Clan Ross – Manitoba Chapter Christmas Party

December 4th, 2010, at historic McBeth House

McBeth House, located on what was originally Lot 33 of Lord Selkirk’s Red River Colony, was the setting for the Clan Ross-Manitoba Chapter Christmas Party this last December 4, 2010. There could be no more suitable location!

Alexander McBeath (later McBeth) came to the colony in 1815 with his wife Mary. Like the rest of that wave of settlers from the strath of Kildonan, he was fleeing the Highland Clearances and a life of feudal poverty in Scotland for a new life in the wilds of Rupertsland. Immediately, there were armed confrontations with the metis supporters of the North West Company … which was the bitter rival of the Hudson’s Bay Company, who were reluctant sponsors of this first permanent agricultural settlement in the Red River Valley. This led to the 1816 Massacre of Seven Oaks and the settlers being driven back up Lake Winnipeg, until Lord Selkirk himself arrived with a military regiment the next year.

Upon their return, these pioneer families were then beset by years of natural hazards such as fierce blizzards, prairie fires, great floods and grasshopper plagues. But, like the rest of Selkirk’s Highland settlers, Alexander was a tough man … and he was motivated by the right to own his own farm, a freedom he could never enjoy in the old country. He persevered, and was ultimately successful. In 1852 the original settler’s cabin was replaced by a large two-story log house on the family lot. This became the home for the third generation, grandson Robert McBeth Jr. and his wife, Helen Anderson (a family name of Clan Ross). This homestead, and those of the rest of Selkirk’s Settlers, became the main basis for what is now the Province of Manitoba.

Prospering as a farmer, merchant and builder, in 1912 Robert Jr. decided to erect a modern two-story home just a stone’s throw away from the 1852 log house. His daughters, spinster school-teachers, ultimately willed the property to the City of Winnipeg. Fully restored to its 1912 appearance, McBeth House is an ideal location for groups to enjoy an elegantly traditional “country Christmas”.

As the Clan Ross members arrived they were greeted in the wood-paneled foyer by Chapter President Barb Fletcher, and by Ian Ross playing traditional 18th century Scottish dance music on his fiddle. They all came bearing “Christmas cheer” and a variety of dishes for a potluck dinner. After socializing, dinner was announced with a grace delivered by Don Ross. And what a dinner! Turkey and haggis and all the trimmings … all enjoyed at one long table.

Before everyone dug in, a toast was proposed to the 50th anniversary of Clan Ross-Canada. Ian Ross observed “What is Clan Ross? Why, it’s us. So: Here’s tae us, wha’s like us, damn few, an’ they’re all deid, mair’s the pity.

An excellent variety of desserts followed the meal. And that was followed by Ian Ross performing his rhyming presentation of the Atholl Brose (a wondrous elixir of oat water, Scotch, honey and cream) … assisted by Jacquie Ross, St. Columba’s helper for the evening (see poem).

Once the dishes were cleared away, the Manitoba Chapter held its annual meeting. President Barb is pleased to report that the chapter’s finances remain in good shape and that we look forward to our 2011 activities, including: our Burns Dinner, booth at the Scottish Pavilion at Winterfest in Brandon, Tartan Day, booth at the Pavilion of Scotland at Winnipeg’s Folklorama, participation in the Selkirk Settlers Commemoration Parade and the Clan Ross Night at the Races.

Special mention must be made of Bob & Evelyn Andrews who came in all the way from Brandon to attend the party, to Pat & Alex Ross who took the pictures and to Jacquie Ross who cooked the turkey.

Ian Ross, complete with Santa cap, presents the Atholl Brose with the poem "A Visit from St. Columba", freely plagiarized from Clement Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas".
Jacquie Ross acts as St. Columba's helper and delivers the Atholl Brose to eager Manitoba Chapter members.

A Visit from St. Columba

(who brought the art of distillation to Scotland)
- by Ian M. Ross, December, 2010,
with acknowledgement to Clement C. Moore, author of “A Visit from St. Nicholas”
‘Twas three weeks before Christmas, and through McBeth House
the Ross Clan was gathered, to eat and carouse.
The meal had been gobbled up in no time flat,
as feasts before Christmas will not put on fat.
Dessert plates were stacked in the kitchen with care,
in hopes Saint Columba would soon arrive there.
Columba, that brave monk who from Ireland came
to Iona, then Scotland, conversion his game …
to in-tro-duce pa-gan Scots to Christian ways
and the art of distilling, now that’s cause for praise!

But back to the party: the Rosses, no slouches,
were nestled all snuggly on chairs and on couches.
‘Twas early still, certainly not time for bed …
while visions of Atholl Brose danced in their heads.
When out in the kitchen there arose such a clatter
I looked at the door to see what was the matter.
When what did my wondering eyes soon disclose
but Columba’s disciples … carrying the brose.
And while those disciples delivered the same,
Columba’s old ghost called the Ross Clan by name:

Now Roger Ross, I know that you have been good,
but open your wallet, you know that you should!
And Mary, I hope you enjoyed the roast beast.
It’s certainly part of a gluten-free feast.
On Dot and on Milton … I wish to speak free;
just who is the needler, and who the needlee?
Now Dorothy, now Barbara, executive pair:
I wish you appointments for life …… so there!
Past-President Pat, and Alex so tall,
it’s not far to come from home in East St. Paul.
We do miss Patricia … and Roger’s moustache
with its feeling of suavity, and urbane dash.
On Jim and on Christine, his spouse, I will dwell,
our Burns Dinner founder you all know so well.
Now Evelyn, now Bob, from Brandon they came …
where they are the champ-i-ons of the Ross name.
On Len and on Don … I haste to repeat,
if it weren’t for their house there’d be no place to meet!
Now Ian’s spouse Jacquie … I must thank you, ma’am,
for putting up with that theatrical ham.
And last I will name a right jolly old elf:
Denis Fletcher, hard worker in spite of himself.

So those are the tidings from Columba’s ghost:
A smidgen of praise … and a soupcon of roast.
But I hear him exclaim, ere he goes out of view,
“Try the Atholl Brose, please … it is so good for you!”

Manitoba Chapter members arrayed on the formal front staircase at historic McBeth House. l. to r. bottom: Len Perry, Don Ross, Ian Ross, middle: Pat Ross, Dorothy Hollins, Jacquie Ross, top: Dennis & Barb Fletcher.
Even more Maintoba members, l. to r. front: Roger & Mary Ross, first step: Bob & Evelyn Andrews, next step: Alex Ross and Dot From, next step: Milt From and Christine Turnbull, top step: Jim Turnbull.

© Clan Ross Association of Canada, Inc.