There’s something you should know about me. I love Celtic things. And while I love all Celtic cultures, I have a Ron Swanson-esque sentimentality for Scottish culture.
If there is a Highland Games happening in Georgia this summer, I’ll likely be going. That’s actually what led me to the prompt for tonight’s post. I was browsing around for some highland games to attend, and I recalled that I have some Scottish blood – which may account for my strange desire to watch people throwing telephone poles around for sport.
My paternal clan, Clan Hay, is apparently pretty huge internationally. They have their own website. And, if its to be believed, the clan’s noble house has an interesting origin story (thanks Wikipedia):
“The traditional origin of the noble house of Hay is thus related:—In the reign of Kenneth III, anno 980, the Danes, who had invaded Scotland, having prevailed, at the battle of Luncarty, near Perth, were pursuing the flying Scots, from the field, when a countryman and his two sons appeared in a narrow pass, through which the vanquished were hurrying, and impeded for a moment their flight. “What,” said the rustic, “had you rather be slaughtered by your merciless foes, than die honorably in the field; come, rally, rally!” and he headed the fugitives, brandishing his ploughshare, and crying out, that help was at hand: the Danes, believing that a fresh army was falling upon them, fled in confusion, and the Scots thus recovered the laurel which they had lost, and freed their country from servitude.
The battle being won, the old man, afterwards known by the name of Hay, was brought to the king, who, assembling a parliament at Scone, gave to the said Hay and his sons, as a just reward for their valour, so much land on the river Tay, in the district of Gowrie, as a falcon from a man’s hand flew over till it settled; which being six miles in length, was afterwards called Errol; and the king being desirous to elevate Hay and his sons from their humble rank in life, to the order of nobility, his majesty assigned them a coat of arms, which was argent, three escutcheons, gules, to intimate that the father and two sons had been the three fortunate shields of Scotland.”
That’s right. The original Hay was a farmer. He fought off a bunch of Danes with a freaking ploughshare.
Of course, this story is a tall tale far from truth. But it set me to thinking. There is a true principle here: that leadership can come from the strangest and most ironic of origins. The formula for leadership has nothing to do with where you come from or what your name is or what your parents did. Yet if one individual has enough fortitude to do the right thing, it’s enough to create a legacy of leadership – a clan – that can last for more than a thousand years afterward.
This reminded me of another line from The Wheel of Time book series. Perrin Aybara is one of the series’s heroes – a blacksmith plucked from obscurity into the role of unwilling leader for his rural community of the Two Rivers. He becomes “Lord Perrin” after saving the Two Rivers from evil hordes of invaders, but he feels more than ambivalent about it, as he shows in one conversation with his hereditarily noble father-in-law:
“The fact of it is, I am not really a lord. I’m a blacksmith. You see, when the Trollocs came…” He trailed off because Bashere was laughing so hard the man had to wipe his eyes.
“Boy, the Creator never made the Houses. Some forget it, but go far enough back in any House, and you’ll find a commoner who showed uncommon courage or kept his head and took charge when everybody else was running around like plucked geese. Mind you, another thing some like to forget is the road down can be just as sudden.”