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Thread: Kirking

  1. #11
    Paul Henry is offline Membership Revoked for repeated rule violations.
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    Quote Originally Posted by RayMc View Post
    I wrote this short article about a year age for the Mists of Moigh, (newsletter of the Clan Mackintosh of North America)

    Kirkin O’ the Tartans
    by Ray McHatton
    This past Spring I had the distinct privilege to represent Clan Mackintosh in the Massachusetts St. Andrew’s Society Annual Kirkin O’ the Tartans. This service is held each year near Tartan Day at the St. John’s Episcopal Church in Taunton, Mass.
    Kirk is the Scottish word for Church. Kirkin of the Tartan is a traditional blessing of the tartan by the Clergy. After the disastrous Jacobite defeat at Culloden, tartan became unlawful to wear. The Clan system, based upon its recognizable tartan patterns was dismantled in the wake of Hanoverian troops led by the Duke of Cumberland combing the Highland countryside in search of remaining Jacobite supporters.
    As a means of survival, the Kirkin went underground, so to speak. At service, many folk would carry a piece of the tartan beneath his cloak, and hold it between the fingers at a certain moment when the priest was blessing the flock.
    This concealed act of defiance fell by the wayside with the onset of the Highland clearances. Many thousands of Clansfolk were forced into emigration to the New World as their aristocratic landlords began to favor use of the land for the raising of sheep.
    At the outset of WWII, there was a concern that many Scottish Americans may choose not to sign up in order to fight on behalf of Great Britain. Rev. Peter Marshall, U.S. Senate chaplain revived the Kirkin O’ the Tartan, which was held in Presbyterian churches across the country. He did this in order to re-awaken pride in the Scottish homeland which may have become dim over the generations.
    Today, most every Scottish Highland games and festival features such a ceremony as part of the weekend worship service, if they hold one. I would encourage all conveners to be sure the Mackintosh tartan is present at these services whenever possible.
    Your sources for this account please, I have nothing against romantic stories, but when they try to be factual it's hard to sit back and watch.

    There really is nothing traditional about the "Kirkin", and as others have said it was started in the States in the 1940's not in Scotland in the 1740's

  2. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by paulhenry View Post
    Your sources for this account please, I have nothing against romantic stories, but when they try to be factual it's hard to sit back and watch.

    There really is nothing traditional about the "Kirkin", and as others have said it was started in the States in the 1940's not in Scotland in the 1740's
    I agree with your first statement but would like to make a small point regarding your second statement.

    The kirkin’ of the tartan appears to be a “tradition” in the USA. What is in question is whether or not it is based on a Scottish “tradition”. We are allowed our own “traditions” over here as young as they may be.

    I agree one hundred percent that legend should be clearly called out as such. It doesn’t detract from the romance of a story to start with “Legend has it”.

  3. #13
    Paul Henry is offline Membership Revoked for repeated rule violations.
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    Yes of course,it may be well traditional in The States, I have no argument with that at all, simply that poster was suggesting that it was a Scottish one. Many of us would be very happy to find some evidence or sources, but Todd ( amongst others ) has spent some time researching it, and so far has found nothing to substantiate a Traditional Scottish history to the "Kirkin service"
    Last edited by Paul Henry; 5th May 12 at 10:23 AM.

  4. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jock Scot View Post
    I don't wish to be contraversial here, but why?
    Jock Scot,

    You provide such well considered answers I believe you deserve one. I have attended Presbyterian churches for 40 odd years in Idaho, Utah, and California, and have never come across a kirkin of the tartan. It is not the type of thing that is on the annual calendar of most or even many churches.

    If I search for a kirkin of the tartan in my area I find it on the calendar of our local Caledonian Club of Sacramento and the Saint Andrews Society of Sacramento. It is held at Fremont Presbyterian Church. Both the Callie Club and Church have been around for 130 years, I have no idea how long the kirkin of the tartan has been a local event.

    My search turned up an interesting result. Apparently, the event is popular among at least some non Scots to the point that one went to the trouble of designing a tartan for all to use at the occasion.

    http://www.tartanregister.gov.uk/tar....aspx?ref=1280

    If the kirkin of the tartan has been going on locally since the 1940s I doubt many folks can tell you why it is done. This area was settled by English speakers after the gold rush of 1849 and received a big influx of people after WW II, so a 70 year old tradition is well established by local standards.

    It is held in October so if I go to my first one this year I will ask around and report back what I find.

