Tag Archives: scottish

Half-Irish Blues

I grew up believing I was Scottish (which is a bit daft because I was born and raised in Canada, as were both sides of my family for three generations) but when I was 30-something (probably years of age) my maternal grandmother was ranting about my Irish heritage. What does this have to do with me? “Didn’t anyone ever tell you, Evan? The ancestors of both of your grandmothers were from Ireland.”

Proud to Be Irish, flag

Suddenly a deep dark family secret came to light: I was not simply, as I’d always been told, a descendent of pale redheaded people who tended sheep and subsisted on oats and whisky in the northern part of the island of Britain, I was every bit as much a descendent of pale redheaded people who tended sheep and subsisted on potatoes and whiskey in the northern part of the island of Ireland! In an instant, my self-image was tossed in a raging wind of uncertainty!

In my bewilderment and rage, I went ’round the pub and drowned my sorrows in beer after beer. At closing time, as the bartender was rolling me out the door he said, “What are you, Irish?” And suddenly I understood. I’m a double Celt half-breed.

irish yoga

Now, instead of being woefully ignorant of Scottish Gaelic, my burden is doubled by my ignorance of Irish Gaelic. I’ll have to fill my sporran with potatoes. And it won’t be easy playing the bagpipes with one arm and the bodhrán with the other. Half the time I would otherwise have devoted to trying to comprehend Robbie Burns’ Address to a Haggis must henceforth be devoted to trying to fathom James Joyce’s Ulysses. And now my options seem to be limited in religious matters, much as in Canadian politics, to only two possibilities: the orange or the green. But what is presented as black and white is all grey to me.

Only sometimes can I distinguish whether an accent is Irish or Scottish, or whether a foxy redhead is a bonnie lassie or a pretty Colleen. And I’m less expert in matters of Mc and Mac than people have come to expect of me.

Fortunately, there is an easy way out of my dilemma. Based on my appearance, people often ask if I’m German. Since I speak more German than Gaelic anyway, henceforth, I should just reply, “Ja”.

Am I Scottish or Irish? Nein!

Scottish or Irish? Nein!

Whatever you consider yourself to be, Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to you!

Please also read my brief and rather silly St Patrick’s Day article http://www.postcity.com/Eat-Shop-Do/Do/March-2013/Seven-things-all-Torontonians-should-know-about-Ireland-for-St-Patricks-Day/


Filed under cross cultural understanding, geography, perspective, tradition

What’s Worn Under Your Kilt — Director’s Cut

And now, for those of you who can handle it, here’s the original, subtly different version of my kilt article which the editor watered down for his delicate readership:

“What’s Worn Under Your Kilt?” The answer of course is, “Och! Nothing; that wee haggis is as good as new!” But seriously, what’s up with the kilt? Here’s an explanation of how the kilt – the traditional attire of Scotland, and catching on around the world – is more than a plaid skirt for men.

Up Your Kilt

Up Yours, What Is?

Wearing the kilt


Most kilts you see these days are worn by girls doing Highland dancing, but once upon a time kilts were worn by men going into battle, after chasing down a few sheep (just to collect their wool, of course, to make the kilts).


To save money, Scots didn’t bother with underwear or tailors or even buttons. They just took a big piece of cloth and wrapped it around themselves.


The original “Great Kilt” was simply a huge piece – five square meters – of cloth. You would pleat half of it, roll up in it, and wrap the other half around like a plaid toga. At night, it served as a blanket (meaning half as much laundry to wash, for those who bothered).

In 1746, King George II outlawed the kilt, because any man crazy enough to dress like that was bound to cause trouble. King George III made it legal again, but let’s remember that he was crazy. Queen Victoria had a Scottish fetish, and kilts have been in ever since.

The “traditional modern” kilt (pictured) is short (let’s see some knee, gentlemen) and tidy with shiny buckles here and there.

The “contemporary kilt” has traded in the tartan for pockets, more like cargo pants than Highland dress.

When and Where:

Specific tartan patterns are designated for different clans (Mackay, MacAndrews, etc.) and, these days, the kilt is most often worn for celebrations and formal occasions, but thanks to the madness of George III, the kilt can be worn anywhere, anytime, by anyone.

Accessories and Pronunciation guide:

The sporran (sounds like “He’s pourin’ whiskey!”), is the man-purse to go with the man-skirt. Traditionally to carry oats for lunch, it now conveniently holds cell phone, keys, and superfluous undergarments (which are good to have on hand in case a cold wind blows away your pride).

The sgian dubh (pronounce “ski an’ do”) is the “black knife”, hidden from the authorities but worn visible in the sock when amongst friends.

The kilt pin (pronounced “kilt pin”) weighs down the corner of the kilt to protect Gus from gusts and avoid those Marilyn Monroe moments.

Flashes (it’s not what you think) are the fabric wrapped around the knee to hold up the socks and the sgian dubh.

What’s up my kilt?

Ask your sister.

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Filed under tradition, writing