Rooted in tradition: the Irish Guard kilt story (short version)

Conner Peckinpaugh, Impact Editor in Chief

The beginning of traditions are sometimes a mystery; however, the color guard’s iconic yellow kilts come with a story.

Mr. Phil Jackson, a former band dad and GHS employee, shared the story.

“That’s a McLeod pattern,” Mr. Jackson said. “It came from Scotland, where my sister and her husband lived. He was in the Navy, and while they were in Scotland, they were looking for a pattern that they wanted and that wound up with this.”

In the mid-1970s, the Irish Guard was looking for a staple uniform that easily could be identified as the Irish Guard when out doing parades and contests. The Scottish pattern was perfect.

“The Box Moms were wanting to make skirts or kilts and little sashes that went across their front. It was just a lot of material for about 16 of them in the guard,” he said. “It arrived from Scotland, and all the Box Moms got busy cutting and sewing. It really looked sharp. They wore their outfits out in LA, and they really stood out. People around us were sitting there going, ‘Those are really sharp.”

Mrs. Pam Wishmeyer was the color guard director in the late 1970s and was an integral part in the development of the Irish Guard’s in its early years.

“I had one color guard member one year who went to Ireland and did some research on the Macleod of Lewis tartan to actually bring back some more of the history,” Mrs. Wishmeyer said. “The colors blended so well with the band uniform at that time because of all of those Kelly green military ones, so they went with the tartan. Then, we just simply built upon that.”

Despite the kilts being from Scotland, the Irish Guard’s name was inspired by the kilts and the music that the band played.

“Why Ireland?” Mrs. Wishmeyer said. “The band always played an Irish number in every marching band show. The kilts kind of played into that as far as in the show, and then everything kind of evolved from that.”

The Irish Guard continued to use the kilts extensively, and they generated a lot of buzz among competing guard directors.

“When the first very first winter guard show that Greenwood ever had, the girls wore capes over the kilts when they first started the show. At the very beginning of the show, they threw them off. And one guard member caught all the capes. It was really heavy, but it displayed kilts for the first time. I remember some competitive directors were just having fits saying ‘where in the world did you ever get those kilts?” Wishmeyer said.

The meaning behind the kilts is deeply rooted within the guard to this day.

“It’s just that heritage and what we stand for,” Wishmeyer said. “As far as what I talk about with the Irish guard history and what that red line in the tartan means, it’s just all of the family bonds.”