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  1. #1
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    The Scottish Tartans: 1920, 1945, 1961

    A while back a woman at work, who is a huge Used Book Shop person, brought me this little book.

    "I found it in a shop the other day. I thought you might be interested. Here, it only cost a couple dollars."



    It had a red hard cover directly printed in black ink.

    "Published by Renton's Ltd Princes St Edinburgh"

    What was Rentons? Well inside I found out all about them.



    "Our establishment contains complete suites of retiring rooms for Ladies and Gentlemen, which we invite you to use for rest or appointment, also a well appointed restaurant and comfortable smoke-room."

    Sadly this fine establishment was no longer around in the 1980s, at least I don't recall seeing it.

    When I looked through the book it was fascinatingly new yet familiar.

    Here was a strip of tartan and a gent in Highland Dress. The dress shown in most of the photographs is like this, a doublet with full lace (braid) trim. These had a short but big popularity around 1900, which helps date the illustrations.



    Often these gents have ornate accessories which as we know were passe by 1930.



    There were a few images showing tweed and spats, once again looking like the immediate post-Victorian era.



    This outfit sort of in between Day and Evening



    But who is the W. & A. K. Johnston accredited in the illustrations? I soon discovered that Renton's wasn't the publisher, it was Johnston, in Edinburgh. They left a blank space in the lower right of the cover to imprint the retailer's name.



    The seller might be anyone, even the Philadelphia Blanket Company!



    As is typical with old books there was no publishing date. However in each of the Clan entries they were at pains to state the current Chief, if there was one.

    Two entries form a good time bracket. There is mention of Sir Iain Colquhoun DSO, and I found he received that award in 1916.

    One Chief is stated to be Sir Donal James MacKay, who died in 1921.

    So we are left with a publishing date of around the end of The Great War.
    Last edited by OC Richard; 8th August 20 at 09:13 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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  3. #2
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    Then at some point that book was superceded by this one, likewise published by W. & A. K. Johnston Ltd Edinburgh.



    This book was evidently always sold with that dust jacket.

    The illustrations are all new, by William Semple 1896-1964. Now the book starts looking very familiar!



    Most of the figures are in modern tweed Day Dress. There are a few in Evening Dress, a few in historical or quasi-historical dress, a few in military uniform, and a few doing Highland athletics.

    The Day Dress shown is that one sees from the 1920s through the 1960s, including plain brown leather sporrans and matching or coordinating jacket and hose.



    Once again there's no publishing date.

    This time the references to Clan Chiefs are somewhat less specific, but there's a "lately" Chief mentioned who died in 1936, and other date mentioned or inferred of 1935, 1937, and 1938. Many of these same mentions stayed in subsequent reprints into the 1960s so they're not very reliable as dates.

    The dust jacket has adverts for three other Johnston books, I found that the the first editions of these were 1946, 1948, and 1949.

    A 1953 edition of this book does have the printing history. There's no mention of the little red (or green) book in the first post, but it does say this:

    Second Revised Edition 1945
    Reprinted 1946, 1949, 1951, 1953

    That makes me think that my undated copy is possibly the 1945 original Second Edition. I'm not sure what year they started putting in the publishing history.

    This book continued in print after a change in the firm's name: starting with the 1955 reprint the firm is styled

    W. & A. K. Johnston & G. W. Bacon

    Then in 1961 appeared the Third Revised And Enlarged Edition.



    A comparison between my undated (presumably 1945) edition and my 1961 edition show that all the old William Semple illustrations have been continued. Evidently there wasn't enough of a style change in Highland Dress to require new illustrations. On the other hand, between the Edwardian illustrations of the first edition and the advent of the second edition Highland Dress had undergone tremendous change.

    Here, 1945 on the bottom and 1961 on the top. The new square format allowed room for the Clan badge and various other information. I will say that the printing quality is better in the 1945 edition.



    An interesting note is that this if the first appearance I've seen of the Sheriffmuir. None of my catalogues from the 1920s through the 1970s mention or illustrate the Sheriffmuir. Yet it appears in the 1945 edition, at bottom.

    In 1973 or 1975 the cover changed to full-colour printing on white, and discontinuing the dust jacket.



    I believe this is the edition still in print. (The firm was styled Johnston & Bacon beginning with the 1969 reprint.)
    Last edited by OC Richard; 8th August 20 at 09:47 PM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte


  4. #3
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    Renton's Drapery was destroyed by fire in 1909. The site was rebuild for another drapers, C&A Modes, which in turn was destroyed by fire in 1955 - The Great Fire of Princes Street.

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  6. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by figheadair View Post
    Renton's Drapery was destroyed by fire in 1909. The site was rebuild for another drapers, C&A Modes, which in turn was destroyed by fire in 1955 - The Great Fire of Princes Street.
    Interesting. I don't understand the mention of Sir Iain Colquhoun DSO, which was listed as being received in 1916.

