Proud of the Plaid

An unidentified bagpiper plays to a cliffside of gorse.

“There is absolutely no truth to the myth that ‘Mac’ is Scottish and ‘Mc’ is Irish,” boldly claims Rich Shader, a member of the Scottish Tartans Authority and an eight-term president of the Scots-American Society of Brevard County, Florida, among other clannish accomplishments. “‘Mac’ is Gaelic for ‘son’ and is a common element of both Scottish and Irish surnames,” explains Shader. “In both countries, ‘Mc’ is always an abbreviation of ‘Mac.’” (Another abbreviation is M’ — an uncommon spelling today in surnames on either side of the pond.)

Based now in Western North Carolina, the cultural cradle of Scotch and Scotch-Irish settlers, Shader will teach more about Scotland’s migration patterns and historical influence in the U.S. in a program this month hosted by the Blue Ridge Center for Lifelong Learning. Summer is the time to explore one’s upcountry heritage — consider the three-day Grandfather Mountain Highland Games near Boone, celebrating its 62nd year in July in the Linville Gorge area.

And sure, bagpiping, kilt wearing, and heavy athletics are the showy part of the culture. But Shader’s history/genealogy program is a chance to fill in some of the heritage blanks before taking up the 175-pound caber.
“I’ll be bringing maps and references books,” he promises.

Tartan DNA: Scotland’s Building Blocks in the Fabric of our Nation will be held Monday, Jun 25, 10am-noon in Room 150 of the Patton Building at Blue Ridge Community College (180 West Campus Drive, Flat Rock). $20/BRCLL members, $30/general. For more information, see

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