Jack Dalgety (1922 ~ 1996)
The following appreciation was
written by his son John A Dalgety and Tony Murray.
Jack Dalgety was the youngest of four sons born to Alexander
Dalgety, proprietor (and himself the 'son') of the Forfar drapers
Alexander Dalgety & Son which had been founded in the 1860s and
had for long been known as 'The House for Tartans'.
On leaving Forfar Academy in 1938 Jack joined his father and
brother Alistair in the family business. As with so many of his
generation the war intervened and following Sandhurst he was
commissioned into a tank regiment, the 2nd Northamptonshire
Yeomanary, in 1943. There followed a period of intense active
service, mainly in scout car reconnaissance at the sharp end of the
Allied advance through France, Belgium and Holland culminating in
the crossing of the Rhine in March 1945.
Returning to Forfar with the rank of Captain in 1946 he
maintained his connection with military matters as a life member of
the British Legion, and was involved with the welfare of former
soldiers through his active Chairmanship of the local Earl Haig
Fund Relief Committee. Back in the family business he began to
cultivate his knowledge of tartans both for his trade and for the
love of the subject in its own right. He spent untold hours
painstakingly drawing the setts of thousands of tartans and had a
photographic memory for the patterns. A favourite party trick in
the days of black and white television was identifying tartans from
the monochrome screen.
His interests ranged from Gaelic (self taught and fluent),
Scottish literature, poetry and traditional songs, through
photography and golf to computing (beginning at the age of 65) and
he was for many years a Justice of the Peace. But it was through
his tartans that he made his real mark and his developing knowledge
extended naturally to the genealogy of the clans and families whose
tartans he was recording. He also designed tartans - the first for
the Guthrie family, of whose history he developed an unrivalled
knowledge and about which he published a book; the last for the
Royal Marines at Condor, Arbroath, shortly before his death. His
work was recognised in 1963 when he was elected a Fellow of the
Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.
Jack was the last great link with many of the originators of
modem tartan research. He regularly corresponded with authorities
like Margaret Macdougall of Inverness, John Telfer Dunbar, John
Macgregor Hastie and John Cargill - all early leaders in the field.
When his friend Stuart Davidson, who died in the late 1980s,
founded the Scottish Tartans Information Centre in Stirling in
1963, Jack's expertise was soon sought as a consultant. His
knowledge of the history of tartan has never been surpassed, and
perhaps never will be. It was his stock-in-trade, his knowledge
being tested each day as he saw to the needs of his many customers
from all over the world.
For some years Jack had shared his interest and love of tartan
with Tony Murray of Stirling, and with him assembled on computer
what (was then) considered to be the world's largest and most
accurate database of tartans. This database will continue to
develop and will be a permanent tribute to him, the last of the
great tartan scholars. Although forced to retire through ill health
in 1994, he hoped to have some years free from the pressure of
business to improve his golf and continue with his research.
Sadly it was not to be and after a long and brave struggle with
his illness he died peacefully at home. But above all the
scholarship we will remember the man himself - lively, cheerful and
compassionate, he was generous of his time, knowledge and support
not only to his many friends but to any who needed it. His welcome
was warm and always ready and his wit and sense of humour never
failed him. He will be sorely missed by his wife Margaret, by his
family and by his many friends at home and throughout the
Cha bhithidh a leithid ami riamh. (His like will never be among