Tartan Day - Scotland Declares Independence

Created on Apr 06, 2017 by Kathy Pinna
The Scots have always been - and still are - a fierce and independent people. April 6th is Tartan Day - a celebration of the Scottish people and all things Scottish in the United States. The date was chosen because on April 6, 1320 The Declaration of Arbroath was signed (see more about this below), declaring Scottish independence. And now, Scotland may declare its independence from Great Britain again due to the Brexit vote. Tartans, kilts, bagpipes, whiskey/scotch, haggis, the Loch Ness monster, shortbread, the Sword Dance, the dirk, the sporran, the claymore, even the invention of golf, are all associated with Scotland and have become a part of the culture wherever the Scots have immigrated.

Tartan Day - Scotland Declares Independence

Jose Leon Gil (originally McGill)

Scottish soldier of fortune
Jose Leon Gil

The Declaration of Arbroath was a letter submitted to Pope John XXII - dated April 6, 1320 - that confirmed Scotland's independent status and proclaiming its right to use force if attacked. It was signed by 51 nobles and prominent men of Scotland. In addition to asserting Scotland's right to be a sovereign nation, it stated that the nobility of Scotland would choose their own king if Robert the Bruce proved unfit and that Scotland had been a nation much longer than England.

Angus Kennedy, 1860

Angus Kennedy - Islay, Scotland (1831 - 1888)

A part of the letter from Arbroath was a direct statement about the character of the Scottish people: "...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."

George Milne, 1890

George Milne

The Tartan A tartan is defined as a pattern consisting of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours. While the original tartans were woven in wool, they are now made from many different materials and are most often associated with the Scottish kilt.


Capt. David Smith & John Allan Gray, 1900

Grandfather and grandson
Capt. David Smith & John Allan Gray

Clan tartans (patterns defining Scottish clans such as Fergusson, Campbell, McDonald, Duncan, Fraser, Oliphant, and more - there are over 140) are a recent invention, however. They can be traced back to the 1800's - before that, tartans were probably related to geographical locations and the weavers' preferences or the availability of dyes.

Mother and son, 1897

Jessie and George Staveley Aitchison
George Staveley Aitchison

In 1746, The Dress Act banned the wearing of tartans and other "Scottish" clothing in an effort to bring "warrior clans" under control. The law provided "imprisonment, without bail, during the space of six months, and no longer; and being convicted for a second offence before a court of justiciary or at the circuits, shall be liable to be transported. . ." No lesser sentence could be imposed.

Duncan Craigie-Halkett (1857-1889)

Duncan Craigie-Halkett (1857-1889)

By the time the law was repealed in 1782, tartans became more of a national costume than a daily outfit. It only takes a couple of generations to change a custom. Australia celebrates Tartan Day on July 1st - the day in 1782 that the law was repealed.

Sir Colin Campbell, 1855

Crimean War
Sir Colin Campbell 1855
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