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Clan Carmichael 2000 Gathering
by Jeanette Simpson


The summer of 2000 saw many members of Clan Carmichael USA traveling to Scotland for the Millennium Gathering of Clan Carmichael on the Carmichael estate near Biggar in Lanarkshire. Hosted by our Chief, Richard Carmichael of Carmichael, 26th Baron and 30th Chief, and his Lady, this was the 6th international gathering of the clan. Previous gatherings were held in 1983, 1986, 1990, 1993, and 1996. The Carmichaels at the Gathering came from France, Holland, England, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada. As well as the Pierre Carmichael family, residents in France for 150 years, there were Carmiggelts (another form of Carmichael) who have resided in Holland from the 1599 arrival of Robert Carmichael the Armourer, and descendants of the first Carmichaels in America in 1649.

The weather cooperated beautifully as we gathered on Wednesday, June 28, for a welcome dinner featuring Carmichael meats at the Tinto Hotel in Symington. There were 140 international clan members in attendance. The following day clansmen met at the Discover Carmichael Visitor Centre off of the A73 highway. A gift shop, restaurant, historical wax museum, and play area are part of the Centre. Here, after an address by the Chief, some followed the Chief on an energetic walk over the estate, touring the historic sites. First, the hike led to Chester Hill to view the Iron Age Roman fort and Blackshouse burn Neolithic site. Then they walked to the original Eagle Gate, through the present Eagle Gate and up to Kirkhill. Thirdly, the really difficult hike to Carmichael Hill to see the Hyndford Monument saw our enthusiastic Chief taking the shorter steep path to the top rather than the regular path taken by vehicles. The tour then took the group to Westmains then to the Carmichael Kirk. This hike, which became known as a death march for most clan members involved, took 3 1/2 hours. For those not inclined or able to hike, van transportation was provided to each site where a guide explained the history and answered questions. We first visited Kirkhill, site of the original hill fort and the church dedicated to St. Michael by Queen Margaret around 1070 A.D. The hill fort ‘caer’ and the church of St. Michael gave us our name of Carmichael. The mausoleum where several former chiefs are buried is on Kirkhill. From here we went to the ruins of the Carmichael mansion which was built in the 1700s by the Earl of Hyndford, known as the Great Earl because of his many improvements to the estate while at the same time serving his country as an ambassador overseas. The roof was removed from the mansion in the 1950s so taxes wouldn’t have to be paid on the building. What remains is gutted out in preparation for restoration. International clan members have donated money towards that restoration, and the walls are now in good repair. A new fund has been started to help put a new roof on the buildings. Several of us walked through the pine woods, past the pet cemetery, toward Westmains, home of the current Chief and his family. The woods are very green with fern glades and small wildflowers, evidences of a stone wall and former garden, and a lovely arching bridge. At Westmains, we toured the dovecot and the Chief’s dining room and sitting room, and then followed the tartan carpet up the stairs to see the four-poster bed with the coat of arms carved on the footboard. The garden was colorful with flowers, many surrounding the Hyndford Horse, which sits at the centre of the courtyard. Our touring concluded at the Carmichael kirk where there is a Carmichael stained glass window. Several items from the original church on Kirkhill have been incorporated into this church. The Carmichael School is nearby. After lunch in the Visitor Centre restaurant, a tour was provided to the privately owned medieval Carmichael mill site. This well-preserved historic site has had several other uses throughout history. It was once used for smelting, and the bell used in the Carmichael Kirk was cast here. Clan Carmichael USA held its annual meeting this evening prior to dinner. At this time our Chief was presented a history album scrapbook detailing the 17 years since the formation of Clan Carmichael USA. A murder mystery dinner was our entertainment this evening at the Tinto Hotel. No one solved the mystery, but there was much laughter at the guesses as to who was the guilty party.

