The Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans

The “Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans” is a ceremony, usually but not always part of a church service, in which God’s blessing is sought for the tartans worn by the Scots. This “tradition” appears to have begun in World War II as a Scottish-American event, though it has now spread to many parts of the Scots’ world. The history is interesting, and there are at least some tenuous connections to practices among the highlanders after the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745.

Though these ceremonies were originally found only in Presbyterian churches, they’ve spread to other denominations, and are even sometimes found at Highland games. They can be performed at any time of the year, but are especially common on Reformation Sunday (last Sunday in October), St. Andrew’s Day (November 30), and Tartan Day (April 6).

From time to time, we receive requests for a Scots Gaelic blessing for use at a Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans service. This is a very natural request, but because this isn’t an ancient tradition, there’s no old Gaelic prayer or blessing available for the purpose.

Catriona Parsons

We asked Catrìona Parsons, who is a native speaker, one of the world’s best-known teachers of Gaelic, and a friend of ACGA, if such a blessing existed. Her response was to write one for us. 🙂 It’s short enough to be feasible for non-Gaelic-speakers. We think it’s lovely, and it should work quite well wherever folks want to do the blessing in Gaelic.

Here’s the blessing in Gaelic.

A Dhè, beannaich na Gàidheil agus na
h-Albannaich bho ’n d’thàinig sinn;
Beannaich sinne, ’s na breacain a tha
sinn fhathast a’ cur oirnn;
Agus beannaich an dualchas a tha sinn
a’ cumail suas.
AMEN.

Here’s a translation to English

O God, bless the Gaels and the Scots from
whom we are descended;
Bless us, and the tartans we still wear;
And bless the heritage that we uphold.
AMEN.

Here’s a link to an audio file that can be used in the actual service, or used to learn to speak the blessing.

Here’s a rough pronunciation guide intended for English speakers who don’t know Gaelic. Be aware that such guides often produce terrible results when used as the sole learning aid, but if you look at this while listening to the audio, you’ll likely be able to distinguish sounds that would otherwise be elusive.

Uh yay, byaunich na gale uh gus na halapanich vown d’ hanug sheen;
Byaunich sheen ya, sna brechkun uh ha sheen hahst uh coor orn;
Uh gus byaunich uhn duelchus uh ha sheen uh koomuhl soo us.
Ah men.

Be aware that: the “ch” is as in “Ich” in German.
“byau” rhymes with “meow”.
“gale”: like English “gale”. Definitely no “y” sound, though, as “gyale”.
“vown”: say “own” with a “v” in front.
“d’”: say “duh”, but shorten it to just the “d” sound.
“hahst” Say “hah”, but stretch the “ah”, then add “st”.

If you actually use this blessing in a Kirkin’, please let us know. 🙂