It was my privilege to walk with the American-Scottish Foundation on this year’s Tartan Day parade – the 16th annual parade in New York. It was a truly brilliant experience and I met many interesting people. Being able to walk down 6th Avenue, with spectators waving the Saltire all round was simply brilliant. A big thank you to the Foundation and the people I met during the day!
Public displays of Scottishness in New York, featuring kilted pipers, tartan trews and the Saltire waving in the breeze, are, however, by no means a late twentieth-century invention. One of the earliest celebrations that saw a large assemblage of Scots parading through central New York was that of the Scott Centenary in 1871. Among the other events pursued during the day of celebrations was a banquet at the famous Delmonico’s restaurant, and the laying of the foundation stone for the statue that was to be erected in honour of Sir Walter Scott in Central Park. Among those invited to Central Park was General Sherman. Though Sherman could not attend the event, he sent a letter to apologise for his absence, also noting that America owed much to Sir Walter Scott. It was, in fact, ‘America’s obligation to the great author, who has woven the crude tradition of his native land into tales of exquisite and everlasting interest to the whole civilized world’ that made the statue a suitable proclamation of America’s recognition of Scott (reprinted in New York Times, 15 August 1871). A replica of John Steell’s Scott Monument in Edinburgh, the statue was officially unveiled a good year later in November 1872. Scottish sentiments were on display again, with a legion of Highlanders from the 79th Regiment, the National Guard and the Caledonian Club being present at the unveiling.
Here are a few impressions and sounds from the 2014 Tartan Day Parade that I hope you will enjoy.