Chappaquiddicker Donald MacRae organized and then served as drum major for the first Scottish pipe band to march in the July 4th parade half a century ago. He was an imposing and regal sight, his five-foot-long baton appearing weightless in his grip, the pleats of his kilt rippling about his knees as he set a deliberate pace for the dozen skirling bagpipers whose combined volume and piercing notes shattered the hot summer air, followed close behind by the drummers who beat the wild disturbance back down smooth as they passed. The wonderment of the overpowering and penetrating tones of the bagpipes is their ability to stir our ancestral soul. Don has been gone nearly a decade now, but the Martha’s Vineyard Scottish Society he helped to found in 1986 continues to celebrate our Scottish heritage. This year is the 27th anniversary of the Burns Nicht Supper served by MV Scots to honor the memory of Robert Burns on this the 255th year since his birth.

Bobby Burns lived a mere 37 years, but left a lasting legacy. Though Jan. 25 is his birthday, the supper is Friday, Jan. 31, at the Harbor View Hotel. The society awards scholarships yearly, raising the funds on Burns Nicht by raffling and auctioning donated goods and services. Trip Barnes certainly has his work cut out for him in his efforts to pry money away from these thrifty folks. The dinner fare is traditional with a vegetarian entrée as well. Along with toasts to the laddies and lassies, there is the traditional Ode to the Haggis. If you don’t already know what haggis is, I’d rather not be the one to tell you. See the Scottish Society of Martha’s Vineyard website at to make reservations for the supper and even become a member. For further information, contact society president Ed Pierce at or 508-560-0490.

Since we’re out of sequence because of the holidays, here’s a reminder that there will be a Chappy Community Center potluck dinner on Wednesday, Jan. 15, with Dennis and Nancy hosting. See you at 6 p.m. for appetizers with sit-down at 6:30. The next potluck will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 5. We still need a host. Call Lynn at 508-627-8222.

The first northeaster of the year lived up to its forecast of snow depths, wind speeds and flooding tides. The snow was dry and fluffy, which was fortunate because there were several three-foot deep drifts reaching completely across the road. At the height of the storm, I measured a few gusts of 50 mph at the ferry point. The frigid temperatures allowed ice to form in the freshwater ponds and in Katama Bay. At Wasque the storm caused no major erosion, but did make some interesting rearrangements. The western tip of the sandy island has curled toward shore in front of the bathing beach parking lot, reducing the width of the channel by half. At the moment the channel is clogged with ice and the beach in that area was scoured down to rocks and peat. Over at the fisherman’s parking lot, another big oak fell onto the beach. Soon you will have an unobstructed water view without even getting out of your vehicle.

Superintendent Chris Kennedy of The Trustees of Reservations has a handy wintertime hint for us regarding driving on a snow-covered beach. “It’s a bad idea! You will definitely get stuck.” Chris says that a Cape Pogue resident asked about the drivability of the beach after last Thursday’s blizzard. Chris’ response was, “Only one way to find out! Let’s try it.” The TTOR patrol trucks are specially outfitted with oversize sand tires, big engines and low transaxle ratios. Still the pickup couldn’t get more than 50 feet beyond the Dike Bridge gate house and had to be winched back to solid ground. The snow had mixed into the sand creating a concoction that no four-wheeled vehicle can swim through. With this in mind, occasional beach closures will be required until the snow melts. I remember Foster Silva’s chant from long ago, “Don’t drive on sand unless you can see it!”

I also have a vivid memory of a Fourth of July several decades back. In his customary role as drum major, Don MacRae was leading the pipe band past the top of Daggett street, where most of the Chappaquiddickers watch the parade. Several loud young men with alcohol-impaired judgment had apparently become confused by the sight of the men in kilts. Lurching out into the street, they assumed menacing stances blocking Don’s way, and expressed their concern that he may not have been aware that he was a guy dressed in gals’ clothes. Don slowed his pace only slightly, calmly allowing his tormentors a moment to exercise their right to freedom of speech. One second later, after a preparatory windup of his mace-like baton above his head, he swung the weapon in a shoulder-high arc, knocking the spokesman to the ground and scattering the remaining cowards like pigeons. Don sidestepped around his suddenly speechless accoster, returned the baton to its traditional function of keeping time and resumed his stride. A few spectators leapt forth and dragged the villain to safety only inches before he would have been trampled by the bagpipers, who had not missed a step or a beat.