Great Scots! They’re Walking

Start your new year making footprints in history

Every January 1, local folks who are tied by heritage to Scotland gather at Rural Hill farm in northern Mecklenburg County to take part in the traditional First Footin'. It's a walk around the plantation's three-mile boundary, followed by a sharing of communally cooked "stone soup."
If you were a Scottish farmer centuries ago, you'd join your neighbors to walk the perimeter of your small community each New Year's Day. "To see if anybody is intruding on it," explains Ed McLean, Rural Hill's executive director. The walk restated or reclaimed the town boundary.

The 265-acre plantation was owned by Scots-descended Revolutionary War Major John Davidson and five generations of his descendants. It's now Mecklenburg County property leased to the Catawba Valley Scottish Society, which sponsors the walk.

The tramp begins at 11 a.m. and takes about an hour and a half, winding through fields and forest, touching the border of Mountain Island Lake. One stop is the stone-wall-enclosed burying ground of Davidson and his family. Another is the Davidson School, a one-room affair that served the family's children.

On top of the hill where the walk begins and ends is the old home site, where columns from the Davidsons' burned 1800s plantation house still stand. Behind a modern home there, the Scottish Society is reconstructing a typical 1700s farm with cabin, outbuildings, and hairy Highland cattle.
First Footin' visitors are asked to bring an ingredient for the soup, named for hot stones traditionally added to keep it warm. The society asks that you call ahead, and dress for the weather because First Footin' goes on, rain or shine.

Ancient Scots were a hardy breed, McLean says. "A little rain never hurt them. Might be the only bath they got."

Wanna Trek?

First Footin' is January 1, starting at 11 a.m. Admission is a soup ingredient. Rural Hill, 4431 Neck Road. 704-875-3113, www.ruralhill.net

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