Community Involvement · Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday features participants in CPA programs throughout the year. We sit down with the featured individual and talk about some of his/her favorite memories. Send us an e-mail if you are interested in sharing some of your own stories!

This month, we are “throwing back” with Margaret Callander. A frequent participant in our lunch programs, Margaret agreed to sit down with us and talk about three defining moments in her life. Margaret’s parents moved to the United States in 1929 from Scotland. Her father was a Scottish Piper, and his art inspired her to begin Highland Dancing at the age of five. She began competing at the age of twelve, and the rest is history! Margaret’s defining moments center on her achievements in Highland Dancing.


MC head shot


Margaret decided to start with 1955, when she was a twenty-three years old, and visited Scotland with two of her students of Highland Dancing for the Edinburgh Festival. Margaret told us that not only did her students go on this trip, but all three mothers of the dancers, each of whom was a Scottish emigrant to the United States.

On this trip, Margaret was competing in several dances, one of which was the Highland Fling. Margaret worked incredibly hard leading up to the competition – practicing four hours per day (in addition to teaching dance) – and felt pressure to represent her country well. The hard work paid off, and Margaret beat out the Scots and Canadians competing that day for first place. She says, “she gave her heart” and was elated to win. The audience was shocked! It was major news to have an American beat out the Scottish and Canadian dancers – Margaret’s win made international news. A London paper, Women’s Sunday Mirror, featured Margaret as their “Outstanding Woman of the Week” and wrote under the headline “YANKEE DOODLE DANDY”:
“An American tourist, twenty-three-year-old Margaret Callander, beat competitors from all over Scotland in the Highland Fling at the International Festival of Dancing in Edinburgh. Back home in Cleveland, Ohio, dark-haired Margaret is an accountant. In her spare time, she teaches 18 pupils Scottish dancing. For being the first American to win this traditionally Scottish event, the staff at Women’s Sunday Mirror have presented Margaret with this week’s bouquet of two dozen red roses.”

MC dancing with text

While Margaret was still in Scotland, a Cleveland based radio station wanted to interview her about her win. The only way to contact her was through a government phone that was located at the Post Office. In order to use the phone and conduct the interview, the Post Office was shut down! Other headlines read, “The Ohio Girl Beats Scotland,” and “American girl wins four medals at Highland Dancing.”


1977 & 1978

About twenty years after her big win in Scotland, Margaret and a group of her friends in the Cleveland community identified the need for a regional group that would organize the efforts being made to continue the legacy of Scottish arts. In order to do so, this group decided to start the Ohio Scottish Games in 1977. The games, held at the Lorain County Fairgrounds each year, allowed competitors to enter in the following categories: Highland Dancing, Pipes and Drums, Band, Scottish Fiddle, and Scottish Harp. The intent of establishing these games was to create a school for those individuals who want to perfect their art – this was accomplished in 1978 when Margaret and the team she was working with created the Ohio Scottish Arts School. Margaret knew she needed to start both the games and the school in order to preserve the legacy of her family, and because she “wanted the world to know about Scotland” and its beauty. The Ohio Art School started with three teachers and fifty-eight students – today it has over 200 students! Margaret’s hope for the students is that they learn and perfect their art,
and continue to win and entertain!

 MC current


Margaret says that the finale of her life’s work was her induction into the Cleveland International Hall of Fame. Established in 2010, the Cleveland International Hall of Fame was started “in order to recognize the pioneers in Cleveland ethnic communities and to encourage a new generation of volunteers and leaders.” Margaret is the first inductee of Scottish heritage, and she is incredibly proud to have been recognized with so many other inspiring individuals. When she first got the call that she had been nominated, she didn’t believe it! But, it was true – and we think well deserved!

Margaret’s hope is that people will learn about Scotland and the beauty of its land and people.


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