Wearing the Maitland Tartan

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April is Scottish American Heritage month. And connected to this month long awareness of Scottish ancestry is National Tartan Day. Celebrated annually on April 6th, this day encourages the wearing of the plaid as a way to publicly proclaim one’s Scottish roots.

I happily celebrate this day yearly, with the wearing of tartan. However, this is the first year I’ve enjoyed wearing the Maitland tartan. Because the Maitland tartan is private, it can only be purchased by clan members. I’m a member of the clan, however I had not yet  purchased the official tartan.

That changed last summer. My sister Debbie and I attended our first Maitland Clan Gathering in Scotland. We met our Clan Chief and Scottish kin, who gathered from around the world. When Debbie and I flew home, after a delightful 10 days spent in Edinburgh and the Borders, we carried Maitland tartan sashes and scarves and clan badges with us.

Wearing the Maitland Tartan title meme

The Origin of the Tartan

A tartan is a cloth, originally made of wool, woven in a pattern of colors. Long associated with the Highlanders of Scotland, the early tartans were simple plaid designs of two or three colors. The colors came from dye-producing plants, roots, berries and trees local to specific geographic areas. These simple plaids, worn by the people in the districts where they were made, became the area or clan tartans.

As clans grew, tartans evolved. New clans added additional stripes onto the basic patterns of parent clans. After the Battle of Culloden in 1746, an act of Parliament passed in London, making the carrying of weapons and the wearing of tartans a penal offense. After the act was repealed in 1785, most Highlanders had lost the desire to wear their clan tartans and many of the original patterns were lost. The wearing of the tartans revived in 1822.

Today all Scottish clan tartans are registered through the Registers at Lyon Court.

Pipers wearing their tartans
Pipers on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, wearing their tartans.
Wearing the Maitland Tartan Clan
Wearing the Maitland Tartan – Clan Gathering in Edinburgh Scotland, July 2019

The Maitland Tartan

The Maitlands, a Scottish Borders family, settled in the valley of Lauder after originating from Normandy. What a pleasure to hear my Chief, Ian the 18th Earl of Lauderdale, tell the story last summer of how the Maitland tartan came into existence.

When Queen Elizabeth came through Edinburgh in 1953, after her coronation, the 16th Earl of Lauderdale performed the role of Hereditary Bearer for the Sovereign of the National Flag of Scotland.

Authorities agreed the Bearer of the Flag should appear in tartan, however at that time, the Maitlands did not have one. Lord Lyon, after reviewing the situation, proclaimed that although the Maitlands were Lowlanders, it was fully proper for them to wear tartan.

Lyon suggested a modification of the accepted Lauder tartan since the Maitland Chief was also Earl of Lauderdale. He proposed bordering Lauder’s thin red line on either side with two yellow lines to represent the colors of the lion on the Maitland coat of arms.

And so the Maitland tartan came into existence and was registered. Only those recognized by the Chief may wear it. As a card carrying Maitland Clan member, I am allowed to purchase and wear the tartan and the clan badge as a show of loyalty to my Chief.

Clan Maitland Tartan and Badge
Wearing the Maitland Tartan – plaid and badge
Wearing the Maitland Tartan sisters
Wearing the Maitland Tartan – Scottish sisters

National Tartan Day 2020

What an honor today, to declare my Scottish heritage through wearing the Maitland tartan. Even though I never left the borders of my yard, I enjoyed wrapping myself in my tartan and taking photos outside in the garden.

I feel the powerful connection today to my Scottish ancestry and to the kinsmen I met last summer. And my heart is turned toward Scotland for another reason. Over the weekend, clan members learned of the passing of the Chief’s wife, the lovely Lady Ann, Countess of Lauderdale.

I only met Lady Ann last July. However, I loved her sweet and gentle spirit. I am both grateful that I met her and sad that I’ll not see her again. Ian told us repeatedly last summer that clan means family and that we are all kin, scattered though we are throughout the world. His kinsmen surround him and his children and grandchildren with love, from afar. Our thoughts are with them all during this time.

My intention to return to Scotland in December, for the Christmas Market, is on hold. With the pandemic causing many changes around the world, traveling internationally may not occur for a while.

So today felt even more special, more important. I wore the Maitland tartan for Scotland, for Lady Ann, for my kinsmen and my Chief. And I wore the tartan for myself as a visual declaration that I am a Scotswoman, fiercely proud of my Scottish ancestry.

That tartan is a promise as well. I will return, to Scotland, to my ancestral home.

Wearing the Maitland Tartan 2020
Wearing the Maitland Tartan – National Tartan Day 2020

Check out these books about Scottish clans and tartans:



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National Tartan Day 2018

I love celebrating this holiday. It has become a tradition for me to take a selfie on this date each year, wearing my plaid scarf and thistle brooch. The main way I enjoy the day though is by having a greater awareness of my Scottish heritage and letting my thoughts drift often toward my homeland.

