New York Tartan Week to Open with “Scots in the American West”

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13th Annual Tartan Day on Ellis Island Runs March 28-30, 2014

In this photo taken in 1891 in Glasgow, Scotland, sharpshooter Annie Oakley shows off her custom tartan outfit. Photo courtesy of the Garst Museum of Greenville, Ohio.

Scots in the American West

“Tartan Day on Ellis Island” – the nation’s largest Tartan Day celebration - returns for its 13th annual observance with the opening of “Scots in the American West.” The exhibition, produced by Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyoming opens on Friday, March 28 and runs through Sunday, March 30. The exhibition documents the individual accomplishments of Scots in the American West.

“Tartan Day on Ellis Island” is produced by the Clan Currie Society – one of the country’s leading Scottish heritage organizations. The Ellis Island event will open NY Tartan Week – a two-week festival of all things Scottish, including a musical tattoo, Scottish fashion show, whisky tastings, a gala dinner and the annual parade.

Scots in the American West

In the late 1600s, Glasgow was the European center for the Virginia tobacco trade, and Scots Presbyterian dissenters in search of religious freedom established their own colonies in South Carolina and New Jersey. In the 1700s, population growth, agricultural modernization, and political upheaval in Scotland were the driving forces behind more than 50,000 immigrants crossing the Atlantic, and, as the new Republic looked West toward the end of the century, many of the earliest “over-mountain men” settling the Ohio and Tennessee valleys were of Scots or Scots-Irish descent. It is little wonder then that in the 1800s as the United States expanded into the areas we now think of as the American West; Scots were so much to the fore.

Their stories reflect the collective contributions of the Scottish impact on the extensive and dynamic history of the American West. Scots endured a land with an unforgiving climate and rugged terrain. Theirs was a violent land defended by native people protecting themselves from cattle thieves, feuding families, and outside invaders. Over many generations, Scots suffered through battles and massacres. These were people accustomed to taking risks, overcoming obstacles, and starting new lives. Their characteristics shaped their own country as well as the distant lands that became their new homes - including North America.

The exhibition also explores the profound impact that Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show made on the people of Scotland during his European tours which took place in 1891-2 and in 1904.

Commenting on the exhibition’s journey from Cody, Wyoming to Washington, DC and now to Ellis Island, exhibition curator Jeremy Johnston remarked, “How wonderful that this important exhibition has found its way to Ellis Island - the Golden Door to America for so many Scottish and Irish immigrants and place of their first steps of their journey to the American West.”

Scots in the American West is made possible by the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Naoma Tate and the family of Hal Tate, the LDS Church History Museum, Marjorie Stewart, the Clan Currie Society, the National Trust for Scotland Foundation-USA, the New York Tartan Week Alliance, the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Stathclyde.

Celebrate Tartan Day with Music and Dance

Tartan Day on Ellis Island will also play host to some of the finest Scottish entertainment in New York City, including the Rampant Lion Pipe Band, New York Brogue – Celtic music ensemble, and the NY Celtic Dancers.

Visit for additional information. Follow exhibit plans and preparations on Facebook and Twitter, @ClanMhuirich. For the most complete listing of Tartan Week events, visit


About Tartan Day on Ellis Island

Tartan Day on Ellis Island is one of the principal Scottish heritage events in the United States. Playing host to literally thousands of domestic and international visitors each day, it is the largest Tartan Day celebration in the world. Ellis Island is a fitting place to observe Tartan Day. The island and its historic buildings represent America's "Golden Door."

From 1892 to 1954, more than 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island. Although many Scots arrived during the colonial period of our history – helping to build the new nation - an additional half-million Scots came through Ellis Island. It has been estimated that 40% of Americans today can trace at least one ancestor's entry into the United States through Ellis Island.

Describing the program, noted Scottish journalist and author Roddy Martine reported that of all the Tartan Day events held in the United States, the Ellis Island observance has, "stood out as a beacon of what USA Tartan Day is all about: the emigrant ancestors of ordinary Americans who over three centuries crossed the Atlantic Ocean to create the world's greatest democracy."

Tartan Day on Ellis Island is produced by the Clan Currie Society - one of the preeminent Scottish heritage organizations in the United States. The Clan Currie Society began its successful collaboration with the Ellis Island Immigration Museum in 2002 in the coordination and sponsorship of their first Tartan Day celebration. That year, Clan Currie and the National Museums of Scotland joined forces to host the traveling exhibit, "Home and Away: Highland Departures and Returns.”

