Tartan is a cross-checkered pattern repeated repeated continously. The various destincive patterns are referred to as "setts". The patterns consist of different colored bands, stripes, or lines of definite with and sequence. They are woven into wool cloth, sometimes with silk added. Tartan patterns have existed for centuries and in various cultures, but have come to be associated with Scotland where they have become a quasi-heraldic emblem of families or clans. Tartan has come to be widely associated with Scotland and especilly the Scottish kilt. Some Scottish clans have claimed great significance and antiquity for their tartan. There are, however, very limited historical references to Scottish tartans. Much cottish ethnic literature dealing with tartan and Highland Dress tend to focus mainly on clan tartans. Often they suggest that these are the actual patterns worn by the Scottish clans throughout history up to the fateful Battle of Culloden in 1746. Many scholars now think that this is not the case. As Highland regiments wore the kilt, standard tartans were developed for them. The exploits of Highland regimebts in the Napoleonic Wars played a major role in the revivalmof the kilt and popularity of tartan patterns. There are different types of tartan patterns. Best known or perhaps the Scottish clan or family tartans.
Both kilts and plaids are normally maid of tartan cloth. Tartan is a cross-checked pattern repeating continously. The various destinctive patterns are referred to as "setts". The patterns consist of different colored bands, stripes, or lines of definite with and sequence.
Some Scottish clans have claimed great significance and antiquity for their tartan. There are, however, very limited historical references to Scottish tartans. Much cottish ethnic literature dealing with tartan and Highland Dress tend to focus mainly on clan tartans. Often they suggest that these are the actual patterns worn by the Scottish clans throughout history up to the fateful Battle of Culloden in 1746. Many scholars now think that this is not the case. The majority of the pre-1850 patterns bearing clan names can actually only be traced back to the early 19th century and the Scottish revival. Many tartan patterns can only be traced back to the famous weaving firm of William Wilson & Sons of Bannockburn, near Stirling.
There are some historical references. There are some meagre references to tartan, spelled variously, in 15th and 16th century references. More solid references existvin te 17th and 18th century. One of the first visual images is John Michael Wright's "Highland Chieftan" [Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh]. This portrait shows that a small cross-checked pattern or tartan had been adopted for a kilt and hose by 1660. Notably, the chieftan involved is believed to be a Campbell, but the tartan he wears has no resemblance to the tartan worn by the Campbells today. Quite a number of Scottish portraits were painted in the 18th century. These patterns generally do not conform to todays clan tartans and significantly Highland gentlemen often wore outfits with more than one tartan patterns.
After the defeat at Culloden of Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobite rising in 1746, the English banned the kilt and tartan stamp out the Scottish martial spirit, if not Scottish culture itself. Scottish culture was seen by the ruling Hanovarian monarchy as the power base of the House of Stuart. The ban was imposed by an Act of Parliament of 1746. It was called the Disarming Act or ‘An Act for the more effectual disarming of the Highlands in Scotland and for more effectual securing of peace of the said Highlands; and for restraining the Use of the Highland Dress" [19 Geo. II c.39, in Johnston & Robertson, 1899]. The British under the Act, prohibited men and boys to ‘wear or put on Highland clothes including; the kilt, plaid and no tartan or party-coloured Plaid or stuff was to be use for Great Coats or for Upper Coats’. There were, however, some exceptions. The Crown did not apply The Act, which came into force on August 1, 1747, to men serving as soldiers in Highland Regiments, or to Gentry, the sons of Gentry, or women. Actyually the proscription on tartan and Highland Dress lasted for a relatively brief period, only 36 years. It was repealed in 1782. However the interval and the draconian way in which the ban was first administered was long enough that much of the old lore and skills had been lost or discarded as inappropriate to the new politico-economic circumstances in which the Highlanders found themselves. Actually, the ban only affected ‘that part of North Britain called Scotland’ [19 Geo. II c.39, in Johnston & Robertson, 1899] which was defined in an earlier Act following the 1715 Rising. Roughly speaking, this was the area north of a line from Dumbarton in the west to Perth in the east. Scotland in the 18th centurybwas a divided country made up of two quite destinct cultures. There was the Gaelic Highlands in the north and the Scots Lowlands in the South which had been much more strongly influenced by the English. The latter was seen by the Hanovarian Crown as civilised and generally supportive of the monarchy whereas the Highlands were regarded as a vestige of a wild, untamed, rebellious and Catholic past that needed to be subjugated.
As Highland regiments wore the kilt, standard tartans were developed for them. The exploits of Highland regimebts in the Napoleonic Wars played a major role in the revivalmof the kilt and popularity of tartan patterns.
The naming of clan and family patterns lagely began in the Scootish revival of the 19th century. This process was given a huge boost by Hannoverian George IV's royal visit to Edinburgh in 1822, sporting a SCottish kilt. The largely military revival of tartan was given new impetus in civil society. He was the first King to visit Scotland for 150 years and the event was to a large degree stage managed by Sir Walter Scott who urged the Scots to turn out ‘plaided and plumed’ in their true tartans to meet their King. Scotts of all persuasions sought to outfit themselves in Highland dress. Many began to give increasing thought to clan tartans. Scott's appeal led James Logan to complain in his 1831 book The Scottish Gael that this appeal had: "combined to excite much curiosity among all classes, to ascertain the particular tartans and badges they were entitled to wear. This
creditable feeling undoubtedly led to a result different from what might have been expected: fanciful varieties of tartan and badges were passed off as genuine."
The insuing three decades saw an outpouring interest in tartans and the imaginitive production of many tartan patterns. It was at this time that many clan tartans were registered. Tartan was given even increased attention when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert during the 1840s began dressing the royal princes in Scottish kilts.
They are woven into wool cloth, sometimes with silk added.
These patterns as a result of the efforts of 19th and 20t century poets, artsists, writers, manufactuers, publishers, and tailors have created a tradition that has today firmly established tartan as a national badge of Scotland. Tartans in Scotland have become a quasi-heraldic emblem of families or clans. Most Scottish clans have adopted a single destinctive tartan pattern or sett for dress wear. Sometimes if a clan adopted a bright pattern, a second more muted pattern was adopted. This is often referred to as a "hunting sett" and was often made with a grey background. It was the ine one usually chosen for everyday wear in the Scottish mountains and moors.
The Scottish Tartan Society (STS) was founded only recently, in 1963. It has launched a detailed historical study of tartan and maintains a registern of over 1,300 known tartan patterns. The STS maintains an authentication service, issues acredation certificates for existing or new tartans, and has a tartan museum located at Comrie in Perthshire.
There are different types of tartan patterns. Best known or perhaps the Scottish clan or family tartans. There are also national taterns for communities with strong Celtic connections such as Cornwall, the Isle of Man, Wales, and others. Irish tartans, for example are primarily clan tartans. We also note military tartans like the Black Watch (a Scottish regiment) tartan. Ther ar even some corporate tartans in Scotland. Commerorative tartans are sometines issued for special historical or other celebrations
Tartan is most associated with Sottish kilts. Tartan material is, however, used in many other garments, including jackets, scarves, skirts, tams, ties, trousers, and other garments.
Clan Originaux (J. Claude Fres et Cie.: Paris, France, 1880).
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