A copy of the book The Setts of the Scottish Tartans by
Donald Calder Stewart. FSA Scot. First published
in 1950 that belonged to Capt. T S Davidson, Hon Sec. of the
Scottish Tartans Society is in the STA archives and contains a
series of communications between various individuals and introduced
by the letter below from Stuart Davidson dated October 1965.
"Some years ago the late Miss Margaret MacDougall FSA Scot.,
wrote some notes and comments on the above publication. In 1963
these notes were passed on to Mr J MacGregor Hastie FSA Scot., who
enlarged on them. The Scottish Tartans Society then, with Mr
Macgregor Hastie's blessing, passed the notes direct to Mr D C
Stewart, the author of the above book.
The notes appended might be described as a shot by shot account
of the battle that ensued and which came to be known affectionately
in this office as 'Operation Ding-Dong.' We feel that it is worthy
of note that there were no casualties in this battle and the
relationship between the protagonists is still of a most cordial
We feel sure that much remains to be said concerning many of the
points raised and it is for this reason that we are making a fairly
wide distribution of these notes. Comment and/or criticism is not
only welcome but freely invited for only by such an attitude can we
entertain any hope of arriving at anything approaching the
We understand from Mr D C Stewart that a second edition of his
valuable work is at the moment under consideration and that many
points brought out in the course of this exchange will be
incorporated in the new edition.
The Scottish Tartans Society, signed (Capt T S Davidson) Hon
Operation Ding Dong - Report
All notes refer to the colour strips in "The Setts of the
Scottish Tartans" by D C Stewart Esq., FSA Scot. Published by
Messrs Oliver & Boyd 1950.
'A' - Original comments on the Setts by J MacGregor
'B' - Notes by the late Miss M MacDougall of Inverness, addressed
to Ingles Buchan Esq., of Galashiels.
'C' - D C Stewart's response to 'A' and 'B' above.
'D' - second wave of the attack.
'E' - DCS response to 'D'
'F' - MacG.H. Response - third wave of attack.
'G' - DCS summary.
'A' - Logan. Central blue square should be doubled.
'C' - Doubling of blue agreed.
'A' - Johnston 2 Vol. Grey in place of Azure.
'B' - grey should be azure blue.
'C' - grey to azure agreed.
The specimens, kilt and gillie's, show that we have been at
cross-purposes. Unquestionably, these are early, perhaps the
earliest form of the Balmoral. I have mentioned a B. tweed; while
this is similar in effect to the ground of the tartan, it has a red
fleck on a very dark navy and white ground, with an all-white weft.
The white weft was more noticeable on one side of the cloth than on
the other. A similar, but mush slighter, effect appears in the
The use of the tweed was abandoned in more recent times, well
over thirty years ago, in favour of a lovat mixture with a brown
overcheck. The fact that the family had to use an old kilt worn by
Edward VII as a lad, when they wanted to fit out the late Duke of
Kent's son, suggests that the B. kilt tartan also had been
abandoned; I doubt if they used the old kilt from a purely
sentimental regard for its original wearer, and we may suppose the
B. kilt tartan was no longer in stock, and not considered worth
reviving for a minor member of the family.
D.W.S. wrote: "On the occasion of a royal marriage, Her
Majesty's gifts to the bride invariably include articles of costume
of this tartan." The photograph at p. All of Hesketh's "Tartans"
shows the first instance of this usage. Heavy as was the clothing
in mid-Victorian days, it is hard to suppose that so voluminous a
dress would be made from our weighty B. kilt material, although the
sett is of the same size. for a trousseau silk would be more
appropriate: so, also, would less-granite-like colours. Even
allowing for the false rendering of tone-values in the photography
of the period, it is unlikely that such dark material would have
come out so pale, with the black and red standing away from the
dark greys of our specimens. On the other hand, a silk material in
the colours of the O. & R. would give precisely the effect
shown in the photograph. I suggest, therefore, that while there was
a rendering of the B. in black, red, and two greys, used for the
heavy woollen material, there was also a lighter version in black,
red, lavender and pale grey, for feminine wear, and that this
version alone was in use at the period of 'O. & R.'. That
A.A.B. knew only the kilt version would be explained by the fact
that his firm was concerned with wool, but not with silk. It would
seem natural that only the feminine, silk version - just as truly a
Balmoral tartan - would appear in 'O. & R.'.
Such is my hypothesis; and until we can come on some reliable
historical information I am sticking to it. I cannot at present
bring myself to believe that the 'O. & R.' rendering is merely
a misrepresentation of the heavy masculine material. This is not
filial piety, my stock of which is limited, but rather an
assessment of probabilities.
No more to add. We agree that the tweed mixture was the
'A' - Old and Rare. ?lavender colour quoted. Original is grey
'B' - lavender wrong, should be dark grey.
'C' - lav, in my plate is too strong, the impression of the colour
being a mixture results from the unidirectional sheen of the silk;
the silk used is actually a pale lavender, not a neutral grey nor a
mixture of the two.
'D' - I take it that you based your description of this sett from
Old and Rare. My criticism is based on a piece of the original
cloth, now in my collection at Stirling, taken from the kilt of
Edward VII when a young prince. The background is not a plain grey
but a mixture of black and grey.
'E' - Ed. VII was born 1841, so your specimen would date from the
1850's. Balmoral was built about this time. The Pr. Consort
produced 2 designs - one, the Balmoral Tartan; the other the
Balmoral Tweed. I quote from a note on the letter in the
publication of the National Association of Scottish Woollen Mfrs.,
dated 1933. "...Pr. Albert's Balmoral - one of the few on an
intricate weave. The warp arrangement is one of white, 2 of navy
and white twist, 1 of navy and scarlet, 2 of navy and white. The
weft is white, which from the nature of the weave mostly goes to
the back. The weave unit is 8, so that it is only after 24 threads
that the pattern repeats. It has also remained without imitators,
and the heavy texture of the original cloth has caused its
How does this description tally with your Ed. VII fragment? It
may be that something of the sort was attempted for the ground of
the tartan, but it would not be the same, for reasons obvious to
any weaver. If some alternative scheme of mixed yarns was tried
first, it would also seem to have been abandoned later, for the
When the tartan was invented, the Royal Appointment to supply it
was given exclusively to Messrs Romanes and Paterson. At the time
of the production of 'Old and Rare' my father, D.W.S., was a
partner in the firm specifically concerned with the tartan side of
the business, and he obtained Victoria's sanction for the inclusion
of the specimen.
