John Telfer Dunbar Collection
From the National Library of Scotland Manuscripts
Correspondence, journals, scrapbooks, working papers, and
collected documents, 1822-1981, undated, of John Telfer Dunbar
Archaeologist and Costume Historian (1912-2003). The original
subject-based order, where apparent, has been retained.
John Telfer Dunbar was born in Edinburgh in 1912 and educated at
Sedbergh School. By profession he was an archaeologist
specializing in maritime archaeology and underwater
exploration. In the mid-1950s, he was Archaeological Director of
the British Underwater Research Group based in Salcombe,
Devon. His book, The Lost Land. Underwater Exploration in
Isles of Scilly was published in 1958.
Telfer Dunbar is best known for his work on Scottish Highland
and military dress. He began to collect weapons, samples of
tartan, and images of Highland military and civil dress, and
related manuscripts in 1928. In 1947, he succeeded Major
Ian Mackay Scobie as Honorary Curator of the Scottish United
Services Museum in Edinburgh. The collection includes some of
Major Scobie' working papers. In 1949, Telfer Dunbar'
collection of material on Highland dress and tartans was
exhibited during the Edinburgh Festival and seen by Queen
Elizabeth and other members of the royal family. His
publications include History of Highland Dress, Edinburgh,
1962 and The Costume of Scotland, London, 1981. Telfer Dunbar
was President of the St. Andrew Society, 1973-1979, President
of the Scottish Tartans Society and Chairman of the Costume Society
Other interests included pre-historic art, recording folk songs
and tales, and experimental photography. Telfer Dunbar'
biography of the photographer M.E.M. Donaldson, 'Herself' The
Life and Photographs of MEM Donaldson was published
During the Second World War, John Telfer Dunbar spent over three
years as a prisoner of the Japanese in Malaysia and Thailand
between 1942 and 1945. He worked on the notorious ' Railway'
from Siam to Burma during the entire period of its
construction. During the 1950s, Telfer Dunbar worked on a history
of the Far East Prisoners of War. He was first Chairman of the
Scottish Returned Far East P.O.W. Association and editor of
the Association' magazine, Scottish Pow-Wow. The collection
includes numerous incoming letters to William Wilson,
Tartan Manufacturers, Bannockburn. John Telfer Dunbar
presented material from the firm' archive to the National
Library of Scotland in 1952 (MSS.6660-7000). The documents
included here would seem to be strays.
For two volumes of papers relating to the World Federation of
Scottish Societies and Individuals, 1959-1970, presented to
the NLS by John Telfer Dunbar in 1976, see Acc.6639. For
related material bought in 2004 see Acc.12390.
Deposited, 2003 and 2009
9-58 Working papers
59-61 Papers of Major I H Mackay Scobie
62 Original documents
63-69 Printed material
70-87 Additional items deposited January 2009
Most of John Telfer' Dunbar' correspondence is enclosed in
scrapbooks and folders of working papers. The letters described
1. Letters, 1944- n.d., including Christmas cards from Jacques
2. ' Years of Captivity' 1945, being John Telfer Dunbar' fair copy
journal written when a Prisoner of War in Malaya and Thailand,
3. Journal, scrapbook and notes of a visit to Venice and Corvara,
With printed promotional brochures and timetables.
Scrapbooks, 1936-1975, consisting of miscellaneous material.
scrapbooks relating to specific interests for which there are files
papers, have been placed in the relevant sections.
4. Invitations, menu cards, photographs and press cuttings,
gathered for inclusion in a scrapbook.
5. Scrapbook with newspaper cuttings, photographs, programmes and
cards, 1941-1952, n.d., many relating to Telfer Dunbar' history of
East Prisoners of War, 1952, and H M Queen' visit to Scotland of
Material found loosely enclosed has been placed at
6. Newspaper cuttings, invitations, menu cards, photographs,
notes, 1951-1975, found loosely enclosed in Acc.12551/5.
7. Scrapbook with photographs, press-cuttings and printed items
relating to H M Queen' visit to the Saltire Society' '
Highland Tartans' exhibition from the John Telfer Dunbar
Collection at Gladstone' Land, Edinburgh, 1949, the publication of
The History of Highland Dress, 1962, and controversy
surrounding pre-1745 tartans.
8. Scrapbook, 1959, of letters and notices, relating to Am Fasgadh,
Highland Folk Museum, Kingussie and the Friends of Am Fasgadh
9-58. Working papers
Folders of working papers arranged by subject. The folders consist
largely of John Telfer Dunbar' notes and collected original
documents, press cuttings, photographs, printed ephemera
including exhibition catalogues, leaflets and booklets. The
original order has been retained where apparent.
