The tropical land of the Scotland District, the patron saint of St Andrew, black pudding, and ancestry that harkens back to a cooler Emerald Isle will again don the proverbial kilt as it celebrates all things Celtic come next May.
This island’s rich connections to the Scottish, Irish and Welsh ancestors who settled in Barbados these past three hundred years will be on display in the annual Barbados Celtic Festival.
Scotland’s ties with the Caribbean island of Barbados go back to the earliest years of British colonization. During the interregnum of Oliver Cromwell, dissident Scots and Irish were “Barbadoesed” – transported here as indentured servants, in the mid-seventeenth century.
The names of Scottish Highlanders and Irish rebels are in the genealogical records. Their descendants still live in remote villages in the Scotland District of eastern Barbados, so named for the resemblance to the craggy highlands of Scotland.
Their culture has survived decades of colonization, slavery, post-emancipation and independence – the national delicacy, pudding and souse, itself a strongly West African-flavoured descendant of Scotland’s original haggis pudding.
The Celtic diaspora in England, Canada’s Nova Scotia will join native Celts who will make their way to Bridgetown to enjoy Celtic music, food and festivities on the last weekend in May next year.
Now a firm fixture on the nation’s cultural and tourism calendar, the Celtic Festival is to be showcased on Scottish television channel STV on September 4, featuring Barbadian music-makers.
“We have developed a unique fusion of music from both sides of the Atlantic in this growing festival through our folk and traditional music,” said Festival director Carol Anderson from her Edinburgh home.
Barbados’ own military fife-and-drum tradition will again be on show after last year’s appearance of pipers and drummers in the second Massed Bands Parade with the Band of the Barbados Defence Force. They marched in a joint parade, playing music from both sides of the Atlantic.
Pupils from the piping class at Strathallan School in Perthshire Scotland, also took part in the parade.
This year, the Celtic Festival has partnered with Scotland’s National Piping Centre’s Piping Live! Festival.
The school piping group also played at the SOL Motor Rally Scrutineering event which is run by Scot who now makes his home in Barbados, Carrie Corbin from Ayrshire in south-west Scotland. Hard-driving Celts are themselves no strangers to the Barbadian rallying scene and expected back for the race that stretches over the two weekends that coincide with the Celtic Festival.
Dance and fiddle-playing are key activities in the festival that are expected to return next year.
The sister double-act of Anna and Elizabeth Reid from Nairn in the Scottish Highlands brought their brand of Highland dance and bagpipe music to St Gabriel’s School for a concert last year.
The homegrown Scottish dance society also presented their dances at a finale Ceilidh – organised by Scottish expatriate Ken Thomson. A ceilidh is as close to a combination fête and lime as Celts will get; a huge social gathering flavoured with Scottish or Irish folk music, singing, dancing and storytelling.
Fiddlers from the Scottish Borders group Riddell Fiddles joined pupils of the Suzuki Violin School and St Patrick’s RC Primary School. The children were taught Scottish songs by headteacher Sister Pauline Dempsey, herself a Glasgow native.
Well-worn Celtic classics like Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond were mixed with Bajan favourites much to the delight of the audience at St Patrick’s Cathedral.
Sheila’s group of folk musicians played a family concert in the Flower Forest – a unique 50-acre botanical garden developed by a local man David Spieler who studied at Edinburgh University.
Founding members of the original Average White Band – Hamish Stuart band with Molly Duncan, headlined this year’s Barbados Celtic Festival with a guest appearance from Barbadian saxophone legend Arturo Tappin, just back from taking part in Scotland’s Edinburgh Festival, a summertime celebration of arts and culture.
Carol Anderson continued: “We took the pupils from Strathallan School in Perthshire in to a local secondary School, Combermere School, to make a presentation of their pipe music to the assembly. During that event a young Bajan came up to me and asked me if I had ever been to Glasgow. When I said many times, he went on to tell me his surname is Glasgow! It was very moving.”
In the last two years of the massed band parade, pipers have joined in from Scotland, Canada, Australia, Switzerland and England, said festival organizers. They have invited pipers, drummers, pipe bands or mini-bands interested in next year’s Massed Band events May 2019 to sign up at www.barbadoscelticfestival.com