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  1. #1
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    Black Watch Pipers

    Thanks for the welcome. Here goes with my first question: I have noticed that the pipers of the Black Watch Pipes and Drums wear Royal Stewart tartan kilts whilst the drummers wear Black Watch tartan kilts. When did this tradition start and what prompted it? Thanks in anticipation.

  2. #2
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    I'm sure that OC Richard will chime in at some point but as a starter for 10, you might find this of interest - 42nd Regiment Band or Musicians’ Tartan. In summary, sometime after 1850.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by figheadair View Post
    I'm sure that OC Richard will chime in at some point but as a starter for 10, you might find this of interest - 42nd Regiment Band or Musicians’ Tartan. In summary, sometime after 1850.
    Thank you so much. That appears to partially answer my question, specifically the part about Queen Victoria granting permission for the pipers to wear the Royal Stewart tartan in 1865. Still, this provokes more questions but I will save them for another time.

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    With fear and trepidation I will attempt to recollect what I have been told is the explanation. I'm sure someone will prove me wrong.

    My understanding is that, this feature has to do with the history of the 42nd Regiment of Foot. While tartan was not commonly worn in Scotland after the prohibition, the 42nd/Black Watch were allowed to wear it. in good British military tradition, the Black Watch had as part of their establishment, a contingent of fife and drums. When the decision was made to add pipers, they were not included in the regimental scale of issue, and therefore did not receive uniforms from the government. Therefore it was up to the CO to find funds to dress the pipers and so they were dressed in whatever tartan he perferred. The drummers were simply borrowed from the fife and drum corp, which was provisioned for by the crown and therefore they - and the drum major - wear the regimental uniform.

    To this day the RROS continues to have a military brass band - successor of sorts to the fife and drums of days of yore. IF you look at the band, you will note that they wear the full dress uniform with the Black Watch tartan kilt; as does the drum major of the pipes and drums.

    That's my story and I'm sticking to it! :-)
    Last edited by plaid preacher; 15th January 19 at 08:44 AM.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by plaid preacher View Post
    With fear and trepidation I will attempt to recollect what I have been told is the explanation. I'm sure someone will prove me wrong.

    My understanding is that, this feature has to do with the history of the 42nd Regiment of Foot. While tartan was not commonly worn in Scotland after the prohibition, the 42nd/Black Watch were allowed to wear it. in good British military tradition, the Black Watch had as part of their establishment, a contingent of fife and drums. When the decision was made to add pipers, they were not included in the regimental scale of issue, and therefore did not receive uniforms from the government. Therefore it was up to the CO to find funds to dress the pipers and so they were dressed in whatever tartan he perferred. The drummers were simply borrowed from the fife and drum corp, which was provisioned for by the crown and therefore they - and the drum major - wear the regimental uniform.

    To this day the RROS continues to have a military brass band - successor of sorts to the fife and drums of days of yore. IF you look at the band, you will note that they wear the full dress uniform with the Black Watch tartan kilt; as does the drum major of the pipes and drums.

    That's my story and I'm sticking to it! :-)
    Complete myth I'm afraid. Tartan was not banned by the Act of Proscription, male highland clothes were. Even then, those serving in the Army were exempt.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by figheadair View Post
    Complete myth I'm afraid. Tartan was not banned by the Act of Proscription, male highland clothes were. Even then, those serving in the Army were exempt.
    Peter, I did have the thought that if you hadn't said it... it might not have been true.

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  8. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by figheadair View Post
    I'm sure that OC Richard will chime in at some point but as a starter for 10, you might find this of interest - 42nd Regiment Band or Musicians’ Tartan. In summary, sometime after 1850.
    Well I have little to add. I'm thankful that you shed the light of scholarship on a topic that has much misinformation surrounding it. I've often read that the pipers of the Black Watch wore Royal Stewart all along which you demonstrate is untrue.

    Interesting about the 93rd's musicians wearing that tartan too, but not the pipers as we see there.

    There was such a variety of piper's dress up until the mid-19th century when all the regiments put their pipers into what amounted to a copy of the piper's dress of the 79th. Some were dressed as soldiers, some as musicians (reversed colours like the 79th's green doublets) and some in rather non-military-looking livery, like the civilian livery the pipers would wear in the employ of a member of the aristocracy. We see the Black Watch pipers in Black Watch tartan doublets, and Barnes illustrates a piper of the 93rd in a full red & black tartan outfit. (I wonder on what authority?)

    In any case here's an excellent photo showing a piper and the Pipe Major of 3SCOTS (The Black Watch) well showing the Royal Stewart kilts and plaids and Black Watch tartan bag-covers. Note that the front drone-ribbon is Royal Stewart while the rear ribbon is Black Watch. The Pipe Major in most military pipe bands wearing a velvet bag-cover with metallic fringe rather than a tartan cover like the rest of the pipers (the exception being the Cameron Highlanders).



    Here you can see that the drummers and Drum Major wear Black Watch tartan kilts and plaids

    Last edited by OC Richard; 19th January 19 at 07:04 PM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

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