Strength in Numbers

It was humble beginnings for this weekend’s Gathering of the Scots festival in Perth-Andover.

“Four of us, around a kitchen table, started with an idea,” recalls the event’s executive director Rod MacIntosh. “We discussed ways that we could celebrate the rich Scottish history of our area in Western New Brunswick, as well as ways to stimulate the economy of our little village.”

Eleven years later, the annual happening has evolved in both size and stature.

“Our attendance and participation has grown substantially,” he explains. “Along with strong representation from the immediate region, we see returning visitors each year from across the Maritime Provinces and Northern Maine. As with all outdoor festivals, the weather plays a critical role with attendance, but overall we have experienced tremendous and continuous growth.”

Thankfully for MacIntosh and his peers – and those planning to attend the festivities this weekend – the forecast calls for mainly sunny skies.

He notes that generations of area families have done-well to adapt to both the challenging climate and the demanding lifestyle.

“Our village is a community based on hard work and perseverance. Decades ago, many of our forefathers came here from Scotland, Ireland, and elsewhere in search of a better life for themselves and their children. Over the years, most of our people worked long days in the lumber camps and carved out new farms from the virgin forest just to survive.”

And while events like the Gathering of the Scots have helped to keep the region’s rich history and heritage alive, MacIntosh believes that more can be done to preserve and promote that heritage.

“To be honest, most of the blame lies with us personally. We do host many Highland Games throughout Atlantic Canada – Tattoos, Ceilidhs, etc – and many pipe-bands and Highland Dance Associations do work diligently, but it is mostly a ‘divided effort’, with each individual society looking to attain their own individual goals for success and thus taking away the bigger focus of celebrating our culture.”

The solution, he shares, is simple.

“As the generations advance through time, we must create and adopt avenues to maintain interest in our past and in the culture. We have many Scottish and Irish associations and others working hard annually – why not celebrate some kind of ‘united movement’? Our strength, after all, is in our numbers…”