Kirkin’ and the Parade

4 04 2009

The ceremony of “Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan” has been a part of the Scotland Week activities since its inception but I believe I am  the first Minister to attend it and the first to speak at it (I read “A Man’s a Man” in honour of Burns, Homecoming and 10 years of the Scottish Parliament) .  The Order of ServiceHeld in the grand surroundings of the Church of Our Saviour it featured readings, solo singing and hymns as well as the bringing forward of symbolic tartan by some of the children of the organisers, the St Andrew’s Society of New York, which was founded in 1756 (of course three years before Burns was born !).     There was also a Pipe Band, and  a cross party delegation from  the Scottish Parliament  led by the Presiding Officer.

After a wonderful brunch (though it being still early most of us made no use of the large bottle of Grants sitting on each table) we made our way to  the famous Algonquin Hotel (which I have long wanted to see, because of the literary round table it hosted in the first quarter of the 20th century ) .  Certainly it was lively, not least because lots of bands for the Parade assemble outside.   This year’s Parade Grand Marshall, actor Alan Cumming, was there too and he and I  got our picture taken with one of the bands before it all set off.Algonquin assembly

The Parade itself was remarkable – huge crowds , lots of saltires , wooly hats with the Scottish flag and a 6th Avenue without traffic apart from three open top buses and a police car.   Each of the streets that cut across had the traffic stopped, which I am surprised didn’t cause gridlock.

Alan is, of course,  instantly recognisable and the crowds were constantly shouting so that he would see them.   Lots and lots of people wanted their picture taken with him which actually delayed the start of it all.   He was great fun to chat with and later this evening I am having dinner with him as part of a group which I am hosting in  the Museum of Modern Art to discuss the arts in Scotland.

As we reached Central Park (or almost) the leading group, which included Alex Fergusson and the Presiding Officer of the Parliament, took up position on the bus to wave to the parade as it passed.  There were 25 bands including one from St Columba’s in Kilmacolm and  everyone seemed to have a fantastic time. (as confirmed later in Alan’s blog – watch the video of the day on it !)

What a great day.   Scotland and its symbols are instantly recognisable here (and world wide)  and there is huge affection for us.   That gives us a huge advantage in working with, and trading with, so many different partners.   New York is a key destination and in everything I said today (and in much of the branding of the Parade) “Homecoming” is writ large and being successful.

Homecoming BannerBus Wave

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