Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Happy National Tartan Day

Author: Bill Caudill, Director of the Scottish Heritage Center

 National Tartan Day, observed in the United States on April 6 every year, commemorates the day that the Declaration of Arbroath (or the Scottish Declaration of Independence) was signed in 1320. The reason it’s so important is that the American Declaration of Independence was actually modeled on the Declaration of Arbroath and a large proportion of the Founding Fathers were of Scottish descent (almost half of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and nine of the 13 governors of the newly established United States, were Scottish!)

In 1988 the United States Senate – with the leadership of North Carolina Senator Mike McIntyre of Robeson County (a descendant of local Scottish emigrants) and Mississippi Senator Trent Lott passed the resolution confirming April 6 as National Tartan Day.  This in turn led to the passing of the resolution by Congress and finally Presidential approval of this national day of recognition.

April has been designated Scottish Heritage Month in North Carolina.  This celebrates the fact that North Carolina was home to the largest settlement of HIghland Scots in all of North American until well into the 19th century.  These settlers as well as many more from Lowland Scotland and transplanted Scots who came to America after a generation or two in Northern Ireland (Ulster) are a very large and prominent part of our heritage.  As Presbyterians who honored the traditions of higher education, our university can trace its historical roots to those Scots who founded Floral College in 1841 – one of our earliest historical predecessor institutions.

We see the St. Andrews tartan quite frequently – on publications, in displays, worn in neckties, and worn by our university pipe band.  The tartan is actually The Earl of St. Andrews Tartan – a somewhat modern design which was designed for personal use by the holder of that title – the current Earl of St. Andrews being a cousin to King Charles III.  In 1986 – under the leadership of College Librarian Betty Holmes,  V.P. for Academic Affairs Dr. Thomas Benson, and myself – this tartan was suggested and adopted for use here at St. Andrews Presbyterian College.  This decision was made primarily due to it being affiliated with the name “St. Andrews” as well as the fact that it was in the college’s colors of blue and white.  Since that time, the “St. Andrews Tartan” has been used around our campus in many ways and is quite visible and one of our identifying images both on and off campus.

The Earl of St. Andrews Tartan

“Tartan” originally referred to specific patterns of symmetrically checked woven fabric which became identified with certain regions or families in Highland Scotland.  Nonetheless, one DOES NOT HAVE TO BE SCOTTISH to enjoy and celebrate the traditions affiliated with it.  There are now tartans which have been woven specifically for various states in the USA, other nations and ethnicities worldwide, corporate uses, clubs and societies, and most any group imaginable.  See below the TOYOTA tartan, the Worldwide LBGTQ tartan, and the SPIRIT OF UKRAINE tartan as examples of “modern tartans” and there are MANY!! 

During April, I invite anyone in the St. Andrews community to stop by the Scottish Heritage Center and find out more about tartans (even if you’re not Scottish!!) As well as our institution and region’s deep Scottish roots and heritage……