Particular care would therefore be taken to see that the
rendering was correct; and it would have been as easy to obtain
mixed yarns in silk as in wool. To publicise a travesty would have
been more than the Royal Appointment was worth. Whatever
peculiarities the tartan may have had a generation earlier, I think
we may regard the 'Old and Rare' form as authoritative in
'F' - Regarding your quote from the National Assn. of Scottish
Woollen Mfrs. 1933; the navy mentioned in this quote does not
strike any bell with me. Besides the Edward VII spec. in my
collection there is also a Gillies sett in the heavy tweed. This
latter was obtained from Forsyth's in London before the war. The
pattern and colours are the same as the Edward VII spec. I have
asked Capt. Davidson to send the latter piece on to you for your
If this tartan was made in 1893 to the same specifications as
given in the 'Old and Rare', it must have been altered with Q.
Victoria's request or demand. This will agree with your
'-' - Dear D.C.S.,
A few days ago after reading through some of the battle dispatches
from the MacG.H.-D.C.S. Front I suddenly remembered my visit to Mr
A.A. Bottomley of Peter MacArthur & Co. Ltd., Hamilton and the
fact that he had been telling me something interesting about the
Balmoral Tartan. I wrote and asked him if he would be so kind as to
let me have note of what it was he told me. Here is his reply:-
"With regard to the Balmoral Tartan, the position is that the
designer used a combination of black and white twist, white, black
with scarlet overcheck. However certain manufacturers who copied
the design were unable to go to the expense and difficulty of using
special twist yarns, and therefore employed the easiest method,
i.e. using dyed greys. As you are probably aware, it is extremely
difficult to dye a good grey any way similar to a mixture. So often
dyed greys have a bluish slate effect. D.C. Stewart, in his book,
describes the tartan as having grey and lavender, which is
obviously wrong. This description however, has been occasioned by
the difficulties outlined above. I am sorry that I am unable to
send you a pattern of true Balmoral design, as our records appear
to have been mislaid during our removal three years ago."
'G' - All at cross purposes. MacG.H. and A.A.B. had vivid
impressions of the early woollen specimens, but not of 'O. &
R.'. I knew only the 'O. & R.' version till I saw MacG.H.'s
specimens. The latter clearly establish the original form of the
tartan, but (E) I give my argument for adhering to the 'O. &
R.' form as representing a later but equally authentic rendering,
adapted to the use of Royal brides. See the photo of Alexandra in
the Hesketh book.
'A' - Vest. Scot.
'B' - Fine green and red lines should be double width given.
'C' - The Vest. Scot. plate shows a ratio of 1:16.
'A' - Wilson. Colours too light.
'B' - My colours had to be lighter than now used, so as to make
them unambiguous. The Cockburn swatches are all lighter than is now
'D' - Your reasons for colours quoted are understood and agreed.
They were certainly lighter originally but not so light.
Cameron of Lochiel
'A' - Smith. Portrait of Lochiel 1762 better authority that
'B' - Fine white lines should be double width given.
'C' - The white is in the proportion shown in the portrait, J. T.
Dunbar - History of Highland Dress. Plate 21.
Campbell of Breadalbane (Old)
'A' - Wilson.
'B' - See Johnston and Innes re extreme right hand black
'C' - M.McD. comment not understood.
Campbell of Breadalbane
'A' - Smith. Called Abercrombie by Wilson.
'B' - Black line through centre of blue band should be same width
as yellow. Fancy.
'C' - M.McD. But also Geo. Black relic, not later than 1843 (in
Stirling - S.T.S. - collection): and Smiths say they had their
specimen from the Marquess.
'A' - Vest. Scot.
'B' - Black line now always rendered in blue.
'C' - The Vest. Scot. plate shows blue, but the text says
(28) Bk Light Blue. Lavender Bk. LB. Bk. LB. Lav. LB. Bk.
4 4 28 32 4 32 4 8 4 16 4
Leave lines 1-4 of text then:-
...sold at the present time." The better known sett, (28), shown
in several of the books, has been the subject of considerable
confusion. It first appears in Smith, 1850, and again in James
Grant, 1885. The Smith plate shows it in black, lavender and light
blue; Grant's has black and two shades of blue. James Grant writes
of it: 'The Breacan na'n Clerich, or tartan of the clergy, a
mixture of white, black and, grey stripes, is referred to by Logan
in his 'Scottish Gael'." No plate showing the sett for which Logan
gave the count had been published, and it would seems as if Grant
consulted Logan's book so far as to note the colours, but without
checking Logan's design against that in the Smith work; and that
Grant's printers used for his illustration the design already
appearing in Smith, on the assumption that Smith must be correct.
The present author therefore somewhat rashly concluded that,
although a second Clergy tartan, differing in character from
Logan's, had been evolved, it should still have been in the colours
named by Grant - black, grey, white - and that the Smiths had been
responsible for changing the colours. This explains, if it does not
excuse, the form taken by the count and strip No 28, in the first
edition of 'The Setts'.
What the author did not then know was that in the 1847 records
of Wilson of Bannockburn was the count for a tartan they named
"Priest". The colours to be used were black, lavender, light blue;
and the proportions of the stripes were as in the Smith Clergy. The
Wilson count was put forward to the author to show that the Smith
rendering was entirely correct. But when the Wilson count was drawn
on paper as a colour strip, it became immediately apparent that it
differed materially from the Smith version in effect, though not in
colour. This important difference arose from the fact that one of
the lavender stripes in the Smith should have been, according to
Wilson, black. It might be thought that, had that been all, these
were two alternative setts; but that was not all. In appearance the
Smith design is quite unlike the Logan; but as soon as one of the
lavender stripes in the Smith is rendered in black, as specified by
Wilson, it becomes evident that the Wilson scheme is closely
related to Logan's, being in fact a shortened version of it, in
One is thus driven to the conclusion that the Wilson version was
what was being produced at the time the Smiths were preparing their
book, but that their plate accidentally gave a false rendering of
it. In some of the copies of Smith another, finer, stripe of black
becomes lavender, further weakening the design; and in some the
light blue appears as light green. Altogether an unfortunate piece
Just when the Wilson modifications were made does not appear,
but we may suppose them to have been commercially more
'A' - Vest. Scot.