    But it's true that, in the 1916-1921 window implied in the text, the costumes depicted are quite out of date, and fit the pre-1909 date better.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

  7. #5
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    Great find!

    Fascinating find, invaluable to see what was the 'look' around very early 1900's (going by what Peter said about Renton's being destroyed by fire c1909). I have the 40's edition and I really relate to that period 30's to 60's so use it as a style manual ��
    Last edited by Stewart of Galloway; 7th September 20 at 10:31 PM.

  8. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stewart of Galloway View Post
    I have the 40's edition and I really relate to that period 30's to 60's so use it as a style manual ��
    It's a testament to the stability of the Highland Dress established in the post-WWI era that they can still use those WWII-era illustrations in the current publication and there's nothing that jumps out as being strange.

    One thing that's nice is that the illustrations capture the period prior to the rise of the Kilt Hire Industry starting around 1970 which ushered in all sorts of new things like black leather "semi-dress" sporrans and the wild popularity of black Argylls and the black Prince Charlie + white hose + black Ghillies = Evening Dress formula.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

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  10. #7
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    That's a very interesting observation! My sensibilities came from being in a Pipe Band in the mid 70's here in Australia, an A grade band at the time (Qld Irish) and we wore a walking out outfit as per most of the gents in this book - tweed Argyll jacket, brown sporran, brown shoes, balmoral and badge (and a green hackle).
    I don't recall seeing dress outfits other than on the front of a Jimmy Shand's Party record my parents owned
    We had a Scot's Pipe Major and a number of older Scots piper's and they gave us our style tips.
    What I do recall was coming back to Pipe Band's recently (after 30 years away) and being rather shocked to see everyone wearing Glengarry's! Not a Balmoral in sight. Dark hose also threw me because at least in the 70's we only wore light coloured hose (I am fine with it now, having bottle green hose as well as Lovat pairs).
    I am very keen on Highland Games athletics and to me the way to dress for such events is perfectly illustrated by the 'Wee Geordie's' in Semple's excellent paintings.
    Perhaps I'm getting old but the long shorts poking out under the kilt look and big sloppy tshirts really seems wrong to my eye. A singlet and a kilt and hose and boots or runners or football boots looks grand and otherwise why wear the kilt at all? Just wear a tartan hat ha ha.
    One event I went to the competitors (mostly ring ins from the crowd) were given women's kilts to wear, hanging down way over their knees. It looked like a clown show and that there was even a guy with one of those fancy dress red beards and tartan bonnets on his head.
    I really think it is very important to uphold the old standards as they still do in Scotland.

    Quote Originally Posted by OC Richard View Post
    It's a testament to the stability of the Highland Dress established in the post-WWI era that they can still use those WWII-era illustrations in the current publication and there's nothing that jumps out as being strange.

    One thing that's nice is that the illustrations capture the period prior to the rise of the Kilt Hire Industry starting around 1970 which ushered in all sorts of new things like black leather "semi-dress" sporrans and the wild popularity of black Argylls and the black Prince Charlie + white hose + black Ghillies = Evening Dress formula.
    Last edited by Stewart of Galloway; 15th September 20 at 02:55 PM.

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  12. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stewart of Galloway View Post
    My sensibilities came from being in a Pipe Band in the mid 70's here in Australia...we wore a walking out outfit as per most of the gents in this book - tweed Argyll jacket, brown sporran, brown shoes, balmoral...
    Yes that's the "traditional Highland Day dress" as I knew it when I first got into kiltwearing, in the mid-1970s.

    Here are some prominent piping gents in the 1950s showing exactly the same dress seen in the Semple illustrations




    Quote Originally Posted by Stewart of Galloway View Post
    What I do recall was coming back to Pipe Bands recently (after 30 years away) and being rather shocked to see everyone wearing Glengarries! Not a Balmoral in sight. Dark hose also threw me because at least in the 70's we only wore light coloured hose...
    Wow, 30 years away from the Pipe Band world!

    I never went away from the Pipe Band thing for more than a couple years at a time, so I lived through both the evolution of how bands dress, and the evolution in musical aspects.

    When I joined my first band in 1977 bands around here (California) were starting to follow the trend set for us by the top Canadian bands, which we looked up to because we could never beat them!

    Up until then bands here were still wearing Full Dress with feather bonnets etc. The Canadian bands had recently switched to an outfit that looked cool and trendsetting then, but looks dated today: Balmoral bonnets, black Prince Charlies (or less often black Argylls) with long ties, hand-knit cream-coloured Arran hose, and black Ghillies.

    (Grade One Canadian band in 1976)



    (Grade One Canadian band 1979)



    By the mid-1980s a new and completely standardised Pipe Band uniform had appeared:

    black Glengarry
    black Argyll
    long necktie
    white shirt (less often blue)
    black leather Hunting sporran with chrome top
    gleaming pure white hose with bobble/popcorn tops
    black Ghillies
    black bag-covers



    As you see everything was either black or white save for the tartan of the kilt, the necktie, and the flashes. Black ties and flashes were common, thus eliminating all colour but the kilt.

