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Clan MacColin of Glenderry

The Oath

Though we model ourselves after a Highland Clan system, the Clan MacColin is truly a unique Family rich in our own traditions. These traditions have been born out of years of trial and error and experiences that span the entire spectrum from remarkable to heartbreaking. While the recollections of the circumstances that sparked those traditions are still within living memory, the considerable time that has elapsed has been such, that the names of those involved are no longer important except to those that were there, and to those who keep the Histories. Time and grace has healed much. However, the stories behind this tradition remain central to the customs themselves and all are encouraged to take the time to learn and, of course, understand them.

With the development of the new Southern Clan from the Northern foundation Clan, Clan Colin, there were folks whose locale made sense for membership and therefore became a portion of the population that made up the new assemblage. In addition to Clan Colin members, there were other Southern folk who wished to participate in the activities of the freshly formed Clan MacColin. The people that were brought together through this new development desired the opportunity to enjoy the Highland experience.

At the time that Stephen Flanagan, the first chief of the Name, passed the Feathers to our Chief, Steven Gillan, he also passed the boundary lines of what our Clan was, or how it might change in the hands of new leadership. The face of alteration in the events we did was influx. Many people remembered how Clan Colin had been run by Eoin MacKenzie, our Founder, and others had their own knowledge and experience of clan life during Stephen Flanagan’s tenure. The adjustment of a new leader and to a new regime was difficult and there were many different ideas and opinions among the Kin as to how the Clan might and should be run.

Our Chief had been made a Lt. at Hogmany, was warranted a Captain during workshops, and made Ceann Cath at the beginning of Faire and would be running the “guild” during Faire that year. He was nominated in tanistry at the end of that Faire and inaugurated as Chief in July [1983] just following the Faire’s end. As we entered a new season the following spring, with a years’ worth of adjustment and some changes, the membership had many ideas and some people were impatiently waiting to see what changes were to happen. Some, no doubt, were not looking for too much change, while others were hoping for sweeping alterations. Those kin weren’t satisfied with the pace of change that is characteristic of our Clan system, and found fault with the Chief for not making such modifications as they thought necessary to improve efficiency and modernize our way of operating. The MacColin, however, had been given, and had accepted, a “benign dictatorship” as our founder had specified when he was asked to found our family and be our Chief. That legacy and his experiences as a loyal kinsman under the previous Chiefships gave a very distinct idea of how he expected his administration to function. He thought there would be changes and alterations to the thing itself that he had given thought and discussion to. After all he had been expressly told that it was his to make as he saw fit, with the hope that the traditions and principles of the founding would instruct his way of going. He would not believe that being reduced to an actor playing “The Chief;” a figurehead, and of being directed by a chairman and the vote of committees, who would see to the running of things was what he had promised to uphold at his inauguration. He believed he was given a 16th century Highland Clan and he expected it to be conducted as such.

It was at this point during Faire where this situation within the group was rapidly becoming fractious and untenable, The MacColin became frustrated and angry about something specific that reflected on the effects of this committee business and other versions of ongoing difference of belief on the running of the Group. As this came to a pass, He yanked his three feathers stalked outside and attempted to pass the Chiefship off to Capt. O’Mullen who declined, and so shoved his Feathers in a hay bale. His Ghillie, Beau Ramsay, stood guard over the new, less mobile and cooperative, Chief of Clan MacColin. While the air cooled somewhat, Mr. Gillan was talked into retrieving his feathers, and was once again The MacColin.

On Sunday morning at roll call, after much and buzz and discussion from the previous day and evening, a line was drawn in the dirt, Col. Travis style, and the people were given the option: they were either with him or against him. They had to accept this single specific premise, that the Chief’s word is law, not that they didn’t have a voice, not that there could not be discussion, or that he could not be wrong, but that when he decided a thing the Kin was to accept it. There is only one law and the Chief has the final say. Everything else is a regulation. The Kin were given the chance to exercise the vote they were allowed. This was the chance to stay or go (vote with their feet). Only a handful of people were unwilling to take the step; the rest did.

