Caledonia is the name the Romans gave to the northern part of what was then called Britannia. Although that land is now officially Scotland, Caledonia is still used in a poetic, sentimental sense. When I think of Caledonia, I am engulfed by emotion. I think of my Scottish grandmother, who passed away when my mother was only 13. I think of singer-songwriter Dougie McLean’s beautiful song “Caledonia,” written in his early 20s when he was living in France and homesick for Scotland. The first notes of the song always bring tears for other reasons as well.
I first heard “Caledonia” when the Irish group, Celtic Thunder, first appeared on PBS early in 2008. My husband found them when channel surfing one night, and we were hooked. We saw them live for the first time later that year and at least once every year until my husband passed in 2012. A staple of their show, “Caledonia” was a fan favorite both for the kilts and because the only Scotsman in the group, George Donaldson, was beloved by all. Naturally, he had a central role whenever Celtic Thunder performed it. George tragically passed away suddenly in 2014 at the age of 46, leaving his wife and young daughter.
In the first video that follows, Dougie McLean performs the song that some consider to be Scotland’s unofficial national anthem. The second is George Donaldson performing a solo acoustic version of “Caledonia.” Enjoy!