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


A Kirk is a Scottish word for Church. Tartan, of course, is the traditional garb of a Highland Scot. The Kirkin' O' The Tartan is thus a traditional blessing of the tartan by the Clergy. Following the failure of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, the tartan was forbidden to be worn. Prince Charles Edward Stuart had escaped over the water to France, but this was small physical comfort to the thousands of Highlanders whose way of life had been irrevocably altered. The Clan System, with its representative tartans, was demolished as troops loyal to the Duke of Cumberland and the House of Hanover ravaged the Scottish Highlands, searching out Jacobite supporters.

Thus the Kirkin' O' The Tartan went into hiding, away from official eyes. Each Highlander secretly touched a bit of his tartan hidden among his clothing at the appropriate moment in the worship service. In much the same way, the Upper Jacobite Class in Scotland obediently toasted the King at public banquets, and with a deft flick of the wrist, the toast became not for George II or III but for the King "over the water", Charles Edward Stuart, as the hand passed over the top of the glass.

These overt acts of defiance against officialdom died with the coming of the 18th century Industrial Revolution and the Highland Clearances. Thousands of Highland Crofters were forced into becoming pioneers in the new world as their former aristocratic lords drove them off their land, so that the much more profitable business of raising sheep could be carried on. The Highlander became a victim of the Industrial Revolution.

Those who came to Canada and particularly to Nova Scotia brought with them the Celtic customs that were their heritage -- the tartan, the bagpipe, the kirk, the songs, dances and fiddles that you can see and hear this summer during Nova Scotia's third International Gathering of the Clans.

Gathering of the Clans, Pugwash, Nova Scotia
1st July 1987: during 1987 International Gathering of the Clans

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