The Top: Seven UCR Tartan Symbols

UCR has plenty of tartan soul ready for "Mad for Plaid" month

UCR Strategic Communications celebrates UCR’s unique history in our adoption of Scottish traditions. Photo by Carlos Puma

Welcome to The Top!

Each issue, we present a list of UCR staff and faculty favorites — from walking spots to gardens to events. This week, with March being “Mad for Plaid” month, we are featuring all things related to UCR and Scotland, including UCR’s official tartan pattern.

If you have something you’d like featured in The Top or an activity you’d like to share, email!

1. The Name Highlanders

The Box Springs Mountains were known as the Highlands.

The Box Springs Mountains were known as the Highlands.

Originally written as “Hylander,” the name “Highlander” came from a write-in campaign that was presented to the UCR inaugural class in 1954. After the spelling was changed to its current spelling — with an “i” instead of a “y” — the name was chosen, and UCR was  known as the home of the Highlanders.

Being identified as “Highlanders” fit UCR. Peeking behind the campus, the Box Springs Mountains, location of the giant concrete block “C” landmark, were known as the Highlands. In addition, UCR has the highest elevation in the entire UC system.

There is Scottish significance to the name as well. The Scottish Highlands are the mountainous area to the north and west of the Highland Boundary Fault. Famous for Loch Ness, the Isle of Skye and Fort William, the Scottish Highlands are a popular travel destination with its distinct history, architecture and scenery. (Source: UCR Athletics)

2. UCR’s First Mascot, a Scottish Terrier

This Scottish Terrier known to students as Buttons was UCRs first mascot in 1955. Photo courtesy of Burgis Jules from UCR Archives

This Scottish Terrier known to students as Buttons was UCR’s first mascot in 1955. Photo courtesy of Burgis Jules from UCR Archives

Before Scotty the Bear, there was Lady Mac Tavish of Walpole, who was also known as “Buttons” by UCR students. Buttons was a pedigreed Scottish Terrier that served as the first campus mascot. Introduced to the campus by George Beattie, class of ’58, Buttons attended almost every sporting event between the years of 1955 to 1959. (Source: UCR Student Life)

3. Scotty the Bear


Scotty the Bear circa 1992

After deciding on the name “Highlanders” to represent the campus, the UCR publicity director at the time, Howard Cook, had a friend draw up Scotty the Bear as an aggressive little bear playing bagpipes and wearing a kilt for the school’s logo.

Scotty’s design went largely unchanged over the years until 1998, when students-athletes took charge and told the administration that they “didn’t want a teddy bear in a dress” to represent the school. They wanted a more ferocious, intimidating mascot. In response, and with from a New York branding company, Scotty became a bear with a half-blue face, in part a homage to William Wallace, a Scottish hero who was portrayed by Mel Gibson in the movie Braveheart.

In 2011, Scotty was updated once again to the mascot we see today–a roaring bear wearing a plaid Tam o’ Shanter.

Despite all the transformations that Scotty experienced throughout UCR history, his uniform representing UCR’s Scottish traditions still remain. (Source: UCR Athletics)

4. Names of UCR Housing Buildings

Pentland Hills Residential Hall is named after the real life Pentland Hills southwest of Edinburgh, Scotland.

Pentland Hills Residence Hall is named after the real life Pentland Hills in Scotland that runs 20 miles in length from Edinburgh to the northeast.

It is UCR tradition to name housing buildings after actual places in Scotland. This began in 1959 with the first residence hall, Abderdeen-Inverness, whose name is a combination of two Scottish port cities that are linked together by the Aberdeen-Inverness railway. Aberdeen is Scotland’s third largest city and the line connects it to Inverness in the Highlands.

Lothian Residence Hall came afterwards with its opening in 1963, and continuing the tradition, Lothian was named after the Lothian Borders in the Scottish Lowlands.

Pentland Hills is the newest residential hall and it is the first all-suites community. Its name was inspired by the range of hills in Scotland. Twenty miles in length, Pentland Hills runs from Edinburgh and Midlothian to the northeast.

As for campus apartments, Bannockburn Village is named after the Battle of Bannockburn (1314); The name Glen Mor stems from the valley that bisects the Scottish Highlands; Falkirk is actually a town in Central Scotland that is famous for being the location of the 1298 battle between King Edward I and William Wallace; Oban is a resort town on Scotland’s west coast; and Stonehaven is named after a small town on Scotland’s northwest coast. (Source: UCR Housing)

5. UCR Pipe Band

The UCR Pipe Band performing at the School of Business Administration's 2014 Commencement. Photo by Peter Phun

The UCR Pipe Band performing at the School of Business Administration’s 2014 Commencement. Photo by Peter Phun

The sound of bagpipes is not a stranger to the UCR community. Keeping the school spirit high, the UCR Pipe Band performs a wide range of Celtic music played on bagpipes and drums at events like Convocation, Commencement and Homecoming. UCR is actually one of a handful of universities in the world where students can earn a degree in music playing Scottish pipes or drums! (Source: UCR Student Life)

Learn more about the UCR’s first piper here and for information on the UCR Pipe Band, check out their website and find out about how to get bagpipe lessons, upcoming concerts and more!

6. UCR’s Brave Scot Fight Song

Photo by Carlos Puma

“Brave Scots, one and all, we stand together, the tartan clan of U-C-R!” Photo by Carlos Puma

As UCR Highlanders, we’re also honorary Scots! When UCR Athletics moved to the NCAA Division I in 2001-02, the UCR pep band director at the time, Bill Helms, celebrated this accomplishment by composing a new fight song to be played at sporting events. He then hosted a contest (a reoccurring theme in UCR history) to find the perfect lyrics to go with his new tune.

In the end, Helms received a total of 144 entries and his friend and old classmate Tom Morrow was the winner. Morrow’s song, “Brave Scots,” is still played today by the Highlander Band at basketball games and athletic events.

The sheet music and audio MP3 of the song can be found at the UCR Athletics website.

7. UCR Tartan

This is the UCR Tartan that is actually registered in Scotland with the proper authorities. Photo courtesy of UCR Pipe Band

This is the UCR Tartan that is actually registered in Scotland with the proper authorities. Photo courtesy of UCR Pipe Band

“Tartan” is a plaid pattern, where the unique design and color is meant to represent specific Scottish clans and families.

The UCR tartan was created by Linda Clifford with contributions by pipe band members Josh Taylor and Robbie Conacher. With its royal blue and gold design, this tartan has been registered with the proper authorities in Scotland.

Each color of the UCR tartan is representative of four ethical values by the UC Regents: integrity (blue), accountability (white), excellence (gold) and respect (black). (Sources: UCR Pipe Band and UCR Highlander Union)

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