Saturday, April 21, 2007

-New York City Tartan and Tartan Week







The New York City Tartan


I attended the very first annual observance of September 11th at Trinity Episcopal Church on Broadway and Wall Street. Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Mayer of London, and the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States were all in attendance. One piper was wearing an unusual tartan and after the most poignant rendition of Amazing Grace I have ever heard, I asked the piper about the tartan. He referred me to a website.

The following has been taken from that website:
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The story of the new New York tartan goes back to 2000, the year of the Millennium. A parade of over 8,000 pipers and drummers took place along Princes Street in the August of that year to raise funds for Marie Curie Cancer care. One of the pipe bands taking part was the McGregor Clan, of which family includes the well known Hollywood actor, Ewan McGregor who comes from Crieff in Perthshire, who is a keen bagpipe player. New kilts were required for some of the pipers and it was decided to commission a special tartan for the occasion. Lochcarron of Scotland, based at their mills in Galashiels was given the task of creating and making kilts and ties of a special tartan - the McLennium (sic) tartan to celebrate the new century and this record breaking parade of pipers in Edinburgh.

Charity Fund Raising
Following the success of the Princes Street Millennium Pipe and Drums parade, it was quickly decided to try to break the record again - in New York. The plans began in September 2000 to organise a major parade in the centre of Manhattan, this time with the aim to raise $1,000,000 for the two cancer charities, Marie Curie in Scotland and Gilda's Club Worldwide in America. Scottish Power agreed to be brand sponsors and the creation of the ScottishPower Tunes of Glory parade began in earnest.

Sarah Grotrian, the Director of Marie Curie in Edinburgh and her son, Thomas, director of Epic Concepts Ltd, the company producing the Tartan Day parade, were keen to commission a new tartan for this major Scottish event in America.

As described to me by Tara Gibson, the Public Relations director for Lochcarron, it was in July 2001 when Lochcarron of Scotland, following the creation of the McLennium tartan, was invited to take on the design and manufacture of a new tartan which would be given prominent focus on Tartan Day, 2002. Following the tragic events of September 11th, the significance of both the Tunes of Glory Pipe band parade and the new tartan took on a completely different and significant symbolic tribute. The tartan would now serve as an important symbol and gesture of friendship between the two nations, to be presented as a gift from the people of Scotland to the people of New York.

After grateful thanks were given to Thomas Grotrian and Magnus Orr of Epic Concepts, the producers of the ScottishPower Tunes of Glory parade, and the directors of the charities involved, it was the turn of the Rt. Hon, Eric Milligan, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh to take the stage. He spoke passionately and emotionally about the strong ancestral and cultural links between the people of Scotland and America. He described the feeling of friendship and solidarity that was felt for the American citizens following the events in September 2001 and of the vital importance to work together for a world of peace and prosperity.

The Lord Provost then presented the Mayor Bloomberg with the New York City tartan as a gift from the people of Scotland.


The colors and design of the New York tartan have a specific image and meaning and were specially selected. The light blue represents the Hudson river, the green symbolizes the lush green pastures of Central park, at the heart of Manhattan. The dark blue signifies the Marie Curie cancer care and red that of Gilda`s Club Worldwide. The two black lines, designed in a cross, offer a sign of condolence in memory of those who died on September in the Twin Towers tragedy.

This year Tartan Week ( actually a fortnight, two weeks) started March 31 and ends on April 14 with a grand parade down 6th Avenue. (This parade would pass Radio City Music Hall.) They have created a Scottish Village with different 'neighborhoods' reflecting food, culture, tourism, business etc. in Grand Central Terminal. There is also a 10km run in which thousands will compete.

And why am I so interested in this and not St. Patrick's Day? Most of my family on my father's side are originally from Scotland. Of course, I'm the one who is the native New Yorker and was profoundly affected by September 11th. (I lost at least 17 friends and business associates.).

What clan you might ask? Hmmm. Let's just say that McDonald's doesn't like to serve us!

To learn more about tartans and textiles please see this site.

1 comment:

Mrs Mecomber said...

Aye, the clan!

My ancestors, the McCumbers, emigrated to New York in the early 1800s. Our tartan resembles the NY tartan: mostly green and blue with a pink stripe and black stripe.