It isn’t only for Scots or people with Scottish ancestors. It is an old Highland tradition to encourage our guests to wear our unique mode of dress and it should be seen as a great compliment.
In the great ancestry game, you will learn quickly that your surname is only the tip of the genetic iceberg. Here are 10 simple but interesting facts which will introduce you to the world of heraldry in Scotland.
- Consider this. If your genuinely MacDonald forebear had found himself isolated in the heart of Campbell country 10 generations ago, had married Jean Campbell, and seen his sons and grandsons married to Campbell girls, you could find yourself today with a great many Campbell ancestors, all of whom were named Campbell - except you. So, don't assume an association to just one clan - or that you don't belong to a clan at all. Read this blog if you want to learn more.
- The science of heraldry evolved from the 12th century as a system of identification. Painted on their shields and banners, Clans could be recognised at war. The same device was repeated on the shirt and worn over the armour hence the term 'Coat of Arms'.
- By custom of the Law of Arms, members of the Clan like other dependers of the chief or noble group, enjoy the privilege of displaying the chiefs livery, but in a particularly Scoto-Highland form namely, the chiefs crest, motto with a strap and buckle.
- Prefixed to each Clan crest is (almost invariably) an evergreen plant, the Clan's war cry, generally the name of the prominent mountain in the Clan district or a motto associated with some gallant deed which shed lustre on the Clan. Often these plants are 'shared' by many Clans.
- These elements are heraldic property and protected by law in Scotland.
- A person does not need to be a member of a Clan society to be able to wear a belted crest badge. Any Clan member has a right to it, not just Clan societies and Clan society members although there are guidelines which you might adhere to, if you wish to avoid a faux pas.
- Today many people who do not bear a clan surname do wear crest badges of their mother's Clan.
- Anyone who offers their allegiance to a Clan chief is considered a member of a Clan (unless the chief decides to refuse that person's allegiance).
- Clan membership goes with the surname and sept.
- It is an honour to bear arms and anyone entitled to do so should be proud to use their heraldry in any situation in which it can discreetly and tastefully ornament and identify their allegiance.
A ‘Clan’ is a social group whose core comprises of several families derived from, or accepted as being derived from, a common ancestor.
The word ‘Clan’ became accepted in the Scottish Highlands, originating from the Gaelic word for ‘children’ which was more accurately translated into ‘family’ during the 13th century. Despite being supplanted by the English in the Lowlands of Scotland for around a thousand years, Gaelic (the Celtic native language) is an acceptable convention to refer to the great Lowland families such as the ‘Douglases’ as clans, however the heads of certain families like ‘Bruce’, prefer not to use this term.
Celtic tradition includes a strong element of decent through and loyalty to, a mother’s line. However, allegiance was generally given to a father’s clan. The chief of a clan would ‘ingather’ any individual, from any family, who possessed appropriate skills, maintained his allegiance and if compulsory, adopted a clan surname.
Clans give a sense of shared identity and descent to members. Today, the modern image of clans, each with their own tartan and specific land, was promulgated by the Scottish author Sir Walter Scott after influence by others. By process of social evolution, it followed that the clans/families prominent in a specific district would wear the tartan of that district, soon becoming identified by it.
At Great Scot, we offer a broad range of Clan related items from small gifts and accessories to regimental regalia. Tell our Heritage Specialist HERE about your Clan association and she will be delighted tell you what is available to you.
A tartan’s thread count is like its DNA. It does not change. And this is the data which is officially recorded by the Office of Lord Lyon in Scotland. However, as a tartan wearer you may well have further options.
The terms Ancient, Modern, Muted and Weathered are reproduction colour palettes for a Scottish tartan. The thread count does not change, but the shades of the colours within the thread-count do. This does not make it a different tartan. These are merely more glorious options for the user!
Here are examples of how the tartan colour palettes change for each version:
Ancient: The Ancient colour palette is meant to simulate older plant-derived dyes used before the Victorians invented chemical dyes. They are generally assumed to have been lighter in colour. In the tartan cloth you’ll notice that:
- Red turns to orange
- Blue turns to a light sky blue
- Green turns to a grassy green
- Yellow turns to a pale yellow
Modern: The Modern colour palette for Scottish tartans is widely considered to be the standard. It is meant to emulate the modern chemical dyes invented in the 19th century. They are bold, bright and rich, like primary colours.
- Red is a bold red
- Blue is a navy blue
- Green is a dark bottle green
- Yellow is a bold yellow
Muted: The Muted colour palette is a contemporary concept meant to emulate soft, natural colours. It generally falls between the lighter ancient colour palette and the richer modern colour palette.
- Red turns to blood red
- Blue turns to a stormy sky blue
- Green turns to an olive green
- Yellow turns to a gold
Weathered: The Weathered colour palette (also called “Reproduction” by one mill) is meant to look like the tartan has been exposed to the elements. It uses lots of browns and greys to drive that look home.
- Red turns to a ‘salmon’ red
- Blue turns to bluish grey
- Green becomes brown
- Yellow turns to pale gold
Is there a right or wrong colour – palette choice for my kilt?
It’s simply personal taste. If you want to be 100% sure that everyone can easily identify which clan you belong to, you may want to select Modern. If you want something lighter in tone just because you like lighter colours, maybe you will love Ancient. Or you may prefer non-modern colours because the Modern version of your tartan is strongly associated with something else. For instance, many Campbells choose to wear Campbell Ancient instead of Modern, which is Black Watch. Many Stewarts prefer other versions than the ubiquitous Royal Stewart.
Muted and Weathered tartans can be wonderful options for different seasons or occasions. For example, Muted tartans look great with a tweed set in the Fall. Weathered tartans have a “woodsy” feel and can be just the thing for a kilt you will be hiking in, or want a really subdued, laid-back look.
At Great Scot we have over a thousand gorgeous tartans for you to choose from – even the rare and difficult to find has never escaped us! We are always happy to make sure that you know about all the choices available. If you want to know more, please do contact our Heritage Specialist HERE.