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  1. #1
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    Tartan of the 91st Highlanders

    My fault, I caused the thread on the Black Watch tartan to veer utterly off course.

    I thought this interesting topic deserved its own thread.

    The timeline:

    1794: the 98th (Argyllshire) Regiment of Foot is raised. They wear full Highland Dress.

    1798: renumbered 91st (Argyllshire Highlanders) Regiment of Foot.

    1809: the 91st ordered to discontinue Highland Dress.

    1864: limited Highland Dress is restored, in the form of trews and plaids.

    1881: the 91st becomes the 1st Battalion, the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, and lose their distinctive uniform, being put into the uniform of the 93rd Highlanders (now the 2nd Battalion the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders).

    What tartan did they wear?

    The famous military artist Richard Simkin (1850-1926) who worked for the war office, and who is usually reliable, did paintings showing the original 18th century uniforms of the 98th Foot. He shows both an Officer and a Sergeant wearing a dark blue & green tartan with a red line. Barnes, in his table of tartans and facing-colours of the Scottish regiments in 1800 gives the 91st as wearing Government tartan.

    Be that as it may, from 1809 to 1864 the 91st wore no tartan, and in 1864 they were granted trews and plaids.

    A book on the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders states that the tartan adopted in 1864 was

    "an east country setting of the Campbell tartan with red line added."

    This tartan was only worn from 1864-1883. The same book says that when the 91st became the 1st Battalion the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders in 1881 the battalion had a considerable stock of tartan to hand so the continued to wear their old tartan until that stock was depleted. A photo of the Battalion in South Africa in 1882 does show them still wearing their antecedent tartan trews and plaids.

    The good news is, as far as determining what the 1864-1883 tartan was, is that photography had been invented.

    The bad news is that colour photography had not been invented, so our colour images are a few paintings which appear contemporary and a few paintings which were done later.

    Artist Orlando Norie's paintings could well have been contemporary. He was born in 1832 and was doing military subjects by the 1850s. In 1873 he painted British army subjects at Aldershot and may then have had firsthand knowledge of the 91st uniform (the 91st were on Home Service 1868-1879).

    Here's an illustration which looks like it could be contemporary (or nearly so) showing a piper of the 91st. You can just see a red line in the tartan, and perhaps a white line as well.



    (Generally crude contemporary paintings contain more truth than recent slick-looking ones.)

    Here's a later painting perhaps by Simkin or Norie showing the red line more clearly. I do wonder at the diced Glengarry, but who can say.



    The painting on the left has the look of the typical Simkin while the one on the right could be contemporary or nearly so, just guessing based on style (note the tiny feet). Though the tartan is painted in pastel hues its pattern is clear, a red line in the green and a white line in the blue.



    Peter contributed this painting, which appears to show a white line in the green (but no blue is shown in the tartan, which cannot be correct).



    Now on to the photos; here are officers of the 91st evidently taken 1864-1868. In 1868/1869 a new style of doublet was introduced.

    The tartan appears to clearly lack the Black Watch double-track. Seems to me there's a wide dark line on the green and a narrow light line on the blue. Keeping in mind that both of these doublets are scarlet, I don't see how the wide dark line can be scarlet; it appears darker.

    In this photo notice that the plaid is woven in much lighter colours than the trews. This can also be seen in the 1882 group portrait.





    But look at the trews of this 91st Officer, on which the fat dark line in the green is more subtle.



    Here is a photo of the 1st Battalion Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders said to have been taken in 1882 (South Africa) where they've not been issued kilts or Highland bonnets yet, are still in trews and spiked helmets and wearing the old 91st tartan.



    Last edited by OC Richard; 29th July 20 at 05:10 AM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

  2. #2
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    In the other thread Peter said the paintings showing a dark tartan with red line might have been intended to show the 42nd Coarse Kilt sett, while "the forth appears to show a red stripe on the green and a white/light blue on the blue. This last would correspond to the Leslie or Argyll/Campbell of Cawdor tartans respectively."

    What I did just now was take the clearest photo of the sett



    and attempted to reconcile that grey-scale tartan sett with the colour paintings.

