06 Apr Scots American connections on Tartan Day
The New York City Tartan Day Parade was supposed to take place today. For obvious reasons, it has been cancelled but, more happily, it has been rescheduled to run next year on Saturday 10th April.
Today’s event was to be particularly poignant as this is the 700th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath.
Signed by 51 Scottish nobles, it is a letter to the Pope of the day asking him to recognise Scotland’s independence and acknowledge Robert the Bruce as the country’s lawful king. You can read a lot more about it here.
The significance of the document has been the subject of much academic discussion and we will leave any conclusions to more learned scribblers.
However, you don’t need to be a historian to recognise that it makes an emotive plea for Scotland to be its own sovereign state:
‘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’.
Inspiration for US Declaration of Independence
Again, there has been much dispute about this but some think that the US Declaration of Independence drew at least some inspiration from the Arbroath document.
There was to have been a festival in Arbroath marking the anniversary of the document but like the NYC parade, it has become a victim of Covid-19.
We’re confident that both will more than make up for it next year.
The first NYC St Patrick’s Day Parade took place in 1762, fourteen years before the US Declaration of Independence so the Scottish parade is a relative latecomer.
The parade began to take shape in 1998 when the U.S. Senate declared April 6 to be National Tartan Day.
The idea was to recognise the contribution that Scottish-Americans made to the United States.
A year later, two pipe bands and a small but enthusiastic group of Scottish Americans marched from the British Consulate to the UN.
The event has grown hugely since then and regularly attracts crowds of 30,000. Past Grand Marshals have ranged from Tricia Marwick, a former Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament to actors such as Brian Cox, Alan Cumming and Sir Billy Connolly. Main pic above is taken from NYC Tartan Week Facebook.
There is certainly no denying the many links between Scotland and the US and those connections are underlined by the proportion of American guests we welcome on the Eat Walk tours in Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews.
Famous Scots Americans
Of course, it is easy to draw attention to the most well-known Scots Americans and their achievements.
We’ve all heard of Andrew Carnegie and many of us will be aware that nine of the thirteen governors of the original states were Scottish.
But what about some of the more unlikely links between the two countries?
For instance, both Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley are legends of American music genres with Scottish ancestry.
The Man in Black can trace his family name back to William Cash who sailed from Scotland to Salem, Massachusetts in 1612.
Elvis Presley is descended from Andrew Presley, who emigrated from Aberdeenshire to North Carolina in 1745.