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April 1, 2008 17:30 - Tartan Day - What Is It?

Tartan Day Ceremony at the Alamo - Picture Courtesy of James David Calhoun

Image courtesy James David Calhoun and Tartan Day USA

It's the National Holiday for all Scottish Americans. Quoting National Tartan Day USA website,

Americans of Scottish descent have played a vibrant and influential role in the development of the United States. From the framers of the Declaration of Independence to the first man on the moon, Scottish-Americans have contributed mightily to the fields of the arts, science, politics, law, and more. Today, over eleven million Americans claim Scottish and Scotch-Irish roots -- making them the eighth largest ethnic group in the United States. These are the people and accomplishments that are honored on National Tartan Day, April 6th.

That date commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, which asserted Scotland's sovereignty over English territorial claims, and which was an influence on the American Declaration of Independence.

Ashley Kath-Bilsky, an award-winning historical romance novelist, has submitted a Tartan Day Tribute on YouTube, entitled Tartan Day Tribute ~ Isle of Skye and Culloden. The song being played is known as "The Skye Boat Song" and "Over the Sea to Skye". It tells of Bonnie Prince Charlie's flight from Scotland with the help of Flora MacDonald, after the defeat at Culloden. This tale of courage and cunning, daring and danger, will be told next week, beginning April 7th.

Tomorrow more information about Tartan Day, including e-cards, buttons, T-shirts, and Scottish real estate you can buy…

April 2, 2008 08:08 - Tartan Day Resolution, Postcards, T-Shirts, and More

The U.S. Senate passed a resolution in 1998. It was sponsored by Trent Lott of Mississippi. Finally the House of Representatives passed a resolution in 2005. Mike McIntyre of North Carolina and John Duncan of Tennessee sponsored the House bill. Former U.S. Senate Chaplain, Lloyd Ogilvie, was also instrumental is establishing Tartan Day. All are of Scottish ancestry.

Canada has been celebrating "National Tartan Day" since 1993.


Send a Tartan Day Postcard, compliments of Electric Scotland or Tartan Day Scotland

Buttons and T-shirts

Tartan Day Cooperative of Wisconsin buttons and t-shirts. It's too late for this year, but bookmark them for 2009!

Buyin' a Bit o Scotland

A Tartan Day gift promoted on Google. A piece of an estate and a Scottish title. This might also be a unique wedding gift.


Tartan Day USA

Electric Scotland Tartan Day Information

Tartan Day Scotland

Never one to be outdone, Tartan Day has evolved into Tartan Week in New York City. Even if you can't go, take a look at all the photos and events.

Editor's Note: The URL for Tartan Day became defunct and the new URL has replaced it

Rampant Scotland lists Tartan Day Celebrations around the world. Two I find most interesting are on Ellis Island, New York and Arbroath, Scotland.

  • Ellis Island, NY ~ the Immigration Museum and Clan Currie hosts a day of history, music, and documentary films.

  • Arbroath, Scotland ~ birthplace of the famous Declaration of Arbroath is the heart of Scotland's Tartan Day celebrations. The Arbroath Abbey Pageant Society sponsors a colorful medieval procession, complete with King Robert the Bruce on horseback, up the town's historic High Street to the Abbey, where a re-enactment of the signing on April 6, 1320.

Tomorrow, read about the Declaration of Abroath…

April 3, 2008 11:09 - The Declaration of Arbroath

The Declaration of Arbroath was a declaration of Scottish independence, which was written to confirm Scotland's status as an independent, sovereign state and its use of military action when unjustly attacked. It was in the form of a letter, dated April 6, 1320, Arbroath Abbey.

Over a course of months, 51 magnates and nobles of Scotland placed their seals upon the letter. It was then submitted to Pope John XXII via the Papal Court at Avignon, France.

Image courtesy Stock Exchange

The most commonly quoted lines are ~

...for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom - for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

Read an English translation of the actual Declaration of Arbroath.

The Declaration of Arbroath Gift Shop has a selection of gifts you might enjoy.

Tomorrow read Trent Lott's Resolution…

April 4, 2008 09:57 - Trent Lott's Tartan Day Resolution

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES November 10, 1997 Mr. Lott submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

RESOLUTION Designating April 6 of each year as "National Tartan Day'' to recognize the outstanding achievements and contributions made by Scottish Americans to the United States.

