«Ceud mìle fàilte», the banner said. That’s «A Hundred Thousand Welcomes» in Gàidhlig, or Scottish Gaelic. The occasion was the Kirkin′o′ the Tartans ceremony under a big top in the Walter MacKenzie Park on August 6, with Roderick MacIver presiding over a crowd of more than 200.
The event closed the Scottish Festival, celebrating the 125th anniversary of Scotstown’s incorporation. « Scotstown was settled by the Scottish, and this was a respectful tribute to them », said Madeline Irving, president of the Ceilidh Society of Scotstown.
Kirking means blessing in Gàidhlig, and tartans are the traditional plaid woven woollen cloths identifying the various Scottish clans. There was the Quebec tartan carried by Scotstown mayor Chantal Ouellet. Then the Lion Rampant. The St. Andrews flag of Scotland. The new Scotstown tartan, designed and hand-woven by James MacAulay, and newly registered with the Official Scottish Registry. The Eastern Townships tartan. And some 45 tartans representing various clans whose descendants live in this area. In all, 51 different tartans were carried forward and displayed during the blessing.
MacIver spoke about the origins of the kirking ceremony. It started in Scotland in 1746 after the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie, when Scottish gaelic, music, dancing, bagpipes, and tartans were all banned. « They would place their hands over a piece of tartan concealed under their clothes next to their heart, and the minister would give a blessing », he said. « This was the way the Highlanders would show their fierce loyalty to their culture and heritage. We can be proud of what we are doing today! »