    This uniform was worn by all top competition bands the world over. The only changes that have happened have been:

    -in the early 2000's bands abandoned jackets for competition and went to waistcoats sans jackets, the waistcoats usually being black, less often navy blue.

    -around 2010 bands abandoned white hose and went to black, navy blue, or charcoal grey.

    -just within the last couple years some bands are going with grey, blue, or brown tweed waistcoats and Lovat hose.

    With the pipes themselves, in 1977 we were playing wooden Hardie chanters at 466. Then around 1980 we got plastic chanters that were around 469. By 1990 the pitch had risen up to the high 470s and today it's between 480 and 485.

    With the drums Kevlar heads came in allowing higher pitch. The main thing in the drum corps, as you have seen, has been The Rise Of The Mid Section. In the 1970s tenor drums were there mainly for show. Now bands might have 8 tenor drums all tuned to different notes, playing sophisticated scores.
    Last edited by OC Richard; 21st September 20 at 09:19 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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  14. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by OC Richard View Post
    Yes that's the "traditional Highland Day dress" as I knew it when I first got into kiltwearing, in the mid-1970s.

    Here are some prominent piping gents in the 1950s showing exactly the same dress seen in the Semple illustrations






    Wow, 30 years away from the Pipe Band world!

    I never went away from the Pipe Band thing for more than a couple years at a time, so I lived through both the evolution of how bands dress, and the evolution in musical aspects.

    When I joined my first band in 1977 bands around here (California) were starting to follow the trend set for us by the top Canadian bands, which we looked up to because we could never beat them!

    Up until then bands here were still wearing Full Dress with feather bonnets etc. The Canadian bands had recently switched to an outfit that looked cool and trendsetting then, but looks dated today: Balmoral bonnets, black Prince Charlies (or less often black Argylls) with long ties, hand-knit cream-coloured Arran hose, and black Ghillies.

    (Grade One Canadian band in 1976)



    (Grade One Canadian band 1979)



    By the mid-1980s a new and completely standardised Pipe Band uniform had appeared:

    black Glengarry
    black Argyll
    long necktie
    white shirt
    black leather Hunting sporran with chrome top
    gleaming pure white hose with bobble/popcorn tops
    black Ghillies
    black bag-covers



    As you see everything was either black or white save for the tartan of the kilt, the necktie, and the flashes. Black ties and flashes were common, thus eliminating all colour but the kilt.

    This uniform was worn by all top competition bands the world over. The only changes that have happened have been:

    -in the early 2000's bands abandoned jackets for competition and went to waistcoats sans jackets, the waistcoats usually being black, less often navy blue.

    -around 2010 bands abandoned white hose and went to black, navy blue, or charcoal grey.

    -just within the last couple years some bands are going with grey, blue, or brown tweed waistcoats and Lovat hose.

    With the pipes themselves, in 1977 we were playing wooden Hardie chanters at 466. Then around 1980 we got plastic chanters that were around 469. By 1990 the pitch had risen up to the high 470s and today it's between 480 and 485.

    With the drums Kevlar heads came in allowing higher pitch. The main thing in the drum corps, as you have seen, has been The Rise Of The Mid Section. In the 1970s tenor drums were there mainly for show. Now bands might have 8 tenor drums all tuned to different notes, playing sophisticated scores.
    Thanks for all that very interesting info! Yes the last band I was in was a Police band and we wore the full military style dress with feather buzbee and spats and the lot (shockingly overdressed her in subtropical Queensland).
    Your styles over the years look very smart I must say. Personally I love that homey old walking out style. I got married in a hired Bonnie Prince Charlie outfit which I think looks grand.
    I love the rare days here when it's actually cold enough to wear a jacket. Usually even a shirt and black vest is blessed hot! I remember the yellow kevlar drum heads appearing late 70's early 80's. I like them but must admit I miss my Premier snare from the mid 70's, not quite so ear splitting.
    I was in the Queensland Irish Association Pipe Band in the late 70's and we had a terrific guy in charge of the tenors, Keith McCullogh, who was a very innovative player. He influenced a lot of tenor players here in Australia (he had been a very good snare drummer in his youth.)
    He used to put white tape around the snare sticks (Premier Alex Dutharts) and a luminescent head on the tenor sticks for our Ceilidh's -He would set up a ultraviolet light and the band would play in the dark for the drum salute, with a final strobe for added effect. Legendary, everyone loved it!
    Last edited by Stewart of Galloway; 20th September 20 at 08:50 PM.

  15. #10
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    I think the sun and heat in the US southwest is similar to parts of Australia, and in both places the Scottish community has adapted a bit.

    Here's an Australian pipe band, I love the hats! Why get a sunburned face and neck?

    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

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