Look out for Captain Kidd at Tartan Day on Ellis Island

Event News, Heritage

Captain William Kidd, the Scottish sailor, tried and executed for piracy will feature in a new exhibition during Tartan Day on Ellis Island, hosted by the Clan Currie Society.   The Tartan Day on Ellis Island takes place April 10-12.

The event will play host to some of the finest Scottish entertainment in New York City, including the Rampant Lion Pipe Band, kilt maker Bonnie Greene, John the Kilted Juggler and a whole host of Scottish entertainers, traditional musicians and maybe a few pirates!

Captain William Kidd was a Scottish sailor who was tried and executed for piracy after returning from a voyage to the Indian Ocean. Some modern historians deem his piratical reputation unjust, as there is evidence that Kidd acted only as a privateer. Kidd’s fame springs largely from the sensational circumstances of his questioning before the English Parliament and the ensuing trial. His actual depredations on the high seas, whether piratical or not, were both less destructive and less lucrative than those of many other contemporary pirates and privateers.


Tartan Day on Ellis Island is one of the principal Scottish heritage events in the United States. Playing host to literally thousands of domestic and international visitors each day, it is the largest Tartan Day celebration in the world. Ellis Island is a fitting place to observe Tartan Day. The island and its historic buildings represent America’s “Golden Door.”

From 1892 to 1954, more than 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island. Although many Scots arrived during the colonial period of our history – helping to build the new nation – an additional half-million Scots came through Ellis Island. It has been estimated that 40% of Americans today can trace at least one ancestor’s entry into the United States through Ellis Island.

Describing the annual program, noted Scottish journalist and author Roddy Martine reported that of all the Tartan Day events held in the United States, the Ellis Island observance has, “stood out as a beacon of what USA Tartan Day is all about: the emigrant ancestors of ordinary Americans who over three centuries crossed the Atlantic Ocean to create the world’s greatest democracy.”

Tartan Day on Ellis Island is produced by the Clan Currie Society – one of the preeminent Scottish heritage organizations in the United States. The Society began their successful collaboration with the Ellis Island Immigration Museum in 2002 in the coordination and sponsorship of their first Tartan Day celebration.

President Woodrow Wilson said of the Scots, “Every line of strength in American history is a line colored with Scottish blood.” The contribution of the immigrant Scots upon North America is massive and these people have remained proud of their heritage.

However, unlike the Irish and St. Patrick’s Day, Scottish-Americans did not have a national day of identity and celebration. The concept of Tartan Day began in Nova Scotia in 1986 and soon was celebrated across Canada. Australia began marking Tartan Day in 1996.

In 1998, National Tartan Day was recognized in the US when the Senate passed a resolution recognizing April 6th as National Tartan Day. This was followed by a resolution, which was passed by the US House of Representatives in 2005.

The date commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, which asserted Scotland’s freedom over English territorial claims, and may have been an influence on the Declaration of Independence.

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