'B' - Thin blue lines (either side of white) should be rendered in
'C' - MacD says blue lines should be black. In my abstracts from
the Vest. Scot. I made a note emphasising this blue, presumably it
was so in the text, though black in the plate.
'A' - Logan.
'B' - Black between blue guards should be double the width.
'C' - MacD says black should be doubled. Not so in Logan, but so
in Smibert. ? Wilson
'G' - Take your choice.
'A' - Smith, Johnston.
'B' - '...Clan.' Four narrow blue lines through centre of red band
should all be same width. c.f. Grant (70).
'C' - MacD says quadruple blue lines should be equal.
Equal:- Smibert's Drummond, Smith's "Grant", James Grant's
"Drummond" and "Grant".
Unequal:- Dress of Lady Drummond, 1746, (Kingussie); Malcolm
MacCallum of Glen Lyon, 1822; Logan's "Grant"; Smibert's Grant";
'G' - Kingussie version should prevail.
'A' - "Old and Rare".
'B' - Vest. Scot. c.f. Hay (75).
'A' - Vest. Scot. No mention of Wilson's Black and White
'B' - ? Bk & Red Wilson sett.
'D' - The black and red sett was seen by me in a collection of
Wilson's on loan to Wm. Anderson, George Street, Edinburgh, in
1934. Please remind me to quote the count later.
'G' - Wilson counts to be consulted for this.
Wilson sett noted. McG.H. specimen is as my 47, from Vest.
'B' - Logan's.
'G' - '?'
Fletcher of Dunans
'A' - Johnston.
'B' - This is the "Fletcher of Dunans". The Fletcher has a black
line NOT red through centre of green.
'G' - Accepted.
'A' - Vest. Scot. Triple yellow.
'B' - Ancient - to distinguish it from 64.
'C' - MacD.; "Ancient", to distinguish it from 64". As ancient as
the Vest. Scot.
'G' - Cannot accept that appearance in the Vest. Scot., entitles
the sett to be described as ancient. The Gordon with one yellow is
known to be 18th. cent.
'A' - D.C.S. only. Incorrect. Given a black bar where it should be
blue. Highland Society Collection.
'C' - MacG.H. says H. Soc. of London Coll. shows blue, not black.
Positive blue? Many old blacks are blue, brown or, green
'D' - A piece of cloth from Niel Gow's trews is in the collection
of the Highland Society's Coll. The blue is definitely a
'E' - The authority quoted is convincing; I must make the
Graham of Montrose
'A' - Smith. Wilson gives is at Abercrombie.
'C' - Wilson gives it as Abercrombie. But it is Graham of Montrose
'A' - (70) Logan & Smith. Called Glenmoriston.
'C' - (70) Called Glenmoriston.
'A' - (71) Vest. Scot. Called Rothiemurchus.
'C' - (71) Called Rothiemurchus.
'D' - (70 & 71) So described to Miss MacDougall by families
'G' - (70 & 71) Noted.
'A' - Wilson as Leith. Logan as Hay.
'B' - Purple should be Royal Blue.
'C' - Hay and Leith - MacD: Purple should be Royal Blue. Dealt
with in setts.
'G' - According to Capt. Hay of Hayfield (Aboyne - Sep.1965), the
name of this tartan should be Hay in Leith.
'A' - Vest. Scot.
'B' - White stripes should be same size as the green flanking
'C' - Not so in Vest. Scot. Plate.
'G' - Will check this.
'A' - Vest. Scot.
'B' - This is correct NOT Innes.
Innes & MacInnes
'A' - McIntyre North from. Logan. This is strictly MacInnes. Innes
has the second sett in black.
'B' - "?" sits on top of black line running thro' green
'G' - Will be revised to accord with Lyon Register sett.
'A' - Bain. Johnston's not correct. No mention of Wilson's
'C' - No mention because no knowledge.
'D' - Remarks on Dunbar apply likewise to this one.
'G' - Wilson count to be consulted.
Wilson sett noted. of McG.H.'s specimens, 3 show differing setts.
The 2c looks like a mistake for 2a, with one red band accidentally
The 2c pattern was from Forsyths of London, and the only one in
their pattern book. whether this was a mistaken weave or an
especially woven variation I cannot say.
'A' - (93) Logan & MacLennan. - Logan.
'D' - (93) Bain's 1st Ed. July 1938 is the only illustration of
this sett. It was changed at the request of the chief of the Clan
in Bain's reprint ed. to the present sett, your No. 93.
'G' - (93) 'this sett' in 'D' above - No. 94.
'A' - (94) (Red) Wilson. Green Logan (Bain's 1st edit.) not
'C' - (94) MacG.H.'s remark puzzling; surely 93 is the green
Logan? 93 is the one in my 1st ed. Bain - 1939 reprint of 1938
publication, not a new edition.
'G' - (94) Examples of this with Wilson letters 1793-1806 now
'A' - Smith (Mauchline) Yellow lines sett not mentioned.
'C' I have four counts for yellow lined setts, three of which are
widely differing counts of the same scheme; thus, I have two
schemes with yellow. These, with 95 and 96, made six, and some
selection was necessary. The two chosen seemed the most
authoritative, though it was claimed for one of the yellow line
setts that it dated from 1800. I plumped for safety.
'G' - More precise information may turn up.
'A' - D.C.S. only D.C.S. incorrect - outer black lines should be
blue - more difference than he says.
'C' - Possibly should be G Bk. Y. B. G. B. G. Bk. etc.
2 8 2 8 2 2 12 2
These are the colours in the Johnston pocket book of 1910 and
1929, and F. Adam, 1934.
'D' - Yes. The outer half of your broad black square is always
made in navy blue as per Johnstone.
'E' - I shall change as suggested, though it looks odd. Any date
of origin? In Scottish N & Q., 4th Ser. Vol. VI, it says at
p.264 that "Rob Roy" is the tartan of Clan Alpine; and at page 368
that an alpine tartan had never been heard of. This was Oct. 22nd.
'F' - I know of no earlier origin than Johnston. The apparent
contradiction in the two statements could be accounted for by the
fact that the Clan Gregor were always known as Clan Alpin. The
second statement may apply to the MacAlpine family.
