What is National Tartan Day?
In 1998 the US senate first declared National Tartan Day to recognise the outstanding achievements and contributions made by Scottish Americans to the United States. In the lead up to the announcement the Senate realised that almost half of the signatures on the United States Declaration of Independence had Scottish descent. A decade later in 2008, President George W. Bush signed a Presidential Proclamation making April 6 National Tartan Day.
Why April 6th?
The 6th of April was chosen as this is the date on which the Declaration of Arbroath was signed in 1320. The declaration announced Scotland's independence from England and it's said that this inspired the United States Declaration of Independence many years later.
Where is National Tartan Day Celebrated?
National Tartan Day is celebrated not only in the US, but also in Canada, Scotland and even Argentina. Australia and New Zealand do also celebrate an International Tartan Day but they actually celebrate this on the 1st July. This is another important date in Scottish history as the anniversary of the Repeal Proclamation of 1782 which abolished the Act of Proscription of 1747. The Act of Proscription declared wearing kilts and tartan a punishable offence and if caught Scots could face up to seven years of transportation.
New York, New York
There are many Tartan Day celebrations throughout the United States, but New York certainly leads the way, not only holding an annual Tartan Day Parade, but a full week of celebratory events. The first parade was set up in 1999 by two pipe bands along side a small but enthusiastic group of Scottish Americans. Led by their Grand Marshal, Academy Award-winning Actor Cliff Robertson the group marched from the British Consulate to the United Nations Headquarters.
Following on from the first parade, the event has continued to grown and now includes hundreds of pipers as well as thousands of marchers and spectators. With so many activities surrounding the parade The National Tartan Day New York Committee was formed in 2002 to organise the parade and the now week long list of fabulous Scottish themed events. Many of the groups marching are Clan associations and last year, Clan Davidson took the title of the most represented Clan.
Previous Grand Marshals
Every year (with the exception of a wee break from 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004) a Grand Marshal is selected to lead the Parade, including actors, members of Scottish Parliament, singers, designers and even sports stars. Last year Scottish Singer, KT Tunstall was the first female to be appointed and her outfit went down a storm. We've listed the full list of previous Grand Marshals below.
- 1999 - Cliff Robertson (Academy Award-winning Actor)
- 2002 - Sir Sean Connery (Academy Award-winning Actor)
- 2005 - Randall Wallace (Academy Award-nominated Screenwriter of “Braveheart”)
- 2006 - Brigadier Melville Jameson (Producer, Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo)
- 2007 - Rt.Hon. George Reid (Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament)
- 2008 - Lawrence Tynes (American Footballer from the New York Giants)
- 2009 - Alan Cumming, OBE (Tony Award-winning Actor)
- 2010 - Rt. Hon. Sir Alex Fergusson (Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament)
- 2011 - Rt. Hon. Bob Winter (Lord Provost of Glasgow)
- 2012 - Brian Cox, CBE (Actor)
- 2013 - Kevin McKidd (Actor and Director)
- 2014 - Howie Nicholsby (Kilt Designer)
- 2015 - Graham McTavish (Actor) & Tricia Marwick (Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament)
- 2016 - Sam Heughan (Actor)
- 2017 - Tommy Flanagan (Actor)
- 2018 - KT Tunstall (Musician)
2019's Grand Marshal
Only a few weeks ago it was announced that The Big Yin, Sir William Connolly will be Grand Marshall for the parade this April. Sir Billy moved to the US in 2011 and announced his retirement from live performances in December. Sir Billy first started performing as part of the Folk Rock Band, the Humblebums and was a member of the band until 1974. In the early 70's he also launched both his solo artist and comedic careers. Sir Billy is best known as a comedian but has also had many successful acting roles. His nickname The Big Yin was first used during his adolescent years to differentiate between himself and his father.
He was 'Big Billy' and I was 'Wee Billy'. And then I got bigger than him, and the whole thing got out of control. I became The Big Yin in Scotland. So, we'd go into the pub and someone would say, 'Billy Connolly was in.' 'Oh? Big Billy or Wee Billy?' 'The Big Yin.' 'Oh, Wee Billy.'
Despite recently retiring he has graciously accepted the role of Grand Marshal.
I’m thrilled to be this year’s Grand Marshal of the New York City Tartan Day Parade. “I can’t wait to hear all those bagpipes echoing off the skyscrapers and to see Sixth Avenue awash with thousands of swaying kilts. “It’s going to be brilliant.
The 21st Annual Tartan Day Parade
This year will mark the 21st anniversary of the New York Tartan Day Parade and we are delighted to be taking part in the parade for the first time. Our Founder, Anna White, Emily from our Marketing Team and our Mascot, Tam the Tartan Tailor and some of our family members will march along side Tartan Ted who has been travelling the US since St Andrew's Day 2018 in the lead up to the big day. If you would like to march with us, we would love for you to join us!
ScotlandShop are Popping up in the Big Apple
Whilst in New York we are also hosting a Pop Up Store and measuring service within the The Algonquin Hotel from April 3rd - 7th. The Hotel is located right at the start of the Parade route at 59 W 44th St so come along and say hello if you can. You can book an appointment to be measured using our online system and we also offer a Tartan Consultation service if you would like to have dedicated time with a member of the team to find your family or clan tartan.
Visit our Events page to find out more about our Pop Up Store and measuring service and to book your appointment.