by Jamie Scarlett MBE. 22nd August 1997
James Grant (The Tartans of the Clans of Scotland, 1886)
"Although we have failed to trace the history of this
tartan, or fix the date of its introduction, as it has long been a
favourite with the people of
Scotland, we thought it right to preserve in this work a record of
one of the most beautiful tartans associated with the Royal
Grant illustrates the tartan with the irregularity that red and
yellow overchecks are not equally spaced.
D.C.Stewart (The Setts of the Scottish Tartans, 1950) draws
attention to this irregularity and corrects it. He suggests that
the tartan came into use during the first or second quarter of the
nineteenth century and that it was not really a Stewart tartan at
all but was used indiscriminately. Sir Thomas Innes of Leamey, Lord
Lyon King of Arms, in his drastically revised Sixth Edition of
Frank Adam's Clans, Septs and Regiments of the Scottish
Highlands, describes it, quite erroneously, as "a
differenced and brighter variant of the "Black Watch" motif and
proposes it as the "National hunting tartan".
Wilsons' of Bannockburn record it, prior to 1819, in a slightly
different form from that now made and with a different
irregularity, and the Sobieski brothers are known to have been
playing with green tartan that they called 'Stewart hunting'
Reverting to the Wilson version, the basic design is that of the
'Mackintosh motif - four bars, the inner pair about twice the wide
of the outer repeated on the ground alternately in black and blue;
the blue section has a black surround and the spaces between the
broad bars and the narrow are filled in with black and red, and
yellow overchecks alternate on the exposed areas of green, the
distance between them being slightly less over the blue section
than over the black.
In the modern version, which has to be laid at the door of the
Sobieski brothers, the blue section is enlarged by repeating the
narrower blue bars and the adjoining black lines, thus introducing
the 'Black Watch motif (a broad bar with two narrow lines to one
side) which led Sir Thomas astray; the distance between the
overchecks is greater over the black.
© Jamie Scarlett 22nd August 1997