'A' - Vest. Scot. No mention of Highland Society's sett - double
'C' - Ignorant of H. Soc. double yellow line sett.
'D' - This two yellow line sett is, if my memory serves me right,
the only MacArthur sett in the collection of the Highland Society.
Another sett to quote.
'F' - It will be interesting to see how the H. Soc. of L. sett
H. Soc. of Lond. sett noted. Clearly related to my 98, a Vest.
'A' - Peter & McIntyre North, Grant was not the originator of
'B' - This is sett in modern use.
'A' - Brydone (1862). Johnstone 1891.
'B' - The narrow yellow lines on outside of narrow whites in black
band should be white.
'C' - MacD: Johnston 1910 shows this line W, but so palpable a
crib from Royal Stuart should follow it as far as maybe.
'G' - Consider above oddity is due to mistake in printing.
'A' - Old & Rare.
'B' - Azure blue stripes on outside of Bk lines running thro'
green band should be all the same size.
'C' - MacD. must have had a badly printed plate in her copy; the
count would show that.
'A' - Bain. No mention of green sett. D.C.S. gives fine lines as
blue. They are brown.
'C' - What green sett? B lines more probably should be Bk., if B
is wrong. Yet I saw this sett as grouped with 38 Dalziel (Logan)
and 200 Munro (Smith etc..), in which these lines are B. Compare
also 44 Drummond and 70 Grant.
'D' - The fine lines in the red sett are definitely brown. Wm
Andersons of Edin. have made this, so a line to Alex Yule can
confirm it. The green sett is another one to quote.
'E' - I suppose we must follow Anderson.
'G' - But still consider it 'fancy'
Two McG.H. specimens and a hunting count. The W lines in 1a become
green in 1b. The hunting is as 1a. These are described as green
setts in distinction from the grant-like 106, but they are not
The correct hunting tartan is 1a with the whlines (white lines?).
by MacArthur of Glasgow.
MacDonald of Staffa
'A' - MacKay & Bain. Wilson's sett not mentioned although
'C' - Wilson sett not known; older than Cockburn?
'D' - Johnston gives it, but it is not complete.
'E' - The Johnston plate probably follows Grants, which differs
slightly from Smith. Mine follows Cockburn.
Lord of the Isles
'A' - (Red with Bk. ov.ck.) - "Old & Rare" & MacKay.
Should have included the sett without the black also. It may be
'C' - Re. Bk. ov.ck., see 'O & R', Pl.1. and text. 1750 at
'D' - I am inclined to agree with MacKay. See also remarks in the
'Grameid; on the 300 men of Glengarry all wearing the triple
'E' - I set no value on setts described in the Grameid as being
'F' - Although you may se no value on setts described in the
'Grameid', you cannot but be impressed with his description of
Glengarry and his men all dressed in the triple stripe. how else
could you have described the Lord of the Isles if you had been
James Philip? I fear we must agree to disagree here. Actually the
description 'triple stripe' does not so greatly matter as the fact
that Glengarry men were all in uniform in the mid 17th. cent.
'G' - Still quite unimpressed.
Lord of the Isles (Htg. Old)
'A' - 'Old & Rare'.
'B' - Blue should be dark green. (D.C.S. states this is NOT so and
quotes D.W.S. Plate II.)
'C' - MacD.: I state the B should be B, not G, and stick to
'G' - Dalgety has seen the portrait, and says it shows B. Lord
MacDonald says his tartan has "always" had the G, but has been
asked to examine the portrait. His reply is pending.
'A' - Wilson-Logan. Portrait.
'C' - What portrait?
'D' - The portrait referred to is of Alasdair MacDonald of
Glencoe, who escaped the massacre in 1692. see opp. page 72 in J.G.
'E' - Does the 17th century portrait show a different
'F' - With the usual allowances being made for portraiture, the
tartan of MacDonald of Glencoe is as now worn.
'G' - The '17th cent.' portrait has every characteristic of early
'A' - McKay & Johnston. D.C.S. takes Raeburn's portrait too
seriously. No painter is line perfect.
'C' - Agreed; but an examination of Raeburn's painting infuriated
MacDonald of Clanranald
'A' - MacDonald of Glengarry. Wilson - Smith. Called Clan Ranald
in Vest. Scot.
'B' - 'Chief of Clanranald' NOT 'of Glengarry'.
'C' - MacD. Agreed. - so called in Vest. Scot., its first
appearance. But Smiths had it from Miss MacDonnell of Glengarry.
see Setts, p.77.
'G' - These notes due for revision.
MacDonell Glengarry (Red)
'A' - MacKay. D.C.S. does not acknowledge MacKay, nor does he
include red Clanranald.
'B' - This sett is called the 'Mull Dress'.
'C' - MacKay's Red Clanranald was originally to have been
included; but late in the day, I decided to find a place for the
Boisdale, and pushed MacKay out to make room for it. Unscholarly,
but I could not face redrawing all subsequent plate, as would
otherwise have been necessary.
'A' - Wilson & Smith. White lines quoted should be pink.
'C' - I interpreted these lines as white. Margaret MacD. makes no
'D' - Quoted by Wilson's 1819 as pink.
'E' - Note that the white always adjoins crimson. Wilson may have
entered their count from an older specimen in which the crimson dye
had bled into the white in the finishing process. Wilsons cannot
have been first every time, or necessarily right all the time. see
your own latest note on 133 Glenorchy.
'F' - Agreed.
'B' - (128) Purple should really be blue with a purple
'G' - (128) Colour in strip too purple.
'A' - (129) Vest. Scot. Htg sett should have been included.
'C' - (129) Ignorant of Hunting sett. Cockburn shows Red Menzies
'D' - (129) Surprised. It has red squares changed to green.
'G' - (129) Who can keep up with all these hunting tartans?
MacFarlane Hunting. McG.H. specimen. As Logan's count, but with
R ground changed to G.
MacIntyre & Glenorchy
'A' - (133) "Old & Rare" Glenorchy. Wilson adds pink guard
'C' - (133) This is related to, but simpler than the Cockburn
piece, which is entitled Cumming or Glenorchy. Know nothing of
Wilson's pink guards.
'D' - (133) Wilson does indeed add pink lines, but have seen 18th
century piece which agrees with 'Old & Rare'.
'A' - (134) Red MacIntyre from Smith. (Not Glenorchy).
