The Gathering was finally upon us. Slowly at first, then seemingly in waves of familiar and well-loved tartan, the Camerons began arriving at the Holiday Inn Woodlawn of Charlotte, North Carolina. It was 3 PM on Friday, April 18th when the official planned events began. Approximately 50 Camerons, mostly those staying at the guest hotel, met in the Great Room under the watchful view of many guest rooms. General introductions were made; many friends who had never physically met, corresponding through mail and e-mail over the years, finally had the chance to "Unite." If one could make a generalization, it appeared to be a regular family reunion, so to speak; the bonds of the Clan Cameron "family" seemingly run very deep.
The vast majority of attending Camerons were looking forward to meeting the guest of honor, Lochiel's Eldest Grandson, Donald Andrew Cameron. This young man, who in all likelihood will one day succeed his father and grandfather as Chief of Clan Cameron, was an absolute delight to meet; plain and simple, our clan's future is in quite able hands. After a few hours of mingling the Camerons moved onto the Loch Norman Games site, Rural Hill Plantation, for the Members and Patrons Reception.
Under "The Chief's Tent" at Rural Hill approximately 1,000 Scots gathered for refreshments and conversation, along with the introduction of the Games' Honored and Distinguished Guests. The Calling of the Clans and the Piping in of the Haggis capped off the evening's busy schedule; Minnesota Chapter and Electronic Cameron Jack Barker "answered the call" proudly for our clan. Arriving just after the reception's beginning, a number of Camerons wound up having little more than a handful of chips and soda, so plans were hastily made for a late dinner. Nearly 30 famished Camerons (we referred to this as the first Gathering of the Famished Camerons) crowded into the Steak and Ale restaurant near the Woodlawn Holiday Inn, forming more of a clan bond than would have been possible under any other situation.
Saturday morning arrived all to soon (especially to the Famished Camerons, who had little sleep) and the Games were on their way. Rural Hill is a wee bit North-West of Charlotte, a scenic, winding drive amongst the woods once leaving the highway. The regular fare of clan tents and vendors are to be found at Loch Norman, along with a beautiful Games site, one well chosen just a few years ago by the Catawba Valley Scottish Society. Once again greetings and introductions between Camerons were given, especially to the goodly number of late arriving attendees.
The day's athletic events were in many ways dominated by Camerons. Clan Cameron's very own ringer, "Strongest Man in the World" Competitor Phil Martin of Long Beach, California would bring home 1st place honors in the Professional 130 pound Turning the Caber (Caber Toss) and also the 56 pound Weight Toss for Height. Afterwards Phil took great delight in visiting the Cameron tent and lifting several of the attending ladies up into the air above his head with a single hand! A pleasant surprise were two of Clan Cameron Online's very own George Cameron's children, Brian and Scarlett. Driving down from Jersey City, New Jersey, neither had ever competed in any Scottish amateur events before; they made a splendid premier at Loch Norman. Scarlett took third place in the Battle Axe Competition, making her the lone Cameron woman to medal in any event. Brian won 1st place in the 10K "Fell Race," finishing in a quite respectable 1 hour and 3 minute time. He then went onto grab a very well deserved 2nd place in Light-Heavy Weight Wrestling, competing against a man who outweighed him by at least 40 pounds. The final medallist on Saturday was Jerry Taylor of Huntersville, North Carolina. A member of the Grandfather Mountain Branch of Clan Cameron, Jerry's 31 points in the Long Bow Competition would earn him first place. Most impressive were his 5-60 yard "hits" of a moving human target of Edward the First, "Longshanks," of Braveheart fame, within 1 minute.
After the Games had somewhat come to their close for the day the Camerons held their Gathering. In a large tent behind the main Cameron tent at least 200 "sons (and daughters) of the hound" came together. North American Commissioner Donald J. Cameron, the motivating force behind the Gathering and the Loch Norman Games, acted as the master of ceremonies, handling the introduction of Donald Andrew Cameron, Eastern U.S. Regional President Colin Cameron and Western U.S. President Larry Cameron. Donald Andrew gave his grandfather and father's greetings and shared his feelings on how vital the clan association is to the Cameron Clan. Afterwards the regional presidents introduced the chapter and branch presidents, who came with gifts for Donald Andrew and a few brief words about their local situations. It seems as though the Camerons in general are baseball fans, since Donald Andrew was given a great number of hats from the regional teams of each branch. Saturday evening culminated with the Loch Norman Ceilidh, at 7 PM. Scottish entertainment, music and song were all provided to those who remained, which included a large contingent of Camerons.
Sunday the Games continued at Rural Hill, with more Cameron mingling and bonding; it was a quiet time, in comparison to Saturday. The event which showed Clan Cameron's strength, in terms of numbers, was the Parade of Tartans. Approximately 60 Camerons marched onto the field at Rural Hill, led by Donald Andrew Cameron. What made the Cameron's superior numbers even more impressive was that they came "armed" with the splendid reproduction ancient Scottish weapons of Alex Cameron, who loaned out his tent's entire stock for the Parade. Needless to say, no other clan happened in the path of the marching Camerons!
As for Sunday's athletic events, once again the Camerons were well represented. Clan Cameron Stone Mountain Branch member Greg Cameron competed in all of the Amateur Scottish Heavy Events, with resounding success - second place overall! Among his five medals were first place finishes in the Clachneart (16 pound stone put) and the 56 pound Weight Toss for Height, which at 14'6" missed the North American record by a mere 6 inches. Greg also took second in Tossing the Sheaf and two third place medals, for the 22 pound Hammer Throw and Turning the Caber. The other Cameron event of note was the Kilted Mile, in which Brian Cameron of New Jersey finished in second place. While each clan is only allowed a single participant, Clan Cameron in fact had two in this event; Clan Cameron Online member James Green ran for Clan Marjoribanks and finished in fourth place.
The Gathering was by no means finished when the Loch Norman Games came to their end late Sunday afternoon. Those survivors who were left standing proceeded across the road to the R.V. park, where Don and Beverly Cameron, along with Bob and Juanita Clark hosted a barbecue finale event. Approximately 50 Camerons were in attendance, lingering for those last and final good-byes. At 7 PM on Sunday evening it was time to end this historic first-ever Gathering. The remaining Camerons proceeded to re-enter the Loch Norman grounds, where a cairn has been erected. Donald Andrew Cameron was prepared for the occasion, bringing a rock from Clunes. With its placement upon the cairn The Gathering came to an end.
For a mere 52 hours the North American Camerons gathered for the first time; the weekend seemed to last much longer. New friends, mini-reunions and lost relations were all found to be in attendance, along with the future of our clan in a 20 year old Oxford student. The term "Unite," which so aptly stands as the Cameron motto, was quite evident throughout Rural Hill Plantation. As it was in the Scotland of old, when the call for the clan is heard, the Camerons will always gather.
Aonaibh Ri Cheile.