Whereas April 6 has a special significance for all Americans, and especially those Americans of Scottish descent, because the Declaration of Arbroath, the Scottish Declaration of Independence, was signed on April 6, 1320 and the
American Declaration of Independence was modeled on that inspirational document;

Whereas this resolution honors the major role that Scottish Americans played in the founding of this Nation, such as the fact that almost half of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were of Scottish descent, the Governors in 9 of the original 13 States were of Scottish ancestry, Scottish Americans successfully helped shape this country in its formative years and guided this Nation through its most troubled times;

Whereas this resolution recognizes the monumental achievements and invaluable contributions made by Scottish Americans that have led to America's preeminence in the fields of science, technology, medicine, government, politics, economics, architecture, literature, media, and visual and performing arts;
Whereas this resolution commends the more than 200 organizations throughout the United States that honor Scottish heritage, tradition, and culture, representing the hundreds of thousands of Americans of Scottish descent, residing in every State, who already have made the observance of Tartan Day on April 6 a success; and

Whereas these numerous individuals, clans, societies, clubs, and fraternal organizations do not let the great contributions of the Scottish people go unnoticed:

Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the Senate designates April 6 of each year as "National Tartan Day''.

Monday, read about Flora MacDonald and her famous deeds…

April 7, 2008 07:49 - Flora MacDonald ~ Part I

Barely know by some, revered by others ~ especially the residents of North Carolina.

In June 1746, at the age of 24, she was living on the island of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides. Bonnie Prince Charlie took refuge on the island after the Battle of Culloden. Though the island was controlled by the English using a local militia, the MacDonalds sympathized with the Jacobites.

Flora's stepfather commanded the local militia. On the pretense of visiting her mother on Skye, he issued a pass for Flora, a manservant, an Irish spinning maid named Betty Burke and a boat crew of six. Disguised as Betty Burke, Prince Charlie left the island on June 27.

They landed on Skye near the seat of Sir Alexander MacDonald. Flora made arrangements for the Prince to escape to the island of Raasay.

Unfortunately, some of the boatmen later talked and Flora was arrested and placed in the Tower of London. Shortly thereafter, she was allowed to live outside the tower under the watch of a gaoler. In 1747, the Act of Indemnity was passed and Flora was release.

At the age of 28 Flora married Alan MacDonald. In 1773 Dr. Samuel Johnson traveled through the Outer Hebrides, and meeting Flora, described her as "a woman of soft features, gentle manners, and elegant presence."

Tomorrow, the legend continues…

April 8, 2008 06:57 - Flora MacDonald ~ Part II

In 1773 Flora, Alan, and a large portion of the Isle of Skye immigrated to North Carolina. To be allowed to settlle in North Carolina, they had to sign an oath of allegiance to King George. Therefore Alan had to serve with the British in the American Revolution and was taken prisoner. When released he had a choice of Nova Scotia or Scotland. They returned to Scotland.

Flora's mother had kept the sheets in which Prince Charles had slept. One was kept by Flora to be used as her funeral shroud. Most Scottish women wove an arasaid, which was worn for their wedding, all their life as an outer garment, and then used as their funeral shroud.

Flora died on the Isle of Skye at 68 years of age. A statue memorializes her at Inverness, Scotland. This grave monument is on the Isle of Skye.

Image courtesy Wikipedia

A very complete telling of Flora's story can be found at Electric Scotland on their Women in History of Scots Descent page.

Portraits of Flora display her soft features and give a hint of her iron will and fortitude.

Flora isn't wearing a tartan gown in this first portrait, but a MacDonald tartan is seen in the arasaid that displays a brooch on her right shoulder. The arasaid is gathered over her left arm.

Image source unknown

In this portrait Flora is wearing a tartan gown, with sleeve insets of white and white bows down the bodice and a matching ruched fabric necklace. This style of dress was very popular in the mid-1700's.