'C' - Miss MacD., in Bain, calls this MacIntyre of Whitehouse.
'A' - Wilson - Logan. No mention of Inverness coat or Norwich sett
- yellow lines.
'C' - Know nothing of Inverness coat or Norwich sett with yellow
'D' - Coat of tartan found in Reay country now in Inverness museum
- early 18th. c. Norwich Museum sett different from above & has
'E' - I must see the Inverness coat; but does being found in the
Reay country make it a MacKay tartan? It may have belonged to a
sworn enemy. or to a fugitive outsider.
19th c. specimen. As Logan's count, but his "corbeau" has been
changed to purple. Norwich sett, Y lines, will be noted when I come
to the Norwich files.
'A' - (MacIan) - "Old & Rare". An early portrait - he also
calls it 'Glencoe'.
'C' - It is not I who call it Glencoe.
'D' - See you text on p.77. Apologies. I read it as your own
'A' - (143) D.C.S. only. He is incorrect - not azure. The Cockburn
Collection. specimen which he quotes has pink lines. This is also
verified by Wilson.
'C' - (143) I originally had these lines white, as in Logan but
changed them to azure on the strength of the Cockburn swatch, which
I did not see as pink. Smibert has PINK. What is the date of
Wilson's pink? Later than Cockburn? This would explain Smibert. It
may be that Wilson's dye bled. I have a note that a clan tartan now
worn by MacKinnons has these lines in purple.
'D' - (143) Wilson's key book, 1819 gives two counts for this sett
for two different reds. The colours are the same for both counts.
They are: white, scarlet, green, purple, scarlet, green, scarlet,
purple, green, scarlet, green, pink, scarlet, white. According to
Paterson's note, Cockburn Colln., has pink as the first
'E' - (143) I must work out a strip for this sometime - given a
'G' - (143) Lyon Register MacKinnon now has a Pink pivot. See
Chev. MacKinnon's book "Clan MacKinnon". This Makes the Seventh
'A' - (144) Vest. Scot.
'C' - (144) There is a hunting version:- W/G Brown G R
2 16 16 2
Where I have Az., Wilson has pink, and McG.H's own weave has W.
What does Cockburn have? Count for Hunting noted.
Remarks not understood. My own woven pattern was taken from
Wilsons and the pink and W lines are the same. Try reading count
from bottom. Cockburn sett is the same.
'A' - Chief. Wilson - Smith. Ignores Lord Lyon and does not
mention Clan Chattan.
'C' - "Ignores Lord Lyon..." So what? There are several versions,
of which one in Cockburn is not seen elsewhere.
'D' - MacKintosh & MacPherson in Cockburn, on Paterson's
examination are stated to be the same sett. this corresponds to the
crubin plaid. The Moy Hall specimen, and the Farquharson of Finzean
setts have the added white lines crossing the red squares. Smiths
incorrectly exchange their two plates. The Lyon is by no means the
first one to proclaim this sett as Clan Chattan. Here we have three
of the Chattan Clans with the tradition of using the same design.
Surely rather much to be dubbed as coincidence?
'E' - We have (1) Crubin (2) Cockburn (3) 146 MacKintosh (Smith)
(4) 174 MacPherson (5) Clan Chattan Chief (Lyon); which is
"Finzean's Fancy" (6) Clan Chattan (Lyon). All these differ.
Cockburn names his MacKintosh, and does not give any tartan to
MacPherson. I have heard a MacPherson discourse on (5) and (6), but
dare not repeat it.
'F' - All specimens you quote:- Crubin - Cockburn - Smith - Lyon -
Finzean - etc.., are but variations of one and the same tartan, and
can by no means be classed as different setts. For there is no need
for me to point out the variation that occur in many old setts, you
already know them.
'G' - It is not for me to settle the MacKintosh-MacPherson
'A' - "Old & Rare" - Does not mention Red & Green
'C' - The red and green sett is mentioned in L.5 of my quotation
from "Old & Rare".
'D' - Apologies. I had overlooked the text.
'A' - Smith. Wilson calls it 'Regent' and Logan misquotes it as
'C' - Wilson's name, Regent, is interesting - the Regency was
1811-1820. The MacLarens therefore adopted it between 1820 and the
time Logan came on it. probably 1825-1830. Wilson may have changed
the name to Maclaren about 1822.
MacLaine of Lochbuie
'A' - "Old & Rare".
'B' - Green should be 2 1/2 times Azure.
'C' - MacD: The O & R version is strictly x2, but there may be
other older examples which show x2 1/2. Given in Cockburn as
'D' - I was quoting from memory.
MacLaine of Lochbuie (Htg)
'A' - "Old & Rare"
'B' - No black guards to yellow stripes.
'C' - MacD: Frank Adam shows the black, but the print is poor; he
wrote: "The Hunting sett (for which I am indebted to the courtesy
of the late Lochbuie) is a modern one." M'G.H.: This is not in 'O
MacLean of Duart
'A' - Wilson - Smith
'B' - Black stripes flanking azure lines should be only double
width of narrow black.
'C' - MacD: Black stripes double in Logan and Smibert versions
(Which have other differences also), but nearly treble in Smith and
J. Grant. In Cockburn (named Stewart) the ration is 10:6. You pays
your penny and takes your choice.
MacLean of Duart (Htg)
'A' - Vest. Scot.
'B' - Black Line thro' centre of broad green band should be double
'C' - MacD: The V.S. plate has it as I have it; the lines first
appear equal in 'O & R'., and this has since been followed.
'A' - Vest. Scot. The oldest sett is red and black.
'C' - The Red and black (Rob Roy) may be in the oldest MacLeod
portrait, but that does not make it a MacLeod tartan. As a pattern
it must have extended from China to Peru.
'D' - I was not referring to the Rob Roy check in the portrait,
but to the specimens in the Highland Society Collection and at
Inverness, wherein the groundwork of the tartan is red. See MaKay's
'E' - I must look into this. Might ask Flora. I do not have
'F' - The black and red sett I first saw in the collection of the
Highland Society of London, and later I had the count from
Inverness. They were the same tartan, but different size
'G' - Will examine this. P.S. The K & R MacLeod in the
Highland Soc. of London Coll. is a K & R version of the V.S.
MacLeod - 158, Setts.
R & Bk. McG.H. count noted. This is the Vest. Scot.
horse-blanket, with R for Y and Bk for R.