National Tartan Day 2018

Anyone who knows me even marginally knows of my love for Scotland. My connection to Scotland is deep, something I have felt since I was a young girl when my mother told me about my ancestry. She told me stories about castles and lochs and ancient cities and I fell in love, and have remained in love throughout my lifetime. I’ve had the privilege of visiting this beautiful country twice in the last four years.

The first time I visited Scotland, in 2014, I felt like I had returned home. When I had the pleasure of a second visit last fall, that sense of being back where I belonged was even deeper. For reasons I can’t fully understand, bonnie Scotland calls to me like no other place on earth. It creates an ache in my heart that is only eased when I am there.

National Tartan Day 2018

So I celebrate every opportunity I get to acknowledge and honor my Scottish heritage. I fly my saltire flag on St Andrews Day, read poetry and drink hot heather tea on Burn’s Night, welcome in the new year with Hogmanay, and wear my plaid on Tartan Day.

This holiday was established in the 1980s but didn’t really catch on until the late 90s. April 6 was chosen because on this date, in 1320, the Declaration of Arbroath was signed, which was a declaration of Scottish independence.

National Tartan Day 2018

What I didn’t fully realize until today is that National Tartan Day isn’t a holiday celebrated in Scotland. It is a day set aside for people of Scottish descent who are scattered around the world. It is a designated time of remembering where we come from, of turning our hearts and thoughts toward a homeland that we may or may not have visited, and it is a time to don our tartans as a symbol of our heritage.

I am a member of Clan Maitland, whose home is south, in the Scottish Borders, near the village of Lauder. Thirlestane Castle is there, home of my ancestors and home still to distant family members. I love wandering through that magnificent structure, full of the energies of generations past. Last year I brought home printed linens from the castle, one for me and one for each of my children. Greg made wooden frames for them. Mine hangs in my bedroom, where I look at it, and lightly touch it, multiple times a day.

National Tartan Day 2018

Next year there will be a Maitland Clan Gathering, in Lauder, Scotland. Maitlands and Lauderdales from around the world will meet there to honor our heritage and make new connections and hear family stories.

I’ll be there, excited to meet Scottish family members who live in Scotland and Scottish family members who have traveled in from all the places in the world where they have settled. What a celebration that will be! I’ll be wearing my plaid, of course.

National Tartan Day 2018

National Tartan Day 2017

I am grateful once again for the Facebook Memories notification that I get each day. In the midst of a busy day, I quickly scanned through my newsfeed and notifications while eating lunch, and realized today is National Tartan Day. Being of Scottish descent, and a card carrying member of Clan Maitland, this is a holiday I must celebrate.

National Tartan Day 2017
Not only do I embrace this national day, I have an annual tradition of taking a selfie while wearing my plaid. After only a slight hestitation, as I thought about all that I still needed to accomplish during the afternoon, I wholeheartedly entered into the spirit of the day and grabbed my tartan scarf.

It was chilly outdoors today, and breezy, but the sun was brilliant and out into the yard I went with my scarf around my neck. The last two years I’ve worn my silver thistle pin as well. Today, wanting to create something different, I simply wrapped my tartan scarf around my neck and clasped the ends, going for a fun and casual look. Greg graciously acted as my photographer.

National Tartan Day 2017
This evening I spent time browsing through my Clans & Tartans of Scotland & Ireland book, by James MacKay. I read that the tartan originally was a piece of woolen cloth, about 6 1/2 feet wide and up to 20 feet long, that was worn by being gathered in pleats around the waist, wound around the back and over the shoulder, and secured with a brooch.

The distinctive patterns were created by weaving the cloth and dyeing it. The pattern’s purpose was to identify the origins of the wearer by the colors of his cloth.

National Tartan Day 2017
National Tartan Day 2017
I am a member of Clan Maitland. My tartan book describes the Maitlands as a powerful Lowland family that originated in Normandy. The earliest referenced family member is Thomas de Maltalent in 1227. Later in that same century Sir Richard de Mauteland acquired the Berwickshire estate of Thirlestane, near the village of Lauder. Several members of the Maitland Clan held high offices, including William, secretary to Mary, Queen of Scots and John, who became Duke of Lauderdale in 1672.

The Lauderdales of America are all descended from James Maitland, who immigrated to the US in 1714. His grandson, William, moved to South Carolina in 1817, and the Tennessee branch of the family descended from him. That’s my branch of the Lauderdale family tree.

National Tartan Day 2017
This September, I will be returning to Scotland with my mother, sisters and niece. We will visit Lauder, in the Borders, and tour the ancestral home, Thirlestane Castle. Distant relatives still occupy the castle, although it is now part of the Scottish National Trust.

My Scottish blood is strong within me. Scotland calls to me and haunts my thoughts. I am proud to be a Scot, honored to be a member of Clan Maitland, and thrilled to be visiting my homeland once again.

This afternoon I paused long enough on this day of recognition to don my tartan scarf and strike a pose. My heart sang…and answered the invitation that continually flows to me from my beloved Scotland…


National Tartan Day 2017

Have Scottish or Irish ancestry? Find your tartan in James MacKay’s book:

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Surrender 97: National Tartan Day 2016

As an American with Scottish ancestry, I’ve looked toward to celebrating this holiday again. I had fun wearing the plaid last April 6, and this year, I wore my tartan scarf once more as I was out this afternoon. 