As part of the celebrations for Tartan Day 2011, the Clan Currie Society commissioned a specially designed Ellis Island Tartan© to mark the 10th Anniversary of Tartan Day on Ellis Island. Each color in the tartan reflects upon the American immigrant experience. The blue represents the ocean that had to be crossed to reach the American shores. The copper-green is the color of the Statue of Liberty. The red depicts the bricks of the Ellis Island buildings where 12 million Americans took their first steps towards freedom. The gold is the golden door that is the United States of America and the dawn of a new life in America.

About National Tartan Day: April 6

President Woodrow Wilson said of the Scots, "Every line of strength in American history is a line colored with Scottish blood." The contribution of the immigrant Scots upon North America is massive and these people have remained proud of their heritage.

However, unlike the Irish and St. Patrick’s Day, Scottish-Americans did not have a national day of identity and celebration. In 1998, National Tartan Day was officially recognized when the US Senate passed a resolution recognizing April 6th as National Tartan Day. This was followed by a resolution which was passed by the US House of Representatives in 2005.

The date commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, which asserted Scotland's freedom over English territorial claims, and may have been an influence on the Declaration of Independence.

About the Buffalo Bill Center for the West

The Buffalo Bill Center for the West contains 300,000 square feet of five museums, a research library, and a fellowship program. In 2011, more than 172,000 people visited the Historical Center in person. Programs are provided for a diverse audience of walk-in visitors, children, adults, families, schools, scholars, and international visitors.

Educational programs include artist-led workshops for children and adults; artist, historian and scientist-in-residency programs; gallery demonstrations; hands-on activities; classes; and lectures - these programs attract an average of 23,500 visitors each year. Annual programs focus on western themes, Plains Indian cultures, art, and natural history, and attract approximately 9,000 people annually. Last year, outreach programs served 12,000 schoolchildren and adults, while school tours and programs reached nearly 8,000 youth.

About The National Trust for Scotland Foundation - USA

The National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA (NTSUSA) is a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization that encourages Americans to participate in the care of the cultural and natural treasures protected by the National Trust for Scotland. By raising tax-deductible gifts from individuals and businesses in the United States, NTSUSA provides grants to fund urgent conservation projects at Trust properties, and helps to ensure that the heritage shared by Scots and Americans is safeguarded for current and future generations.

The Foundation annually honors individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to Scotland with its Great Scot Award, which is presented at its annual benefit - A Celebration of Scotland's Treasures - during New York Tartan Week. Information about NTSUSA and A Celebration of Scotland's Treasures is available at, or by calling 617-227-7500.

About The Clan Currie Society

The Clan Currie Society is an international, non-profit cultural and educational organization. It is the preeminent Scottish-American cultural society in preserving and promoting Highland heritage at Scottish Games, ethnic festivals, as well as community groups and classrooms. The Society has over 2,000 members worldwide that gather via the Society’s website and at special events and clan gatherings.

The Society was originally formed in Glasgow, Scotland in 1959 to further the knowledge and appreciation of the MacMhuirich (pronounced MacVurich) Bardic dynasty. The MacMhuirichs, originally from Sligo, served for over 700 years as professional poets to the Lords of the Isles and later to the MacDonalds of Clanranald among other prominent Highland clans and families. The Red Book of Clanranald, one of Gaelic Scotland’s literary treasures, was penned by successive generations of the MacMhuirich family.

Today, the Society is a respected producer of programs and events to honor Scotland’s rich culture and heritage. The Society’s signature events include The Pipes of Christmas, the annual observance of Tartan Day on Ellis Island – the largest attended Tartan Day event in the world, and an annual academic symposium. The Society’s growing scholarship program provides financial support for students wishing to further their studies in music, poetry, and Gaelic history.

In honor of the clan’s Bardic heritage, the Clan Currie Society is also the Title Sponsor for the Scottish Harp Society of America’s National Championship. The harp or clàrsach was the instrument of the bard. The Society also produces the Harp Glen – a festival of the Scottish Harp at the Seaside Highland Games in Ventura, CA – and participates in over a half dozen Scottish Highland Games in the US, Canada and Scotland.

The Society has spearheaded the construction of two permanent clan monuments in Scotland. A MacMhuirich Memorial Cairn has been built adjacent to the ruins of Bale nam Bàrd, the medieval home of the MacMhuirichs on the Island of South Uist. A memorial stone, commemorating the bard Lachlan Mòr MacMhuirich, has been installed at Makar’s Court alongside the Scottish Writers Museum in Edinburgh.

The Society received one of its many awards for video production excellence for “The Crafter’s Song”, a documentary film narrated by Cliff Robertson. The film can be viewed on Clan Currie’s YouTube channel on the web.

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