Is there a tartan just for fire fighters?
In fact, yes. In 2007 Kelly Stewart, co-founder of USA Kilts, designed the Firefighters Memorial Tartan. This unique and original tartan was designed as “a salute to firefighters everywhere in the world, who are ready to sacrifice their lives everyday for the protection of others.”
Kelly has admired the profession of Firefighting for a long time. She explains that to her it is “the noblest of professions.”
“Firefighters run into burning buildings when others are running out,” she says. “They risk their lives to save others whom they do not know. No matter what your job, gender or social status, they’re here to risk their lives to save yours. And at the same time, if you thank them all they’ll say is they are just doing their job.”
Less than 2 weeks after the 9/11 attacks, Kelly had visited Ground Zero in New York City and was forever changed. There were piles of rubble and crumbled buildings all around and the white dust covered everything. The smell of drywall and death hung heavy in the air. In that moment, she reflected on the men and women who rushed into the towering infernos to save others. They rushed up the crowded stairwells, pushing through people coming down to find those trapped by rubble or hiding under desks. Many of those heroic men and women did not make it home to see their families that day.
She says, “I wanted to do something to show them that what they do is so important. I desperately wanted to give back in a meaningful way, but I didn’t know how.”
Then it came to her. She decided to create a new tartan honoring ALL firefighters for what they do every day. Better still, she decided to make the tartan a vehicle for raising money for firefighter’s charities. Finally, the design also memorializes those firefighters who have already made the ultimate sacrifice.
What is the meaning behind the Firefighters Memorial Tartan?
– The red background of the tartan represents fire and fire-fighting vehicles
– The black is in remembrance of those who have already made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty
– The green and gold represent the Irish community which has such strong ties with the organization and occupation of fire fighting
– The three red lines in the middle of each square (3 red threads, 4 red threads, and another 3 red threads) represent the men of the 343 FDNY who lost their lives on 9/11/2001 – the largest number of fire fighters who have ever perished in a single day in the history of the United States.
To date, more than 2,500 yards of the tartan have been sold in the USA. Firefighters Memorial is the official tartan of over thirty bagpipe bands.
Since introducing the tartan, USA Kilts has donated a portion of every sale to the Leary Firefighters Foundation (www.learyfirefighters.org) which helps provide funding and resources that allow Fire Departments to obtain the best available equipment, technology and training.
“We take this very seriously,” Rocky Roeger, co-owner of USA Kilts explains. “When we started the company, we noticed a large number of our customers were firefighters or members of firefighting families. Fire fighters are kinda like police. It’s a family tradition. We wanted to do something for them all.”
The company keeps tight control of the tartan, which is both copyrighted in the USA and registered with the Scottish Tartan Registry (an official branch of the Scottish government).
“There is significant pressure in our industry from knock-off tartans and products from manufacturers overseas,” says Roeger. “It’s a serious problem for a lot of the old mills and artisans in the UK, in fact. We’re only a little bit luckier here in the States. The last thing Kelly and I want is for this tartan to get imitated and watered down in its significance.”
The memorial tartan is only available through USA Kilts and may not be reproduced anywhere without the expressed written consent of USA Kilts. The company also provides a Law Enforcement Memorial tartan.
“We are honored by the success of the tartan. It seriously has become iconic. There really isn’t any more you could ask for as a tartan designer,” says Kelly. “And to every firefighter or family member of one who reads this, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We hope the money and awareness the tartan raises helps to save the lives of those who are here to save ours.”
To see products available in the Firefighters Memorial Tartan, you can click here.