The coarse wool from these animals, which were primarily kept for their milk, was plucked rather than shorn. It was then spun and, using the different natural wool colours, an intricately woven and striped cloth was produced. Originally, the Highlanders used only the natural shades of the sheeps’ wool black, brown or white in the designs of their tartan cloth. Later they employed a range of leaves, berries, bark and lichens as natural dyes to develop cloth patterns involving many colours. the birch tree, for instance, produced yellow; while the alder produced black or brown; heather gave orange; the crowberry or blaeberry, purple; the bramble, blue; and the flower of the tormentil, red. Urine was used as a source of ammonia to deepen and intensify colours and to remove grease. Before the dyeing was completed the wool was always washed and a mordant (from the latin verb mordere, ‘to bite’) was added to make the dye permanent. The substance used was often the salt of alum, copper or chrome, and iron mordanting was obtained from black peat bogs.
Tartan has become the main symbol of Scotland and Scottish Culture. It is an emblem for those of Scottish descent around the world. With Scottish National identity probably greater than at any time in recent centuries, the potency of Tartan as a symbol cannot be understated.
There is evidence that Celts have used striped and checked material for thousands of years. The Scoti, who settled Western Scotland from 5-6th Cetury onward and eventually gave the whole country their name, are said to have used striped garments to signify rank. One possible derivation of the word Tartan comes from the Irish tarsna, crosswise & Scottish Gaelic tarsuinn, across. The basis of the pattern, dress style and word may date back to the time when the Scots introduced their Gaelic culture into what was to become Scotland. If early Tartan, like the Gaelic language, were used across Scotland in the 10th century, by the 13th century it would have been confined to the Highlands. Lowland Scotland began adopting the language of the northern Angles and Norman social structure from the 12th century.
However, another derivation may be from Old French tartaine, cloth, implying the introduction of checked woollen cloth in the early middle ages which simply became popular in the Highlands.. In 1538 there is a reference to 'Heland Tartan'. A Frenchman at the siege of Haddington in 1537 describes Highlanders who were present as wearing what appears to be Tartan. From 1581 there is a description of 'variegated garments, especially stripes, and their favourite colours are purple and blue'. Poet John Taylor clearly describes the woollen Tartan garments of Highlanders at Braemar in 1618. Martin, a doctor on Skye around 1700, gives the first descriptions of Tartan which imply their significance as regional and the importance to weavers of ensuring that their cloth always has precise local patterns. Martin states that it is possible to tell from a man's plaid where he came from. There is no implication from any of this that specific families or Clans wore their 'own' Tartans - the patterns appeared to be regional.
The battle of Culloden in 1746 saw the end of Jacobite claims to the throne. Many Highlanders, but by no means all, had backed the losing side of Prince Charles Edward Stuart. The great importance of Tartan and associated dress to Highland Culture at this time can be deduced from the fact that the government banned it from 1746-82. This proscription however applied only to common Highland men - not the upper echelons of Highland society, not to Lowland Scots and not to women. But most importantly, it did not apply to the Highland regiments that were being formed in the Government army.
The new regiments were mainly associated with specific Clans, containing the men of that Clan and often led by the Chief or a senior member of his family. The first regiments used the 'Government Tartan', the Black Watch, but others quickly adopted distinctive new patterns. From this it appears that specific regimental Tartans became Clan or family Tartans and not vice-versa.
Central in this 'new Tartan' industry was the Lowland company of William Wilson. He meet the growing demand for Tartan by inventing new patterns. He supplied the Army and the flourishing demand for cloth in the Lowlands. All his patterns were initially simply given numbers but some quickly became popular in certain areas and became known by that regions name - thus were born the regional Tartans. Others were commissioned for a specific person and soon the surname of that person became the name of the Tartan!