Image courtesy Wikipedia

Flora MacDonald Portrait Tartan WR1404

Flora MacDonald Plaid Artifact Tartan WR217

The two tartans above were known to have been worn by Flora. The one below bears her name. It was designed for Highland Dancers at the Aboyne Highland Games of 1996. This is the first tartan on Tartan Register to have the suffix 'dancing'

Flora MacDonald Dancing Trade Tartan WR2257

Tomorrow, the lyrics to Flora MacDonald's Lament…

April 9, 2008 07:29 - Flora MacDonald's Lament

Many songs have been written about Flora MacDonald and Bonnie Prince Charlie, both together and individually. The January 16th and 17th, told of the Lady Nairne, Carolina Oliphant, and her song, Will Ye No Come Back Again? which expressed the hopes of many that Prince Charlie would, indeed, come back to try again.

Flora MacDonald's Lament

Far over yon hills of the heather sae green
An' doun by the corrie that sings to the sea,
The bonnie young Flora sat sighin' her lane,
The dew on her plaid an' the tear in her e'e.
She look'd at a boat wi' the breezes that swung,
Away on the wave like a bird on the main,
An' aye as it lessen'd she sigh'd an' she sung,
"Fareweel to the lad I shall ne'er see again;
Fareweel to my hero, the gallant and young,
Fareweel to the lad I shall ne'er see again."

The moorcock that crows on the brows o' Ben Connal,
He kens o' his bed in a sweet mossy hame;
The eagle that soars o'er the cliffs o' Clan Ranald,
Unaw'd and unhunted his eyrie can claim;
The solan can sleep on the shelves of the shore,
The cormorant roost on his rock of the sea;
But ah! there is one whose fate I deplore,
Nor house, ha' nor hame in this country has he;
The conflict is past, and our name is no more,
There's nought left but sorrow for Scotland and me.

The target is torn from the arm of the just,
The helmet is cleft on the brow of the brave;
The claymore forever in darkness must rust,
But red is the sword of the stranger and slave;
The hoof of the horse, and the foot of the proud,
Have trod o'er the plumes on the bonnet of blue;
Why slept the red bolt in the breast of the cloud,
When tyranny revell'd in blood of the true?
Fareweel my young hero, the gallant and good,
The crown of thy father's is torn from thy brow.

Unusual words you might not know
corrie ~ hollow on the side of a mountain or between mountains
doun ~ down
kens ~ knows
lane ~ possibly alone
morcook - moor bird
sae ~ so
solan ~ gannet, a sea bird

Tomorrow, Twa' Bonnie Maidens sings of the flight of Flora and Bonnie Prince Charlie…

April 10, 2008 17:00 - Twa' Bonnie Maidens

This ballad tells of the welcome of Prince Charles and Flora to the Isle of Skye.

There were twa' bonnie maidens, and three bonnie maidens,
Cam' owre the Minch, and cam' owre the main,
Wi' the wind for their way and the corry for their hame,
And they're dearly welcome to Skye again.

Come alang, come alang, wi' your boatie and your song,
My ain bonnie maidens, my twa bonnie maids!
For the nicht, it is dark, and the redcoat is gane,
And ye are dearly welcome to Skye again.

There is Flora, my honey, sae dear and sae bonnie,
And ane that's sae tall, and handsome withal.
Put the ane for my king and the other for my queen
And they're dearly welcome to Skye again.

Come alang, come alang, wi' your boatie and your song,
My ain bonnie maidens, my twa bonnie maids!
For the Lady Macoulain she dwelleth in her lane,
And she'll welcome you dearly to Skye again.

Her arm it is strong, and her petticoat is long,
My ain bonnie maidens, my twa bonnie maidens,
The sea moullit's nest I will watch o'er the main,
And ye are bravely welcome to Skye again.

Come alang, come alang, wi' your boatie and your song,
My ain bonnie maidens, my twa bonnie maids!
And saft sall ye rest where the heather it grows best.
And ye are dearly welcome to Skye again.

There's a wind on the tree, and a ship on the sea,
My ain bonnie maidens, my twa bonnie maids!
Your cradle I'll rock on the lea of the rock,
And ye'll aye be welcome to Skye again.

Come alang, come alang, wi' your boatie and your song,
My ain bonnie maidens, my twa bonnie maids!
Mair sound sall ye sleep as ye rock o'er the deep,
And ye'll aye be welcome to Skye again.