9. Prehistoric Art
10-12. Underwater Exploration
13-32. Highland Dress
33-47. Military Dress and Armour
48-49. MEM Donaldson
57. Scottish Navy
58. Official Tartan Map
9. Prehistoric Art
9, Card index, sketches, photographs, printed articles and press
cuttings, 1950s, n.d., on prehistoric art.
10-12. Underwater Exploration
10. Letters, typescripts, printed programmes, newsletters, notices
and press cuttings, 1955-1958, relating to Telfer Dunbar'
underwater explorations off the coast of Devon and related
11. Drafts, 1958, for The Lost Land. Underwater: Exploration in
the Isles of Scilly.
12. Photographs, 1955, n.d., of John Telfer Dunbar and others on
shore and underwater.
13-32. Military Dress
Working papers and material collected by John Telfer Dunbar in
connection with his research on military dress. The files
include some correspondence, notes and articles of Major Ian
Mackay Scobie. For other Mackay Scobie papers see
13 Letters, notes, photographs and other images, 1922, n.d.,
relating to the dress of the 72nd Regiment.
14. Folder entitled ' of the 72nd Regiment' 1930-49, n.d.,
including ' on Early 72nd History' by Major Mackay Scobie,
notes, sketches, photographs and samples of tartan. Numerous
original documents, have been pasted in. These include ' of
Sick of His Majesty' 72nd Regiment, 1790, and 17 letters to
William Wilson and Company, Tartan Manufacturers, Bannockburn,
1808-27, and related receipts
15. Correspondence (largely letters to Ian Mackay Scobie and John
Telfer Dunbar), notes, sketches and cuttings, 1927-1969, n.d.,
relating to Scottish military dress. With cuttings of '
Prospect of Prince' Island' and ' sight of Cape
lopo Gonsaluez' 18th cent. See Acc.12251/16 for related
16. Photographs found with Acc.12251/15.
17. '' 1928-1983, n.d.: correspondence, notes, press
cuttings, photographs and sketches of Highland dress,
exhibition catalogues, printed booklets, and maps concerning
Culloden and the Jacobites. With press cuttings from the
Aberdeen Journal, 1831-1930 concerning the ' and typescript of
'' Revenge. A Story of the '' by Major Mackay Scobie,
18. ' Gorget' 1932-1965, n.d.
19. Folder, 1939-1949, n.d., containing notes, sketches,
photographs, letter to Mackay Scobie, 1939, and cuttings,
concerning Scottish military dress.
20. ' swords and pole weapons' 1939-1951, n.d. With notes on
the R.L. Scott Catalogue of his collection of Arms and Armour
and annotated sales catalogues, 1894-1951.
21. Copies of letters of Sir David Baird in the National War Museum
of Scotland, 1947-1948, n.d., with related notes and printed
22. File relating to the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders, 1948, n.d.,
including letters, notes, photographs and typescript for ' of
the 93rd' by E A Campbell for Brigadier A.E.J. Cavendish, The
93rd Sutherland Highlanders, 1928, and drafts on ' Regimental
Tartan' by Major I. H. Mackay Scobie, n.d.
23. Folder entitled, 'nd 1818-1887, 2nd Batt. 42nd 1780-1882, Black
Watch to date' consisting of printed articles, photographs,
sketches, and bill of William Wilson, Tartan Manufacturer,
Bannockburn, 1844-1936, n.d.
24. Volume entitled ' History of the Dress of the Black Watch,
1742-1816 by Capt. J. Telfer Dunbar, F.S.A. (Scot), Hon.
Curator. Scottish National Naval & Military Museum'
consisting largely of plates and photographs.
25. Draft for H. D. MacWilliam, Origin of the Black Watch,
1725-1739' 1935, with an introduction by I. H. Mackay Scobie.
This work appeared serially in the Celtic Monthly, Vols.
XXI-XXII, 1913-1914. With 4 letters of H.D. MacWilliam to
Skeoch Cumming, 1910.
26. Annotated copy, n.d., of Charles B. Balfour, The Scots Guards,
Glasgow, 1919, with numerous loose and pasted in images and
notes and loose letters of the author to Skeoch Cumming, 1921
and John Graham to Mackay Scobie, 1933-34.