Friday morning saw the clansmen boarding three coaches for a tour to Jedburgh where we toured the Jedburgh Abbey ruins and the Mary Queen of Scots house. The Four Marys stayed in this house with the Queen, and her Carmichael half brother and sister visited her here. It was a dreary day today with rain threatening at any moment, but it never materialized. The gloom outside only made the colors of the roses in the garden of the house show up more brilliantly against the green of the grass and the gray stone walls. We then went to the Jedburgh Woolen Mill for lunch and shopping. Carmichael tartan items were featured prominently as we entered the shop. Our afternoon excursion took us to Traquair House, the oldest continuously inhabited house in Scotland. Our Chief disappeared down the priest’s hole and although several tried to follow, he was never found and the others had to return to the priest’s room to descend to the ground floor in a more normal way. This house has a very narrow stairway with uneven steps, some very shallow and some very high, which makes it difficult to ascend quickly. This was done purposely so one’s enemies couldn’t pursue easily. There is a large rope along one side that one must hold to help in ascending. Several of us had to try this staircase even though there was an easier staircase farther along the hallway. We returned to our hotels with just time enough to change clothes before the dinner that night. Following the dinner there was a family ceilidh, which provided much hilarity. Clan members performed in skits, sang, played the clarsach (Scots harp), and gave recitations.

On Saturday the sun was shining as we gathered at Eastgate, site of the original gates of the estate. From there we marched as a clan to Eagle Gate, the present gate to the estate just off of the A73 highway. Two pipers followed by the Chief and his Lady, the standard bearers, honour guard, musketeers, and clansmen, now about 200 persons, marched to the gates where the eagles were unveiled and rededicated. They were stolen in August 1997 along with two pineapples. The eagles were found in a ditch in central Scotland in February 1999 but the pineapples have never been found. After restoration, the eagles were now being returned to their proper place at the entrance to the Carmichael estate. The Clan USA newsletter is named The Eagle Gate. From the gates, the clan marched to Kirkhill where the Chief addressed the group. From Kirkhill, the clan marched on to the Carmichael mansion ruins. Here the Chief unveiled a plaque listing the names of those who contributed to the wall restoration project. The Chief and Lady Patricia were presented flowers here to thank them for all of the work they had put in to planning and hosting this gathering and to commemorate Richard’s 20th year as Chief. He is beginning his 20th year, but the clan won’t be gathered at the actual date next year, so we decided to say thank you as a group this year. The gathering group picture was taken in front of the ruins after much confusion as to who was going to be in the picture and who was going to take the picture. At one point, half of the group was in the picture and the other half was across the way taking the picture! Our Chief showed his leadership skills in sorting everyone out, designating a photographer, and getting everyone else in place. The clan then marched to the marquee lunch in the walled garden with a pipe band playing as we ate. The Earl of Loudoun’s Regiment of Foote provided a living history battle reenactment. This was followed by games including a haggis toss, tug of war, kilted mile, and football. After dinner this evening, there was a fantastic tartan ball with the Lismore Ceilidh Band providing Scottish country dance music. The band leader gave the dance instructions and many members who had never done the dances before gave it a try. It was all in good fun, and since they were among family no one worried about making a fool of himself.

On Sunday morning the tartan-clad clan attended church at the Cairngryffe Church in Carmichael. Lady Patricia and Chief Richard read the lessons. After the sermon, Kathy Gambill, clan member from Indiana, USA, stood beneath a stained glass window in front of the communion table and sang a beautiful song called "I Am A Servant." Two Carmichael marriages were then blessed. The conclusion of the service was also the conclusion of the Millennium Gathering of Clan Carmichael. Everyone thanked and applauded our Chief and his Lady for all of their efforts to make this the best clan gathering yet. After hugs and farewells to our Carmichael "cousins", a coach returned some clan members to Glasgow Airport while a large van returned others to Edinburgh Airport. Some clan members stayed on to further tour Scotland.

