Posts Tagged 'kilts'

Tartan Kilts: No Irish Need Apply

This year, for the first time, I attended the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City. Both of my paternal grandparents were born in Ireland, and my mother’s people came here in the 1850s, most likely “Famine Irish,” a two-word description so graphically horrific, it needs no further embellishments.

I grew up in a city neighborhood that tilted toward Irishness, and attended a parish school that tipped even further in that direction. Yesterday, standing behind the barricades along Fifth Avenue, I watched in a kind of dismay as one after another, kilted pipe and drum bands passed by my review. Almost all of them led by solemn fat guys, fully outfitted as regimental pipe majors, and all of them staring off into the middle distance in dramatic seriousness.

I am seventy years old and until about twenty years ago, I had never heard an Irish pipe band, nor had I ever seen anyone I recognized as Irish arrayed in Scots Highland drag, no matter how green the tartan. I am aware that there is a generalized Celtic link among the Scots, the Irish, The Bretons, the Basques and maybe even the Inuit. But it is a frail reed upon which a second or third-generation, or even a further removed Mick, can tart him or herself up in plaids, spats, sporrans, bearskins toppers and daggers in their sock-tops. And then, there’s the marching around skirlling and screeching on a Scottish three-octave bagpipe. The original Irish warpipes were two-octave howlers, but the truly traditional and musical Uilleann pipes of Ireland are much smaller, elbow-pumped, played seated and not blown into. And further, how come so many of these noisome Gaelic marching societies are made up of public sector participants; cops, firemen, postal workers and even the U.S. Coast Guard? Continue reading ‘Tartan Kilts: No Irish Need Apply’