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Tartan Ferret

James Logan

By Ruairidh Halford .MacLeod, F.S.T.S.

James Logan

From The Proceedings of the Scottish Tartans Society, May 1989.

In 1831 James Logan published the Scottish Gael after five years of research. In the appendix to the second volume Logan gave the dimensions of 54 tartans. This was the first time that the setts of any tartans had been published, and all but a few of Logan's tartans are universally accepted.

James Logan was born in Aberdeen about 1794. His father was a merchant in Aberdeen, 'always respectable, and tolerably well to do, though never wealthy.'
James' elder brother entered the army, and became a captain of Dragoons. James' sister married captain Kynoch of the Cameron Highlanders and
James himself, went to Aberdeen Grammar School and then entered Marischal College, Aberdeen, to study an Arts Degree, with a view to practising law.

"During the currency of his third session, while engaged in playing quoits with some fellow-students in a corner of the college quadrangle, a quoit thrown off line struck him on the head, inflicting so serious a wound, with fracture of the skull, that for a long time his recovery was considered hopeless."

Dr Charles Winchester of Aberdeen, who knew Logan all his life stated that:

"Logan had gone to the links to witness a competition in athletic sports amongst the officers and men of a Highland regiment then stationed here. One of the officers, when throwing the hammer, striking the young lad with great force on the head, nearly killed him. Through the eminent skill, however, of Dr Charles Skene, the broken bones were removed from Logan's head, and we understand are still to be seen in the museum of Marischal College."

James Logan wrote himself, in 1840, that:

"In my youth I received a most dreadful wound by which my skull was literally shattered. At throwing the Hammer, one of 17 Ibs in weight, by accident struck my forehead. Through this misfortune, I lost not less than 4 square inches of my skull, to which extent the brain is unprotected, except by a metal plate, fixed in a scalp ! Mr Davie Robertson has seen this appalling wound."

James Logan probably received his injury about 1814 when he ceased to attend college, though once recovered, he continued to study, reading anything on history. He always drew well and now applied himself to this. His work was brought to the attention of the Earl of Aberdeen, and under his patronage, James went to London to study art at the Royal Academy but he didn't, or perhaps couldn't, pursue his studies and took up writing, which, for the rest of his life earned him a precarious existence as a literature and antiquary.

About 1824, having given up the Royal Academy, he worked for a year or two as a clerk in an architect's office and in his spare time wrote for newspapers.
In 1826 he turned his back on the architect's office and set off for Scotland "With a staff in hand, and knapsack on his shoulders, he wandered leisurely over it all, from the Mull of Galloway to John 0'Groats, crossing and re-crossing its breadth repeatedly from the German to the Atlantic ocean, visiting, too, the Hebrides, carefully examining and sketching its antiquities of every kind, and collecting materials for his magnum opus."

In December 1838 James Logan joined the staff of the British Museum as an 'Additional Supernumerary Attendant' in the department of Printed Books. His nomination for employment was confirmed at a meeting of the Museum's Trustees on 15th December 1838. The need for an additional attendant had arisen because the Museum's Library had been moved from its old accommodation to a new building constructed on the north side of the site.
Rev Alexander Stewart wrote that "the secretaryship of the Highland Society of London happening to become vacant...it was offered to Logan in the most handsome manner, and at once accepted by him.

"The Secretaryship of the Highland Society, however, he only held for two or three years; he tired of it as he had tired of other things, although he alleged, as the main reason of his retirement from the office, that the Society had fallen away from" its original aims.
Unfortunately, Alexander Stewart's account is not correct. In February 1839 the Society's clerk, Mr Metcalfe died, and James Logan applied for the post, writing: "From my intimate acquaintance with Highland affairs, the deep interest I have ever taken in those objects which the Society so zealously pursues; united with my literary habits, I conceive that I might not be considered an unimportant acquisition."

If Logan obtained the appointment he said,  "it shall always be my strongest desire to evince how highly I appreciate the honour, and my constant study shall be to discharge my duties with such zeal and propriety as may best promote the interests of the Highland Society. I may mention that I hold a small appointment in the Library of the British Museum, but it would in no way interfere with the business of the Society."  On 9th March Logan wrote again that "I am recommended to offer myself a candidate as successor to Mr Metcalfe. My long tried devotion to Highland matters and my knowledge of the subjects which the Society is incorporated to promote, will I hope be considered qualifications not always to be found." Referring to his appointment at the British Museum, he wrote that "the emoluments are not sufficient for the station I wish to hold, and the duties are by no means so onerous as to interfere with those which through you, would in the event of my election, devolve upon me." Logan's hours at the Museum were 9.00am to 4.00pm.

James Logan was recommended by Mr Fraser of 6 Lincoln's Inn Fields and Mr S MacGillivray, and received a letter of recommendation from Cluny MacPherson.
On the back of Cluny's recommendation the Secretary of the Society noted in pencil:

"When it was universally such and appeared like that Mr Logan and Mr McGil were the only eligible Candidates - It was movd by AL seed Mr GD that Mr Logan be appd to the situation. Upon which Mr Bain movd seed by A Benn (or Brown) That Mr McGillivray was a fit and proper person for the situation. On a Show of hands then appeared for Mr Logan Six and for Mr McGil the same number when the Chairman gave his Casting Vote in favour of Mr Logan."

