Church keeps kilt tradition alive

With bagpipes, kilts and haggis, St. Luke's Episcopal Church continued its annual Kirkin O' the Tartan.

A North American tradition, the ceremony on June 14 honored Scottish heritage with members and visitors wearing their tartans, dress kilts of finer quality wool than the everyday kilts.

Participants marched in to "Scottish Soldier" played on the bagpipes by Nancy Frederick of Port Townsend.

The annual event is celebrated as a unifying experience first held for the family clans in Scotland who would meet at special services. Wearing their tartans, the Scots would re-dedicate themselves to God's service.

Many sources trace the event's roots to the 1500s, continuing to 1746 when tartans were outlawed.

Later, the Scots secretly would hold small pieces of tartan and rub them during a blessing in the service, as a symbolic act.

The first Kirkin' service was on April 27, 1941, in Washington, D.C., by Dr. Peter Marshall.

St. Luke's members have recognized the Kirkin O' the Tartan for the past eight years.

Father Bob Rhoads blessed seven participants in ceremonial dress as part of the church's service.

As older Americans of Scottish descent decline in numbers nationally, more non-Scots have taken to wearing the attire, said Dottie Nicassio, Sequim event organizer. Nicassio has three-quarters Scottish blood in her.

She said this year it was hard to organize the Kirkin' because of the smaller number of Scots and bagpipe players.

"They are sadly fading away," Nicassio said.

"I hope (the Kirkin') continues for years."

She made haggis and others brought scones for after the service.

"People have heard all sorts of stories about haggis," Nicassio said.

"If I were to make an authentic Scots' haggis, I'd steam it in a sheep's stomach. If I went to a butcher and asked for that, they'd look at me as crazy."

She says her haggis of liver, onions, oatmeal and seasonings is "North American haggis."

Nicassio said many people commented positively on the participants' attire.

"They respect the culture and admire it, but I don't think they will participate," she said.

Matthew Nash can be reached at

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Oct 26
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates