Scotland, the Scots and Nevada

The Scots have had a long-standing attachment for their Caledonian homeland. Scotland is filled with natural beauty and deeply-felt history; and there are few Scots, at home or abroad, who do not grow misty-eyed when confronted with a story about the battles of Glencoe or Culloden, or with a lament on the bagpipes. In contrast with this, the Scots have always been prone to wandering and this too has shaped their history and nature.

Ironically, the Scots originally came from Ireland. After migrating for several thousand years from the Eurasian Steppes, bands of prehistoric Celts finally began settling in Britain and Ireland beginning in the fifth century BC. With the crumbling of the Roman Empire, Irish pirates sensed opportunity and began attacking the British Isles in the fourth century AD. Called Scots, these raiders at first returned home with treasures and slaves (including the future Saint Patrick). Later the Scots lingered and finally settled in Caledonia (modern-day Scotland), fighting their way to supremacy amongst the petty kingdoms of the British and the Picts, the enigmatic, pre-Celtic inhabitants of the area.

Scottish history documents a series of tumultuous periods of internal conflict followed by solidarity lasting long enough to confront the English neighbors to the south. The English repeatedly fought to control Scotland, only to see their handhold loosened. The English Parliament passed the Act of Union in 1707 officially combining the kingdoms of England and Scotland. Nevertheless, the Scots rebelled several times afterwards, fighting pitched battles in 1715 and 1745. After the ’45 led by Bonnie Prince Charles, the wearing of the kilt and the playing of the bagpipes became a crime punishable by death. Many Scots fled their homeland under such oppression continuing a millennia-old tradition of migration. Thousands sailed to North America where they eventually represented a significant part of the population and contributed among their descendants several US presidents including Andrew Jackson and James Buchanan.

Not satisfied to remain in Eastern enclaves hugging the Atlantic coast, many Scots continued their eternal wanderings and headed west. In Nevada the contribution of these immigrants is far-reaching and profound. Scots were among the earliest settlers in the region and many found their way to the Comstock Mining District after the first bonanza strike in 1859. As early as 1865 the Caledonia Club of Virginia City held the first Robert Burns Supper in Nevada. Over the years the organization repeated the tradition many times and also hosted Highland Games. The Scots traveled annually to nearby Carson City to enjoy a day of bagpipes, dancing, athletic competitions and shooting contests. Leaving a lasting mark on the state, nineteenth-century Scottish stone masons cut the rock used to construct the Nevada Capitol built in 1870.

More recently Scottish immigrants and their descendants in Nevada have continued traditions imported from the homeland. The state celebrated its first National Tartan Day on April 6, 1998. In 2001, NRS 235.130 State Tartan, was passed by the Nevada Legislature designating an official state tartan for the State of Nevada. The colors and design of the tartan feature the colors that make Nevada a unique and bountiful state.