Synthetic Scots

Order of Synthetic Scotsmen

In Hunter’s Park and Woodland around the turn of the last century, many of the original settlers were Scottish, with last names like Hunter, McDonald, Magie, Ferguson, Tulloch, and Thomsen. This area of town was nicknamed “Oatmeal Hill.” When families of other nationalities began to move in, the Scots felt something had to be done about this “intolerable situation.”

Their solution? They decided to “naturalize” their new neighbors as Scots! What began as a fraternal organization for true Scotsmen became “The Order of Synthetic Scotsmen,” around 1904. The group’s new slogan was, “We’ll make ‘em all Scotch!”

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Rollo G. Lacy and John F. Thompson. Photo courtesy of Duluth Herald.

In a News Tribune article from May 5, 1954, we learn that

“A large number of petitioners, recognizing the sterling qualities of the Scots, have signified a desire to acquire, even in a synthetic manner, the ability to speak with a highlander accent and a lowlander brogue. They would also like to walk as a true Scot, play the pipes, sing true Scottish songs and do the Highland fling.

“Therefore Chief Thistlemaster Rollo Lacy and Associate Thistlemaster J. F. Thompson have summoned experts to properly instruct candidates of any race, color, or creed in these accomplishments.”


L to R: E. W. Ditmeier, Rollo G. Lacy, Floyd Rude, Ralph Kamphenkel, and Wally Sanford. Photo courtesy of the Duluth News Tribune.

Those naturalized must be of sterling character, said Rollo Lacy in a 1955 Duluth Herald article. They must “take a more or less solemn obligation” to eschew any previous “nationalities, political affiliations, and poker games.”

Not only that, but they must pass a “rigid examination and inspection” in order to be admitted. Each candidate must “Learn to swing the Scottish language, ‘sling the stain,’ walk and dance like a Scotsman, sound at least a couple of notes on the bagpipes, sing the chorus of Annie Laurie and other Scottish songs.”

Fortunately “experts” in these skills could be found! After the skills tests were passed, “instruction of newcomers in the approved manner of eating and drinking like a true Scot” commenced. “This task requires the services of six instructors.” (Duluth Herald, April 23, 1956.)

The group, all men, had more than 1,500 members from Duluth and the surrounding area in 1956. They met annually in the Glen Avon Masonic Temple in Hunter’s Park.


Rollo Lacey, Chief Thistle Master. Photo courtesy of Duluth News Tribune.


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George Farquharson, former pipe major of the Clan Stewart kiltie band, performed for the Synthetic Scots. Photo courtesy of the Duluth Herald.



Information from Duluth Public Library’s clippings file, “Duluth. Societies and Clubs. L-S. Synthetic Scots”

“If you like kilts, you’re in: Duluth’s Synthetic Scots slate initiation,” Duluth News Tribune. 10-19-1952.

“Non-Scots Sought,” Duluth News Tribune. 5-5-1964.

“Synthetic Scots,” Duluth News Tribune 4-23-1953.

“Synthetic Scots add 50 to rolls,” Duluth News Tribune. 5-5-1954.

Synthetic Scots: Clans to ‘Naturalize 35 on Oatmeal Hill,’” Duluth Herald. 10-31-1955.

“Synthetic Scots plan program,” Duluth Herald. 10-9-1953.

“Synthetic Scots to Hold ‘Kealy’: Mon, Your-r Rs Ar-re Showing.” Tom Daly, Duluth Herald. 4-23-1956.

“Synthetic Scotsmen Chart Annual Meet,” Duluth Herald. 4-22-1954.

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