    It's true that in that closeup photo of the trews the dark stripe on the green area isn't very dark. On the photos of the plaids is looks rather darker, as dark as the bands separating the blue and green areas.

    This first mockup shows that band in the green as also being black, and a red line in the blue, which some of the paintings appear to show. The problem with this is that I don't think a red line is light enough to explain what's seen in the photos.



    In the trews closeup the fat line in the green doesn't appear as dark as the flanking black stripes, it's hard to see in fact, which suggests the possibility that it's red, with a white line in the blue.



    Another possibility is that that wide dark band is actually a red line flanked by black (or blue) and there's not enough contrast between them to show up in those photos.

    Last edited by OC Richard; 29th July 20 at 05:40 AM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

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    Richard,

    There is obviously a light line guarded by black on one of the ground squares but whether that square was blue or green is difficult to know. Your third graphic is most likely of the three but without an actual specimen, or a much clearer image we are in the realms of guessing. Here’s one option and assumes an unseen red on the blue. Alternatively the green and blue might have been the other way around.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  4. #4
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    With those trews it's not as clear, but on the plaids it looks like the pale line with the black border in clearly on the darker of the two ground-colours, which I take to be the blue.

    I'm guessing that the green is a bit lighter, on the plaids quite a bit lighter. It's why I'm assuming that the light line is in the blue and the darkish stripe is in the green.

    But I might be making a false analogy with the "Sutherland" tartan worn by the Argylls in recent times.

    I visited the A&SH museum many years ago. Had I known then what I know now I would have been on the lookout for a bit of that old 91st tartan. They could have trews or a plaid or something on display.

    Here's a kilt with only light stripes (alternating white and yellow?)

    https://www.argylls.co.uk/museum/

    But what's that tartan thing up on the shelf with the red and white stripes? Curious minds want to know.



    When I enlarge that thing it appears to lack the Black Watch black line-pairs, here is that colour-scheme done in the proportions from that Officer's trews:



    It's clearly not the same tartan as we see in those photos of 91st Officers; their tartan appears to have a wide dark band in the green. Though perhaps you're right, perhaps I have the green and blue reversed, which would then possibly explain it, if the red and the red's black borders are blending together in the B&W photos.
    Last edited by OC Richard; 29th July 20 at 10:49 AM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

  5. #5
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    I have exactly nothing to contribute, but I certainly do enjoy these discussions.
    Tulach Ard

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  7. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by OC Richard View Post
    With those trews it's not as clear, but on the plaids it looks like the pale line with the black border in clearly on the darker of the two ground-colours, which I take to be the blue.

    I'm guessing that the green is a bit lighter, on the plaids quite a bit lighter. It's why I'm assuming that the light line is in the blue and the darkish stripe is in the green.

    But I might be making a false analogy with the "Sutherland" tartan worn by the Argylls in recent times.
    It highlights the difficulty of trying to determine colours from poor quality black and white photographs.

    Here's a kilt with only light stripes (alternating white and yellow?)
    Yes, the stripes are white and yellow. This is a piece of Wilsons’ Campbell (later of Argyll) tartan including silk for the light colours. Notwithstanding its inclusion in a military museum, I believe that this was Campbell of Lochnell’s civilian kilt.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    But what's that tartan thing up on the shelf with the red and white stripes? Curious minds want to know.
    The ‘thing’ is a velvet Glengarry, note the two tassels hanging down the back.

    When I enlarge that thing it appears to lack the Black Watch black line-pairs, here is that colour-scheme done in the proportions from that Officer's trews:
    The light line is light blue, I know, I’ve seen it, and the tartan is therefore Wilsons’ No.230 or Argyle (now Campbell of Cawdor.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    It's clearly not the same tartan as we see in those photos of 91st Officers; their tartan appears to have a wide dark band in the green. Though perhaps you're right, perhaps I have the green and blue reversed, which would then possibly explain it, if the red and the red's black borders are blending together in the B&W photos.
    I still think that this is most likely to have been the Argyle/Campbell of Cawdor. This Tobacco Highlander at Cawdor Castle is painted wearing the No.230 or Argyle sett. I don’t know its history but as the Cawdor branch didn’t, so far as I know, ever have a military unit it is possible that this is meant to represent the 98th/91st c1800. It would lend support to the idea that the regiment used the same sett when they went back into tartan in 1864. Note also that the original light blue stripe is painted darker which is how the Campbell of Cawdor is often woven today. That might account for some of the photographic discrepancies.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by figheadair; 30th July 20 at 05:44 AM.

