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Kirkin' O' The Tartan

On the 25th day of July, 1745, the young Prince Charles Edward Stewart (Bonnie Prince Charles) returned from France and landing at Lochnanaugh began the enlistment of the Highland Clans for his abortive attempt to dethrone George II of England and to restore the Scottish throne to the Royal House of Stewart. After a succession of victorious battles with the English at various locations, vastly outnumbered, exhausted and hungry, the reduced Highland ranks were utterly routed at Culloden on April 16, 1746.

To subdue the spirit of the vanquished Highlanders, the English Parliament at Westminster invoked the Act of Proscription that banned the wearing of any sign of the Tartan, forbad any speaking in Gaelic, outlawed Scottish music, dancing and the playing of the pipes, which the Act said “emitted an aggressive and warlike sound.”

It was 36 years before the Act of Proscription was revoked and, during all those years, Highland churches had a special day when the Highlanders gathered, each with a small piece of Tartan concealed under their outer clothing and, with the right hand held over the precious piece, they all joined in the prayer that it might please God speedily to cause the repeal of the devastating Act of Proscription.

Elkins Kirkin CeremonyWhen finally the Act was repealed, the Highlanders, as Cunningham in his History of Scotland has written: “returned with joy to their beloved kilt, no longer bound to the unmanly trews of the lowlanders.” In 1941, the Rev. Peter Marshall, chaplain of the U.S. Senate and minister of Washington’s New York Avenue Presbyterian Church created a special Sunday service to give solace to Scottish-Americans involved in the war and this ceremony of the tartan being blessed in church has been practiced throughout Canada and the United States since that time. Even American astronaut Alan L. Bean took a piece of Armstrong tartan to the moon and back.