When I was first elected the 84TH Chief of the New York Caledonian Club in June of 2019, little did I know what was in store for the globe. I had launched new initiatives and was excited to follow in the footsteps of the other 83 Chiefs who went before me. New events were planned and the year forward looked like it would be terrific. Then all of that came to an abrupt halt in March of 2020. I do not need to recount what happened to all of you reading this but the pandemic drastically impacted my term as your Chief. The 2020 election was deferred and I was re-elected in June of 2021 with the hopes that I would be able to actively lead the Club through the end of the pandemic. The past two years have been extraordinarily difficult for all of us and many organizations suffered declines in membership and interest. But the New York Caledonian Club carried on, even attracting new members – just as it did after the last global pandemic in 1918.
In the New York Times, on August 31, 1919, a headline read “Over 400 Are Entered” for the New York Caledonian Club Games. New York’s largest track meet was held on Labour Day in Washington Park on Maspeth L.I.. Full track teams competed for a point trophy donated by Colonel Walter Scott. There were also tugs of war and a Scottish Dancing Competition at the event. And the event was so large because it was the last track meet before the National A.A.U Championships which were held afterwards in Philadelphia.
Although we are no longer organizing track meets in the city (how cool was that by the way), over the past 24 months the Club has done as much as we possibly could to keep our members engaged and entertained. We hosted numerous virtual events from interviews with the founder of Prickly Thistle, Clare Campbell, who weaves the New York Caledonian Club’s tartan, to musical sessions with gifted local musicians such as Matthew Christian and with others from elsewhere like Charlie Zahm. We continued to provide Gaelic lessons to our community and hosted some musical virtual workshops. We participated in the first ever Virtual New York City Tartan Day Parade along with joining in Burns Night from the Burns Cottage in Alloway.
But we also had the chance to host some carefully planned in-person events like a Scottish picnic in Central Park; a gathering at the Burns Statue on Poet’s Walk (also in Central Park) on a very cold winter’s day on January 25, 2021; some pub nights at some of our favorite local pubs like The Tailor Public House and the Hunterian; and we managed to host our first Museum night at the historic Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan – drinks and history combined. We were able to host our annual Saint Andrew’s Dinner this past November and we had a scary Scottish Fry on Halloween in 2021. Both events attracted about 50 people including new members. And on January 29, 2022, the Club hosted our Burns Night in person at the beautiful venue The View at Battery Park. In spite of an epic snowstorm and with appropriate CoVid precautions in place, more than 100 Caledonians gathered together to honour and remember Burns, to feast on Haggis, to toast with Uisge Beatha (whisky – the water of life) Aberlour, to dance at a Ceilidh and to lock hands and arms to sing Auld Lang Syne with friends. And what I think might have been a first at a Burns Supper – the Address to A Haggis was read aloud by all who attended since our Addresser was unable to be there due to unforeseen circumstances! The event was much needed and lifted the spirits of all who were able to attend.
We are continuing to plan more in-person events this spring. We will once again, be hosting our annual Pre-Parade Tartan Ceilidh on Friday, April 9th, 2022 downtown at The View on the Battery – overlooking the Statue of Liberty. We will have a night of Kilted Bowling, more Pub nights, Ceilidh dancing workshops and some other fun activities in store for you, our members.
We would love to see you in person when you feel comfortable enough to join us – at any of our events. I have said before that clubs are like living organisms. They change and evolve over time to attract new members and to retain them. For our Club to thrive, it needs your participation, your enthusiasm and your talents. Can you write an article to add to our Newsletter? Are you able to volunteer at our events? Are you musical and interested in joining our sessions? Your presence in our Club would be terrific!
Please let us know. You can reach out to Chief@nycaledonian.org or email@example.com and let us know what you would like to do. Are you interested in becoming a board member? We will be holding our elections in June 2022 and if you have experience, we would love to hear from you.
This is my last term as the Chief of the New York Caledonian Club. And although it wasn’t the term that I envisioned when I first ran in June of 2019, I have been honoured to serve you – our members and to work with the entire Board. I particularly would like to thank the executive team, our Treasurer Kyle Dawson, our Secretary, Marti Gonzales and our Chieftain, Sue Ann McDevitt. It has been a tremendous privilege to reside as Chief of one of the oldest social clubs in New York City. And I have delighted in meeting so many of you – with the expectation of meeting more as the City re-opens and our regular programming resumes. Just remember:
We are Open to the World!
Fàilte ’s furan oirbh
Pronounced: FALLSCHUH SFOORAHN ORRUV
And that beautiful Scottish phrase has new meaning now.
Please Haste Ye Back!
Your 84TH Chief,