Public invited to celebrate Scots-Irish heritage at Tartan Day

Public invited to celebrate Scots-Irish heritage at Tartan Day

March 17, 2016

The Smoky Mountain Scottish Festival and Games won’t open on the Maryville College campus for several weeks, but local residents are invited to join the campus community April 3 in a celebration of the Scots-Irish and National Tartan Day.

Celtic music, highland dancing and demonstrations by highland games athletes begin at 2 p.m. and continue until 5 p.m. on the plaza of the Clayton Center for the Arts and Anderson Hall lawn. In the Clayton Center’s William Baxter Lee III Grand Foyer, attendees also will be able to research the clans and tartans of the British Isles.

For a schedule, please visit the College's Tartan Day webpage.

“This is our first year to celebrate National Tartan Day,” explained Vandy Kemp, vice president and dean of students. “We’ve partnered with board members of the Smoky Mountain Scottish Festival and Games and are excited to be offering an event for our students and community that is festive and fun but also educational.”

U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., representative of Tennessee’s second congressional district and co-chairman of the Congressional Friends of Scotland Caucus, will speak during the official welcome at 2:30 p.m.

 There is no cost to attend, and people are encouraged to wear their tartans and clan colors, if they have them.

Tartan Day celebrated nationally, internationally

In the United States and in most countries with populations of Scots-Irish descendants, Tartan Day is celebrated April 6, recognizing the day in 1320 when 40 Scottish nobles signed the Declaration of Arbroath, which affirmed Scotland’s independence from English governance. Many scholars believe that the United States’ Declaration of Independence was modeled on this 14th-century document.

In 2005, Congressman Duncan, along with Congressman Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, sponsored House Resolution 41, designating April 6 of each year as “National Tartan Day” to “recognize the outstanding achievements and contributions made by Scottish-Americans to the United States.”

Four years later, then-president George W. Bush signed a presidential proclamation in support of the celebration.

Appropriate for MC

Maryville College was founded in 1819 by the Rev. Isaac Anderson, a Presbyterian minister whose ancestors had emigrated to Rockbridge County, Va., from County Down in the North of Ireland. Anderson’s great-grandparents were present at the siege of Londonderry, the 105-day siege in 1688 against the Protestant stronghold in northern Ireland by deposed British King James II. Many of the College's early professors, students and benefactors were of Scots-Irish lineage.

“Students today see this heritage in several ways – bagpipes at formal events, an official college tartan, our athletic mascot,” Kemp said, “but we are excited to be able to highlight this heritage even more and give students an opportunity to learn about the Scots-Irish in the U.S. and in East Tennessee.”

Kemp pointed out that while the College enjoys hosting the Smoky Mountain Scottish Festival and Games every May, many students can’t attend it because the academic year has ended and they’ve returned home for the summer break.

“And everyone should see the caber tossed,” she explained.

Games, music and food

During the April 3 celebration, highland games athletes will demonstrate the caber toss, sheaf throw and stone put on the lawn of Anderson Hall. MC students will participate in three Scottish-themed intramural competitions:  the Kilted Mile, the stone put and tug-of-war.

Performers include the Good Thymes Ceildh Band, Maryville College’s vocal ensemble “the Lads,” highland dancer and MC student Claire MacMillan and Scottish country dancers. A short presentation will be given on the Declaration of Arbroath.

While some seating will be provided on the plaza, attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets to watch performances.

Shortbread and cider will be available for purchase.

Festival and games tickets for sale

Attendees at the College’s Tartan Day also will be able to buy tickets for the Scottish Festival and Games, scheduled for May 21-22 on the campus. Early purchase specials range from $10 to $25.

The two-day event features clan displays and gatherings, piping and drumming band competitions, highland dance, athletics, musical entertainment, Scotch seminars, Sheepdog demonstrations, Scottish animal exhibits and a supervised kid's play area. Multiple vendors sale Scottish food, dress and other goods.

For more information, visit smokymountaingames.org.


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the Fall 2018 semester is 1,154.