  5. #15
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    Much of this article was drawn from the Massachusetts St. Andrew's Society. The US institution of the Kirkin may well have been largely a propaganda move to gain support for the war effort amongst US Scots.
    "Slainte' Mhor Agad" -- great health to you

  6. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by RayMc View Post
    Much of this article was drawn from the Massachusetts St. Andrew's Society. The US institution of the Kirkin may well have been largely a propaganda move to gain support for the war effort amongst US Scots.
    As Paul mentioned in a previous post, I have been researching the history of the Kirkin' tradition for well over a decade, and I have yet to find any documentation for a pre-1941 origin of the service. In fact, a good friend of mine in the Baton Rouge Caledonian Society wrote the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC and obtained a copy of Dr. Peter Marshall's first "kirkin" sermon from the Spring of 1941. If Dr. Marshall were aware of such an "ancient" tradition, one would think he would reference it -- there is none, only references to the Allied cause against fascism and common cause of Great Britain and the USA. While there certainly were elements of "propaganda" (a word with a pejorative tint to it), the main reason for the service was a fundraiser for the efforts of the wife of a Highland Chief to relocate children from Glasgow and Edinburgh to the Highlands to protect them from Nazi air raids.

    Personally, I have always wondered if the Conventicles of the Lowland Scottish Covenanting Presbyterians were more of Dr. Marshall's inspiration, given his background and Coatbridge origins, but it's pretty safe to say that no primary source document, even Carmichael's collection of Highland prayers & charms, confirm a specific liturgy by the Catholic or Episcopalian Churches for the blessing of outlawed tartan. That being said, if one ever appears, I'll be the first to amend my article, but until then, I just simply can't endorse the "myth".

    T.

  7. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by cajunscot View Post
    As Paul mentioned in a previous post, I have been researching the history of the Kirkin' tradition for well over a decade, and I have yet to find any documentation for a pre-1941 origin of the service. In fact, a good friend of mine in the Baton Rouge Caledonian Society wrote the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC and obtained a copy of Dr. Peter Marshall's first "kirkin" sermon from the Spring of 1941. If Dr. Marshall were aware of such an "ancient" tradition, one would think he would reference it -- there is none, only references to the Allied cause against fascism and common cause of Great Britain and the USA. While there certainly were elements of "propaganda" (a word with a pejorative tint to it), the main reason for the service was a fundraiser for the efforts of the wife of a Highland Chief to relocate children from Glasgow and Edinburgh to the Highlands to protect them from Nazi air raids.

    Personally, I have always wondered if the Conventicles of the Lowland Scottish Covenanting Presbyterians were more of Dr. Marshall's inspiration, given his background and Coatbridge origins, but it's pretty safe to say that no primary source document, even Carmichael's collection of Highland prayers & charms, confirm a specific liturgy by the Catholic or Episcopalian Churches for the blessing of outlawed tartan. That being said, if one ever appears, I'll be the first to amend my article, but until then, I just simply can't endorse the "myth".

    T.
    I agree Todd!

    The only reference I ever read of 'Kirkin' the tartan I ever came across in my 37 years living in Scotland (including 4 years studying Scottish History at University) was in the American, Scotty MacThomas's book "So Your Going To Wear The Kilt". I heard of 'Kirkin' the Council services in Burghs before Local Government Reform in 1975, and the 'Kirkin' of the Cornet service in Hawick (still extant) prior to the annual Common Riding festivities.

    The Rev. Peter Marshall explanation that you give makes total sense, and I think you are on to something with the Conventicles of the Covenanters, who were primarily from Lanarkshire, Ayrshire, and Dumfriesshire.

  8. #18
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    I've always heard, and ascribed to the theory, that a Kirkin' was a recent American tradition (and perhaps Canadian). There is only one I know of in Connecticut each year around Robbie Burns day. The smaller one day highland events don't sponsor any that I know of in New England. The New Hampshire Highland Games which is our biggest event in area (3 days 40,000 people) has a well attended church service on Sunday morning at which the clans are represented. The blessing of the tartan extends more to the members of the clans, families, and those in attendance than to the cloth itself. We also read the "Flowers of the Forest" list of those clan members deceased that year and pray for them as well.
    Why do we do a Kirkin' of the Tartan? Because it's a nice thing to do.
    President, Clan Buchanan Society International

  9. #19
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    There are two in CT that I know of. in October the First Presbyterian Church in Stamford does one. I used to go there with the St. Andrew's Society although I have not been in years. In May there is one at a Presbyterian church in New Canaan that they simply call Scottish Sunday. I have always wondered if this is to become more of a tradition, why they seem to be held on different dates, often with no connection to Scotland.

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