Words you may not know the meanings of

ain ~ own
ane ~ one
corry ~ a hollow between mountains
mair ~ more
Minch ~ channel between the Outer and Inner Hebrides
moullit ~ sea bird
owre ~ over
saft ~ soft
twa' ~ two

Tomorrow read about the brooch Prince Charlie sent to Flora…

April 11, 2008 09:03 - Flora MacDonald's Brooch

Image source unknown

Prince Charlie later commissioned two identical brooches for himself and Flora. It was a thank-you gift for her help in saving his life.

The brooches are in the shape of a key and encrusted with diamonds. Possibly the heart is topaz, or more popular with the Scots, amber. A lover's knot is tied within the handle.

Flora's brooch was recently auctioned in Edinburgh. A man hurried in while the bidding was in progress, entered the bidding, and won the brooch for £13,000. It was a surprise Christmas gift for his wife.

Although many rumors and legends have arisen about a romantic liaison between Flora and Prince Charlie, history shows it unlikely. It was a dangerous journey, fraught with storms at sea and a 20 mile march in heavy rains as they traveled overland on Skye. Flora's entourage would have also protected her reputation, especially as she was already engaged to Alan MacDonald.

Monday, the name Flora and its derivatives…

April 14, 2008 08:19 - Flora, Flo, and Flossy

No, they're not the sisters of Peter Rabbit! They don't hop, nor do they live in a hole. Though, once upon a time, one named Flora had a few rough and tumble weeks in the out-of-doors.

The name Flora derives from the Roman goddess of flowers. In the Renaissance, among the neo-pagan humanists, the name and it's classical connotation had a strong revival.

The name traveled from France to Scotland and gained popularity in the Highlands. The most popular bearer of the name is Flora MacDonald, protector of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Due to her immigration to North Carolina, the name is also quite popular there. Across the state, many an elementary school is named Flora MacDonald to honor her deeds in Scotland and her settling in North Carolina.

Other forms of the name are Florrie, Flory, Flo, and Flossy. I must admit it's a terribly big jump from Flora MacDonald to Flo on Mel's Diner!

Tomorrow, Janet Keiller's Famous Dundee Orange Marmalade…

April 15, 2008 07:03 - Janet Keiller's Marmalade

Some of you may be familiar with Keiller's Marmalades. Some of you may not. They're sold in distinct milk glass white jars.

I've collected a number of them. They hold paint brushes, stencil brushes, pencils, etc…also leftovers in the frig.

Image property of Scottish Wedding Dreams

If you like ginger, you must try their Ginger marmalade. It's my favorite.

But it all began with a storm forcing a ship into Dundee Harbor in 1797. The cargo contained Seville oranges which were going to spoil.

Janet or James, her husband, bought the distressed cargo. He was a grocer, Janet a confectioner. With both occupations, sugar was readily available.

Because of the quantity of oranges, Janet chose to make 'chip' marmalade, which was quicker and easier than popular marmalades of the time. Most marmalades were made by laboriously pounding the cooked fruit and peel with a mortar. In chip marmalade, the pieces of peel were suspended in the gel.

First sold at their grocer's shop, it was called Chip marmalade, then Dundee marmalade and, eventually, Scotch marmalade. By 1879 Dundee Marmalade was being sold in Australia, China, India, New Zealand, and South Africa. Today it's sold around the world.

Originally, marmalade had been a dessert of jelled quince. It was sold in a pot, not a box. The French name was 'marmelade de coings'. When Charles II returned to the English throne in 1660, his court also brought this marmalade to the British Isles.

Legend claims Mary Queen of Scots introduced marmalade to Scotland when returning from France to assume the throne in 1542. Being seasick, Mary supposedly asked for 'marmelade pour Marie est malade', as quince marmalade was used to settle stomachs. 'Marie malade' is French for ill Mary.

Janet Keiller didn't invent orange marmalade. They promoted theirs as an 'astringent' aid to breakfast digestion'. Astringent meaning sour. In Southern Spain, sour oranges were grown for the medicinal properties of the skin. What Janet did do was develop and market marmalade on a large-scale production.

Keillers live in the Mar District, which has two recorded tartans.

Mar District Tartan WR529

The Tribe of Mar District Tartan WR1585 is also the Skene tartan. Legend reports the tartan came from the Duke of Fife. His ancestors once owned Mar Lodge.

