MC celebrates Scots-Irish heritage in April 2 Tartan Day

MC celebrates Scots-Irish heritage in April 2 Tartan Day

March 24, 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 2 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 4 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 will be able to research the clans and tartans of the British Isles with help from members of the Scottish Society of Knoxville. Tennesseans for Living History also will have displays about East Tennesseans with Scots-Irish heritage.

“This is our second year to celebrate National Tartan Day,” explained Karen Eldridge, the College’s executive director for marketing and communications. “We’ve again partnered with board members of the Smoky Mountain Scottish Festival and Games to put on this event for our students and community. It’s designed to be festive and fun, but also educational.”

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 John J. Duncan, Jr., 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,” Eldridge 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.”

She 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.

Games, music and food

During the April 2 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 Scottish-themed intramural competitions like the Kilted Mile, tug-of-war and maide leisg.

Performers include the Good Thymes Ceildh Band, Maryville College’s vocal ensemble “the Lassies,” dancers from the MacIsaac School of Highland Dance 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.

Sunset Café, which operates out of the Clayton Center for the Arts, will have pulled smoked pork and chicken sandwiches and jerk beans for sale.

The College’s bookstore will have select items available for purchase.

Festival and games tickets for sale

Attendees at the College’s Tartan Day will be able to buy discounted tickets for the Scottish Festival and Games, scheduled for May 20-21 on the campus. They also will be able to sign up for the Highland Half Marathon and Scot Trot 5K on May 21.

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


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 1,146.