Friday, October 6, 2017

A Popular Fallacy of Tartans?

With the possible exception of whisky, no national emblem of Scotland has a wider, more emotive appeal than tartan. Yet its mystique largely rests on a popular fallacy that clan or family tartans are as ancient as the hills, when in reality the great majority were invented by the Victorians, to whose voguish enthusiasm for the Highlands tartan probably owes its survival... 
A solemn, mostly spurious convention exists as to who is entitled to wear which tartan.  There is no real evidence that early tartans were regarded as the inalienable property of individual clans, though it seems likely that over the years the most popular sett or pattern worn in a given locality would have been appropriated by the dominant clan. One of the few tartans that shows any consistency between past and present, I'm unreasonably proud to say, is the green, black, and white of the Macleans, first described in 1587.
- Charles Maclean <http://amzn.to/2xZPGhZ>, author of Whiskypedia: A Compendium of Scotch Whisky and Malt Whisky: The Complete Guide 

18 comments:

  1. Not so. THE word tartan is the ancient Assyrian word for rank and found in the Bible. The Jewish rabbi's say Joseph's coat of many colors was a tartan pattern.In ancient Judea at Masada Jewish men were found wearing tartans made in Britain. The tartan denoted rank and 7 colors in your pattern denoted the highest rank. many of the clans of ancient Israel made their to England after the fall of Israel in 700 BC.
    Examples Pheres clan becomes Presley,Mac Person,Press etc.

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    1. Blimey! I have never heard that. However, I do know that many, many tartans have been created and expanded even in the last few decades. Families that had no tartans now have them. I love all the color and patterns but it can get confusing. I belong to a clan association that has more than 20 patterns. Crazy!

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    2. I'm sorry, but that theory of the ancient Israel and tartan connection is highly tenuous and not at all accepted by anyone other than the extreme fringes of people who, for what ever reason, wish it were true.

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  2. Wearing tartans, who who gets to wear what is so confusing I gave up and started to wear what I liked color and pattern wise. So far, not a complaint( I am still ordained by a very small denomination and often wear the " clergy" tartan....which is the same as the Clark Family Tartan.)

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  3. To my knowledge, my family tartan originated in the late 18th century shortly before the registration of clan tartans. A few decades later, the estate on which my ancestors had lived for over 300 years wove its own tweed, still available today. One of the most famous maps of Scotland, issued in 1652, show a man and a woman dressed in tartan cloth worn as a blanket slung over the shoulders. Although an ancestry DNA test would probably show I'm 95% English, I cling to that Scottish 5% like a barnacle. After all, we invented curling and golf, two of only a handful of sports where one can drink whiskey during a match.

    MGC

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    1. You might be surprised what your DNA would show. Being English may well mean you have Scandinavian, Spanish, western European, etc. linage reflecting ancient migration including wars. English DNA encompasses Wales and Scotland. Having it done can be a revelation because I think many of us tend to think of our ancestry as being the last 200-300 years. It is much bigger than that! Most of my ancestors arrive in the New World in early 1600's from England and other British Isle countries. They brought with them their ancient DNA. Consider having yours done at some time. PA

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    2. I would be facinated more than surprised. Like you, I can trace nearly every American line back to the Mayflower, The Dorchester Company, the Winthrop Fleet and the Great Migration. The Scottish line leads directly to an 11th century French knight who arrived in the Highlands prior to the Norman Invasion. If it were not for this adventurous fellow, I could not claim a tartan.

      But a DNA test should reveal a cornucopia of facinating information. My hope would be that a trace of DNA from my Olduvai Gorge ancestors would show up. I'm chuckling at that last statement, but it does make me wonder if man will survive, given our bellicosity and a penchant for destroying our environment. After all, we've come a long way since Tanzania.

      MGC

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  4. Interesting entry! I know that our clan, which has been in Ayrshire since about 1100, commissioned their current tartan in 1971. Before that, they used a tartan that was shared among a few families. I have read that the ancient tartans were of more muted colors, certainly not as colorful as those of today. ARH

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  5. When my husband's leather chair started looking a little worn, I thought a throw might distract from the wear and tear. (There was no way he was giving it up.) I found on-line shops looking for a tartan (his father was from Glasgow). The US shops had a long delivery date so I checked the UK shops. Discovered Kinloch Anderson. The cost was less including shipping than the US. The service was impressive. Within a week, I had a Blue Stewart tartan rug. Can't say enough good things about the store. And, oh yes, I know the whole tartan thing is a bit of fiction, but I love the plaids.

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  6. All this talk of tartans and whisky reminds me of a 1949 movie called 'Tight Little Island' or 'Whisky Galore!' It's hard to find, but worth it...I think. Only saw it as a kid. Seriously. We were at the yacht club and while the grown ups were off doing whatever grown ups do, they plunked their impressionable tikes in front of this black and white movie about a ship loaded with whisky which runs aground on an island off the coast of Scotland.

    Anyone else remember it?

    http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=EE05E7DF173EE577BC4E51DFB4678382659EDE

    https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/whisky_galore/

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    1. Maybe you'll like the 1983 British film, Local Hero.

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085859/

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    2. Yes, another favorite!! PA

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  7. All this talk about tartans reminds me of the BBC series “Monarch of the Glen”. I first watched it in the fall of the year in ‘05 and it’s high time to bring it out again. It’s also time to bring out my tartan rugs for over the backs of the chairs. Need I mention that I get excited over tartan?

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    1. Love that series!!! PA

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  8. I just love tartan! I don't care about it's history, whether the Clan Kennedy tartan I wear is ancient, modern or not the 'real' Clan tartan, I love it and will continue to wear it with whimsical pride. My family, proud Scots, somehow let those pesky English and Irishmen in, so we're a mixture and since arriving on these shores in 1673 who knows?!? cheers!

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  9. I hated that the “Monarch” left the series before it was concluded! What kind of good story is that?

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    1. I agree. The wily Laird, Hector McDonald, thickened the plot while adding Highland color and charm. He and Molly together anchored Glenbogle, and without him, it wasn’t the same. I always enjoy Julian Fellowes, as Lord Kilwillie, who provides authenticity as well as Golly, the ever-present gamekeeper. But Lexie and Duncan were the characters that made me laugh the most.

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  10. According to Arthur Herman's How the Scots Invented the Modern World, the notion of specific clans having specific tartans was probably an invention/literary device of Sir Walter Scott; mostly clans wore what they liked - much as Govteach (above) has elected to do (me too). Sorry!

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