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Scottish Clan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A Scottish clan (from Gaelic clann, "progeny") is a kinship group among the Scottish people. Clans give a sense of shared identity and descent to members, and in modern times have an official structure recognised by the Court of the Lord Lyon, which regulates Scottish heraldry and coats of arms. Most clans have their own tartan patterns, usually dating from the 19th century, which members may incorporate into kilts or other clothing.

The modern image of clans, each with their own tartan and specific land, was promulgated by the Scottish author Sir Walter Scott after influence by others. Historically, tartan designs were associated with Lowland and Highland districts whose weavers tended to produce cloth patterns favoured in those districts. By process of social evolution, it followed that the clans/families prominent in a particular district would wear the tartan of that district, and it was but a short step for that community to become identified by it.

Many clans have their own clan chief; those that do not are known as armigerous clans. Clans generally identify with geographical areas originally controlled by their founders, sometimes with an ancestral castle and clan gatherings, which form a regular part of the social scene. The most notable gathering of recent times was "The Gathering 2009", which included a "clan convention" in the Scottish parliament.[1]

It is a common misconception that every person who bears a clan's name is a lineal descendant of the chiefs.[2] Many clansmen although not related to the chief took the chief's surname as their own to either show solidarity, or to obtain basic protection or for much needed sustenance.[2]


Notes

  1. Mollison, Hazel (27 July 2009). "The Gathering is hailed big success after 50,000 flock to Holyrood Park". Scotsman.com. Retrieved 30 July 2009.
  2. www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk. "Scottish surnames or variants". Scotland's People. Archived from the original on 2012-06-25. Retrieved 28 January 2012.


Tartan is a pattern consisting of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours. Tartans originated in woven wool, but now they are made in many other materials. Tartan is particularly associated with Scotland. Scottish kilts almost always have tartan patterns. Tartan is often called plaid in North America, but in Scotland, a plaid is a tartan cloth slung over the shoulder as a kilt accessory, or a plain ordinary blanket such as one would have on a bed.

Tartan is made with alternating bands of coloured (pre-dyed) threads woven as both warp and weft at right angles to each other. The weft is woven in a simple twill, two over — two under the warp, advancing one thread at each pass. This forms visible diagonal lines where different colors cross, which give the appearance of new colours blended from the original ones. The resulting blocks of color repeat vertically and horizontally in a distinctive pattern of squares and lines known as a sett.


The Dress Act of 1746 attempted to bring the warrior clans under government control by banning the tartan and other aspects of Gaelic culture. When the law was repealed in 1782, it was no longer ordinary Highland dress, but was adopted instead as the symbolic national dress of Scotland.


Until the middle of the nineteenth century, the highland tartans were only associated with either regions or districts, rather than any specific Scottish clan. This was because like other materials, tartan designs were produced by local weavers for local tastes and would usually only use the natural dyes available in that area, as chemical dye production was non-existent and transportation of other dye materials across long distances was prohibitively expensive.


The patterns were simply different regional checked-cloth patterns, chosen by the wearer's preference – in the same way as people nowadays choose what colours and patterns they like in their clothing, without particular reference to propriety. It was not until the mid-nineteenth century that many patterns were created and artificially associated with Scottish clans, families, or institutions who were (or wished to be seen as) associated in some way with a Scottish heritage.[1] The Victorians' penchant for ordered taxonomy and the new chemical dyes then available meant that the idea of specific patterns of bright colours, or "dress" tartans, could be created and applied to a faux-nostalgic view of Scottish history.


It is generally stated that the most popular tartans today are the Black Watch (also known as Old Campbell, Grant Hunting, Universal, Government), and the Royal Stewart.[2] Today tartan is no longer limited to textiles, but is used on non-woven mediums, such as paper, plastics, packaging, and wall coverings.[3]


Notes

  1. It has also been suggested that tartan may be derived from the cognate in the modern Scottish Gaelic tarsainn,[4] meaning "across".
  2. Early collectors of tartan recorded setts by measuring the width of each stripe in one eighths of an inch.[9]
  3. The Highlanders depicted were sometimes mistakenly described as Irish "Irrelander oder Irren". It is thought that the soldiers depicted were part of Mackay's Regiment which served under Gustavus Adolphus in Stettin (present-day Szczecin, Poland). The men are depicted in dress varying from belted plaid, draped plaids and tartan breeches with tartan hose.