MacKay, if my memory serves me right, had his specimen of the red
and black from MacLeod country in the Isles, Lewis I think, this
can be checked with the index file.
'A' - Johnston. D.C.S. is incorrect in attributing this sett to
the Vest. Scot.
'C' - Correction already noted; a nasty slip.
MacNicol & Nicolson
'A' - D.C.S. only. Not quite correct - he gives his own version
'B' - Incorrect - Innes shows right sett.
'C' - MacD: What is the authority of the Innes version? My plate,
but not the text, is wrongly named - obviously a slip somewhere.
This was almost the only printing error I found.
'D' - Miss MacDougall and I carefully examined the Inverness
Library MacIan plate and came to the conclusion that the fine lines
should be reversed from your version:- two fine greens next to
green bars and the triple lines between the black bars. The azure
stripe should cross the black, this being a solid bar adjoining the
green. Most MacIan versions are very poor, but library editions are
generally to be depended upon. I cannot remember Innes's sett, my
copy is in Stirling.
'E' - Logan says he did not know of a Nicolson or MacNicol tartan,
and he says it with MacIan's plate in front of him. MacIans plates
were printed in litho -
- in monochrome, then coloured by hand, and this gave scope for
considerable variation in detail as between one copy and another;
the detail varies, as a matter of fact, from one part of a plate to
another - hence the need for me, when I was trying to abstract a
sett from the copy I examined, to make a compromise.
It seems odd since there was no Nicolson tartan, that MacIan
should have bothered to produce a plate with that name; but what he
was actually doing was to show that fashion of square head shawl,
in a tartan he made up as he went along. To put a name to it may
seem daft; but no more so than to copy an English print showing an
Irishman in what might have been the Saffron shirt, and to name it
Ferguson, or to present MacColl in the garb of Charlemagne.
'F' - I will agree that this is a most difficult sett to decide
on. MacIan is a nuisance and Logan was not much better. Whichever
of the versions we accept, we are agreed that the usual Johnston
sett is incorrect. MacIan was not intending to show a Nicolson
tartan. Logan's text, quoting from memory, says "as the Nicolsons
had no tartan of their own, they would wear that of their
superiors, the MacLeods." Therefore MacIan was illustrating what he
obviously though was a MacLeod tartan; but the green and azure
included in it means that Logan either knew a MacLeod sett not
known to us; or else MacIan was embellishing the red and black. The
further one goes into the origin of tartans, the worse it
'G' - May be revised in second edition.
Besides my own tentative interpretation of McIan's plate, I have
three schemes worthy of consideration. First, there is McG.H.'s own
specimen; to which, with some slight modifications of proportion, I
most incline. Secondly, there is the sett seen in Bain and (badly
printed) in Innes, and in at least one other Johnston book. For
this I have a count appearing in the Oban Times for 1:II:1929,
where it was stated that the particulars had been supplied by J.G.
MacKay. Thirdly, there is in the Oban Times for 14:I:29 a
non-reversing sett. We may assume that all three are
interpretations of MacIan, and must conclude that the Nicolson
plates vary from one copy to another, or even within each plate.
Which brings us back where we started.
The label "MacLeod and MacNicol" seems to me carrying things too
far. I can accept one of the setts, to be called Nicolson, with a
smile, just to keep the Nicolsons happy; what I do not accept is
that any of them was a Nicolson tartan before McIan let it be
thought so - which he does only by implication of putting the name
below the plate. To go further and suggest it was, if not
exclusively a Nicolson, at least a Macleod, has no warrant I can
see. I wonder what the MacLeods have to say about it.
I have put the three strips on a card so that you can compare
'A' - Smith. No mention of Clan Chattan or Farquharson.
'B' - Quite wrong - see sep. note. (Could this note referred to by
MacD. be in the text of the Setts?)
'C' - MacD: a pity about the missing note. There are several
versions of this sett, and they all stem from the Crubin plaid. To
say this version is 'quite wrong' seems to me quite wrong. As for
the Clan Chattan question, that is too hot for me to handle.
'A' - (177) From Cockburn Coll. Colours misquoted.
'C' - (177) The colours given accord with me notes on the Cockburn
sett, so any error must be in my original notes.
'D' - (177) As already remarked, this collection was very
carefully examined by Paterson of Edinburgh for me and he vouched
that the blue bars in the Setts should be black, and also the
central green line crossing the red square should also be
'E' - (177) I look forward to an opportunity to reexamine the
'A' - (179) Wilson & Smith. He does not mention Royal Scot.
Museum Coll. presented by Wilson.
'G' - (179) Must follow this up sometime.
'A' - (180) Johnston.
'B' - This sett now used. MacDonald of Sleat (sic as in 109) but
without bk lines.
'G' - See text, foot of page 95.
'Old and Rare. Cockburn Coll.
'B' - Purple should be blue.
'C' - The blue in the plate should be purple, as in 'O & R'.
MacD says the purple should be blue; I can only suppose that she
was going by Frank Adam's plate.
'A' - "Old & Rare". Blue in plate but purple in scale and
'G' - Call it purplish blue. I think there is an early Wilson
specimen of this which can be so described.
MacTavish and Thompson
'A' - Johnston. No mention of Wilson & Moy Hall sett.
'G' - I have a modern specimen of the tartan adopted by the Mac
Thomas Society, given me by its founder. It would be interesting to
compare it with the Moy Hall sett, if this differs from that shown
'D' - In Wilson's Colln. and the Moy Hall Colln. this sett is the
same as Sinclair but with a wider green than now woven. In Moy Hall
it is labelled 'Caithness and MacTavish'.
'G' - Narrower Black to be changed to Blue in 2nd Edit.
'A' - Vest. Scot.
'B' - Black and Red stripes flanking green bands should (combined)
be same width as green bands.
'C' - MacD: My notes on the Vest. Scot., the only source of the
sett, show proportions of G/36, R/10, Black 14; i.e. 3:2. Innes
conforms to 3:2.
'G' - so also does Bain - MacD.
'A' - Wilson. Incorrect to say pale green in place of azure.
