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Tartan Ferret
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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 world.

Cha bhithidh a leithid ami riamh. (His like will never be among us again.)


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Scottish Tartans Authority (Scottish limited company no. 162386), c/o J & H Mitchell, 51 Atholl Road, Pitlochry, PH16 5BU
Scottish Charity Number SCO24310

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