This holiday was established by a resolution in the US Senate in 1998. The date of April 6 was selected in honor of the Declaration of Arbroath, the Scottish Declaration of Independence, which was signed on this date  in 1320.
The Declaration of Independence created for the United States was modeled on the Scottish document. This isn’t surprising since nearly half of the American signers were of Scottish descent. 


The purpose of National Tartan Day is to commemorate the Scottish Declaration of Arbroath and to recognize the achievements of Americans with Scottish heritage. 

The tartan is a pattern of criss crossing bands in various colors. The first tartans were made of wool. Each clan in Scotland is represented by their own unique tartan. 


As a Lauderdale, I am a member of Clan Maitland. Maitlands have lived near the village of Lauder, in a castle, for centuries. There has been a long line of Earls of Lauderdale living in Thirlestane Castle, although the current earl lives in London. A Maitland that immigrated to America in 1690 took the last name of Lauderdale. 

I have a clan chief, and there are clan members scattered around the world. The Maitland tartan is private. As a clan member, I am allowed to order items made from the official tartan. That is an intention of mine, to purchase a Maitland tartan shawl and eventually a skirt. 


It’s been a fun day, wearing my plaid, checking out various sites to see how other tartan sporting American Scots are celebrating, and in general, having a raised awareness of my heritage and the country that I love so much. 

It has now become a tradition to capture a selfie commemorating National Tartan Day. I’m grateful for my Scottish ancestry and for this yearly opportunity to celebrate my family roots with the wearing of the plaid. 


Journey 96: National Tartan Day

tartan day get your plaid on

What a perfect holiday to celebrate, for me! I don’t know how I missed this celebration last year, however, I am happy to have discovered it in time for this year.

Tartan Day is a recognition and celebration of Scottish heritage. It is celebrated on April 6th each year in the United States. April 6th was chosen to commemorate the date that the Declaration of Arbroath, the declaration of Scottish independence, was signed in 1320.

It is estimated that there are more than 6 million people in the US who claim Scottish descent. Although the first Tartan Day was celebrated in New York in 1982, little was done to follow up the event. In 2004 the National Capital Tartan Day Committee, a group of Scottish-American organizations, lobbied the House of Representatives. The following year, House Resolution 41 was unanimously adopted that designates April 6 as National Tartan Day.

Four years later, President George W Bush signed a Presidential Proclamation. The proclamation reads, in part:

Americans of Scottish descent have made enduring contributions to our Nation with their hard work, faith, and values. On National Tartan Day, we celebrate the spirit and character of Scottish Americans and recognize their many contributions to our culture and our way of life.

Scotland and the United States have long shared ties of family and friendship, and many of our country’s most cherished customs and ideals first grew to maturity on Scotland’s soil. The Declaration of Arbroath, the Scottish Declaration of Independence signed in 1320, embodied the Scots’ strong dedication to liberty, and the Scots brought that tradition of freedom with them to the New World. From the evocative sounds of the bagpipes to the great sport of golf, the Scots have also left an indelible mark on American culture.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 6, 2008, as National Tartan Day. I call upon all Americans to observe this day by celebrating the continued friendship between the people of Scotland and the United States and by recognizing the contributions of Scottish Americans to our Nation.

tartan day close up

I celebrated the day by listening to Red Hot Chilli Pipers, a rock bagpipe band, as I drove in the car. And this afternoon, I added my clan tartan to my outfit by draping a tartan scarf around my shoulders and securing it with a thistle brooch. I am a member of the Maitland Clan, which includes Lauderdales. I had the privilege of visiting Lauder, Scotland last year and touring the home of my ancestors, Thirlestane Castle. Distant cousins still occupy the castle today. The plaid I wore this afternoon is actually the Lauder Tartan. The Maitland Tartan is private. I am allowed to wear it, but I must order it online and my membership in the clan will be checked. The shops in Scotland, while they carried many, many other clan tartans, could not carry mine. One of my journeys this year will be to purchase my first Maitland Clan Tartan, in a scarf or shawl or throw. Someday, I’ll own a Maitland Tartan kilt!

Trisha Telep, in her book “The Mammoth Book of Scottish Romance”, humorously wrote, “Any self respecting Scot knows that a good tartan is the solution to everything: it tells you where you are, where you belong, who your friends and family are. Forget the Vikings: those guys just can’t hold a candle to a delicious battle-weary warrior whose fighting skills and wicked sex appeal have spawned a thousand Scottish heartthrobs.”

I smiled over the image that sprang to mind of those delicious battle-weary warriors. And decided it was time to watch another episode of Outlander! I love the part about knowing where you are, where you belong, who your friends and family are. The clan and its tartan are about connection and being a part of something larger than myself, something with ancient roots that sink deeply into the fertile Scottish soil. That’s my clan, and my people. Those are my roots. That’s my homeland. I am Scottish. I am happy to be.

tartan day cindy