It was called "The Gathering" and gather they did. More than 50,000 Scots and would-be Scots from across the globe gathered this past weekend in Scotland for the largest ever reunion of the countries clansmen and their descendants.

Celebrating heritage

Tartans of every color and size.  Scotsmen and women of every description and nationality as well.

The fields behind Edinburgh's Holyrood Palace echoed with the sounds of bagpipes over the weekend as Scots and their sometimes far distant cousins gathered.

People of Scottish heritage traveled from more than 40 countries to be a part of this largest-ever assembly of the clans. In all, 140 clans were represented.

Even Britain's Prince Charles celebrated his own Scottish roots by helping open the ceremony. "I was struck by the diversity, backgrounds experience and occupations which marks the modern clan representatives," he said.

Why gather?

The term "clan" in Scotland is derived from the Gaelic word for "children." It refers to the ancient families that settled this area of the British Isles. One of the purposes of the Gathering was helping visitors connect with their roots, either through various stations set up throughout the Gathering's grounds or by visiting clan tents and physically tracing family trees. 

By holding the Royal title of Finlagan Pursuivant, Thomas Myers' job is to help people trace their heritage. "The funny thing is that most of the people who come here from all around the world, they are pretty clued up (know about) about their Scottish ancestry and background," Myers said. "They seem to know about it more about it than I do."

Tracing their heritage

Dorothy Claros has taken great pains to trace her heritage.  Her grandfather moved to the Philippines from Scotland. She considers herself both Filipino and Scottish. "It's my connection to my ancestors. That Scottish tradition never died with my family.  Not when my grandfather died, not when my mother died. In fact here beside me is my cousin from South Africa whom we just discovered two years ago.  That's how strong the tradition is," she said.

The first minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, says Scotland embraces its descendants' ability to love their new land and their homeland as well. "They can be loyal Americans and Australians and Filipinos and have that Scottish connection and that's just fine by us," he said.

A native American from the Cherokee tribe, Sandra Muse's grandmother was a Scot. "The more I've learned about it, the prouder I feel. And I feel I have wasted so much of my life not knowing about my Scottish," Muse explains.

Opportunity to reconnect

The Gathering was the idea of Lord Jamie Sempill, who feels making these connections is a crucial aspect of the event.

"It is reconnecting to our heritage and to our culture and showing all the people that may have a rather ambivalent to it that really does have merit and really has meaning to those who are coming here," Sempill said.

Still being Scottish was not a requirement to attend, or for that matter to participate.  Those not visiting clan tents had plenty to see and do.

Let the games begin!

At center stage on the main field were the highland athletic games, which included such primitive tests of strength as tug-of-wars, caber or pole tossing, and hammer throws.

Yet for the Maori family of John Mahiti Wilson, their journey from New Zealand was more than just about enjoying the festivities.

Wilson had hoped to attend the Gathering but died before he could do so.

The family, including Wilson's widow Christine and his nephew, a tribal leader, came to Scotland to bring the essence of his spirit home to his ancestral clan of Gunn.

"I am very privileged and honored to bring the spiritual essence of my husband back to his homeland, Scotland," Christine said.

This ceremony is very traditional among the Maori. 

But, according to Pouroto Ngaropo, this is the first time in the tribe's 2,000 year history it has been performed in Scotland. 

"I'm very firmly grounded in my Maori heritage which makes it also important for me to acknowledge my Scottish heritage so I can be a complete person," he said.

A sentiment made possible by the Gathering.