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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
    Hold Fast

  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
    Hold Fast

  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
    Hold Fast

  10. #7
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    Doesn't the tartan of the 42nd rough kilt answer the question. Im not sure all i know is as i read the thread that tartan comes to mind, thanks to youn Figheadair. I still haven't had a kilt made of the length i bought from you, but i find it attractive on the kilt closet shelf.
    Benning School for Boys
    97th Company
    OC 5-68

  11. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Benning Boy View Post
    Doesn't the tartan of the 42nd rough kilt answer the question. Im not sure all i know is as i read the thread that tartan comes to mind, thanks to youn Figheadair. I still haven't had a kilt made of the length i bought from you, but i find it attractive on the kilt closet shelf.
    Do you mean Wilson’s “Coarse Kilt”? If so, would you be interested in a sell/trade?

  12. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidlpope View Post
    Do you mean Wilson’s “Coarse Kilt”? If so, would you be interested in a sell/trade?
    Ues, coarse kilt is what i meant. The tartan is lighter blue and green, more of a sky blue and mossey green, and the black stripes are very easy to discern. It is just the opposite of the almost black government sett offered today.

    I'm not interested in selling what I have. When I loose enogh more pounds im going to have made into a kilt.
    Benning School for Boys
    97th Company
    OC 5-68

  13. #10
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    In the 1750's issue plaids just came in the 3 grades, Privates, Sergeants and officers grade. It was all plaiding, unlike later where there was kilting and plaiding issued.

    Each soldier got 12 yards of plaiding every 2 years. It is my opinion that half of the 12 yards was issued out the first year and made into what we call a "Great Kilt" today, it was just called a plaid then. After the first year, the worn out plaid was made into a kilt and sometimes hose, and the 2d half of the bi-annual issue went to the solder to make a new plaid.

    There is an instance in the 42nd, late 1750's where the plaids were worn out, new tartan had not arrived, and a course tartan was purchased from a merchant in New York as a stop gap till the new uniforms and tartan arrived. Today outside of any military base there are stores that cater to soldiers. Sometimes selling "Surplus" but often times stocking items that are almost as good as issue, not not quite. It was the same in the period, Merchants stocked things that soldiers might need. Rogers Rangers were able to purchase bonnets that most likely were ordered not for them, but to have in stock for the Highland Regiments in NY. The coarse plaid was the same sort of thing.

    As to the colours.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    This is Lochannon Strome Weight Ancient Black Watch in this photo.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    This was a great kilt I made from a special Order 2 years ago, It was pretty good colorwise, but the selvages were not perfect. Waiting on another special run that the colors are better matched to the Waistcoat back that Peter spoke of, and with Herringbone selvage.

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