The year was 1977 and the man was John F. Turnbull of Hawick, Scotland. John founded Turnbull Clan Association to reestablish a link with Turnbulls worldwide and their rich heritage. Working endlessly with his wife Myra as his personal assistant, the two wrote letters and addressed envelopes by hand, mailing to any Turnbull worldwide that they could find. They would sit in their living room and plan Turnbull events with fellow members and write to members. Then Myra would address envelope after envelope. Myra tells how she gave up her golf afternoon to work with John and promote the Clan.
John found that there was no official tartan for the clan Turnbull. Having studied design at University with an apprenticeship in the design of plaids, he decided to do something about that. John chose the main features of the Bruce and Douglas tartans to incorporate into the Turnbull tartan, both clans having an important part in the history of the Turnbulls. Because of John’s efforts, there are now Turnbull tartans widely recognized and officially registered with the Lord Lyon, King of Arms.
In 1979, Dorothy Turnbull Berk, chartered a US branch of Turnbull Clan Association and began contacting Turnbulls in the US to become a part. Soon, there were branches in Australia and New Zealand. Today, with improved communications and Internet support, TCA operates as one large international clan association uniting members from Canada, Cuba, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, the United Kingdom, the United States, and growing.
The beginnings of the USA branch of TCA concentrated on connecting with Turnbulls throughout the US using the Highland Games as a meeting place. Tent Hosts were established in key regions and annual meetings moved from one area to another, expanding friendships and acquiring new members. The first such meeting occurred on August 11, 1979 at the Rocky Mountain Highland Games in Golden, Colorado. Vella and Morris Turnbull were the first clan tent hosts. They continued to host a tent at the Golden games for many years to come. The 1979 games boasted that 29 members came from all parts of the US. From Dorothy’s second newsletter; “Our two tartans made their first US, public debut, at the games.” The tartans were well received by Turnbulls and other clan representatives.
A clan lay dormant for hundreds of years, but because of the dream of one man, now hundreds have become aware of and interested in their heritage and beginnings. Countless friends have been made. TCA not only has beautiful modern registered tartans, but now can boast an official Coat of Arms. In addition, with a permanent monument in the Borders, the Turnbull name will once again be recognized as a strong and vital part of the Borders and beyond.
Editor’s note: Special thanks Janet Schwierking and to Sandy Turnbull, Australia for the photos used.