Prior to the Clan Gathering itself, 70 international clan members had gone with the Chief and his Lady on a battlefield and origins tour to Cornwall and France. A coach took the group from Carmichael on Monday, June 19, to Penzance in Cornwall, England. As with many family outings, the departure was delayed by someone who forgot his passport at the hotel. The next day the group visited St. Michael’s Mount where they had lunch and were escorted by Lord St. Leven around his island home. Dinner that night was in Plymouth before sailing overnight to Roscoff, France. The first rain of the tour arrived while the group was dining, and the weather change caused some turbulence while crossing the English Channel. The ferry pitched and rolled making sleep difficult. Lunch the following day was at Mont St. Michael where they toured the Abbey and stayed overnight in the medieval town. Here they met Pierre Carmichael and his family. Pierre had a notebook tracing his family back to the estate in Scotland. On Thursday, the group visited the Bauge Battlefield where in 1421 we won our Arms when a Carmichael ancestor broke his spear unseating the Duke of Clarence, brother of the king of England. The Duke was then killed and the battle was won against England. This battle was a very significant event in the Hundred Years War. It was the first victory the French had had over the English and was the turning point, which led to eventual French defeat of the English. The broken spear is part of our Carmichael clan badge and is the name of the international newsletter published by our Chief. Historian Jean Renard explained the battle to the group. Our Chief laid a wreath commemorating Scots and French dead then gave a speech in French thanking the two local mayors and the Alliance France Ecosse for their welcome. Lunch was hosted by the two mayors and lasted about 3 hours. Afterwards, the group made a short detour into Bauge where the museum was opened for them to see a painting of Sir John Carmichael at the Battle of Bauge.

The group then traveled to Orleans to see the walled city and cathedral where our warrior priest forebearer, Bishop de Saint Michael, helped Joan of Arc defend the city in 1429-30 and dedicated a Masse Eccossais to the Scots dead. Julian Hutchings from the Alliance France Ecosse escorted the Carmichaels in Orleans giving insight into the Scots history at the time of Joan of Arc. The group also visited the house and room where Mary Queen of Scots’ first husband died after a jousting accident with the leader of the Scots’ Guard. The accident left a broken spear point in his eye. Queen Mary’s Carmichael half brother and sister also had been there. From Orleans the route took the group through Paris, giving a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower in the distance, then on to Calais where they stayed overnight at the Holiday Inn.

The tour ended with a return to Scotland from Calais and the channel tunnel then coach on Sunday, June 25. In one spectacular week with beautiful weather throughout, the core of our name’s Archangel origins had been traced.

Following the tour and gathering, the accolades poured in with many saying this had been the opportunity of a lifetime. We know of no other Scottish clan chief who provides a similar experience for his clan. He leads our global clan by example with fun, history, authentic heritage, and strong family values. With each previous gathering our Chief has organized a tour of various parts of Scotland showing us the history and beauty of the country. He believes that "families who play together stay together." One observer described our joint activity as "Carmichaeling." We hope to do much more Carmichaeling in coming years and urge all other Carmichaels to join us.

Ruins of Jedburgh Abbey with pink rose in the foreground

Mary Queen of Scots house in Jedburgh

Caput of Barony - Carmichael mansion ruins with Richard addressing the group while the honour guard stands at attention

Hyndford Horse in the courtyard of Richard's home of Westmains

The mausoleum where former Chiefs are buried on Kirkhill

At the tartan ball

Dog tombstone in the pet cemetery in the pine woods between the  mansion ruins and Richard's current home at Westmains

arched bridge in the pine woods between the mansion ruins and Westmains

Richard and wife Trish receiving flowers celebrating 20 years as our Chief

From the tartan ball with Richard dancing on the right

Thanks to
John Carmichael
for these next photographs

Chief Richard Carmichael of Carmichael and Margo Carmichael of Arizona
Chief Richard Carmichael of Carmichael and Margo Carmichael of Arizona pose before the castle atop St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall, England, which, like the name Carmichael, honors the archangel St. Michael.
Chief Richard Carmichael (left) and some of his clan
Chief Richard Carmichael (left) and some of his clan at Mont St. Michel in Normandy. The island is also named for the archangel St. Michael.
Ceremony at Vieil Bauge
Ceremony at Vieil Bauge, France, honoring Chief
Richard and Lady Patricia Carmichael and their clan, and unveiling a commorative plaque from the Alliance France Ecosse. On March 22, 1421, Sir John Carmichael, Richard's ancestor, led the combined Scots/French Army to victory here by unhorsing the English Commander Thomas, Duke of Clarence and brother of Henry V. For this deed, he was awarded the Carmichael Arms depicting a broken spear.
Statue of St. Joan of Arc
Statue of St. Joan of Arc in Orleans, France. Sir John Carmichael and his fellow Scots supported her troops against the English Army of Henry V.
Cathedral of St. Croix
Cathedral of St. Croix in Orleans, France, where John Carmichael was Bishop of Orleans at the time of Joan of Arc's defense of the city.


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