[Provincial Tartan of New Scotland (Nova Scotia)] Tartan of New Scotland (Nova Scotia); Click to enlarge [jpeg:10K]

Notes re the Kirkin' o' the Tartan Ceremony

Carried out as Rev. Peter Marshall intended in 1943 (when it was started), with the aims he had in mind, this ceremony can be a great social occasion where people of Scots origin can get together, worship God, and have fun. Alas, a great deal of utter hogwash has evolved around the ceremony the following recent example by a Rev MacRae being typical:
"Scottish people were not always free to wear their Tartans. During the Scottish Proscription, about 200 years ago Tartans were forbidden," explained MacRae. "People used to bring their Tartans to church hidden under their cloaks. Marshall believed that the Kirkin' O' Th' Tartans would keep this memory alive as well as provide a natural outgrowth of the devotation Scots placed in their Tartan."

As a native born Scots historian in my own right I frankly abhor such Brigadoonery. There is no evidence whatsoever of such a custom ever being practised in Scotland; in fact when the Act of Parliament permitting tartans to be worn was passed it was met with total apathy in the Highlands (vide Prebble's book 'Culloden'). Even during the Prohibition, please remember that Scottish regiments retained the right to wear kilts in government (Black Watch) tartan.

The obsession with tartans and kilts is of fairly recent origin. We know little or nothing of what Highlanders wore before the abolition and the first ones thereafter were made in the Scottish Lowlands.

The kilt as we know it is also of 19th century origin despite all the romantic hoo ha. The new wave that brought them in was due to the efforts of Sir Walter Scott and others of similar ilk developed in the course of a planned 'Highland' ball in Edinburgh to welcome King William the somethingest. My attitude, however, is even if the tartans had originated just a week ago they remain something uniquely Scottish as does the new kilt in which we can take pride. It was good while in Canada to see that all the Provinces have their own tartans, Nova Scotia naturally being the first to do so with their lovely blue weave.

Forget Ye not that the Lassies still swoon at a kilty. While in Halifax, Nova Scotia, some weeks ago I not only had to drag my wife swooning from a parade of kilties in 19th century military uniform, but also had to order myself a new kilt in Ancient Hunting Macrae to keep her in line. Also ordered her a ladies kilt in the same tartan.

So have yourself a ball, enjoy the Ceremony, but please forget all the nonsense that has grown up around it.

Very best wishes

Tom McRae
Brisbane, Australia

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