Sunday, September 20, 2009

Kirkin' o' the Tartan

As I've mentioned before, I live in a rather old neighbourhood. Within a two block radius, I imagine there is at least five churches or more.

The Kirkin' o' the Tartan tradition is an old Highland one. After the defeat of the Scots by the English in 1746, the wearing of the tartan and the keeping of any Highland ways or culture was forbidden in hopes this would forever subdue the rebellious Scottish spirit.

The Kirkin' was an important part of this in that one Sunday a year, the populace went to church wearing a concealed piece of the tartan and, at a certain moment set aside in the service, the tartan was touched while the minister pronounced a blessing on all tartans and the Scots once more pledged their loyalty and respect for their old traditions.

Scots who came to Canada brought with them the Celtic customs that were their heritage -- the tartan, the bagpipe, the kirk (the church), the songs. One of the songs piped in the parade this morning was a song that was piped at our wedding, nine years ago:

Step we gaily on we go
Heel for heel and toe for toe
Arm in arm and row and row
All for Mairi' s wedding

I captured this last photo, especially for my Social Work class, to remind us that as professional social workers, we can never make assumptions about people; that each of us comes from a multiplicity of interconnected cultures. I was reminded of that this morning when I noticed this young lady near the end of the parade, carrying her tartan into the 'kirk'.

Prayer for the Blessing of the Tartans:

Almighty God, who has promised that in all places where your name is honoured, you will
meet with your servants to bless them, we rejoice in this opportunity to present these
tartans to you as symbols of our unwavering loyalty to you and our steadfast faith in Christ
our Lord. We praise you for our Scottish ancestors: for all those saints of long ago who
brought Christ’s word to Celtic lands; for the risk-taking of Scottish immigrants who came to
this new land and with hard work, ingenuity and integrity created a new homestead. We
pray that in the present day, the dedication of these early pioneers may still inspire us to
greater achievements in the service of Christ and our fellow citizens. As represented by
these tartans, bless us, O God. Amen.


  1. Love this bit of mother told great stories of caring for the injured Scots during WWII. She had some Scots blood in her and loved and could sing all the folks songs....quite beautifully I might add.
    Her eyes would tear up at the sound of the pipes and I cried like a baby when they were played at her military funeral there in Ottawa.

    Happy Sewing

  2. What a nice neighbourhood you live in. I love the sound of bagpipes. They bring tears to my eyes too. My mother's father was scottish(a Stewart) but we really don't know all that much about his history other than that we are related to Mary Queen of Scots, Bonnie Prince Charles and one of the Black Knights. I don't even know who's scottish in this bunch either.

  3. Thanks for the celebration. I am a descendent of the Lindsay clan myself. My great grandmother was a Lindsay and though there was no more infusion of Scottish blood after her....her Scottish phrases and stories of her dancing are still passed down and appreciated by all of us.

  4. My Scottish ancestors, last name Duthie, immigrated to Canada in the 1750s. I didn't know about this custom. Thank you for the post and photos.


  5. Fascinating. What are the odds -- I was just reading about that period of history just today! It was just mentioned briefly, but your story brings it more to life.

  6. Awesome Nancy. I didn't know about that tradition. I knew the tartan was outlawed after the battle of Culloden but not about the service with the hidden pieces. I love history.

  7. Thank you for the promenade back to history of Kirkin 'O' the Tartan.
    I was invited to the Church Service with "an unusual" name ;-)
    It's important to get to know as much as you can find about a special meeting/ service/ worship before you will come in there, is not it?
    Your observant look at and explanations of Kirkin 'O' the Tartan helped me to create own opinion.
    The Lord bless you, Author.