New patterns appeared each year for Wilson's salesmen to market. There is no evidence that Wilson's Tartans had anything whatsoever to do with any ancient regional or pre-1746 patterns. The Tartans worn at the Battles of Sheriffmuir or Culloden have almost all been lost forever. In 1816 an attempt was made to match Clan to 'true' Tartan. Tartans were gathered but these had more to do with regimental uniforms and Wilson's successful marketing than any older patterns. But the idea that Tartan and Clan paired had become firmly established.
By the early 19th Century the Gaelic mythology of Ossian had been translated and was popular. Sir Walter Scott's novels were popular. At times almost half the British army was Highland and the worldwide success of these regiments was legend, never mind the Clearances, look at our nice new Empire (a note of sarcasm from the author). When in 1822 George IV visited Edinburgh, Tartan and Highland Dress was the order of the day thanks to Sir Walter Scott's personal planning. Tartan was seen as Scottish rather than just Highland.
The variety of Tartans has never stopped growing. Many Clan Tartans have become available in ancient, modern, weathered, dress or hunting. Almost every surname from the British Isles has been associated with a Clan and their Tartan. People's wish to wear 'their' Tartan has been enthusiastically meet by manufactures. Companies, organisations and sports teams have their own Tartan.
The tartan kilt has long been the most recognisable cultural tradition of the Highland Scots. Therefore, it surprises most people that many of the most recognisable features and traditions associated with the wearing of the kilt have, in fact, been developed in the nineteenth century, not by Scottish Highlanders, but by the Nobles of England and Scotland.
There is much evidence that many of the more recognisable tartans seen today are in fact creations of Scottish and English tailors during the reign of Queen Victoria. Despite this, it has generally been accepted that the basic concepts of the tartan and the wearing of the kilt do indeed have their origin in the history of the early Scottish and Irish clans, or families. It has been demonstrated that certain clans did aspire to a certain uniformity of design for their garments as early as the tenth and eleventh centuries.
The kilt, or philabeg to use its older Gaelic name, that has now become the standard dress for all "Highlanders", has its origin in an older garment called the belted plaid. The Gaelic word for tartan is breacan, meaning partially colored or speckled, and every tartan today features a multicolored arrangement of stripes and checks. These patterns, or sett's, are used to identify the clan, family, or regiment with which the wearer is associated. Although the kilt is the most recognisable of the tartans, it also manifests itself in the form of trews (trousers), shawls, and skirts.
It is generally recognised that the first tartans were the result of individual weavers own designs, then were slowly adopted to identify individual districts, then finally clans and families. The first recognisable effort to enforce uniformity throughout an entire clan was in 1618, when Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonstoun, wrote to Murry of Pulrossie requesting that he bring the plaids worn by his men into "harmony with that of his other septs."
After 1688, and the fall of the Stuart clan, and subsequent rise in the spread of Jacobism, the English government felt he need to take a more active interest in the Highland affairs. In 1707,The Act of Union took place, and succeeded in temporarily uniting the political factions and clans that were universally opposed to the Act. The tartan came into it's own as a symbol of active nationalism and was seen by the ruling classes to be garb of extremism. It is also believed that this act of parliament succeeded in uniting, to some extent, the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands, as the wearing of the tartan spread from the Highlands to the Lowlands, previously not known for their wearing of the tartan.
After the rising of 1715, the Government found the need to enforce stricter policing of the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands. A number of independent companies were formed to curtail the lawlessness that had developed. One of the features that distinguished their recruits were the large number of highland gentlemen that enlisted and chose to serve in the private ranks. Many an English officer was surprised to see these Scottish privates attended by personal servants who carried their food, clothing, and weapons. From the time they were first raised, these independent regiments became known as the Black Watch, in reference to the darkly colored tartans they were known to wear.
During the eighteen hundreds, the wearing of the belted plaid began to be exchanged for that of the kilt. The belted plaid, being a one-piece six-foot tall cloth, belted about the waist with the remainder being worn up about the shoulder, was proving to be somewhat inconvenient to wear. A "new", little kilt design became popular, and it consisted of a plaid which had the traditional pleats permanently sewn in place, and separated the lower from the upper half, allowing the upper section to be removed when it became convenient.