The appointment was confirmed on 20th April 1839 and he was appointed Clerk to the Highland Society of London at a salary of just over £53 a year, to be paid quarterly. In June Logan was living at 35 Newman Street, to the north of Oxford Street.

The Society's Minute Book for this period is missing, so there is not indication as to the identity of the chairman. In September John MacDonald, the Society's Secretary was urging Logan to arrange the accounts for 1838 to be audited. On 12th October 1839 at a meeting of the Trustees of the British Museum a report was laid before the committee by Antonio Panizzi, Keeper of Printed Books.

"Mr Panizzi has the honour to report that the extra-attendant Logan is so often absent, as to cause inconvenience and delay in the work assigned to him. Mr Panizzi has been speaking to him more than a dozen times on the subject, and the Principal Librarian has also remonstrated with him. Mr Panizzi has threatened to report him, and the promise has been as often repeated and broken that he would be more punctual in future. He was absent three days within a week, and is again absent today and no one knows when he may choose to come again."

The .Trustees ordered "That the services of James Logan be discontinued" and that a replacement should be found to fill the vacant position. On 24th October James Logan wrote to the Trustees:

"My Lords and Gentlemen, It is with inexpressible regret that I find myself compelled to address you. For my repeated absences, arising from different, and in some case entirely unavoidable causes, which have occasioned my dismissal, I presume to offer no excuse, yet I hope, except in this, I have not been an inefficient servant. "Permit me, My Lords and Gentlemen to say that ruin will be the consequence of my discharge at this time. I therefore humbly pray that, considering my mental suffering and pecuniary loss sufficient punishment, you may in your goodness allow me to resume those duties which through the kindness of Sir Henry Ellis, and recommendation of VV MacKinnon MP and Dr Seattle, you did me the honour at first to assign me.
My Lords and Gentlemen, should you be pleased to confer so great a favour, I pledge myself so to arrange as that I shall not again be absent - I would, with all humility add, that from having been employed in similar works, I may be better qualified than one who has been otherwise engaged.
I would repeat, with great earnestness, my humble prayer that you would be pleased to overlook my transgression, and lay me under an obligation, for which I should be ever most grateful. I have the honour to be, My Lords and Gentlemen, With the highest respect, Your most humble, and most obedient servant."

Logan's letter was placed before the Trustees on 2nd November, with a note from Panizzi recommending "that he should be glad if Logan could be forgiven." The Trustees directed that Logan should once again be employed.

In March 1840 James Logan failed totally to make arrangements for the Annual General Meeting of the Highland Society of London and wrote to the Board that "In pressing to address you I offer only a palliation - not a defence of my conduct. I appear as a suppliant and throw myself entirely on your humane and merciful consideration." Logan then informed the Directors of his broken skull, already quoted.

"Naturally of an ardent disposition, my domestic circumstance of the most unpleasant nature occurring to me just before the 21st threw me into a state of nervous prostration, and the approach of the Festival, utterly paralyzed my energies. I never before felt such an affection in a manner which I can no otherwise account for, than as produced by this calamity. No misfortune, less to be contemplated and more to be deplored, could have happened, than to incur the displeasure of the Directors, and should you, Gentlemen, feel it your duty to visit me with the extreme penalty of dismission, it becomes me to submit to my fate, although it would to me be inevitable ruin. "Gentlemen, my fate, which has been linked with Highland objects now depends on your decision. I cling to the hope, that my connexion with a Society so high so patriotic, may not be closed, ere I have opportunity to evince my devoted attachment to its interests. I trust that mercy and humanity will plead with you for me, and that you will be pleased to lay me under the deep - the unmerited favour of permission to retrieve (if it is yet possible) the consequences of my misfortune. If my summary dismission is the only atonement required for my offence: most grateful for your former kindness, I shall bow with respect to that which is your pleasure. "I submit a short report (missing) of some of my transactions in behalf of the Society which other business prevented from being brought forward, and which I hope will be approved of. That the Accounts were not sooner prepared for Audit, was a matter of regret, but the derrangement occured before I had the honour of receiving my appointment, and I could find no satisfactory documents by which to adjust-them. If any delay, or irregularity occured respecting the circulars, I believe I can satisfactorily explain the case.
Your most obedient humble servant."