27. Folder entitled ' 78th, 1793-1886' consisting largely of
printed and typescript extracts from Major H. Davidson'
History and Services of the 78th Highlanders, and manuscript
notes on the same. With seven letters of and to William
Wilson, Tartan-Manufacturer, Bannockburn, 1813-1868,
typescript ' re Captain Colin Mackay in command of the
Grenadier' Company of the 78th Regiment at the Battle of
Elhamed, 1807' extracted from ' Soldier' Diary' and tartan
28. Folder of press cuttings, notes, photographs, sketches, printed
articles and a letter on military dress, 1941-1970, n.d.
29. ' Gardes Ecossais' notes, sketches and cuttings from printed
books and articles, 1947, n.d. With letters to Major Mackay
30. ' Town Guard' 1948-1950 (includes pages from John
Kay' Original Portraits, 1842).
31. ' Dunbar Collection' 1949-1980, n.d. Catalogue entries and
photographs of paintings and objects collected by John Telfer
Dunbar, with related correspondence and printed exhibition
32. ' After Waterloo' 1950-1965, n.d. Notes and printed articles on
Scottish military dress.
33-47 Highland Dress
33. Correspondence and printed leaflets, 1936-1968, n.d.
34. Notes, cuttings and printed booklets, 1936-1975, on modern
35. Material for a scrapbook on Scottish Highland dress, 1936-1976,
including notes, sketches, cuttings, transcripts of published
articles, tartan samples and notes for a National Trust for
Scotland exhibition of ' from the Victorian Period' at the
Georgian House, Edinburgh.
36. 'th list of Highland Portraits' 1937.
37. Scrapbook of prints, photographs, notes and sketches, 1943,
38. ' on Clan Tartans, 1947- 1978, n.d. Correspondence, notes,
tartan samples, printed articles and press cuttings, etc. in
alphabetical order of Clans. With letter to William Wilson and
Sons, Tartan Manufacturers, Bannockburn, 1828.
39. File of letters, notes and samples, 1948-71, n.d., relating to
the Macpherson tartans.
40-42 Card file, 1949, n.d., of sketches, photographs (with some
glass negatives), cuttings from printed works including Kay'
Original Portraits and modern works, postcards and notes, on
Highland dress (in 3 folders).
43. Miscellaneous letters, photographs, sketches, notes, cuttings
and exhibition catalogues, 1952-1975, n.d., largely relating
to the kilt.
44. Scrapbook of cuttings relating largely to The History of
Highland Dress, 1962.
45. Typescript of James Grant, ' Notes on some Tartans
associated with the Clan Grant' 1985. With covering
46. Volume of notes and sketches on ' Dress' n.d. With other
notes and sketches loosely enclosed.
47. Card index of notes, sketches and cuttings on Highland dress,
48-49 M.E.M. Donaldson
48-49 Working papers, including correspondence, drafts and prints
1916-1980, n.d., relating to John Telfer Dunbar' biography of
Mary Ethel Muir Donaldson (1876-1958), Herself: The Life and
Photography of M.E.M. Donaldson, Edinburgh, 1979 (2
50. ' notes, early to 18th century' consisting of ' for a lecture
on Scottish costume' notes, sketches, postcards, photographs
and cuttings from newspapers and periodicals relating to
51. Folder entitled ' - General' including notes for lectures and
related letters, notes, photographs, excepts from printed
articles, 1967-68, n.d.
52. Folder entitled ' - 19th century' including notes,
sketches, photographs and extracts from printed articles,
53. Fishwives: notes, press cuttings, poems, postcards, sketches,
photographs (including a glass negative), printed booklet,
sheet music for John Gray, ' Boatmen O' the Forth; or Caller
Oysters' n.d., 1877-1953, n.d.
54. ' at War' containing letters, and collected notes, sketches
and excerpts from printed articles, press cuttings, 1964-1971,
55. Proof copy of The Costume of Scotland. With Daily Telegraph
56. Folder of images considered for illustrations for Telfer
Dunbar' publications notably Highland Dress, 1979, 'Herself'
The Life and Photographs of MEM Donaldson, 1979, and The
Costume of Scotland, 1981. Included are letters relating to
his research, photographs, glass negatives,
photocopies, sketches, extracts from published works (some
from John Kay Original Portraits, 1842), and related notes,
57 Scottish Navy
Notes and related letters, press cuttings and photographs, on '
History of the Scottish Navy' 1934-56, n.d.
58 The Official Tartan Map
58. Working papers, 1974, n.d., including correspondence and notes
for John Telfer Dunbar and Don Pottinger, The Official Tartan
Map (London, 1976).
59-61 Major Ian Hamilton Mackay Scobie
Working papers of Major Ian H Mackay Scobie, Curator of the
Scottish United Services Museum. Major Mackay Scobie set up
the Scottish United Services Museum in Edinburgh Castle in
1930 and was its honorary curator until his death in 1947. See
Telfer Dunbar' working papers for other material of and
relating to Major Mackay Scobie.
