a
The Bonnie Prince orders the ladies to remove one shoe in the centre of the
floor while calling the lads to the front. "Fall in by height!"
"Dress the line!" I call out in the absence of a sergeant.
"Count off by twos!" our commander orders.
"One!" "Two!" "One!" "Two!" "One!" "Two!" "One!" "Two!" "One!" "Two!" "One!"
Always a lad to my side that doesn't quite know the drill. His Rightful
Highness straightens them out and we complete the task.
"When I say, 'Right Face,' the ones will stay in place and the twos will
step forward! Right face!"
With nary any training, they execute the command nearly perfectly to the
applause of the hall.
"Present arms! Raise Claymores! CHARGE!"
I let my compatriots fall all
over themselves diving for their Cinderella slippers. I walk around them
nonchalantly in a flanking maneuver and gently pluck a shoe from the pile
without any hint of injury. Some lads never learn. But we Highlanders know
our reels, and this one is no challenge. The Bonnie Prince barely has to
lead us through the steps.
We have time for a final waltz before the evening comes to an end, always
"Did you ever wish life had a pause button?" our host asks.
One lass also suggests another button. "Just erase last year from your
mind," she says.
I cannot -- not all of it. I cannot blot out the love or the prayers of my
friends. I refuse to. My gratitude to them feels inadequate, shallow in
comparison to all they have done for me, all of their encouragement. I won't
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