Tribe of Mar District Tartan WR1586

I just can't quite imagine cooking up marmalade wearing either one. They're both just too lovely for everyday wear, but perfect for a Scottish wedding theme.

Tomorrow you can learn about the famous Dundee cake…

April 16, 2008 06:09 - Keiller's Dundee Cake

Image source unknown

The Keiller family is also credited with developing 'Dundee Cake' for commercial production in the 1800's. Studding the cake with almonds was their marketing logo.

The cake was a good way to use employees when oranges were in the off-season and leftover orange peel.

Another legend about Mary Queen of Scots is tied to Dundee Cake. She didn't like cherries in fruitcake. Thus a fruitcake, without cherries, began to be baked for her. This developed into Dundee Cake.

Supposedly, Queen Elizabeth I of England insisted there be cherries in her fruitcake.

Though not widely known, March 3rd is National Marmalade Day in Scotland. Dundee, of course, knows and celebrates this product that brought them fame and fortune.

For a small wedding, Dundee cake can be served as the traditional bride's cake. Several, served one at a time, can be served as the groom's cake at a bigger wedding.

Tomorrow, a recipe for Dundee Cake and Whiskey Syrup…

April 17, 2008 08:19 - Dundee Cake & Saboyan Recipes

A recipe for traditional Dundee Cake is available at Rampant Scotland.

The cake can be served with a Whiskey Syrup, called Saboyan, which is a custard sauce laced with Scotch whiskey. (The whiskey gives flavor but the alcohol content evaporates during steaming).

I found a simple recipe for Whiskey Saboyan at Recipe Circus. Saboyan is similar to Italian Zabaglione, if that helps.

4 Egg yolks
1/2 cup Scotch Whiskey
1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • Combine all ingredients in top half of a double boiler
  • Beat with an electric mixer until light and syrupy
  • Place over simmering water and continue beating until mixture becomes frothy, then thick
  • While simmering, if the mixture gets warmer than your body temperature, it will get grainy. So remove from the heat momentarily, but continue beating, then return to simmering.
  • Cool to room temperature
  • Chill and serve in separate dish to accompany the Dundee Cake

Tomorrow, begin reading about John Graham, better known as 'Bonnie Dundee'...

April 18, 2008 07:17 - Bonnie Dundee

After reading about the Keiller family, their marmalade and Dundee cake, 'Bonnie Dundee' seems an appropriate follow-up.

John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, commonly called Claverhouse, began a military career in 1672, serving Louis XIV in France. He rose within the ranks of the guards of William of Orange.

At the Battle Seneffe, in 1674, Claverhouse rescued William, then a young prince, when his horse fell in marshy ground. John was promoted to captain.

Two years later, he resigned his commission and returned to Scotland. Charles II made him a captain and ordered John to suppress the Convenanters and their outdoor Presbyterian meetings.

He married a Covenanter's daughter, Lady Jean Cochrane, in 1674...even though he was a Lowland Scot, an Episcopalian, and a Whig, while her family were Presbyterians.

King James VII named him a count in 1688.

In 1689 he led the Highlanders at the Battle of Killiecrankie, against the King's Lowland troops, who supported William of Orange. The Highlanders were victorious, but Claverhouse died of his wounds.

Though the Covenanters called him 'Bluidy Clavers', the Jacobites of Scotland lovingly called him 'Bonnie Dundee'.

Graham tartans Bonnie Dundee, John Graham, might have worn ~

Graham Clan Tartan WR7786

Graham Dress Clan Tartan WR1787

There's also the Grahams of Airth, Menteith, and Montrose ~

Graham of Airth Tartan 2768

Graham of Menteith Red Clan Tartan WR1053

Graham of Menteith Clan Tartan WR698

Graham of Montrose Clan Tartan WR1044

Graham of Montrose Clan Tartan WR1116

Graham of Montrose Clan Tartan WR746

Next, read about Claver's wife, the Lady Jane Cochrane…

April 18, 2008 07:18 - I'm Moving

This will be my last blog for 1 to 2 weeks. We're G.T.T. ~ that's gone to Texas. I'll be at least a week moving and setting up housekeeping. I will definitely be back online by May 5th, hopefully sooner.

Til then, adios and see you soon from Texas!

March 2008 «  » May 2008


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