'C' I gave azure as the colour, but mentioned light green. My
notes on Cockburn accept the azure, but with the alternative of
pale 'Reseda', with the G a darker 'reseda'. The actual colour
seemed on the border line, and I thought it worth mentioning. MacD
comments on 197: "Reseda should be green". Is reseda a green or
'G' - Wilson Smith Institute specimen (named Sinclair) has A W
24 6 68
It is the Cockburn specimen which has "rather a pale green" for
'A' - "Old & Rare." Strip has blue - it should be purplish
blue. 9 see 'Old & Rare'.
'B' - Broad blue band should be purple; Red should be scarlet;
Reseda should be green.
'C' - MacD: My colour-strip is defective, but I do not know how
much more scarlet the red could get. In 'O & R' the green is
reseda green, not 'tartan' green, which is why I so described
'A' - Johnston. Does not mention the designer - J.G. MacKay; nor
the red sett.
'C' - Does J.G. MacKay explain why he designed it?
'D' - My notes on this are in Stirling. Perhaps Capt. Davidson
will kindly look this up for us when he peruses these notes. Do you
know the red sett?
'E' - Red tartan unknown.
'G' - MacKay designed it for Morrison Clan Society. The red tartan
is Sindex GWG:RGR (2), and suggests Seton GWG:RGR (1) as possible
Mc.G.H.'s count noted. If this is an ancient Morrison tartan, why
did J.G. MacKay have to design my 199 for the Morrison Society c.
1909? Comparison with my 226 the Vest. Scot. Seton, raises
questions I cannot start to answer. Here are the two counts, which
will give a hint of the relation between them.
Morrison R G R Bk R Bk R G W G
12 8 48 8 12 8 36 24 6 12
Seton 4 2 64 8 4 8 8 24 2 12
They should be seen in colour. (H/w card with strips - more
convincing than counts).
'A' - Smith. With crimson insert. This is Lochiel in Wilson's.
Double green is better.
'A' - Logan & Vest. Scot. Single red (Cockburn).
'C' - Possibly a Sobieski design. The simpler of the two Cockburn
setts. 'Athole Murray', is rarely if ever used now.
Murray of Mansfield
'A' - Wilson & Smith. Triple red.
'C' - This is the second Cockburn sett.
'G' - This is the usual Murray of Athole, as still worn by the
Athole Highlanders. as in Bain.
Murray of Tullibardine
'A' - Smith. Does not know of museum plaid.
'C' - Which museum?
'D' - In the Museum of Antiquities, Edinburgh, they have a plaid
labelled "Old plaid of the MacKintosh tartan known to have been in
the family since the '45." Presented by Mrs M.C. Bell, 1905. The
tartan is the Tullibardine with small differences in the centre of
'E' - The Smiths had their specimens from a dealer who supplied
that tartan to the Earl of Dunmore, a Murray. It has the character
of a plaid design, but whether Murray or MacKintosh we may never
know; perhaps both. A bed cover in the Tullibardine room at Blair
Castle is entirely different - probably a greatly faded 203.
'F' - The museum sett is useful in quoting a date for it, although
we have Grant's remark that it was woven in the 17th century for
the Earl of Dunmore. An examination of the plaid in the museum is
well worth the visit.
'A' - D.C.S. only. A combination of Logan and Smith.
'G' - Side lines should be 'B' as in 212.
Robertson of Kindeace (Htg)
'B' - Or Hunting Robertson
'B' - Blue now used instead of purple.
'G' - Purple specified in Vest. Scot., text - Few seems to bother
to consult the text.
'A' - Vest. Scot., Has blue ov.ck. in text, but green in
'A' - Incorrect. Repeats triple white lines.
'C' - What's wrong? Most of Vest. Scot. text for this seems to
refer to differences from its preceding sett, the Royal Stewart,
and a credible sett can be constructed on this basis - but it would
not be that shown on the plate. The plate shows three white lines
on the red ground, and the text says:- "...moreover, ane of ye
quhite stryppes be simpil of saxteen threidis and ane sail be
cotticit (bordered) of ye semen, the number of four threidis or
yrby..." In this the text and the plate are in accord, giving
'D' - It is generally conceded that the white lines should run
alternately 3-1 3-1 etc.. I haven't the Vest. Scot. so cannot check
on this. The triple white running consecutively has always been
considered an incorrect version.
'E' - I assume that my rendering of the Vest. Scot. plate is
accepted as such, and that the dispute is over the interpretation
of the text. If the text is to be followed, it is open to argument
that the white lines should be as you say 3:1:3:1 etc.., But it
could equally be argued that this feature should appear at the
centre of the pattern band, not away out on the red ground. What is
quite certain is the absence of anything in the text to justify the
pair of green lines; there should be a single line only, and that
blue not green.
One of the other MSS describes Rothesay, but the result is quite
unlike 222, being closer to R. Stewart. What it boils down to is
this - are we to follow the Vest. Scot. plate? That is a simple
matter, and is what I did. Or are we to try and make sense of the
confusions and conflicts of the text - or rather the two texts?
That way madness lies.... Merely to take one disputable feature of
one of the texts, and impose it on the plate, while ignoring all
other discrepancies, is tinkering. I might almost say it is
introducing difficulties into what is already impossible.
"Generally conceded" is a poor guide; we suffer from too much of
it. I fear the Vest. Scot. brings out the worst in me. McIan I can
laugh at; but when it comes to the Vest. Scot., we are not
'F' - Perhaps the width of the white line at the edge of the plate
'A' - Vest. Scot. Does not give either the green or brown
'C' - Brown: R Br. G. R G W G R Green: Bk G Az B
6 28 16 4 4 4 4 2 4 12 4 28
'B' - There is also a hunting sett
'G' - Very likely.
'A' - Logan. Early portrait. No mention of Moy Hall Coll. as
Caithness & MacTavish. Also in Wilson Coll.
'C' - Moy Hall specimen unknown
'G' - This is probably the MacTavish as shown in Johnston 1906.
(Moy Hall specimen is listed in recent list sent to Scottish
Tartans Society by Mrs MacKintosh of MacKintosh as "46. Caithness,
Sinclair and MacTavish.")
'A' - Incorrect. Blue should be half width otherwise it is Logan
'C' - D.W.S. shows it as Logan, and says that it is in the
Highland Soc. of London and the Moy Hall Collections. I am
reluctant to conclude that, with Dr. W. F. Skene's named specimen
before him, he made a glaring error rather than a conscious choice.
