Pamela last week. We chatted a bit about her and I asked as to the
background on the painting. Although she didn't know the identity of
the woman or the artist, Pamela mentioned the fact that the portrait
reminded her of me. I'll have to admit there is a haunting similarity.
We are all about tartans here at the manor. And as the zesty fall
weather approaches, I am anxious to bring out the soft wool tartans
and tweeds. The autumn and winter wardrobe is always so much
more snuggly and interesting. Last year for Christmas, I gave hand
made family tartan wool hats as gifts; a cap for WT and a tam for
my daughter. WT is known to don his kilt on holidays and special
occasions and puff out a tune or two on his bagpipes. Two songs are
just about the limit inside the manor.
The notion of belonging to a tribe, for me conjures feelings of warm
pride and connectedness. The word "clan", in its original sense
referred to a kindred group. The origins of the distinctive tartan
patterns are shrouded in controversy. To the Gael it was breacan
feile, speckled cloth, but the word tartan appears to come from the
French word tirtaine, implying a European origin.
The earliest written references to tartan occur in the accounts of the
treasurer of James III in 1471 and descriptions of the multicolored
cloth appear in Lowland Scots, my ancestors, by the 1570s. The
"sett" or pattern varied from place to place, so a person might
identify the origins of the wearer from the colors of his cloth. It
appears the earliest tartans were territorial rather than clan-based,
although in many cases the two would have been synonymous. One
of the earliest examples of tartan is a Falkirk sett, a small piece of
cloth used as a stopper in an earthenware pot. The sett was in six
colors, with an intricate pattern and was dated as being made some
time between 250 and 325 AD.
A few years back, I met an elderly distant cousin online, while doing
some genealogical research. She was so kind as to mail me a piece of
my family tartan. It's such a treasure, since all the tartans around
the manor are those of WT's family. I've been pondering what
exactly to do with the fabric. I think I'll just finish the edges, and
with DNA tingling pride, wear it as a scarf. Now, I'll have to keep
my eyes peeled for the perfect vintage Celtic brooch.
Did you know, in order to prevent fictitious tartan patterns, family
tartans are now standardized and must be registered with the Court
of the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh? The Scottish Tartans Society,
established in 1963, is now the world authority on Highland dress.
There's also serious tartan protocol. The Lord Lyon states that a
clan tartan should only be worn by those who profess allegiance to
the clan's chief. (Heavens to murgatroyd!) I promise I'll wear my
tartan with all due proper respect and loyalty. Gee, wonder what
happens if you wear an erroneous tartan?