Friday, August 2, 2013

What It Means to Be a McCallum: A Birthday Gift for Noah

My oldest grandson, Noah, turns 12 today.  I couldn’t be prouder of him.  He’s growing up so fast.  And just to show off my math skills, he will turn 13 next year.  So he enters his last year before he becomes a teenager.  But he’s old enough for the message I want to give him today.  And this is not just for him.  It’s for the rest of my grandkids too, when they get old enough to appreciate it and understand it.

Noah, you are a McCallum.  I know that you are not 100% McCallum.  Nobody is 100% from one family.  If they are, well, they have other issues to be concerned with, and that’s just a little weird.  You are also an Evans.  But you bear the McCallum name.  And you will carry that name with you forever.  So Noah, I want to tell you what it means to be a McCallum

We McCallums hail from Kenteyre, Argyllshire, Scotland.  Though most of our records trace back only to 1690, it’s likely, though not definitive, that some of our ancestors fought alongside William Wallace for Scottish independence at the turn of the 14th century.  We certainly have some warrior in our blood.  We came to the United States in 1770.  We came through North Carolina.  Not many McCallums fought officially in the Revolutionary War because in securing permission to leave Scotland for America, we had to take an oath not to fight against the English crown.  Still, records show that some McCallums got into the action when they believed that British cruelty in the war broke the King’s side of the oath.  In fact, we have some kind of distant kinship to Francis Marion, also known as the Swamp Fox from South Carolina who wrecked havoc with the British during the latter part of the war.  (Mel Gibson’s character in The Patriot is loosely based upon Marion’s work in the war.)  I don’t know the exact relation, but your great-great aunts (my dad’s sisters) were all part of the organization called Daughters of the American Revolution because of this connection.

Our clan moved from North Carolina across through Tennessee.  Our particular branch of the family tree put down roots in Union Church, Mississippi.  Because of our deep connections to the South, we also had family involved in the Civil War.  Later, in the 20th century, your great-grandfather (my dad) and his two brothers all served in World War II.  Your great-grandfather was a Navy Seabee in the South Pacific.  And your great-great uncles served in the Army Air Corps—Uncle John (for whom I’m named) served in Europe, and Uncle Robert served in the South Pacific.  Later my brother Bill served in the Marines and then in the Army and helped America win the Cold War with the Soviet Union.  You’ve got some warrior blood running through your veins.  That’s part of what it means to be a McCallum.

You also have the blood of success.  By success I don’t mean multi-millionaires.  I mean you have a heritage of family who grew up left home and made a way for themselves in a variety of occupations.  You’ve got farmers and businessmen and engineers and a city sheriff (my grandfather who was killed in the line of duty in 1928), and yes, even pastors, in your family history.  One of them, your 4x great-grandfather, Angus McCallum, was a missionary to the Choctaw Indians as well as starting at least two Presbyterian churches in Mississippi.  We buried my father in the cemetery outside one of those churches in Union Church, Mississippi.  Noah, you come from a family of hard working people.  McCallums are not and never have been lazy or expected others to take care of us.  Under the mercies and providence of God, we McCallums work to make our own way, 

Which brings me to the most important thing it means to be a McCallum: it means loving and serving God as a follower of Jesus.  Our family Coat-of-Arms has three words beneath the drawing: Deus refugium nostrum.  That’s Latin for “God is our refuge.”  Here’s a note about our coat-of-arms from a book about our family:

Thus, the family of McCallum is distinguished, according to the ancient science of heraldry, for the honesty and generosity of its individual members, who furthermore, have been conspicuous for their devotion to the Christian religion.

Honest, generous, Christian, hard-working, willing to fight for what we believe—this kind of blood runs through your veins.  You should be both thankful and proud of that.

We are no perfect family.  Like any family we’ve had our scoundrels, I suspect.  But by and large, McCallum is a good family and a good name.  And since you carry that in your flesh and blood and on your birth certificate just like the rest of us on this side of your family, I wanted you to know something of what it means to be a McCallum.

Oh, and one more thing: I was reading through the Proverbs the other day when I came across this verse: “A good name is to be more desired than great riches” (22:1).  Noah, that is so very, very true.  And it reminded me of something I found when I was going through some stuff I got from my father’s apartment after his death.  I came across a little brass plaque he kept in a drawer.  At the top it reads “McCallum.”  Beneath it is this poem:

You got it from your father, it was all he had to give.
So it’s yours to use and cherish, for as long as you may live.
If you lose the watch he gave you, it can always be replaced.
But a black mark on your name, son, can never be erased.
It was clean the day you took it, and a worthy name to bear.
When he got it from his father, there was no dishonor there.
So make sure you guard it wisely, after all is said and done.
You’ll be glad the name is spotless, when you give it to your son.

God has trusted you with the McCallum name, Noah.  And on your birthday I want you to know that I’m so very glad He did.  You carry it well, boy.  And I have no doubt you will carry it well when you’re all grown up.  I love you.  I’m proud of you.  You are a blessing to our family.  Happy Birthday, Noah.  Enjoy!


  1. Also good for your kids to read. Thanks, Dad. :) Happy Birthday Noah!! You are LOVED.

  2. A very commendable family tree and challenge to young Noah John....Know now why I like you so much; you have some Mississippi heritage in you besides being a good pastor-preacher.
    Have a wonderful Sunday!

  3. Noah will treasure that family history forever!