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With the pipes soaring and the chancery filled with Scots, Scottish-Americans, and the friends and families, The Scots’ Charitable Society (SCS) held its annual “Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan” on March 25, 2023 at the First Presbyterian Church in Quincy, Massachusetts. 

As we entered the church, organist Maureen Connolly was welcoming us with a lovely organ prelude of traditional Scottish tunes.  Next was the traditional procession of celebrants, officers, and families with their tartans up to the transept and chancel.  What a beautiful sight, and so many smiles.

SCS President Alan McCall called all to worship and SCS Chaplain Ray Burgess delivered the Invocation Prayer.  Events Chair Karen Mahoney gave a warm welcome to all the attendees and Relief Chair Anne Marie Kennedy recited the Readings. 

An inspirational and fitting sermon was given by Alan McCall, followed by piper Tom Childs playing a moving rendition of Amazing Grace.

And then, with much flourish, at the urging of Alan McCall, the Clans and families each presented their tartans and called out their names so that we all could know who was at the gathering.   McCall gave a proper Scottish Blessing, and the ceremony ended with a recessional back through the nave to the entrance hall.

All gathered retreated to the dining hall for a wonderful lunch full of lively fellowship and conversation and lovingly and expertly served by lunch team.

All in all, a most wonderful tradition and well done by the Society, on a day where spring was calling to sprout.



The Scots’ Charitable Society was founded in 1657 to provide aid to Scottish people in need, forming the oldest continuing operating charitable organization in the Western Hemisphere.

On January 6, 1657 twenty-eight Scottish men signed the “Laws Rules and Order of the Poor Boxes Society” in Boston, New England and formed the Scots’ Charitable Society.

It is likely that the Society was founded in part to assist a specific group of destitute Scots – those captured by Oliver Cromwell at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 and those captured exactly one year later at the Battle of Worcester. 

Prisoners from both battles were sold as indentured servants to the London Company of Undertakers, a venture capital group in London investing in the first successful iron works in the American colonies.  

Bound to the Iron Works at Lynn, now Saugus, in Massachusetts, most of the indentured Scots were required to complete seven years of labor for the company.  It seems the indentures began to expire between 1655 and 1657 when the Scots’ Charitable Society was formed.

Rooted in our history, we aim to help people of Scottish heritage by providing relief to Scottish-American individuals and families in need, and by granting undergraduate scholarships to members of the Scottish-American community.

The Society is devoted to the cultivation of social relations amongst its members, cherishing associations with Scotland as well as instilling in our fellow countrymen a zeal for carrying on our time-honored traditions. We seek to promote Scottish and Celtic heritage through education and participation in highland games, parades and other cultural events throughout the Greater Boston area.

To learn more, visit their website at: https://scots-charitable.org/, or contact them at [email protected]



On November 19, 1884, the First Presbyterian Church of Quincy was established with seventy-five charter members. The congregation met originally in rented facilities, first at Robertson Hall on the corner of Hancock and Granite streets, then at Faxon Hall on Revere Road.  By 1887, sufficient funds had been collected to permit the purchase of land on Water and Quincy streets to build the first permanent house of worship. This structure, remodeled twice, served the congregation for over seventy years.

By 1934, at the half-century of its existence, the church’s enrollment had grown to nearly six hundred. These were the peak years of immigration, both locally and nationally. The many newcomers from Scotland and the Canadian Maritimes, drawn by job opportunities in Quincy’s booming shipbuilding and granite industries, provided a natural constituency for a Presbyterian Church. While we still have descendants of charter members worshipping with us today, the Scottish surnames are no longer in the majority, but there are still a few native Scots among the congregation. The church’s Scottish heritage continues to be preserved in the sound of bagpipes at several of our Sunday morning services throughout the year. While we cherish this link with the past, we also feel fortunate to have been enriched by the infusion of other ethnic strains, more recently from Southeast Asia, Malawi, Trinidad, and Texas.  

The present building, at 270 Franklin Street, was dedicated in April of 1962, two years after ground was broken to lay the cornerstone and five years after pledges were collected in response to the Church Building Fund Campaign. The dedication of the beautiful Georgian Colonial structure on Penn’s Hill marked the culmination of several years of work and sacrifice by many members who had the vision to see that continued remodeling and repair of the “old church” was no longer feasible or desirable.  In 2013 the congregation approved a Capital Campaign to address $300,000.00 worth of maintenance needs, restoring the building to pristine shape.  

In 1984, the church celebrated 100 years of ministry in the Quincy area.  Since the centennial celebration, the church has continued to grow more diverse with regard to the people in the pews, but the it’s connection to the scriptures, strong music ministry, emphasis on teaching children and youth, and its Presbyterian heritage, have all remained the same. 

To learn more, visit their website at: http://www.firstpresbyquincy.org/, or contact them at [email protected], (617) 773-5575.


Reprinted with the kind permission of the Dundee Presbyterian Church, Omaha, Nebraska

The story of the Kirkin’ of the Tartan is a modern one. The ceremony is of American origin, though based on Scottish history and legend. The term “Kirkin’ O’ the Tartan” brings together a number of Scottish terms. 

