What is the Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans?
Stories abound of the Kirkin's roots being in the days following Scotland’s defeat at the hands of the English at the battle of Culloden in 1746. Following this, the Act of Proscription was enacted, when the wearing of the kilt was banned in the Highlands - according to the legend, Highlanders hid pieces of tartan and brought them to church to be secretly blessed at a particular point in the service.
More Recent History
The Rev. Peter Marshall, originally from Coatbridge, Scotland, was the pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington DC, and served as Chaplain of the United States Senate. The Rev. Marshall is believed to be the originator of the Kirkin’ o' the Tartan service. During the Second World War, Rev. Marshall held prayer services at New York Avenue to raise funds for British war relief. At one of the services on April 27, 1941, Rev. Marshall gave a sermon entitled "the Kirkin' o' the Tartans" - and thus a tradition was born.
In 1954, the Kirkin' was moved to National Cathedral (Episcopal) in Washington -- Today, the Washington Kirkin' service is held at the National Cathedral, In addition, many Scottish, Caledonian and St. Andrew's Societies across the United States and Canada hold Kirkin' of the Tartans. Whilst the majority seem to be in Presbyterian Churches, one may also find them in Episcopalian, Methodist, Roman Catholic and other denominations;
In his famous collection of Highland folklore, prayers, charms and omens, the Carmina Gadelica, Alexander Carmichael does list a prayer for the "Consecration of the Cloth.”
May the man of this clothing never be wounded,
The St. Andrews Society of the Inland Northwest celebrates the Kirkin' o' the Tartan on the first Sunday of December, at the Celtic eleven o'clock service of St. David's Episcopal Church, 7015 N. Wall St., Spokane, WA. We hope to see you there.