That confounded "Tartan Day" again !

From: (Alasdair McKay)
Newsgroups: alt.scottish.clans
Subject: That confounded "Tartan Day" again !
Date: 21 Mar 1996 14:46:03 GMT
Summary: Tries to make sense out of a peculiar new North American festivity.
Keywords: clearances calendar highland not tartan

We are probably about to be bombarded with stuff about an odd new celebration which was invented here in Nova Scotia. please consider the following observations about it.

Tartan Day and The Nova Scotia Clearances

( by Alasdair McKay )

I was never able to comprehend either the need for yet another "Scottish Day" in the calendar nor to find even the vaguest of resemblance between the aspirations of Franco-Norman magnates who'd subjugated the masses in 14th century Scotland and the hopes and dreams of 19th century peasants who migrated to North America. Even if there is any analogy and even if a few of the magnates were not Franco-Norman, what have these events of either the 14th or the 19th centuries got to do with tartan ?

Further, even if the Declaration of Arbroath is to be celebrated, for whatever reason, why do so on April 6th ? Like the rest of Christendom in the 1300s, Arbroath Abbey would have been using the calendar promulgated by the heathen Julius Caesar, whereas, like the rest of the modern barbarian world, North America now uses the calendar promulgated by Pope Gregory - which would have the anniversary of the Declaration fall somwhere around April 14th or 15th. Pray recollect that even the USSR used to celebrate the October Revolution (Julian date) in the month of November (Gregorian date).

There is, however, quite a good modern reason to keep a date around the beginning of April as a commemorative day : the financial year, for most companies and government agencies in Canada ends just before that, and early April is a favourite time for kicking out employees.

If, with such Highland Clearance activities as the burning of roof trees by Patrick Sellar in early 19th century Starthnaver one equates the destruction of long-valued computer files, or if one can see the analogy between packs of dogs and packs of relocation psychologists, then the Nova Scotia government has been pretty active in promoting the Nova Scotia Clearances of the 1990s. The philosophy appears remarkably similar to that of those who held power in Scotland of the early 19th century :

"promote what is supposedly 'development' and forget about human beings who may inconveniently be in the way, even those with whom there has been a long-standing understanding of mutual trust."

Many who have been so cleared out of their means of livelihood in Nova Scotia over the last few years have little chance of speaking out about it. Since I have the means, and care nothing about such people as would take any offense at my remarks, I feel a duty to continue to speak out.

My ancestors who were cleared out of Strathnaver were obviously resourceful and found themselves some new roof trees - I do not know just who their benefactors were - the family oral tradition does not record it. My "roof trees" were backed up on a computer in Japan. The Japanese can be kindly people indeed and I certainly know who were my benefactors in a bad situation. However, I would like to think that I too am resourceful.

Since its inception six or seven years ago, the Nova Scotian " Tartan Day" has been met at best with puzzlement throughout most of the "Scottish World". I have been trying to sort out this mess by postings to the "Net" since 1993.

The existence of this new commemorative day is the result of hopelessly muddled thinking. Perhaps it is fitting that we continue to keep its celebration as a commemoration of just precisely that .... namely the muddled thinking in economics which pervaded the Scottish Highlands 200 years ago and which pervades North America (and many other places) today.

Alasdair McKay PhD FRAS
( Vice-president, Clan MacKay Society of Nova Scotia )

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