Our History

A Brief and Personal History of the Beginnings of Hawkwood & Some of What Came After

by Don Duncan Gregor MacGregor, founding member

By way of Introduction, a Warning and Disclaimer: These are personal memories of people and events that took place so long ago now that once youthful and sharp memories have blurred. Any mistakes in any way ~ dates, places, people, titles, you get the idea ~ are mine alone and were innocently made. I have written this personal history of Hawkwood's Beginnings because I was there, and somehow I alone am still here to tell you of it. I suspect that many of our experiences will prove to be similar, and I hope that you might smile again at your own earliest memories of the Society. Now then ~ I salute our past!

* * *

In the winter of 1976 I was a seventeen year old senior in high school. There was no way that I could know that it was actually Anno Societatis X. That winter I read a reprint of Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword. In his afterword, the Society for Creative Anachronism was mentioned and briefly explained.

People actually lived and fought and shared a communal recreation of the middle ages? There were living breathing "knights in shining armor" wielding weapons in combat? This "Society" sounded exactly like what I had been looking for all.

Of course I wrote to the Society office in Milpitas, California. As I remember it, I didn't have a Post Office box number, or street address to use. Just the fact that The Society for Creative Anachronism was in Milpitas, CA. I read and reread that brief account of the SCA. I lent my old friend and gaming buddy Mark Monaghan The Broken Sword. He was as excited about the idea as I was. I did not receive a reply to my query letter that summer; and so I waited and hoped this Society was real.

In the fall of 1977, I went off to Wake Forest University, in Winston-Salem, NC. Sometime after that, my Father called to let me know that a letter had arrived for me from Milpitas, California, and should he forward it on to me? Of course not! I asked him to open it and read it to me right away. The Society was real and, yes, my life was forever changed.

Unfortunately, I no longer have that letter. But I actually do still have the piece of paper that I took notes on when I called the contact number that had so kindly been sent. Apparently it was on March 27th of 1978 that I was fortunate enough to speak with the incredibly patient and kind Lord Robin of Mannefeld. (Whose name of course I hopelessly mangled into Lord Robin of Many Fields).

I lived in the East Kingdom and it was A.S. XII. According to my very quickly scribbled notes, there were seven officers in each group: "Seneschal, Herald, Knight Marshal, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Master of Arts, Master of Sciences, and a Chronicler." It cost $10 a year to join and you received the Pikestaff, the East Kingdom's newsletter. We lived within the new Barony of Windmasters Hill; all of North Carolina, and I think a goodly portion of South Carolina. As I recall, Lord Robin mentioned that Atlantia was, or was about to become, a Principality of the East and hopefully then a Kingdom in its' own right.

To fight you were required to wear "helms, constructed from 18 gauge steel or freon cans, kidney belts, thigh protection (unsure if they are required or merely strongly suggested), knee and elbow pads, and either hockey or lacrosse gloves to protect your hands. Society fighters used rattan swords and heavy reinforced plywood shields." There was even going to be a "Fighter practice in mid-April (on weekend)!" Of course I called Mark. He drove to Winston-Salem for the practice. In a state of great excitement and anticipation we meet at the home of Baron Brian Malcaoin and Baroness Karina Haakonsdottir, the Founding Baron and Baroness of Windmasters Hill. (Baron Brian of the amazing head of red hair).

As I remember, it wasn't a particularly large meeting, but everyone was bubbling with excitement and enthusiasm ~ Windmasters Hill was now a Barony! Atlantia was (or was going to become) a Principality! There was a "First Intra-Kingdom Tourney" to be planned for that Memorial Day, May the 3rd.

[Through all of these years I have always thought that meeting and fighter practice marked the beginning of the Barony of Windmaster's Hill. I clearly remember being told that the group was no longer Incipient. In double checking dates, I have found that the Founding Baron Brian Malcaoin was Invested on February 19th of 1977. I do not see how it could have been the first business meeting after Windmaster's Hill became a Barony. So perhaps Cym Mynydd, as Winston-Salem was then known, was no longer an Incipient Canton. I no longer can remember . . .]

The highlight for us was meeting Lord Jacques the Jovial, as he was introduced to us. Lord Jacques was an actual SCA fighter! And he was delighted to answer every question that we could think to ask about him Society combat. He suited us up one at a time in his leather armor and gave us each a short lesson. He showed us basic round shield blocks and sword blows. He had us block with the shield as he called each target that he would throw a blow at. (Long afterwards I realized just how slowly, compared to his full speed, he must have been moving for us to have blocked any of his blows!) Then he gave us each one good killing blow to the helm. I was hooked.

All innocent and unknowing we had finally found what we had been looking for. It was obviously to us that Asheville needed a Chapter of the Society! Like so many others had before us, we called all of our like-minded friends and told them as much as we knew about the Society.

That spring Mark and Chris Buck and I went in together and bought a ten ounce cow hide to use for our first armour. I began weaving maille. Between the three of us we made enough components to armour one person. Our fighter practices consisted of one person in armour practicing their shield defenses and one person practicing their sword work. When your shield arm tired you took a break and the swordsman worked on their defensive skills. It was pretty primitive and simple, but it worked and it was fun and we were all hooked.

