Sharing from the White House Historical Association — On November 13, 1963, the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment), a British Army line infantry regiment from Scotland, performed a tattoo on the South Lawn of the White House for President John F. Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, their children, and their invited guests, including a number of local schoolchildren.
Forty men in tartan marched about the South Lawn in great geometric patterns, sounding bagpipes, trumpets, and drums and even performing a sword dance.
President Kennedy remarked, “This regiment has carried the colors of the British race around the globe for several centuries, fighting all the way from Ticonderoga to Waterloo to the Crimea to India, against us on one occasion, in the War for Independence, with us on many occasions: World War I, World War II, and Korea. So, we are proud to have them here.”
The leader of the Black Watch, Major Walter Michael Wingate Gray, asked whether President Kennedy would accept “a small memento of our visit,” and the president duly accepted from him an officer’s dirk with the motto of the regiment engraved on the blade.
“I want to thank the major for this presentation of a dirk of the Black Watch. The major just said that the motto of the Black Watch is, ‘Nobody wounds us with impunity.’ I think that is a very good motto for some of the rest of us. Thank you,” concluded President Kennedy. The Kennedys examined the dirk with fascinated amusement as the tattoo began.
The Black Watch was in Kentucky when President John F. Kennedy was tragically killed only nine days later. At the request of Mrs. Kennedy, nine members of the regiment joined in President Kennedy's funeral procession from the White House to the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle.