Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

April- 2024 (Vol. 47, Number 10)

The Banner Says…

Celebrating ‘The Mother of Tartan Day’

Gracing our front cover: Jonny Chainsaw amongst the Scottish woodlands. Photo: Don Beavis.

As many Scottish groups across North America get ready for Tartan Day this April 6th. I recently had the wonderful experience of speaking to an amazing person who not only championed this now continental celebration, but nurtured its birth. Jean MacKaracher Watson still lives in Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast, the place where the idea of Tartan Day was born in the 1980’s.

Celebration of Scottish culture

Today Tartan Day is an annual celebration of Scottish culture, heritage and recognises the incredible contributions Scottish immigrants have made to their new lands. Tartan Day events (big and small) across Canada and the US now take place and champion Scotland’s rich culture and the part Scottish ex-pats have had in growing new nations. Jean told me her and fellow Federation of Scottish Clans in Nova Scotia member Bill Crowell were talking about how to get more younger people to join the Federation and active in promoting Scottish culture in Nova Scotia (a province where Scots are the largest ethnic group with approximately 30% of residents being of Scottish descent). Jean said: “At that time everything was old school, and there was nothing for the young.”

A small spark can ignite a large flame

Jean saw that key Scottish dates on the calendar were events such as Burns Night or St Andrew’s Day, which all came from Scotland. Jean and Bill felt they needed their own dates to celebrate and reflect also more of the local Scottish community, so they decided to start a date for Tartan Day and a date for Scottish Canadians. They would choose April 6th, the date of the Scottish Declaration of Independence in 1320, also known as the Declaration of Arbroath, the historic letter to the Pope, asking him to recognise Scotland’s independence and Robert the Bruce as the nation’s king.

Jean would go on to work on Tartan Day all by herself for the next decade to get Tartan Day off the ground, she spent many tireless hours working to get the date recognised. Jean single handedly reached out to every provincial Legislative Assembly in Canada, as well as other Scottish-cultural societies across Canada, to help get such a date established. With the US soon following and the United States Senate declaring Tartan Day to be April 6th in 1998.

Remember Jean would have done all this before we had the internet and emails, she typed every letter and put on every stamp herself. I mentioned to Jean how incredible it is that from a small meeting in Nova Scotia in the 1980’s we now have a continental celebration recognised by state, provincial and national governments, Jean said “It’s absolutely incredible what has happened, and it really is amazing how a small spark can ignite a large flame.”

International Tartan Day

For our Australian and New Zealand readers International Tartan Day is held on July 1st. This date marks the 1782 anniversary of the repeal of the 1747 Act of Proscription that banned the wearing of tartan and the attempt to extinguish the Highland clan system. Having two Tartan Day’s around the world can certainly be confusing for many and perhaps an annual global day would create more traction, I would certainly be interested in hearing people’s opinion on this.

In this issue

From Scotland’s woodlands to the ice of an Alaskan winter Jonny Stableford, aka Jonny Chainsaw, has literally carved out a fascinating career creating sculptures in wood and ice. Jonny recently travelled from Falkirk to Alaska to take part in the World Ice Art Championships. Chainsaw carving is certainly an art, and we are happy to highlight this fascinating Scot’s work.

The Isle of Canna is the westernmost of the Small Isles archipelago, in the Scottish Inner Hebrides. This month we feature how one man traded up his life in London to open Café Canna. Gareth Cole has had to adapt to island life, good and bad, and this month opens his doors again to what has been dubbed ‘the most remote restaurant in Britain’.

The Mother of Tartan Day

This year Jean will be speaking at a Tartan Day function in Halifax, Nova Scotia and some 40 years later Jean is still promoting Tartan Day and Scottish culture. Jean has opened the door for all of us to take part and grow Tartan Day and as she told me, “There is just so much you can do with Tartan Day and that is a wonderful thing” and she is not wrong there. Jean added that it was in fact the Scottish Banner’s Valerie Cairney that gave her the very appropriate nickname ‘The Mother of Tartan Day’, a term which is often still used today.

Thank you, Jean, for all you have done over several decades, especially all those hours most will never know about that you have put in and for being so selfless and determined. Jean is
our feature letter in this issue, and you can read her comments on our Scotpourri page. Jean’s legacy to the Scottish community is clear and we are so very happy to honour that here this month.

Are you celebrating Tartan Day? What are your thoughts on two dates being used around the globe for Tartan Day?

Do you have you any comments from the content in this month’s edition? Share your story with us by email, post, social media or at: www.scottishbanner.com/contact-us

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