Mark and I attended our first S.C.A. event, the First Inter-Kingdom Tournament that Atlantia hosted. Amongst the wonderful people that we meet that weekend was a small group from Charlotte, N.C.. Being just a couple of hours travel time away the Canton of the Guardians of the Sacred Stone were our closest S.C.A. neighbors. There was no way that we could know it then, but we would come to know the Guardians very well.

At our first "meeting" Mark, Sylvia and Chris Buck and I decided to start a Canton. By then Mark was known as Seamus O'Neill of Tir Connell, Sylvia had become Bethany and Chris, William the Wolf. We were a little unclear on some of the details (like the difference between a dues paying member and a "member"), but we had the right idea. Seamus agreed to become our first Seneschal. Since our meetings and our fighter practices were held at the same time and place, Sister Jillian of the Quiet Room, a female mannequin that I used as an armour stand, joined us for a few meetings as our fifth "member".

We almost had enough members to become a Canton; we had a number of local people interested in the Society. We had one suit of armour between us. Seamus and I had even been to an actual event. It was obviously time to hold our first "event"!

We decided that a newcomer's event, a learning event was the perfect theme. We called and wrote to everyone that we knew in the Barony of Windmasters Hill and asked them if they would come and teach us; if they would show us and tell us how to be a Canton. We invited anyone that lived in Asheville and had shown any interest in the S.C.A. to come to a day event to learn more.

We had no idea how many people to expect. Seamus and I baked lots of chicken quarters. Lots of chicken quarters. Seamus made scones, Bethany made lemonade and iced tea. I supplied two large glass goblets for thank you gifts for our traveling friends.

The morning before our first event Seamus and I in our long "tunics" put in a little time sparring in his parents' front yard and by doing so added to the huge store of nearly apocryphal Society stories. A police cruiser stopped to check us out, and the officers politely explained that a neighbor had called in to say that, "Men in dresses were hitting each other with baseball bats in the Monaghans' front yard."

I still have a copy of our group's first report which covered all of 1978. When that report was sent in we had 10 members, and 4 subscribers. Our first "event" is recorded as being held on the weekend of July the Fourth, 1978; three months after Seamus and I attended our first actual business meeting and fighter practice. However, I also have a letter dated July the 2nd that refers to our event at the end of June of that year. Regardless of the actual date, that event was a great success and with the help and inspiration of our traveling friends our almost-Canton truly came together and began then.

To quote from that first report: "An introductory 'event' and revel was held on the weekend of July Fourth to which we invited Lords and Ladies throughout our area in hope that they could help us to learn more about the SCA. This event took the form of a hunting feast and revel, between 35 and 40 attended. It was not in essence an official event as at the time we had yet to join the society (We did not send in our papers until Oct.)."

"Canton Meetings have been held on average of once per month, with Fight practices usually held afterwards. At the present time there have been no real guild meetings as there are no real guilds set up at this time, however once to twice a month those of us with like interests get together to make armour, practice calligraphy, etc."

The day of our first event we met at Mills River State Park. Between the interested locals and the kindness of those willing to travel so far we had a very good turn out. Baron Brian attended, Lord Jacques, Lord Robin and his wife Lady Alurra, Lady Elessar Hyundai and a number of others traveled many hours to introduce us to the S.C.A., spending that beautiful day across a stream out in a slightly overgrown meadow nestled in the mountains living our dream of the current middle ages.

To make a place of honor, a High Table, for our renowned and gracious Baron we used my unfinished bright red circle cloak (nylon fabric, of course) so that He would not be forced to sit directly upon the grass. I wish that I could remember the names of all of those that were there that day. I cannot. But certain memories and people still stand out strongly for me.

Lord Jacques was justly famous for his smiling and ready acceptance of any request to travel and teach his fighting skills. No matter how far he might be asked to travel his answer was always, "Sure, why not?" Lord Jacques Martel de Normandie, called the Jovial with very good reason, was the first Companion Inducted into the Order of the Sea Stag. His example and his teachings had a huge influence on us and on our first view of the SCA.

Lord Robin and his wife Lady Alura the Twinn were incredibly active then, promoting the Society's Ideals and encouraging new members. Just as importantly they were open and welcoming to all. Lady Alura wrote a series of regular 'letters' in the Windlore, the Windmasters newsletter, that had profound affects upon us. She wrote of traveling and open-armed welcome, of how to enhance everyone's experience. Lady Alura's and Duke Cariadoc's writings and teachings on persona and attitude had a big impact on how we saw and thought of things. [Although I can now find no mention of her in the Atlantian Order of Precedence, as I recall, not long after this time they both were Inducted into the Order of the Pelican.]

After all of the eating, and all of the talking, and stories, and sharing and encouraging and even a little sparring, after Lady Alura sang a song she wrote in our honour, the day was suddenly over and night was falling and we were begging our guests to take even more chicken home with them!