By 1746, the Government, weary of being called to quell Highland uprising, enacted a law making it illegal for Highlanders to own or possess arms. A year later, the Dress Act restricted the wearing of Highland clothes. Any form of plaid, philbeag, belted plaid, trews, shoulder belt, or little kilt were not to be worn in public. Punishment for a first offence was a six-month imprisonment, a second offence earned the wearer a seven-year exile to an oversea work farm. Even the Bagpipes were outlawed, being considered an instrument of war. Only those individuals in the army were permitted to wear the plaid, and as a result, it is told that many Highlanders enlisted simply to be allowed to wear their more comfortable traditional dress.
By the time the Dress Act was repealed in 1783, the fabric of Celtic life had been forever altered. The Dress Act had succeeded in altering Highland Society to the extent that many of the old traditions and customs had been lost forever. In spite of the many efforts to revive the traditions, wearing the plaid had become seen as only a nationalistic statement, and was no longer considered a way of life for Highlanders.
HISTORY OF THE BAGPIPES
Bagpipes are thought to have been used in ancient Egypt.
The bagpipe was the instrument of the Roman infantry while the trumpet was used by the cavalry.
Bagpipes existed in many forms in many places around the world. In each country the basic instrument was the same, a bag with a chanter and one or more drones. Some of these were mouth blown while others used a bellows attachment to supply the air. The bag provided a sustained tone while the musician took a breath and allowed several tones to be played at once.
The origins of the pipes in Scotland is uncertain. Some say it was a Roman import. Others believe that the instrument came from Ireland as the result of colonization. Another theory is that they were developed there independently. Historians can only speculate on the origins of the Scottish clans' piob mhor, or great Highland bagpipe, but the Highlanders were the ones to develop the instrument to its fullest extent and make it, both in peace and war, their national instrument.
The original pipes in Scotland probably had, at the most, a single drone. The second drone was added to the pipes in the mid to late 1500s. The first written mention of the "Great Pipes" was in 1623 when a piper from Perth was prosecuted for playing on the Sabbath. The third drone, or the great drone, came into use early in the 1700s.
In the Lowlands of Scotland, pipers occupied well-defined positions as town pipers, performers for weddings, feasts and fairs. There was no recorded "master piper" nor were there any pipe schools. Lowland pipers played songs and dance music, as was expected by their audience. Over the mountains and glens, however, Highland pipers were strongly influenced by their background of the Celtic legends and the wild nature of the Highlands. The Highland piper occupied a high and honored position within the Clan system. To be a piper was sufficient and, if he could play well, nothing else would be asked of him.
As bagpipe use faded throughout most of Europe, a new form of music was starting in the Highlands. Beginning with Iain Odhar, who lived in the mid-1500s, the MacCrimmon family was responsible for elevating Highland pipe music to a new level, according to historians. This music is called piobaireachd (pronounced piobroch). This classical music is an art form which can compare to the music of any other country and most of it was composed 100 years before the piano and without written notation.
Clan pipers titles were mostly hereditary and held in much esteem. The best known were the MacCrimmons, pipers to MacLeod of Dunvegan; the MacAuthurs, pipers to MacDonald of the Isles; the MacKays, pipers to the MacKenzie; the Rankins, pipers to MacLearn of Duart.
As a musical instrument of war, the Great Pipes of the Highlands were without equal, according to historians. The shrill and penetrating notes worked well in the roar and din of battle and pipes could be heard at distances up to 10 miles. Because of the importance of the bagpipes to any Highland army, they were classified as an instrument of war by the Loyalist government during the Highland uprising in the 1700s. After the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745, kilts and bagpipes were outlawed, the pipes being classified as instruments of war.