This weekend Sarasota played host to the 21st Annual Celtic Festival and Highland Games. The skirl of the bagpipes reminds us of the deep connection Sarasota has to Scotland. As you wander along the waterfront in downtown Sarasota you will see a historical marker that commemorates the spot where late in 1885 a number of Scottish families first came ashore. Instead of the established town they were promised they met wilderness and many did not stay. But those who did along with settlers who were already here platted the Town of Sarasota on July 27, 1886.


The company that had lured the Scottish settlers was owned by the Gillespie family of Edinburgh and they sent son John Gillespie to Sarasota to sort out the discontent. Gillespie remained in Sarasota to oversee a 40-acre experimental farm and was responsible for the clearing of three miles of Main Street and  the building of a substantial wharf on the waterfront. He also built a hotel on Main Street. In 1902, he was elected the first mayor of Sarasota.


Besides the haunting music of the pipes perhaps Scotland’s greatest contribution to the rest of the world is the game of golf. John Gillespie is credited with introducing the game in the US 1904 when he built a nine-hole golf course east of the present Links Avenue. It is considered to be one of the first courses ever built in the US. With the game firmly established, the game’s legend, Booby Jones was asked by the Adair family of Atlanta, Georgia to help them sell lots they were developing in town by playing a match against Walter Hagen in 1925.  In 1927 Sarasota built a municipal course named for Bobby Jones and Jones himself attended the ceremony.The names of Gillespie and Jones are still prominent in Sarasota.