Scottish Culture in Oklahoma: Festivals, Sports, Dancing and Music

You’ll rarely hear a Scottish accent in Oklahoma, but these lowlands have plenty of Highland spirit. The kilts come out, the scotch flows and many a fling is flung at Oklahoma’s three annual Scottish and Celtic festivals.
BY DAVID CHRISTOPHER
Staff Writer
Modified: June 24, 2010 at 3:28 pm •  Published: June 23, 2010
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You’ll rarely hear a Scottish accent in Oklahoma, but these lowlands have plenty of Highland spirit.

The kilts come out, the scotch flows and many a fling is flung at Oklahoma’s three annual Scottish and Celtic festivals.


For Steve Campbell, chairman of the Oklahoma Scottish Festival, his native Aberdeen has a lot in common with Tulsa.

“It’s not too different,” he said, “It’s an agricultural and oil city, too.”

Campbell saw the potential of the Oklahoma Scottish Festival after moving to Tulsa in 2006. Thirteen months later, he was running it.

“I wanted to put a little more authenticity into it,” he said. “There were a few things which were embarrassing to a Scotsman.”

Scottish beer is perhaps his proudest addition to the festival, which takes place in River West Festival Park.

Last year, Guiness, Smithwicks and Harp were replaced by Scottish Belhaven larger, ale and stout, and beer sales boomed.

Music, Bagpipes and Pipe Bands

Pipe Major Robert Bruce leads the Pipes and Drums of the Highlanders of Oklahoma City at Oklahoma’s Scottish festivals.

The band was set up in 1957 by Oklahoman and retired World War II veteran Col. Hansen, who passed away in July 2006.

Hansen took a shine to Scottish military bands whilst stationed in the UK and set it up in Oklahoma City when the nearest pipe band was in Chicago.

Today, there are four pipe bands in Oklahoma City alone, and between 35 and 40 pipers.

Bruce said that Scottish people hear the pipes, “They swell up with pride and they say, ‘That’s my country.’ ”

But bagpipes are by no means an easy instrument to master.

Having spent a lifetime playing music, Bruce believes that pipes might be the hardest instrument you can learn.

Sports and Highland Games

Highland sports are no less demanding. Every year the United Clans of Scotland holds its Iron Thistle Highland Games as part of the Iron Thistle Festival in Yukon.

Under the supervision of Athletic and Festival Director Jonathan Irvin, athletes from Florida to California compete in nine Highland sports.

Events include the stone toss, the hammer throw and the sheaf, in which a burlap sack filled with twine is hurled over a high bar with a pitchfork. Scottish Oklahoma Know It Cultural Awareness Oklahoma Know It

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