On this occasion Logan's pleas fell on deaf ears. He was dismissed and replaced by Mr Marsden, having survived with the Society for one year. James Logan's ruin was about to be complete. On 10th June 1840 Antonio Panizzi wrote to the Trustees of the British Museum:

"Mr Panizzi is under the painful necessity of reporting to the Trustees the conduct of extra-attendant Logan. He is neither punctual nor attentive to his duty, and both the day before yesterday and yesterday he was so intoxicated to be scarcely conscious of what he was doing. Yesterday Mr Panizzi seeing him almost dropping from his chair sent him home. Today he is absent. Mr Panizzi is reluctantly forced to state these facts to the Trustees after having repeatedly remonstrated and reasoned with Logan; unfortunately to no purpose."
"June 12th. The attendant Logan has come to his duties today. Yesterday Mr Panizzi received from him the enclosed letter which he begs to lay before the Trustees."

Logan's letter is missing, but when the Trustees met on 13th June, and in the light of Logan's previous conduct, the Trustees ordered "That the services of James Logan be discontinued."

Despite losing both his jobs in 1840, James Logan survived and became involved with the Gaelic Society of London and wrote the foreword to John MacKenzie of Gairloch's Beauties of Gaelic Poetry. In 1842 Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited Scotland. The young couple fell in love with the country , and tartan, which had been simmering for 20 years since the visit of King George IV, bubbled up again. The brothers John and Charles Allen, calling themselves Sobieski Stuart published Vestiarium Scoticum, which introduced 75 new tartans to the delight of the trade.

Logan's book, begun in 1832 was now revitalised and with the artist R.R.McIan, he began publishing prints of the Costume of the Clans. Mclan did the drawing, (which were lithographed and then hand coloured and Logan provided the text. The first print appeared in 1843 and the first complete volume in 1845, to be followed by a second volume in 1847. Not surprisingly only one of the Vestiarium tartans appeared in the Mclan-Logan work.
In 1848 Logan and Mclan collaborated together again on the Highlanders at Home.

By 1850 James Logan, though only 56 years old, was ageing. Unmarried he was all alone. Capt. Forbes MacNeill, brother of Lord Colonsay brought Logan to the attention of the Prince Consort, who presented him with a brotherhood in the Charter House, to keep him in his old age. But the Charter House was too much for Logan, and his irregularities and breaking of the rules, eventually lead to him being expelled. Logan's friends rallied round, and both the Highland Society of London and the Gaelic Society of London gave him a small pension, so that he survived for another ten years.

A friend wrote from London, after his death:

"James Logan was a most pleasant companion; his fund of information on many matters was very great, and he was always ready to pour forth his great wealth of knowledge if you only sat and listened with the necessary attention. He was, however, rather quick-tempered, and any signs of weariness or indifference on your part as a listener always made him angry; and he would often, in such circumstances, rise and leave you there and then, without as much as saying 'good day'. I can recollect that he was extremely fond of oysters, which were then more plentiful and cheaper of course than they are at the present day, or are ever likely to be again. He was, indeed, fond of all sorts of fish and shell fish, and if he got enough of these, he would rarely ask for anything else. He was at times very absent-minded; he would sit five or ten minutes quite absorbed in thought, without speaking a word, and it was sometimes difficult to rouse him from such reveries; but when you did manage to fairly rouse him up, he could be exceedingly pleasant, and would keep the company for an hour, or even hours together, if need were, 'in a roar.' My opinion is, that the accident to his head in early life sometimes affected his mind. At all events, I can recollect many odd sayings and doings of his not to be accounted for except on some such supposition of partial mental derangement, if not actual insanity. He was very liberal and kind-hearted. I have known him give his last sixpence to a beggar man or woman that did not too loudly or pertinaciously importune him. Latterly, his eyesight was bad. This seemed to annoy him much. 'Give me my eyesight as it once was', I have heard him say, 'and take away this terrible pain in my temples, and I could still be very happy among my books, even here in London.' I have heard it said that Logan frequently gave way to fits of intemperance, but it is only justice to his memory to say that in all my intercourse with him I never saw him in a worse state than what one might call mellow and merry. It is most likely, however, that at certain times, owing to the weakness of his head, a very little would suffice to overcome him. I think it not unlikely that this is the way in which poor Logan's shortcomings in the matter of sobriety can be best accounted for. I may state, that one who saw him a few days before his death, and when there could no longer be any doubt that the dread messenger was already at the door, told me that he fully believed that Logan died as a sinner ought to die, penitent as to his many transgressions, and a firm belief in the mercy of God through Jesus Christ our Lord."

The memoir on James Logan appeared in Rev Alexander Stewart's reprint of the Scottish Gael published in 1876.

Son of an Aberdeen merchant he made a study of tartans which produced a level of standardisation. A student of law and art and for a time the secretary of the London Highland Society, he walked around Scotland in 1826 gathering tartan specimens and talking to people who claimed to have authentic first-hand accounts of past practices. He published a valuable work on the subject in 1831* comprising fifty-five tartans, although some of his conclusions have been disputed.

* Logan's book had the snappy title of "The Scottish Gaël or Celtic Manners as Preserved among the Highlanders: being an historical and descriptive account of the Inhabitants, Antiquities, and National Peculiarities of Scotland; more particularly of the Northern, or Gaëlic parts of the Country, where the singular habits of the aboriginal Celts are most tenaciously retained."





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