March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day, when Americans of every stripe celebrate the nation’s Irish heritage.
Today, April 6th, is Tartan Day, when Americans of every stripe celebrate the nation’s Scottish heritage. Wait, you haven’t heard of Tartan Day? Truth to tell, neither had I, until last year when buying Guinness for St. Patrick’s Day the clerk at World Market told me about it.
Here, read some more…
Just a Few Thoughts about Tartan Day
The Highlander, Jan/Feb 2005, pp. 54-55
Tartan Day is an interesting name for a day. Tartan: a kind of woolen cloth woven from threads of several colors and in such a way as to produce a pattern of lines, bands, and squares. Day: a period of 24 consecutive hours or a period between sunrise and sunset.
The sun rose on the day in which the Abbot of Arbroath Abbey, Bernard of Linton, produced a document that would have incredible repercussions for the people of a nation. A document that would influence future struggles for independence. A document that could summarize the feelings, so succinctly, of every people of every would-be nation from that time forward. This was not just any day, but a time. A time that occurred 24 years after Edward I sacked Berwick and defeated the Scottish force at Dunbar and conquered the eastern half of the Scottish countryside. A time that occurred 15 years after the guardian of the kingdom, Sir William Wallace was brutally put to death in London. A time that also occurred six years after the Battle of Bannockburn.
This was a time upon which, in a single day, eight earls and 31 barons affixed their seals to a very simple looking piece of paper. This document would travel the breadth of Europe to finally rest in the hands of Pope John XII. This document’s sole purpose was to give a voice to a once proud nation which now struggled for its existence in rivers of Scottish and English blood.
On April 6, 1320, the Declaration of Arbroath was signed. It was such a powerful document that it not only fueled the resolve of the Scottish people but also turned a pope who once supported Scotland’s enemy to one who pressured a king of England to sue for peace and bring an end to the bloodshed.
So, was this document now forgotten in the annals of history?
In a small room, a committee of five assembled: John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert R. Livingston of New York and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. The committee was assigned the task of creating a document that would change the face of history, a document that would influence a people and solidify the sentiments of those who would create a nation. The four pressed upon Mr. Jefferson, a man of 33, to write this document. Did Jefferson know of the Scottish people? Senate Resolution No. 155 of the 1st Session of the 105th Congress voted on and approved unanimously on Monday, March 20, 1998 states that our own Declaration of Independence was modeled after the Declaration of Arbroath of 1320.
Was this the only influence that the Scots had upon the beginnings of this great land? No, for almost half of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and nine governors of the original 13 colonies were of Scottish descent. In the book, The Story of Scotland’s Flag written by David Ross and published in 1998, it states that our own Star Spangled Banner’s blue union came from the Covenanter’s banner in Scotland which was the Scottish Saltire. We can also talk about the endless influences and contributions the Scots have made upon this great country from the telephone (Bell) to the pneumatic tire (Dunlop).
Are we being pompous for having our own day? In celebrating Scotland we celebrate its people and that includes all of us. Whether you are Scottish or not means nothing, for the gifts the Scots have brought are for all of us, not just individuals. It is the old clan system once again. NON SIBI–“not for himself”–but what we do is for all. What I have is yours, and together we are united in solidarity and union of strength and stability. To celebrate Scotland is to celebrate ourselves. We are one clan and we are proud of it. Like the sept of a great family we are all included; we are all part of the whole.
In Scotland we have recognized all great families by the colors we wear. Unity is symbolized in our colors and in our tartan.
Why Tartan Day? Why not? It is a day of “Scottish families,” bound together by the heritage of giving to their country and giving of their time, their talents and their lives when it is necessary to do so. We are sons and daughters. We will always remember what April 6 did for our ancestors and what it has done for this great country. We are Americans, proud! We are all, every creed and every color, truly the pride of Scotland.
Robert Pate is President of the Scottish Society of Greater Bloomington, Indiana Coordinator for Tartan Day and Clan Hamilton Commissioner for Indiana.