Kirkin’ O’ the Tartans is Sunday

Published 6:29 pm Friday, August 26, 2011

Many Presbyterian churches across the U. S. hold annual celebrations of their Scottish heritage, with services taken from the old Scottish rites and bagpipe music on designated Sundays.

The First Presbyterian Church of Bainbridge will continue its tradition of celebrating the “Kirkin’ O’ the Tartans” as part of its regular 10:30 a.m. church service this Sunday, Aug. 28.

The Tallahassee Bagpipe Band, decked out in ceremonial kilts, will again be here this year to lead the celebration.

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The origin of this custom is said to go back to 1746, following the defeat of the Scots at the Battle of Culloden, when the Scots were forbidden by their conquerors (the English), to wear kilts, bear firearms, or play the bagpipes — as the English considered them to be instruments of war.

Legend has it that each Scot carried a piece of tartan, in his pocket, to church. The minister, during the service, would cleverly but obscurely bless the tartans. In 1941, Dr. Peter Marshall, a native Scot, chaplain of the Senate and minister at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D. C., held a Kirkin O’ the Tartan each year until his death. Following that, the St. Andrew’s Society took over annually holding a kirking at Washington Cathedral.

The custom has spread with kirkings being held in many places in the United States. This service has become an occasion when “Scots away from Scotland” would ask God’s blessing.