The whole business was of course more complicated and drawn out, there were considerable hurt feelings, there were various motives in play. It has been reinforced by experience in our succeeding history. This is a simplified explanation of why we do this every year.

TODAY: The foundation for the Oath that we take today had been laid and though it was many years ago, the sentiment has not changed. The Oath is an annual reminder that we as individuals choose to be a part of the Family and by taking that step “over the line” we agree to “play the game”, become part of a collective whole and accept that the Chief’s word is law. But that is only the beginning of what the Oath is. It gives us a clear specific code of behavior in which to conduct ourselves within this homogenous Family. The Oath is also a social contract; a promise to our Chief that we accept and believe that he has our best interests at heart. It doesn’t mean we always agree, just that we accept his good judgment for the good of the whole. The Oath moves laterally and internally as well. It is a promise to our Kinsfolk that we have their backs and that, as a family, we will take care of each other as well as we are able. The Oath is also a promise to ourselves that we will be the best MacColins that we can be for our own persons.

Finally, the Oath is returned to us by The MacColin. It is a promise from our Chief to the Family that he will be a good Father figure and will strive to make the decisions for our present and future that will, hopefully, keep the life breathing in the Family for many years to come.

The Oath as it is written is as follows: “As God so mote me, so shall I serve thee.” Its literal meaning is very simple: As I am directed, or as I direct myself, that what he is, and does suits that is what I will do. But its deeper meanings are individual.

The Oath has for many become a very personal and individual custom which they choose to perform directly and often privately. Also those who cannot be there for this may arrange to do this another time. First year members are discouraged from doing it, and are asked to observe their first time so that they can experience the ceremony without any obligation or confusion. People who wish to take it but have religious or personal scruples about oath taking are welcome to alter the words, take a private word with the Chief or simply be sent on an “errand of state necessity” when it is being taken. Just let Uillim An Teige know. No one would ever question someone’s absence under that context. And always, the Chief, the Officers, and Duine Uasal are available to address any other questions or concerns anyone may have.

(Written by Chief Steven Gillan and Michelle Rawlings, May 18, 2016)

 The oath is simple, elegant, and direct, serving the historic purpose without overkill: "As God mote me, so shall I serve thee." The Chief renews his oath to serve the family. This reminds us of our allegiance, our mission, and our purpose, to learn and teach about our culture and time, from which this tradition is drawn. We are a clan in both the sixteenth and twentieth centuries, and this echos the heroic nature of our society, again giving an oath to our Chief, in another time, with a different meaning. Other individual arrangements may be made in advance for those who have twentieth century religious difficulties with this, but it is expected that all participating in the ceremony will give their oath. It is a reaffirmation of who and what we are.

 Traditionally, joining a clan required an oath or "band of manrent". A sample is included here for illustration.

A Band of Manrent

This band of manrent, or the formal adoption of a chief, comes a little more than six years after Flodden.

Be it kend ti all men be thir present lettiris, me Robert Orrok, son to ane honorabill man Jamis Orrok of that Ilk, bindis and oblisis me be the faith in my bodie to stand for all the dayis of my lyf trew man and servand to ane honorabill man John Melville of the Rayth, knicht, aganis all uthiris, the Kingis Grace, my Lord Governour, my Lord Sanctandrois, now present, the Abbottis and Convent of Dunfermling and [thair successoris ?] exceptit; and sall taik his aefauld pairt with my personn, freindis, and servandis; And attour I sall nocht heir his skaith or dishonour bot I sall advertise him of the samyn; And I sall gif him my counsall in all mateiris to his weill and honour as to my self; And gif this manrent be nocht sufficiand, it sall be extendit as the said John, knicht, thinkis expedient, and the said Robert, in the best form.

At the Rayth, subscrivit with my hand the secund day of Januar in the yeir of God McVc and xix yeirs, befoir this witnes, William Schevez, Jorge Balfour, William Mailville, with otheris divers.

Robert Orrok, son to umquhill James Orrok of that Ilk, with my hand.
Oath at Faire
Copyright © 2001 . Norman Montgomery (mailto:odo@maccolin.com) ; All rights reserved.