59. Volume of ' Cuttings, Prints etc concerning Scottish Regiments
and Corps, throughout the World' 1906-1907. The volume
includes notes for Major Mackay Scobie' ' of the Reay
60. Typescript notes on the collections of the Scottish United
Services Museum, n.d. With related letters to Major Mackay
Scobie, photographs and sketches, 1930-1937, and The Royal
Scots (The Royal Regiment), ca.1938.
61. Notes, photographs and sketches on military dress, n.d. With
printed papers including ' for a History of the Dress of the
Scottish Yeomanry and Volunteer Cavalry up to 1850' by A.V.B.
Norman, ' Argyll or Campbell Militia of 1745-1746' by Major
Ian H. Mackay Scobie in Journal of the Society for Army
Historical Research, Spring, 1946 and proof copy of Major I.H.
Mackay Scobie, Three Prints of Keith' and Campbell' Highlands
(87th and 88th Regiments), 1759-1763.
62 Original documents
Original documents collected by John Telfer Dunbar found loose
62. Bill of Lading for ' Hazard' Leith, ca.1820; letters to William
Tartan Manufacturers, Bannockburn, 1820-1852; envelope, 1877;
letter of W
Gow Brown to Mrs Skeoch Cumming, from Salonica, 1917.
63-69 Printed material
Printed books, magazines including articles by John Telfer Dunbar
and promotional leaflets for John Telfer Dunbar'
63. Bound volume of The Scotsman, 1822, Vol.6.
64. The Ladies Monthly Museum, 1822.
65. Folder of pages taken from Punch Magazine, 1854-78.
66. Madame M. Delos, Methode de Coupe our Dames, Paris, 1912.
67. Disbanded Scottish Cavalry Regiments, Andrew Ross, in Lowland
Scottish Regiments, 1918. With related correspondence,
photographs, prints and press cuttings, some relating to the
East Lothian Yeoman Cavalry, 19th century.
68. Bound volume of copies of John Telfer Dunbar' published works
69. Folder of copies of John Telfer Dunbar' published books and
70-87 Additional material deposited January 2009
70-74 Papers relating to Prisoners of War and internment camps in
the Far East, 1941-1945:
70 Notebook containing accounts of prisoners of war, verse,
71 Letters, postcards [many empty envelopes] of letters home
and received by Telfer Dunbar in Thailand, 1942-1945 and
personal documents including a menu card, Christmas 1942 and
'Theatre' programme, 1944
72 Photographs, 1942-1945, undated
73 Press cuttings, 1945-1952, undated
74 Letters, reminiscences, menu cards, Order of Service and maps
1945-1972, undated, of and relating to the Scottish Returned Far
East P.O.W. Association. With '' magazine, nos.1, 3-4.
75 Letters of E. Craig Brown to Telfer Dunbar, 1900-1947, with
related notes concerning ' tartan' Two samples of tartan
76 Letters, circulars, constitutions, menu cards, of the St Andrew
Society, 1968-1990, undated. With typescript of talk and CD by John
Telfer Dunbar on the ' of the St Andrew Society and printed
speeches and proceedings of the St Andrew' Society of New
York, 1967, 1972
77 Menu cards of the Ninety Burns Club, Edinburgh, 1975, and the
Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club, 1979, with related letters
and toast to ' Majesty' Armed Forces' genealogical notes on
the Telfer Dunbar family and two tartan samples
78 Drafts, notes and related material for articles, undated. Topics
include '' '' ' Letters of Quartermaster McQueen, ' and
Weaving' and ' Washing'
79 Letters to William Wilson, Tartan Manufacturer, Bannockburn,
1795-1838 [38 documents]
80 Letters, 1801-1930, concerning the death of Colonel Charles
Erskine, Constantinople, 1801 [4 documents]
81-87 Seven framed items:
81 Framed tartan sample said to be part of a plaid worn by a
82 Framed letter, 1822, of John Richard, Edinburgh, to William
Wilson, concerning the Stewart tartan. With sample
83 Framed letter, 1827, of an Aberdeen merchant to William Wilson,
ordering Glen Lyon tartan. With two samples
84 Framed sample of Prince Albert tartan, 1845
85 Framed sample of Royal Dress Stewart tartan as approved by Queen
Victoria for Balmoral, undated
86 Framed passport, 1863, in favour of Revd Andrew Bennett and his
daughter 87 Framed tartan sample. Unidentified and