Floridians have a diverse collective heritage that connects the state with all parts of the world. Dunedin, a quiet city on Florida’s Gulf Coast, is a perfect illustration of this. Dunedin citizens take pride in their town’s Scottish roots, such that tartan kilts and bagpipes are as a common a sight as palm trees.
In the late 1870s two Scotsmen, J.O. Douglas and James Somerville, opened a general store in a waterfront community and petitioned the government for a post office. They requested the name Dunedin, in honor of their home back in Scotland. “Dunedin” (Dun-E-din) is the Gaelic name for Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh. The legacy of these Scottish settlers can still be seen today in the names of many of the city streets. One such street, located downtown, is Douglas Avenue, which is lined with popular landmarks like the Dunedin Brewery, Florida’s oldest craft brewery.
The Dunedin Scottish-American Society promotes the city’s rich Celtic heritage by sponsoring events such as ceilidhs, or parties, with old Scottish style singing and dancing. The organization also hosts special dinners dedicated to St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, and Robert Burns, the famous Scottish poet. The Scottish Country Dancers of Dunedin honor the city’s heritage by teaching traditional highland dancing. Another cultural tie with Scotland is Dunedin’s sister city relationship with the Scottish city of Sterling.
Scottish bagpiping and drumming are an essential part of Dunedin’s local culture. The city has a community pipe band with pipers of all ages and skill levels. Both the Dunedin High School and the Dunedin Highland Middle School have bagpipe and drum bands as well. The Dunedin Scottish Highlander Marching Band’s uniforms are tartan kilts with full military-style regalia. They play “Scotland the Brave” as the football team’s fight song, and even have traditional Scottish dancers perform with them during the halftime shows.
Hear the City of Dunedin Pipe Band play “Scotland the Brave” at the 1991 Florida Folk Festival:
One of the most prominent celebrations of Dunedin’s Scottish heritage is the annual Dunedin Highland Games and Festival which began in 1966. There are actually four Highland Games each year throughout Florida, but Dunedin’s is the largest and oldest, attracting spectators and competitors from around the world. It is a week-long festival that includes the Highland Games, Celtic music concerts, the Military Tattoo, Scottish storytelling, a 5-K run, authentic Scottish food, and even sheepdog demonstrations! During most of these events spectators witness performances and competitions in the centuries-old Scottish traditions of piping, dancing, and drumming. Scottish clans and spectators alike are encouraged to wear their tartan sashes and kilts.
The Highland Games are arguably the most popular portion of the festival. The Games are widely believed to have originated in the 11th century when King Malcolm III held a footrace to decide who would become his personal messenger. Highland Games nowadays have grown to include competitions in the heavy athletics such as the caber toss, stone put, and Scottish hammer throw, all of which can be seen in the Dunedin version of the celebration.
This is the story of just one of the many unique communities in Florida. What stories from your Florida community are documented by the records and photographs on Florida Memory? Let us know about your local traditions by sharing a comment below!