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Monday, March 7, 2011

Kirkin' o' the Tartans

Now I'll just wager if you saw that in your local newspaper's listing of activities for a Sunday afternoon, you might pass right over it. Or perhaps you'd stop and say Huh? But I'm a bit of a bagpipe freak, so I ripped out the notice and showed up yesterday at the First Presbyterian Church for a kirkin'.

My family has lived in Mississippi for longer than any of us could remember. But as I child, when I asked about our heritage, if the answer wasn't "Virginia," it was Scotch-Irish. I was too young to know or to care what that meant. I assumed it was across an ocean, a country called Scotch-Irish.

Recently, I read Curtis Wilkie's account the history of that immigration, and it cleared things up considerably. In DIXIE, Wilkie theorizes how southerners may have come by their rebellious nature. In Chapter 2, "Natural Rebels," he traces the area's connection to the Scots.

Which is a long way of saying, I now know why I love Scottish bagpipers. It's in my blood.

In fact, there's a clan named for my family: The Russell Clan. We have our own tartan. Who knew? But I saw it on parade yesterday at the Kirkin' or should I say, at the Kirk.
It's that 4th Tartan in line, marching to be Kirked.

Yesterday I learned a Kirk is a church, and the Kirkin' ceremony started during World War II at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington DC, to honor our comrades in the British Isles.

Here's a clip of these same bagpipers, from a few years ago, at another church. Same music, same ceremony.

And here we all are, among the palm trees, yesterday at the concert they gave outside the church.

Somehow my family must have diverted along the way, married into English, Anglican stock. Because I only know about the Presbyterians and my Scottish connection from what I've read, from friends I attended PYF with because they totally outnumbered us Episcopalians in the tiny towns of the Delta. And their meetings were a lot more fun than ours, though not nearly as much fun as what was going on over at the Baptist or the Methodist youth groups.  But that's another story. And I've digressed, big time, from my love of bagpipes.

If you're a fan, if you've a Scottish bone in your body, maybe you'll happen upon your own bagpipers lining up with tartans, all ready to be Kirked. If so, you're in for a treat.

 (Procession of St. Andrews Pipes and Drums, and tartans, First Presbyterian Church, St. Petersburg, FL)

Related post: A Walk on the Beach


Pam Swallow said...

I loved this blog! I got chills when the bagpipes paraded into the church. I, too, have some Scottish ancestry and bagpipes awaken those genes.
Please let me know next time you learn of a Kirkin' -- I'll be there!

Best wishes,
Pam Swallow
P.S. Linda Pratt is also my agent. She's wonderful.

Meredith Carlson Fleming said...

We have a Kirkin' service at our church the last weekend in February (so last weekend). It was great and all the clans were represented! I will post pics soon on FB!

Augusta Scattergood said...

I hope you took special note of the Russell Tartan, Meredith!

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Magnificent! I loved seeing the young people in the processional and in the congregation. So important for them to feel that connection to their roots.

Lee Stokes Hilton said...

This reminded me of the article I wrote for Morristown Magazine about a group of bagpipers there. I interviewed them at a rehearsal -- what fun!