Kirk is the word for church and tartan is the name for the distinctive wool plaids representative of Scottish clans, or families. Therefore, this service is a churching, or blessing of the church family in the church. In Scotland the Kirk refers to the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland. 

The Kirkin’ uses some order from a Scottish church service, but is an American invention and was first held on April 27, 1941, by the late Dr. Peter Marshall, Scottish-born Chaplain of the U.S. Senate and minister of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, Washington, D.C. After Dr. Marshall’s death, the Kirkin’ moved from place to place and in 1954 was held at the Washington National Cathedral, where it has been held ever since, and is sponsored by the St. Andrew’s Society. 

The Tartan, with its famous plaid weave, is the symbol of a particular Scottish family (or clan) and each family has a personalized pattern and color scheme. Smaller families often did not have their own Tartan but adopted the Tartan of a larger Clan. They would also support that Clan in battle. Today, the Tartan has evolved and plaids can represent nations, states, organizations, businesses, societies, and even individuals. But foremost, the Tartan stands as a symbol of a Family. 

There was a time when the wearing of tartans was illegal when the English government was trying to break up the strong ties within the clans. Legend has it that a Scot would carry to church a piece of concealed tartan to be blessed. The prohibition against tartans lasted for nearly 50 years. When at last repealed, the Church of Scotland celebrated with a Service of Family Covenant, at which time the tartan of each family was openly and freely offered as a covenant for the Lord’s blessing. 

We are conducting our Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans worship ceremony to both bless our Families and to acknowledge the historical roots of our church. Although we honor the Scots, Irish, and Welch tartans within our congregation, we also celebrate the family, regardless of historical heritage.

Another excellent article on the history and parts of the Kirkin’

NOTE from the editor: We are collecting Kirkin’ of the Tartan (KT) events around New England.  Here are some that have happened in the past and we are assuming will happen again.  To paraphrase the financial sector, “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.”

If you are interested in one near you, contact them and find out their plans for the next event.  

As we learn of upcoming events, we will post them on our website and in our regular Scots in New England e-news (send us your email to sign up).  

Also, we are sure we have not found all the Kirkin’ events, so if you know of others, please send them to us via our email [email protected]



  • Celtic Cultural Alliance in Connecticut, First Presbyterian Church – South Windsor,
  • First Presbyterian Church – Stamford, CT
  • First Presbyterian Church – New Haven, CT
  • First Presbyterian Church – Greenwich, CT
  • First Presbyterian Church – Deep River, CT
  • Newtown Presbyterian Church – Newtown, CT 
  • Scottish-American Society of Greater Hartford – Hartford, CT 
  • Scottish-American Society of Southwestern Connecticut – Milford, CT 
  • Scottish-American Society of New Haven – New Haven, CT 
  • Scottish Society of Fairfield County – Norwalk, CT 
  • Scottish-American Society of Eastern Connecticut – Stonington, CT
  • St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church – West Hartford, CT 
  • St. Andrew’s Society of Connecticut, St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church – Watertown, CT
  • St. Paul’s on the Green – Norwalk, CT 



  • Christ Episcopal Church – Andover, MA 
  • Church of the Holy Spirit – Needham, MA 
  • Church of the Transfiguration –Orleans, MA 
  • First Parish Church of Stow and Acton – Stow, MA
  • First Presbyterian Church of Arlington – Arlington, MA
  • First Presbyterian Church of Dorchester – Dorchester, MA
  • First Presbyterian Church of Foxborough – Foxborough, MA)
  • First Presbyterian Church of Lexington – Lexington, MA 
  • First Presbyterian Church of Waltham – Waltham, MA 
  • First Presbyterian Church – Wellesley, MA 
  • Grace Presbyterian Church – Somerville, MA
  • Old South Presbyterian Church – Boston, MA
  • Salem Presbyterian Church – Salem, MA 
  • St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church – Boston, MA
  • St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church – Chatham, MA 
  • St. Mary’s Episcopal Church – Winchester, MA 
  • St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church – Acton, MA 
  • St. Nicholas United Methodist Church – Hull, MA
  • St. Paul’s Episcopal Church – Brookline, MA
  • St. Paul’s Episcopal Church – Westwood, MA 
  • St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church – Beverly, MA 
  • Tartan Day, St, Andrew’s Society, Massachusetts – Taunton, MA
  • United Presbyterian Church of Reading – Reading, MA




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  1. Hi Larry, To my knowledge, Rutland, VT has never had a Presbyterian church. The St. Andrew’s Society of Vermont has hosted a Kirkin’ of the Tartan for several years at the Walter Harvey Meeting House in Barnet, VT for members and guests. The church has not changed since being built complete with a wood stove and a tin ceiling. Good content in your article about Kirkins.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I do apologize for the tardiness of my reply. I lost about 150+ comments as they went to a page I was not expecting. I will work with my webmaster to get these forwarded to my email address MAYBE!!! I say maybe because only 3 were bonafide, about 70 in Russian, and others were poorly veiled clickbait.

      In any case, thank you for letting me know. Lot’s of bad info out there. I would love an article about the Kirkin’ at the Meeting House. I can post oth the article and then the event itself on the calendar. Would love help to grow your attendance.

      I am going to start a Kirkin’ at my church (new monster ripe for pleasing an old codger :-). Looking forward to it.


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