History of the Kirking of the Tartans: is it really Scottish?


This Sunday all over the world many churches will observe the Kirkin’ o’ th’ Tartans, a celebration of Scottish heritage and culture.

What is The Kirking of the Tartans?

Etymologically it simply means:

  • Kirking, from the Scots word kirk which means church, in this usage it means “blessing.”
  • Tartans are the traditional plaid emblems of Scottish clans represented in unevenly spaced colored lines and rectangles on woven wool cloth.

Historically, the story is a bit more varied. The popular legend goes as follows:

On July 25, 1745, the young Prince Charles Edward Stewart, “Bonnie Prince Charlie” returned from exile in France and landed at Lochnanaugh in Scotland where he began to enlist the Highland Clans for an unsuccessful attempt to dethrone George II of England and to restore the Scottish throne to the Royal House of Stewart.

Following Prince Charlie’s defeat, the Act of Proscription — to subdue the vanquished Highlanders — banned the wearing of any sign of the Tartan, forbade any speaking in Gaelic, outlawed Scottish music, dancing, or the playing of the pipes.

During the 36 years following the Disarming Act of 1746 when the Hanovarian English government strictly enforced this ban, during the Sunday service Scottish Highlanders would touch the hidden piece of tartan cloth under their clothes when the minister gave the benediction or kirkin’, thus rededicating themselves to God and their Scottish heritage.

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History of Halloween

Halloween Jack O Lantern HISTORY OF HALLOWEEN

Halloween (Allhallows Even) is the evening of October 31. In its strictly religious aspect, this occasion is known as the vigil of Hallowmas or All Saints’ Day, November 1, observed by the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. In the fourth decade of the 8th century, Pope Gregory III moved this holiday to the present date (from May 13) for celebrating the feast when he consecrated a chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to all the saints. Later, Gregory IV extended the feast to the entire church in 834. In Latin countries in Europe the evening of October 31 is observed mainly as a religious occasion, but in Great Britain, Ireland, and the United States, ancient Halloween folk customs persist alongside the ecclesiastical observance.

Halloween is the second most popular holiday in the U.S. after Christmas, at least according to retailers — but it is the first in terms of candy sales. Not only are candy and costumes popular purchases, but increasingly, houses are being decorated with “Halloween lights.” Parties are popular and are increasingly being celebrated the weekend before. In Boston, for example, Salem is a popular location for these with its month-long Haunted Happenings celebrations — due to the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 — and the Massachusetts Turnpike traffic signs point out that Salem can be reached from Boston via Route 1A North. In Tokyo I’ve seen young people dress up in western-style costumes during Halloween, especially in the Harajuku district along the shopping area on Takeshita-dori Street.

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History of Mach 1: Yeager Breaks the Sound Barrier


On June 10, 1948, The U.S. Air Force confirmed that Capt. Chuck Yeager had repeatedly attained supersonic speeds in the Bell X-1

But it was on October 14, 1947, Chuck Yeager, now Brigadier General (retired), actually broke the sound barrier for the first time. I met him on his fiftieth anniversary of that earlier date in Washington DC, on October 14, 1997 — when he retired as a military consultant and once again broke the sound barrier, this time in an F-15. It was on this occasion that he was speaking at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. He told us about how he did it, in the room right next to the gallery where the Bell X-1 rocket plane is hung.  This is a man with “The Right Stuff.” Indeed you saw his exploits in the movie by that name. This is his story.

[ I transcribed this in an IMAX theater at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum back in 1997 at the 50th Anniversary in the dark on my Psion palmtop. It’s a little rough and I didn’t understand all the technical parts. He’s incredibly sharp for only having a high school education :-]

Mach 1:

“This morning before the talk, they put me in a cherry picker and hoisted me up to the X-1. Was it scary? Heck, usually I got into it several miles up in the air. 48 years ago was last flight of the X-1. When I got in today, I found a penny on the floor from 1950.

“In 1942-3, Major Cocher at Wright Field conceived the idea of supersonic flight as they were at 60-80% of Mach. NACA, the predecessor to NASA, controlled all research flying. In 1944 the Army Air Corp contracted two X-1s from Bell Aircraft Company. These were flown by Bell pilots. Slick Goodwin had negotiated a $150K bonus for 1.1 Mach. Before this he had gotten just $10K for .8 Mach for Phase 1. But the Army was spending only $3M for the whole program. Wright Field offered military testers, like me, for `free’.

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History of Christopher Columbus


The man who sailed from Spain to discover America was neither Spanish nor did he actually discover America. But it was true that:


In fourteen hundred and ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue

He was actually Italian, born in 1451 to a wool merchant in Genoa and first went to sea in his youth. He sailed to Iceland and Guinea for business, and later spent some time as a privateer. It was in 1484, the year after Martin Luther was born in Germany, that Christopher Columbus presented to King John of Portugal the idea of an “Enterprise of the Indies” (no relation to Star Trek‘s star ship) where he would sail west to the East Indies, thinking it shorter than the eastern spice trade route. After unsuccessful appeals to the kings of Portugal, England and France he eventually moved to Spain where upon his fourth request, he secured the patronage of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. You know them as the parents of Queen Katherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII of England, and grandparents of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor who presided over the trial of Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms.

Columbus sailed from Palos, Spain with three ships on August 3 and arrived not in the East Indies, but in the Bahamas on October 12 of 1492, where he named the locals “Indians.” He sailed on to the islands of Cuba and Haiti thinking he’d reached the islands of the East Indies. Contrary to popular belief, Columbus was not alone among 15th century Europeans in thinking that the world was round, but he did vastly underestimate the circumference of the Earth.

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History of Rosh Hashana


Rosh HaShana designates the beginning of the Jewish new year, starting at sundown this evening. “Rosh” is Hebrew for “head” and Rosh HaShana refers to the head of the year on the 1st day of Tishri, the seventh month. Judaism has a solar/lunar calendar system, in which the lunar reckoning predominates. The first in the cycle of months is Nissan (which has nothing to do with the automobile manufacturer), the month in which Passover occurs. However, solar years are reckoned to begin at Rosh HaShana. The new year is heralded with the blowing of the shofar or ram’s horn by the “baal t’kiah” (meaning master of the shofar-blast).

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