Names are important and powerful things. Later that summer, or early that fall, at one of our first meetings, at Bethany and William's, we discussed names for our soon-to-be Canton. Of course we each had our own ideas about a name for Asheville's Canton . . . In our newly inspired research into all things medieval and renaissance, Mark and I had both read a biography of Sir John Hawkwood, the English condottierre. At some point that night Hawkwood was suggested for our name. Rather than Sir John, it was the idea of Hawkwood: Our mountains were covered in woods and there were lots of hawks in them. That was it. There was no doubt that Hawkwood was the right name for our Canton. Somehow Hawkwood resonated for all us, within us. Suddenly our long discussion was over ~ we had become the Incipient Canton of Hawkwood.

The following Spring, in one of her articles for Windlore, Lady Alura the Twinn wrote: "As an example of how fun staying in persona can be, consider Hawkwood. Even before this mountain land was named, they invited us to guest there and teach. As we sat on the ground in a field, they spread clothes for us and served us on bended knee. They spoke well as they thanked us with ceremony and with gifts. They had no model. All they had was courage to try to act nobly, and their success should be an example to all new groups. We who have lived in this land for four years found no fault with their behavior. I will never forget the confident and courteous speech and bearing of their Seneschal, who wore an old bathrobe and matching chaperon. Go thou and do likewise!"

FAR MOUNTAINS
by Lady Alura the Twinn

(Composed in commemoration of, and sung during, Asheville's first event. AS XIII) This song is sung to the tune of "Oh no, John". It can be sung by two people, a mountain Windmaster and a valley Windmaster. If it is, the mountain Windmaster changes "they" to "we" as shown.

W:
In yonder mountain stands a village
Where dwell folk (Where we dwell) alone and free
They (We) heard tales of lords and ladies
Kings and courts and finery
Far mountains, come to the mountains, come

VW:
To those mountains came a wise man
And his head was crowned in flame
Come and join our lords and ladies
In the lands that serve my name
Far mountains, go the mountains, go

MW:
We know naught of lords and ladies
There is much we do not know
Come to the mountains, come and teach us
Then we will be fit to go
Far mountains, come to the mountains, come

VW:
To the lands of lords and ladies
Four swift winds the message bore
Go to the mountains, go and teach them
Welcome them to share our love
Far mountains, go to the mountains, go

MW:
Criers in the mountain village
Spread the word from door to door
Come greet the nobles from the valley
Welcome them and learn their lore
Far mountains, come to the mountains, come

MW:
When they (we) first proposed a visit
They (we) expected but a score
Wind bore word unto the (our) village
They (We) must guest some 24
Far mountains, come to the mountains, come

VW:
First they spread us napkin of linen
Then sweet scone and bread and cheese
Cakes and wine and chicken in plenty
As we all sat at our ease
Far mountains, go to the mountains, go

VW:
Then they set a table of scarlet
Gifted us with goblets fine
Jacques replied, "In city and palace
Never did I better dine"
Far mountains, go the mountains, go

VW:
"Ye have asked us hither to teach you
Ye will learn most speedily
Princes and kings have naught to teach you
In the art of courtesy"
Far mountains, go to the mountains, go

MW:
All the nobles of the valleys
From this song this moral know
If ye travel to the mountains
Thence ye will be loath to go
Far mountains, come to the mountains, come

And so the Canton of Hawkwood, then within the Barony of Windmasters' Hill began and truly came to life. Yes, as with any new group, there were a few times in the first couple of years when our future might have been in doubt. Such times are long behind us. Hawkwood has grown and flourished.

Hawkwood owes much to all of those that went before us, to everyone that attended our first event, and to all of those in the many years since that have nurtured and encouraged us. In return, as is only right, we have contributed to and helped as best we could the Barony of Windmasters' Hill. We have done the same with our parent Barony, the Barony of the Sacred Stone; which began, as the Shire of Emanon ("No name" spelled backwards) two years after Hawkwood's first event. We have done the same with those that have come to us and that we have traveled to. For such is the nature and the way of the Society. By doing so the Society itself and all of us within it do prosper and grow.

In all of these long years there are many people that I personally owe great debts to. I suspect, and even hope, that the same is true of those of you that have read these words. Through Hawkwood I have meet some of the most important people in my life: my Lady Wife, my truest and best friends, my companions upon this journey of learning and growing and sharing. I have learned much, and grown thereby. I thank you each and everyone.

I salute you Hawkwood and I thank you too for all that you have been for me, for all that you mean to me. I thank all of those that made Hawkwood possible. For without you we might not be here now. I salute the memory of our early years.

I am not sure exactly how it came to pass, but somehow I alone have come down through all of these years to bear witness to our very beginnings. As best I can I have told you of my memories. These words are mine and mine alone; so too are any mistakes or omissions that I might have inadvertently made.

Hawkwood I am, and long shall be Your Servant.

Duncan
Don Duncan Gregor MacGregor of Hawkwood