Community, Scottish Studies, Students

SFU celebrates Tartan Day with a visit from 78th Fraser Highlanders

April 08, 2016

The Centre for Scottish StudiesDr. Katie McCullough and Piper Brian Haddon of the Robert Malcolm Memorial Pipe Band (part of the SFU Pipe Band) welcomed members of the Fort Fraser Garrison 78th Fraser Highlanders of Vancouver to SFU’s Burnaby Campus on Wednesday, April 6 to celebrate Tartan Day, a celebration of Scots and their descendants in Canada. In addition to delivering a musket demonstration and talk about their historic military society, members of the 78th Fraser Highlanders also presented McCullough with a contribution to a student bursary in partnership with the Centre for Scottish Studies.

Explaining the history of Tartan Day, McCullough says April 6th was chosen because it is the “anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, when Scots declared themselves an independent nation. Though the day was first declared at a gathering of the Federation of the Scottish Clans in Nova Scotia in 1986, each province followed suit, including British Columbia—one of the first—in 1992. The day was made an official observance across the country in 2010.”  

Piper Brian Haddon leads a procession of the Fort Fraser Garrison 78th Fraser Highlanders.
Major Jim Barrett displays his double-edged sword to attendees.
Dr. Katie McCullough accepts a contribution to a student bursary from the 78th.
Members of the 78th fire their muskets (loaded with a harmless salt compound).

To commemorate the event at SFU this year, members of the Vancouver chapter of the 78th Fraser Highlanders, led by Major Jim Barrett, came to perform a musket demonstration and talk to the community about their historic military society. Barrett explained that the original 78th Fraser Highlanders were a British infantry regiment established in Scotland, 1757, and fought in Seven Years War. The 78th Fraser Highlanders historic military society was reconstituted in Montreal, Quebec in 1966 to promote the history of the regiment and its part in Canadian history.

In addition to the musket demonstration, Barrett and members of the Fort Fraser Garrison explained how military combat would have realistically played out in the eighteenth century and showed attendees how other military paraphernalia of the period functioned. For example, they explained how bayonets (a spike or sword made to fit atop a rifle and shown in combat in film and television representations the period) were seldom used as weapons and displayed more for intimidation and bravado; they also showed how dirks (small swords carried on the person) were made from broken swords. Students from McCullough’s History 448: Scots in North America said they were impressed by the demonstration and knowledge shared by the 78th Fraser Highlanders. “It was illuminating to see what was depicted in our readings,” said undergraduate Kendra Lennie, “to see, in practise, what would have been required to perform battle manoeuvers and how difficult it really was.”