  8. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by OC Richard View Post
    With those trews it's not as clear, but on the plaids it looks like the pale line with the black border in clearly on the darker of the two ground-colours, which I take to be the blue.

    I'm guessing that the green is a bit lighter, on the plaids quite a bit lighter. It's why I'm assuming that the light line is in the blue and the darkish stripe is in the green.

    But I might be making a false analogy with the "Sutherland" tartan worn by the Argylls in recent times.

    I visited the A&SH museum many years ago. Had I known then what I know now I would have been on the lookout for a bit of that old 91st tartan. They could have trews or a plaid or something on display.

    Here's a kilt with only light stripes (alternating white and yellow?)

    https://www.argylls.co.uk/museum/

    But what's that tartan thing up on the shelf with the red and white stripes? Curious minds want to know.



    When I enlarge that thing it appears to lack the Black Watch black line-pairs, here is that colour-scheme done in the proportions from that Officer's trews:



    It's clearly not the same tartan as we see in those photos of 91st Officers; their tartan appears to have a wide dark band in the green. Though perhaps you're right, perhaps I have the green and blue reversed, which would then possibly explain it, if the red and the red's black borders are blending together in the B&W photos.
    Dear OC Richard,
    this kilt and other accoutrements from A&SH Museum are not a part of military uniform, but are civilian Highland Dress and was worn by Duncan Campbell of Lochnell (1763-1837), who was a Regimental Colonel of the 91st (Argyllshire Highlanders) Regiment of Foot from 1796 to his death in 1837.

    https://www.travelherstory.com/scotl...irling-castle/

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  10. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackwatch70 View Post
    Dear OC Richard,
    this kilt and other accoutrements from A&SH Museum are not a part of military uniform, but are civilian Highland Dress and was worn by Duncan Campbell of Lochnell (1763-1837), who was a Regimental Colonel of the 91st (Argyllshire Highlanders) Regiment of Foot from 1796 to his death in 1837.

    https://www.travelherstory.com/scotl...irling-castle/
    Good link. It shows the Glengarry in better detail.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  11. #9
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    Thanks!

    So it seems that Peter has sorted my mystery, that statue's tartan does fit the appearance of the tartan worn in the black & white photos.

    The blue band in the green appears relatively darker compared to the green in the lighter plaid fabric than it does in the darker trews fabric, raising the possibility that the blue is a similar shade in both.

    One question Peter, does the blue stripe in the green, on that statue, have black borders? In the black & white photos it's unclear, in some it could be bordered, in some it appears a single fat stripe.

    Here's what I found online for Campbell of Cawdor, which if the blue is darker (and wider) would be a good match for the old photos.



    Here's my stab at replicating the plaid tartan:





    And the trews tartan:





    The proportions of each was taken by tracing the tartan in those photos.

    In the end, I think a re-enactor wanting to put together a 91st Highlanders uniform might as well just use the ordinary Campbell of Cawdor.
    Last edited by OC Richard; 31st July 20 at 11:55 AM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

  12. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by OC Richard View Post

    So it seems that Peter has sorted my mystery, that statue's tartan does fit the appearance of the tartan worn in the black & white photos.

    The blue band in the green appears relatively darker compared to the green in the lighter plaid fabric than it does in the darker trews fabric, raising the possibility that the blue is a similar shade in both.

    One question Peter, does the blue stripe in the green, on that statue, have black borders? In the black & white photos it's unclear, in some it could be bordered, in some it appears a single fat stripe.
    Richard,

    Yes, the statue's tartan does have black guards to the blue pivot. I've played with the saturation and as a result the stripes are more visible.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Sometime in the early 20th century a version of the Cawdor with a much lighter bluish-green was adopted by the MacCorquodales as their own variation and has long been considered a separate tartan. If that situation were to arise today the Scottish Register would not accept it as new and original.

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