As a matter of fact, he has the blue and the green in the ration of
40:38. We cannot suppose there to have been two tartans, Logan and
Skene, one having the blue about half the width in the other; one
must be a deviation from the other. The question is, which?
Cockburn shows a specimen (as "Rose"); but unfortunately, though
in my notes I have ' as 94 Logan', my scribbled figures leave it
open to doubt whether I counted B/32, G/32 or B/32, G/52. A check
up at Moy, London, and Glasgow might help to clear things up; it
may be that both forms existed quite early.
The narrow blue band is first shown in Smith, as Skene, and they
also make the fine lines Green instead of Blue; they "confess it is
a pattern about the antiquity of which we entertain some doubts".
Smith seems not to have been aware of any early specimens. All the
Johnston plates, starting with James Grant's, follow Smith, with
green lines and narrow blue. The Smith ratio between blue and green
bands is actually 4:7. The Smith change of the lines from blue to
green does not reassure us that they were right about the blue
'D' - In point of fact my criticism was based on the modern
conception of these two tartans. Actually in Wilson's key book,
1819, there are several counts of this sett, all called
'E' - Interested to note that Wilson in 1819 also called it
'G' - Wilson specimens with orders from 1797 show this band (blue)
as rather more than half the green. An order dated 1798 asks for
"Darke Logan" with this band Purple, and also its adjacent lines,
but other orders from 1797 to 1806 have green only, no purple. The
name is always Logan - never Skene. Evidence of later date not yet
'A' - Grant & Johnston. Wilson's slightly different.
'G' - Wilson count in '1819' book omits one of the black lines in
the double track:
G B Bk. B Bk. G R or Y
4 18 6 6 16 54 8
'A' - Johnston. 18th century plaid.
'A' - Grant. Vest. Scot. has extra line.
'C' - The first plate in the Vest. Scot., names Clan Stewart, is
much as the usual Royal Stewart, except that the blue is slightly
offset into the red, and there is a green line centered on the red
ground. Their white-grounded pattern, No 3, "Royal Stewart", has in
the plate no blue or yellow, and shows one red line on the white
ground. The text referring back to No. 1, says:- "These be ye
pryncipal colorris of ye clanne Stewart, bot ye Tartaine Rioale,
quhilk pertainethe vnto ye house of ovr Lorde ye kingis grace
allannerlie, hathe nae scarlatt sett, bot ain quhite set, and
through ye mydest yroff ane sprainge scarlatt ("Cramosin" in MS
St.Aug) of saxteine threidis..." Where then is the extra
'D' - The Vest. Scot., plate has two outer Royal Blue
'E' - The Vest. Scot., version, there called R. Stuart, differs
from the Victoria in several respects. I took the outer line to be
black. In either case there is, as with the Rothesay, no textual
justification for the doubling. I understood the Victoria was the
Lady's own choice. - Or John Brown's.
'A' - Logan - Smith. & Cockburn Coll.
'A' - Smith and Johnston. Cockburn Coll.
'A' - "Old and Rare". Sett is incomplete (follows 255 sett)
'C' - I have the full count for this plaid; there are 85 stripes
or lines to a repeat of something like 2500 threads.
'D' - I also have full count of this plaid and have woven
'E' - I am glad you have noticed the correlation between 255 and
the MacKintosh plaid. Were they originally from the same web, but
255 subjected to a chemically bleaching atmosphere? or was 255 an
experiment by the same weaver? Only a remnant of the Mot Hall plaid
remains; when the MacKintosh sent it to me for comment there was
little sign of fading, and that mostly in the black. You may care
to have the actual count of the original, not the Wilson
Bk. R. B. R. B. R. G. R. Bk. R. B. R. B. R. B. R. B. R. Bk. R. G.
R. B. R.
72 4 4 4 4 72 90 4 4 72 4 4 4 12 4 4 4 72 4 4 90 77 68 78
G. R. Bk. R. Bk. R. Bk. R. Bk. R. G. R. B. R. G. R. Bk. R.
20 4 4 4 4 72 4 4 4 4 20 72 72 78 74 4 4 78 72
I have underlined the portion corresponding to 253; the difference
in size between this in the original and in the 'Old and Rare'
piece amounts to '08", suggesting identity of source.
'F' - Thank you for the count of the plaid, but again I cannot
compare with the sett I had from Miss MacD., as this is in
Stirling. I think you will have to borrow the strip to compare.
Copy of letter
from D.C.S. to Scottish Tartans Society.
J.C. MacKay: Romantic Story of the Highland Garb and the
The sett (111) MacDonald cannot be distinguished in MacKay's
plate, p.72, but this hardly matters, for it is impossible to
believe that the portrait was painted within a lifetime of the date
of the Glencoe Massacre, even allowing for the date given, 1672,
being wrong. I would place this portrait as contemporary with
McIan, if not actually by him. The Romantic pose of the figure,
with its early-Victorian facial features and whiskers, the cocked
bonnet, the goat-hair sporran, the shoe buckles, are all marks of a
period a century or more after "Glencoe". I am surprised that
MacKay put it forward as evidence of anything. At p.101 he blows
cold on the wearing of buckles on the shoes before 1746. Even if
the original painting shows 111 MacDonald clearly, it does not date
MacLeod: MacKay's quotation at p.159 is poor evidence for a
MacLeod Clan Tartan with a scarlet ground. the tartan in the
Highland Society and Inverness collections is a Black-and-Red
version of the Vest. Scot. MacLeod (158), and I have no reason so
far to suppose the Red ground predates the Yellow. Neither of these
collections is exclusively ancient in its contents.
The greater part of the book is taken up with a defence of the
antiquity of the little kilt, and of the clan-tartan system. That
J.G.McK., thought it helpful to show a photograph of the Kilt Rock,
Skye, is sufficient indication of the poverty of his arguments for
the former, and the portraits at pp. 72 and 166 do not help the
latter. It is not till he comes to the Vest. Scot. that his
original faculties wake up.
MacDonald (J.G. MacKay)
I have seen a coloured reproduction of this portrait somewhere in
the past and can vouch that the sett is as near as one can expect
to the MacDonald clan tartan. I have no idea when the portrait was
painted, or by whom, but MacKay says - (page 71) that the original
portrait was in his possession at the time of writing) - 1924 so it
should not be difficult to trace the portrait and the artist. J. T.
D. confirms composition and modernity of portrait in question.
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