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House approves National Tartan Day
by Logan C. Adams
Scripps Howard Foundation Wire


March 10, 2005

Washington - Julia Child, Andrew Carnegie, Samuel Morse, Edgar Allan Poe, one-tenth of Nobel Prize winners, 35 Supreme Court justices, one-third of all U.S. secretaries of state and one-fourth of U.S. presidents have something in common.

They all share a Scottish heritage, and Congress wants to celebrate their achievements with a new holiday.

In a voice vote Wednesday, the House unanimously approved a resolution calling for President Bush to declare a national holiday to honor Scottish-Americans.

Reps. John Duncan, R-Tenn.; Mike McIntyre, D-N.C.; Candice Miller, R-Mich.; and Danny Davis, D-Ill., spoke in support of making April 6 "National Tartan Day."

The word "tartan" refers to the pattern of traditional Scottish Highland clothing and has become a word that refers to all of Scottish culture, said John Bellassai, president of the Washington St. Andrew Society.

"The terms 'tartan' and 'plaid' get kind of confused and interchanged, but 'tartan' is the proper word," he said.

Bellassai said St. Andrew is to the Scots what St. Patrick is to the Irish, and there are several St. Andrew societies nationwide, the largest of which is in Illinois.

The date is significant _ it's the anniversary of the 1320 signing of the Declaration of Arbroath, the Scottish Declaration of Independence.

"Like the U.S. Declaration of Independence, it was signed by several representatives of the population," said McIntyre in a telephone interview. "There was a long list of concerns and grievances against the English royalty, and it claimed Scotland's independence, and it asserted the people's right to set up their own government."

Bellassai, whose grandfather emigrated from Scotland in 1910, said, "A number of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were either born in Scotland or were of Scottish ancestry."

In the 2000 Census, about 8.6 percent of Americans who claimed an overseas ancestry said they were Irish, compared to 1.4 percent who said they were Scottish and 1.5 percent who said they were Scotch-Irish. The Scotch-Irish immigrated to the United States from Northern Ireland, but trace their ancestry to Scotland.

The language of the House resolution is nearly identical to one sponsored by Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., in 1998, that passed the Senate unanimously.

Americans would be happy to celebrate National Tartan Day, according to some people walking near the White House over the lunch hour Wednesday.

Bill McFadden, a senior policy adviser at the Treasury Department who is of Scottish ancestry, said there should be such a national holiday.

"I think they ought to broaden it to Scotch-Irish because the two are the same," he said. "The reason being is all anyone needs to do is read a number of books to realize that contemporary Western civilization is an outgrowth of the Scotch-Irish."

Daniel Saucy, 54, a dentist from Salem, Ore., who was in the capital to visit his representative, didn't care when the holiday is assigned, as long as it happens.

"It's like a perfect country," Saucy said. He has no Scottish heritage, but he does have enthusiasm for the culture. "I like scotch, I like fishing, I like heather, I like bagpipes. ... I'm not kidding you, I wouldn't say this about Finland. I wouldn't say this about Norway."


Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.

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