Plaid Tidings: Celebrating our Scottish Heritage
January 23, 2018
A well-lived life should include celebrations of people and places. That’s why, at MacKenzie-Childs, we honor our Scottish heritage, and in January, we salute Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns.
If you have been to our annual Barn Sale, then you know the event opens to Scottish bagpipes. But did you know that our company name is a combination of our founders’ names, including the Scottish surname MacKenzie? Rebecca Proctor, our creative director and chief brand officer, who has been with the company since 1991, recalls the founders always appreciated their Scottish heritage, and in the early days, kilts were worn by them on special occasions. “Tartan was and still is a key design element that we love to mix with playful colors and patterns,” she says.
Another significant nod to Scotland is the image of the thistle, which is on our logo, below MacKenzie-Childs. The national symbol of Scotland since 1249, the thistle, according to VisitScotland, is a humble, prickly weed, but it represents the admirable qualities of bravery, devotion, durability, strength, and determination.
Rebecca says the thistle is the perfect symbol for MacKenzie-Childs. “It’s a burst of color that has similar characteristics as a decorative tassel. It grows in craggy, rocky soil, and it’s elegant and strong and tough.’’
Thistles appear often on MacKenzie-Childs’ pieces. They are featured on our Thistle & Bee porcelain dinnerware collection, on the handcrafted and elegantly ornate Thistle Chandelier, and on the custom-made Highland Thistle Dining Table.
More Scottish influences can be seen on the Inverness collection of upholstered furniture and accessories. Inspired by a castle in Inverness, Scotland, the Wing Chair, Ottoman, and Rug feature a custom fabric that incorporates plaid mixed with a graphic element in rich hues of terra cotta, ochre, teal, and blue.
And what about Robert Burns? Born on January 25, 1759, Burns is known as the Ploughman Poet. He was a farmer who connected to the common man because of the themes and language of his poetry. Burns’ poems were often humorous, and he used small subjects, including mice, to express big ideas. You might be familiar with some of Burns’ work and not even know it. The New Years’ Eve anthem “Auld Lang Syne” is a poem that Burns wrote in 1788 set to the music of a traditional folk song.
Burns lived just 37 years, but his words have inspired a worldwide following that includes President Abraham Lincoln (who could recite Burns’ poetry from memory), and music legend Bob Dylan (who cited Burns’ poem “A Red, Red Rose” as one of his greatest influences).
Rebecca is another fan. Her favorite work of Burns is “To A Mouse.” Says Rebecca, “I’m very much into homemaking, and I love the image of this gruff farmer who is supposed to be indifferent to the animals, being so upset he’s interfered with a mouse’s nest at a time of year when it would be difficult for the mouse to start over. The image has always really stuck with me.”
Another reason that Burns’ works resonates so well is Rebecca’s Scottish heritage. Her mother’s maiden name was Nesbitt and the Nesbitts are a clan from the Scottish borders. As a child and to this day, Rebecca has worn kilts, some from favorite places and even some from yard sales. Also, her Upstate New York home was built by Scottish stone mason named William Mitchell. “He built three stone houses in a row in my neighborhood, and he hand-carved a thistle and other Celtic iconography into the stones of our house.”
Burns is celebrated on his birthdate around the world with Burns Night. Suppers can range from informal gatherings to large dinners where guests march into the celebration to Scottish bagpipes, and a toast is offered to the traditional Scottish dish of haggis. The festivities include readings of Burns’ works and a Toast to the Lassies, followed by the Reply to the Toast of the Lassies. Finally, a rousing rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” caps the evening.
Rebecca often celebrates Burns Night, usually at a smaller gathering with friends. She does remember one memorable year that her next-door neighbors, who are first-generation Scots, attended. “To celebrate the occasion, everyone got dressed up and we hosted a big meal, played Scottish bagpipe music, and listened to each other reciting our favorite Burns poems.”
While Rebecca doesn’t serve haggis, there is a ceremonial moment where everyone sings while presenting the main dish. Says Rebecca, “It’s a bit of pomp and circumstance that everyone enjoys. We also have a portrait of Robert Burns that we place at the bar for everyone to see. It’s always a fun evening.”