Tartan Ferret

Hunting Stewart

by Jamie Scarlett MBE. 22nd August 1997

James Grant (The Tartans of the Clans of Scotland, 1886) says:

"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 Stewarts".

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' c.1825.

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

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