24 Feb 2010

Tartan: The lore, the love

Anything reborn out of the mire of prohibition is bound for a surge in popularity, and for that most Scottish of fashion statements - tartan - it is no different.

Between the time “highland garb” was banned in 1746 and the ban being lifted in 1782, tartan was primed to step into the spotlight, not just as a symbol of the highlands, but all of Scotland.

What helped was that the British Army was excluded from The Dress Act, and with the army’s increasing reliance on regiments consisting mainly of exiled highlanders, what began was the establishment of identifiable tartans belonging to those regiments, perhaps most recognizably The Black Watch, one of the most popular tartans in Scotland to this day. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of it, so instead, here are some members of the Ramsay clan at The Gathering last summer:

By the time 1782 rolled around, designers were eager to adapt the military styles and patterns to suit civilian use, and customers were just about ready to brand themselves in swathes of the stuff. It would seem that many of the clan tartans were also born around this time, as they were more traditionally associated with a region, and the colours based on what natural plant dyes were available in the area.

Then came the famous royal visit of 1822, when Sir Walter Scott and his Celtic Society decked themselves out in all their grand plaid finery for the arrival of King George IV in Edinburgh. (it is worth noting that while "plaid" stems from the gaelic word plaide (blanket) the word “tartan” comes from the French tiretain, which references woven cloth). From this point in history, tartan and Scotland were pinned together.

It was a sad exchange of sorts, since it was during this time (starting around 1750) that the greatest surge of the highland clearances was underway. People were evicted from their lands and their culture was ransacked, only to have an altered phoenix of tradition rise from the ashes.

Today however, tartan is just one of the emotional ties that help people of Scottish ancestry feel connected to their past. And for those whose ancestors are not Scottish, there is every chance you will become attached to a tartan that is associated with a place. Many cities have their own tartans, and not just Scottish cities. New York has its own tartan, as do all of the Canadian provinces. My absolute favourite remains the tartan for the Isle of Skye:
This brings me to this month’s giveaway. Two lucky people will receive a brushed wool scarf (woven in Scotland, of course) in the tartan of their choice (provided I can find it. If it is a very obscure tartan I may have to come back to you to ask for an different selection).

The “rules” (such as they are), are once again straight forward:

-To enter, simply leave a comment telling me about your favourite tartan.
-This is an airmail friendly giveaway. Anyone can enter and the only person who is not eligible this month is the winner of the last giveaway (sorry, Julia! I feel bad since we just passed your birthday!).
-Please make sure I can link back to your blog
-If you don’t have a blog, you can still enter by emailing me directly at scotland4thesenses@googlemail.com and including “tartan lover” in the subject line
-deadline for entries is Monday, 1 March
-I shall put the names into the hat of treats, make the draw and announce the winners on Tuesday, 2 March

Thanks for reading. I look forward to reading any tartan stories you would like to share.
****This giveaway has now finished. Congratulations Kay and Liz!!!******

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