Bagpipes, kilts mark Tartan Day festivities

Capitol Campus fills with revelers celebrating Scotland’s independence day

rboone@theolympian.comApril 7, 2014 

About 75 people, including some named McGregor, McAlister and McIntyre, gathered on the steps of the Legislative Building on Sunday to celebrate their Scottish heritage and to remember a day important to Scotland.

The event, the seventh to have taken place on the Capitol Campus, was organized by the National Tartan Day Society of Washington, which is based in Tacoma.

April 6 is the day Scotland declared its independence from England —via the Declaration of Arbroath — in 1320, said Fran McGregor, chairwoman of the National Tartan Day Society of Washington.

Although Scotland might have declared its independence then, it remains a part of the United Kingdom to this day.

Scotland’s official flag — featuring sky blue and white — was flying overhead for the gathering and several people showed up wearing tartan: a tightly woven pattern, resembling plaid, that is worn as a kilt or skirt. Each style of tartan represents a different Scottish clan, said McGregor, who was wearing a tartan skirt for the McGregor family.

The event featured bagpipe music, a reading of a National Tartan Day resolution and a group performance of “Scotland the Brave,” with lyrics included on a program that was distributed to the crowd.

One of the featured speakers was Harry McAlister of Lake Forest Park, who shared a number of statistics about Scottish-Americans, including that there are an estimated 300,000 in Washington state.

McAlister, 81, was born and raised in Dumbarton, Scotland, not far from Glasgow. He left at 21 looking for adventure, eventually coming to the U.S. via Canada.

Dumbarton is a town of about 20,000 that was once known for its industrial production but it is now a depressed area because of the rise of globalization, he said.

McAlister is the youngest of seven children.

McAlister wore a kilt on Sunday, along with a pouch or purse, called a “sporran.”

He also was one of several men who had a “sgian dubh,” or black dagger, tucked into one side of his black hose.

Tradition has it that when someone was invited into a home it was common to check the swords at the door, but the black dagger was kept on hand in case the host had other ideas, McAlister said.

After the gathering, the group planned to meet at O’Blarney’s Irish Pub in Lacey for lunch, McGregor said.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403

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