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  1. #1
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    Black Watch Tartan 1750's

    Would some one be able to help me identify which tartan was worn by the 42nd Regt of foot, Black Watch, from 1754 - 1763. Or the closest matching tartan manufactured today?

    i've spent most of the evening trying to locate some information online and discovered about 20 tartans under the Black Watch name including 11 modern, 4 ancient and others identified as dress and weathered.

    Any helpful push in the right direction would be greatly appreciated.


    Jacques
    "I know of no inspiration to be got from trousers."
    Lt. Col. Norman MacLeod, QOCH, c. 1924

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jacques View Post
    Would some one be able to help me identify which tartan was worn by the 42nd Regt of foot, Black Watch, from 1754 - 1763. Or the closest matching tartan manufactured today?

    i've spent most of the evening trying to locate some information online and discovered about 20 tartans under the Black Watch name including 11 modern, 4 ancient and others identified as dress and weathered.

    Any helpful push in the right direction would be greatly appreciated.


    Jacques
    Are you asking about the setting or that shades? If the former then it's the same as today. The shades are a bit trickier as there are no known surviving specimens. The only known 18th century specimen of the Black Watch tartan dates to c1795 and cannot be used as an example,. There are however some portraits which are a guide and all show a pattern where the individual lines and colours are recognisable i.e. not dark. The truth is that there was probably greater variation than we would think of compared with today. None of the mills produces 42nd tartan to stock that is correct for the period, it can be done as a special though. PM me if you're interested.

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  4. #3
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    Figheadair

    Thank you for the information. By greater variation, would that be due to the individual mills use of colour and the 190 (give or take) years of the tartan's existence? Also, when you say that the individual lines and colours are recognizable, were both colours a lighter shade? Is there a present mill that makes a tartan even close to period paintings? i don't think a special order is in my budget for the small project i am considering, but i appreciate the offer of assistance. i have a small library relating to Highland Regiments in Canada during the 1754-63 period, but few concerning the BW, and fewer books containing pictures or paintings of the BW. Perhaps i should do some more searching online for paintings and less on the written word.

    Thanks much


    Jacques
    "I know of no inspiration to be got from trousers."
    Lt. Col. Norman MacLeod, QOCH, c. 1924

  5. #4
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    Check out Peter's/Figheadair's research papers on tartan color and the tartan of Lord Loudoun's Highlanders (1745-48) at https://www.scottishtartans.co.uk/ . Based on his decades of research on 18th c. tartans, you will find him the most knowledgeable person on that subject. I would listen to what he has to say. If you decide to take him up on his offer of assistance getting custom Government tartan woven in correct shades, he can be of great help in choosing yarns of the correct shades to make your tartan correct. Additionally, if you plan to used the tartan to make a double-width joined plaid (correct for the 1750-60 period), Peter can assist by advising the weaver on setting up the web for an off-set weave with correct herringbone selvedge and a selvedge mark. Again, see his research papers to learn more about these features. Peter can also advise you on how to get tartan that resembles the "hard" tartan of the 18th c., although it is not possible to recreate it today.

    As far as government tartan of the mid-18th c., which was worn by the 42nd/Black Watch as well as the other newly raised regiments needed for the Seven Years/French & Indian War, I am of the opinion that the colors were somewhere between what is termed "modern" and "ancient" shades today. Because of the tremendous amount of tartan required by all of the Highland regiments, and because this was produced by many hand-dyers and weavers contracted in Scotland, and because the dyeing was being done by hand using plant-based dyes, there were bound to be variations from one batch to another. With regard to the weavers, there were also probably variations in the size of the set, and even in the sett design, from one weaver to another. This situation started to be stabilized when the firm of William Wilson and Sons was organized in the 1750's as an umbrella group for the many tartan producers, until Wilson's eventually took over all government tartan contracts and came up with a process to uniformly dye woolen yarns from one batch to another. If you read Peter's book on the Wilson firm ("The 1819 Key Pattern Book: One Hundred Original Tartans"), the fact is revealed that the tartan for the 42nd RHR was woven in three qualities (varying degrees of fineness): Privates (least fine), Sergeants (medium fine) and Officers (most fine), as well as in a red-based musicians tartan. Granted, the Wilson's records from which this information was extracted was from the early 19th c., but it should be borne in mind that tartan weaving was a very conservative craft and not much would have changed between the 1750s and 1819, particularly with tartan woven for Army contracts.

    Anyway, there is some information to consider, but I believe Peter will have the final word on what you're asking about.

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  7. #5
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    Thanks Gerry, that's a good summary of the situation, I would add a couple of caveats/corrections.

    William Wilson start his business in 1765 so the firm would not have been involved in supplying cloth to the military c1750. It's likely that more than one firm was involved and that there would have been batch orders, say for a company. It also seems reasonable to assume that the quartermaster would have coordinated the who thing. I also believe that there would have been a standardised set by then, that does not mean that there may not have been variations if, for example, someone had a plaid woven locally or by a family member. The reused plaid in the Speyside Volunteer' s coat may be such an example. As for colours, or more correctly, shades then yes, I agree that they would probably have been in the mid-range. Again, the reused Strthspey Volunteer's piece is a potential guide.

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  9. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by figheadair View Post
    Thanks Gerry, that's a good summary of the situation, I would add a couple of caveats/corrections.

    William Wilson start his business in 1765 so the firm would not have been involved in supplying cloth to the military c1750. It's likely that more than one firm was involved and that there would have been batch orders, say for a company. It also seems reasonable to assume that the quartermaster would have coordinated the who thing. I also believe that there would have been a standardised set by then, that does not mean that there may not have been variations if, for example, someone had a plaid woven locally or by a family member. The reused plaid in the Speyside Volunteer' s coat may be such an example. As for colours, or more correctly, shades then yes, I agree that they would probably have been in the mid-range. Again, the reused Strthspey Volunteer's piece is a potential guide.
    i now understand what you were trying to tell me in post #2 about the lines and colours being recognizable. And it makes perfect sense if individual Regimental QM's were dealing with different weavers this would have resulted in minor(?) variations to the sett and shades of the tartan, especially from 1725(?) until 1765. And if the Strathspey Tartan waistcoat is any indication, the shades of the BW kilt would have been much lighter, brighter shade of colours than what is in use today. All this new information makes me wonder why the colours/shades have changed as much as they have over the years, except maybe just because of time itself.

    Thank-you Peter, and Gerry for all the additional information and references. It seems i have some reading to do. But what a wonderful way to pass a Sunday.

    Thanks much

    Jacques
    "I know of no inspiration to be got from trousers."
    Lt. Col. Norman MacLeod, QOCH, c. 1924

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