In 2001 I met a guy named Robert Monroe. Bart, one of the co-founders of Inspire Infrastructure (my company), brought him aboard to do business stuff (as opposed to nondescript technical stuff).
He went back to the US later that same year, and disappeared off the face of the Earth for a couple of years.
Then in March 2004 I received an email titled "Status Update", along with a bunch of pictures. Turns out the guy had signed up for military service (again, he had been in the marines before), and had shipped out to Iraq. It also turned out that he had married a scottish girl, Nicola, he met while in Scotland on a friend's wedding.
We stayed in touch and when I was scheduled to go to LA on a business trip we decided to get together. I then found out about his wedding - the original had been a civil ceremony with only him and Nicola - and had taken place in late 2003. Now he was going to fire off the big ceremony.
I was invited, and pushed my second trip to the states back one week in order to avoind going to LA only to turn 180 degrees and go back to the UK.
I can't find words to describe the hospitality with which I was received. Both the Monroe and the Chisholm-Douglas family treated me better than they would treat their own. It is my hope that I'll, to some extent, be able to repay this overwhelming generosity some time.
My head is still spinning from the knock you on your ass, mindblowing experience of a scottish wedding, but I managed to take a bunch of pictures.
But first some history.
Clan Munro (Monroe)
A lot can be written about the history of the Monroes, but I'll limit myself to some basic points. More information can be found on this web page about Clan Munro[a]. Note the tartan on the kilt in the illustration - Rob is wearing the same.
Motto: Dread God
Battle cry: Caisteal Foulis na theine (Castle Foulis in flames)
Military strength: 400 men (1715), 500 men (1745)
Lands: East Dingwall
Clan tradition hold that they formed a branch of the natives of Scotland who, about 357, being driven out by the Romans, and forced to take refuge in Ireland, were located for several centuries on the stream of the Roe and among the adjacent mountains. From there comes the name Monroe, "Men from Roe". In 11th century during the time of Malcolm II, the ancestors of the Munroes are said to have come over to Scotland to aid in expelling the Danes. In return for their aid they received the lands of East Dingwall in Ross-shire.
Robert More Munro, the 15th chief, was a faithful friend of Mary, queen of Scots. Buchanan states that when that unfortunate princess went to Inverness in 1562 and was refused admission, then "as soon as they heard of their soveriegn's danger, a great number of the most eminent Scots poured in around her, especially the Frasers and Munroes, who were esteemed the most valiant of the clans inhabiting those countries". These two clans took for the Queen Inverness castle.
In 1626, the Munro clan joined Gustavus Adolphus in the thirty years-war, and displayed such military skill that at one time there were no fewer than "three generals, eight colonels, five lieutenant-colonels, eleven majors, and above thirty captains all of the name of Munro, besides a great number of subalterns." The military strength of the Munro clan at the time, about 700, would be enough for one major and four or five captains, given normal unit sizes.
Now for the fun stuff!
All branches of Rob's family have big families. Rob himself have four brothers, and his cousins (Colleen, Kathryn and Stephanie) and their parents make up a family of mom, dad and three sisters. Nicola has two half-brothers and a sister.
On this picture we see the boys, from left to right: Sam Chisholm-Douglas (Nicola's brother), Michael Monroe, Mark Monroe, Robert Monroe, Ron (Rob's best friend), Rick Monroe, Jason Monroe and Sean Chisholm-Douglas.
Because just having chocolate cakes isn't gluttonous enough - oh no! Ten kilos of chocolate, a tower and a pump gets you a chocolate fountain. You then pick up marshmallows, candies, grapes etc. with sticks and coat them in chocolate. Like a fondue, but with candy and fruit instead of meat. And with chocolate instead of cheese, obviously.
This is Staff Sergeant Chris Braman. His military history started as a cook, but with his physique he was quickly grabbed by special forces and made into an airborne special forces soldier. After being away from his family 218 days a year for a couple of years he went back to cook duty at the Pentagon. When the hijacked plane slammed into the Pentagon on 9/11, he rushed in and out of the still burning ruins, managing to carry three people out of the flames. Only one of them survived. Chris himself suffered chemical burns to his throat and lungs, as well as the mental scarring. He received the Purple Heart and the Soldier's Medal for his bravery. You can read his account here.[b]
Although the presence of a camera appears to extinguish every trace of a smile from his face, he smiles and laughs a lot. He is 33 years old and has a family consisting of his wife and three children.
Almost caught Chris before he could zero out his face! Behind is Doug, father of the bride, and Sam, the bride's half-brother (on her father's side).
Clockwise from Rob we have Colleen, Stephanie and Kathryn, their mother Michelle and Nicola. Turns out that Stephanie's husband, Steven (Steven Wagner, cue Ride of the Valkyries here) is in the real estate business and know about Interchange (the US company that bought my company), and even knew the CEO's name (Heath Clarke). Apparently he had (unsuccessfully) tried to get business with them. It's a small world!
Colleen just finished college (nurse), and Kathryn works at the Westin chain of hotels. I've already secured an invitation to dinner at their place when I'm in Irvine, as well as a promise to go bar-hopping through LA, so I'm sure I won't be bored.
No description needed.
Good guys wear black - here exemplified by Leo of Clan Sutic. The kilt is made of heavy wool, and the socks worn are also the thick and warm variety. I later realized that the pouch can be very useful for storing cellphones, keys, etc. Not only do I wear something that resembles a skirt, I get something resembling a purse to go with it!
From left to right is: Richard Monroe Sr., Robert's father. Nicola, the bride. Rob. Michele, Rob's mother. Michele, whose name is spelt with only one "l" has french ancestry. The family history documents handed out at the reception describe the connection between France and Scotland - for example, anyone born in either country would automatically receive citizenship in the other, up until 1903. In addition to the US branch of the Monroes, a sizable contingent of French arrived.
Left to right again: Chris Braman, Chloe (younger sister of Nicola and best maid), Nicola, Rob, Ron (Rob's childhood friend and best man). This picture was taken right after the ceremony in the abbey. The temperature isn't that high, and there were some nasty cold winds blowing when this picture was taken. Good thing though, there wasn't any problem making people hold their pose as most joints in their bodies froze solid in less than a minute.
The picture that heralded Rob's return to Earth in 2004.
Me and Collin, a relative of Nicola.
Rob and Nicola walking down the aisle after the ceremony.
Picture taken at the reception after the ceremony. The kid isn't Rob and Nicola's, but the apparently plan to have children pretty soon.
There's a ton more to write about, including telling you what the schedule was during my four days there, what happened to the bride's garter, a twenty-plus centimeter knife of Damascus steel, Scottish drinking habits, the logic behind Scottish food, stag night, etc. but I want something to do on the transatlantic flight that starts in less than ten hours so I'll write it then.
Take care you all, and don't try to schedule two Scottish weddings back to back.