We were recently invited to a Whiskies of the World event being held in Denver, Colorado, later next month by some good friends who live in the area.  This was surprising to me, especially given the fact that I really know nothing about whiskey and don’t even drink it.
As one of the most significant whiskey tasting events in the United States, Whiskies of the World gathers over 200 of the most fascinating distilled spirits from around the globe, along with their makers and ambassadors, to give its guests an unforgettable tasting experience.  How could I pass up the opportunity to attend?

After learning more about this event, I came to realize that one of the attire recommendations for the event was a formal kilt for men. While I was intrigued by this possibility (I don’t own a kilt), I felt I would feel awkward wearing one. After some thought and research, I decided to take the plunge and found a reputable online store based out of Pennsylvania to help guide me through the purchase. Also, I fondly remembered my days as a child in a drum and bugle corps called The Decorah Kilties, in which we all wore kilts. So the concept of wearing a kilt wasn’t entirely new for me.

When ordering a kilt, I had no idea of the vast number of tartans available for purchase. It’s a Scottish tradition to wear the tartan of your clan or family, and my kilt purchase forced me to research my genealogy to see if there was a tartan specific for my original family name. It wasn’t until recently that my daughters introduced me to ancestry.com, whereby I was able to learn more about my family’s origins than I had ever imagined when I was their age. Their research actually led to a remarkable discovery about my dad that is entirely beyond the scope of this blog post, but certainly worth writing about another time. It just so happens that my family originates from a man named John McVey, who was born in Scotland in 1737. Below is a picture of his great great grandson, also named John McVey who was my great great grandfather.

I later determined that McVey was derived from the Gaelic surname Maccbethad which is the modern Scottish ‘Macbeth”. Below is an excerpt about the McVey Surname from surnamedb.com.

“This ancient surname is of early Gaelic origins. It is derived from ‘Maccbethad’ (the modern Scottish ‘Macbeth’), meaning ‘son of life,’ or ‘man of religion,’ which hardly fits in with Shakespeare’s interpretation! Today the name is quite numerous in North-East Ulster, and it is found in a wide variety of spellings which include McVeigh, MacVaugh, MacVagh, MacVaugh, McVey, MacBey, etc.. However its probable place of origin was in the Scottish Islands of Mull and Islay wherein the medieval times it is believed that the Clan were the hereditary physicians to the region. They were great historians and collectors of ancient manuscripts. The recordings include Father Patrick Macabeath (1541), Bishop of Armagh, Ireland, while John McVeigh was a prominent rebel in the 1798 rebellion of Ireland and was executed at Baltinglass. Church recordings include the following examples, Leiticia McVeagh who married Thomas Gordon on the April 1st, 1785, at Edinburgh Parish, Edinburgh, while Anna McVey, aged 25, is recorded as being a ‘Famine Emigrant’ who sailed on the ship ‘Manchester’ from Belfast to New York, on September 25th, 1846. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Macvay, which was dated 1504, in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, during the reign of King James 1V of Scotland, 1488 – 1513. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England, this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to “develop” often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.”

Based on this information, I decided to look for a Macbeth tartan. The Macbeth tartan (pictured above) is a beautiful piece of fabric, and I would have gladly worn it. Still, with the limited time available to me until my event, it would have been impossible to get the wool shipped from Scotland and have a kilt made. I eventually chose another tartan called Albannach because I liked the colors and it was readily available in the USA. This tartan is a Universal tartan designed for the Scottish band “Albannach.”

Designed by James Johnston of Albannach and Rocky Roeger of USA Kilts, the meaning is listed below.

  • The BRIGHT blue and white are for the Saltire flag.
  • The muted blue is for the numerous Lochs in Scotland.
  • The dark purple is for the heather and thistle.
  • The olive green is for the rolling hills.
  • The red is for the blood of those who fought for Scotland.
  • The black is for those who died in the fight for Scotland’s Freedom.
  • The threads in the “Satire” section add up to 13, and the red threads add up to 14… “The Flag and Blood” sections are 1314 for the year Robert the Bruce lead Bannockburn and reestablished Scotland’s independence.

Despite my initial reservations and enduring heckling from some of my friends, I have decided to adventure outside my comfort zone and do something new and fun. I’m counting the days until the kilt arrives next month and I can try it on for the first time. Besides, only three other people there will even know me, so the added anonymity of it all makes it that much easier!     And someday I WILL be ordering a Macbeth tartan and wearing it out in public here in Sheboygan, much to the chagrin of my local friends and family.

Oh, and did I mention I want to get some bagpipes now?  More on that later…….

Saor Alba! (“Free Scotland”).