'Highland Games baby' returns 22 years later
by Jeff Eason
His name is MacKintosh Barker and he was born in the Grandfather Mountain Campground adjoining MacRae Meadows on July 11, 1991, during that year's Highland Games.
On Wednesday and Thursday, MacKintosh and his father Michael Barker, along with Hillary Schacht, returned to MacRae Meadows and the Highland games for the first time in 21 years.
Standing about 10 feet from where MacKintosh (Mac to his friends, Tosh to his family) was born, they told the unique story of Mac's birth.
"I was actually supposed to be born in June," said the younger Barker. "But I was a stubborn little child and said I'm not going to be born until July. I'm going to stay in my mother's womb for a while."
Knowing that his wife, Leslie, could give birth at any moment, Michael Barker brought along a midwife, Lisa Goldstein from Burnsville, N.C. The plan was to stay at the Highland Games in a motorhome and then to drive to Spruce Pine for the birth the next day.
"They were going to induce labor the next day," said Michael. "We were going to have to leave the games because she was so late.
"And all of a sudden it started happening."
According to Michael Barker, his wife began to go into labor about four in the afternoon on Saturday. The word spread quickly throughout the campground that a baby was about to be born at the Highland Games.
"Everybody around here was on pins and needles," Michael said. "My experience was that it was like being in Munchkinland from 'The Wizard of Oz.'"
When word came out of the motorhome at 3 a.m. that a baby boy had been born, the campground exploded in celebration.
"The pipes went off at three in the morning when he was born and everybody woke up and started dancing around and celebrating," Michael said. "This whole place came alive for about 20 minutes and then they all went back to bed. It was quite the scene. It was something else."
Michael said that day was also the last total solar eclipse in North America in the 20th century and Mac's birth coincided with the new moon.
"If you look up July 11, 1991, and type 'Mayan,' you'll see that it is a special day in the Mayan calendar," he said ."It is all pretty surreal."
After Mac's birth, Leslie and Michael had a number of visitors, including journalists, come to the motorhome to congratulate them and see the newborn baby. Eventually it became too much for Leslie and she ordered Michael to turn them away.
"My favorite anecdote is about when we're in the motorhome and Hugh Morton came knocking and Leslie said, 'Get out of here. I'm not talking to anybody else,'" Michael said. "And he owned Grandfather Mountain. He just wanted to congratulate her and see Tosh."
Later that morning, when Mac was about 4 hours old, his father took him to his first Highland Games.
"He was in the Parade of Tartans on Sunday," Michael said. "I held him up as we went by the stand. He was out amongst everybody at the games. I was walking around showing him to everybody when he was all of 4 hours old."
According to Michael, he attended the Highland Games for 20 straight years before moving out west. The last time he and Mac were at the games was around the time of Mac's first birthday.
Michael now lives in Santa Fe, N. M., while Mac and his mother, now Leslie Latham, live in Buffalo and Jamestown, N.Y., respectively. Mac recently graduated from Buffalo State University with a degree in journalism.
"My mom is a Presbyterian minister, so I've come down to Montreat several times for the Presbyterian Music Camp, but this is the first time I've been back to Grandfather Mountain," Mac said.
After spending Wednesday and Thursday night at the Highland Games Campground, the Barkers and Schacht plan on traveling to West Virginia to visit relatives.
"We're all musicians," Michael said. "So tonight we're going to go from camp to camp playing and music and singing like I used to do in the old days.
"And tomorrow we're going to celebrate a very special birthday."
If you go
This weekend's 58th annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and Gathering of Scottish Clans is a showcase of Scottish heritage, another opportunity to reconnect with ancestry, family and friends and a visitor experience unlike any other festival in the country.
For the second consecutive year, GMHG is offering a special discount to attend today, the final afternoon of this weekend's festival, as locally based adult patrons can attend after noon this Sunday, July 14, for $10, with a ticket price of $5 for children ages 5 to 12 years old.
Tickets for GMHG are available by cash upon arrival at the Games, or visitors may purchase them by credit or debit card at the GMHG office in downtown Linville.
For more information about this year's Grandfather Mountain Highland Games,, call the Games office at (828) 733-1333 or click to http://www.gmhg.org.
- Compiled by Jamie Shell