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  1. #1
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    Significance of white in a tartan

    An article in the Braemar Gathering souvenir programme from a few years ago talks informatively about tartan, giving the less well-informed than we are here a bit of an insight into origins and inspiration for new setts.

    The author writes that, at a lecture given on the subject, his authority and knowledge was challenged by one of the audience with the statement that white in tartan signifies it was worn at the Battle of Culloden. Why did he not know?

    Hmmm, well...

    That's a new one to me. So what do you make of it?

    Despite the woefully mistaken and wonderfully romantic ideas, where do people get these notions..?

    Imagine a hesitant customer shopping for his heritage on the Royal Mile, who is showing signs of pulling out a lucrative deal.

    Our quick-thinking sales-assistant comes up with the deal-clincher of "Well, of course all those white stripes are there to show your chosen tartan was worn at Culloden. You descend from Jacobite heroes! What? Increase your oder to five kilts? One for each member of the family? Will that be cash or card, sir..?

    What is it they say about fooling some of the people all of the time..?

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  3. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Troglodyte View Post
    white in tartan signifies it was worn at the Battle of Culloden.
    Sounds like the usual romantic, retrospective nonsense. A bit like highlanders ditching their usual red tartans for green to hunting... If only they had known deer are more sensitive to blue and green wavelengths, but struggle to differentiate between red and orange.

    The problem is these tropes end up entrenched in the popular imagination. I work in e-commerce and my company are doing a lot of work with AI at the moment - so to test some of the output from a popular generative AI solution I put in some prompts to generate an article on kilts an highlandware - of course what I got was the usual guff about every clan having it's own tartan, wearing a kilt was to show loyalty to one's clan, not wearing underwear and some stuff about the "Diskilting Act"...
    Last edited by Tomo; 7th June 24 at 03:11 AM.

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  5. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Troglodyte View Post
    The author writes that, at a lecture given on the subject, his authority and knowledge was challenged by one of the audience with the statement that white in tartan signifies it was worn at the Battle of Culloden. Why did he not know?
    I'm not sure I even understand how that would work. That only folks with white stripes in their tartans were allowed to fight at Culloden? That they added a white stripe after the battle? (And wouldn't that make it a different tartan?)
    When in doubt, end with a jig. - Robin McCauley

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  7. #4
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    Sigh, sigh and thrice sigh.
    " Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the adherence of idle minds and minor tyrants". Field Marshal Lord Slim.

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  9. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Touchstone View Post
    That they added a white stripe after the battle
    Presumably before the "Diskilting Act" came into force...

  10. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Troglodyte View Post
    An article in the Braemar Gathering souvenir programme from a few years ago talks informatively about tartan, giving the less well-informed than we are here a bit of an insight into origins and inspiration for new setts.

    The author writes that, at a lecture given on the subject, his authority and knowledge was challenged by one of the audience with the statement that white in tartan signifies it was worn at the Battle of Culloden. Why did he not know?

    Hmmm, well...

    That's a new one to me. So what do you make of it?

    Despite the woefully mistaken and wonderfully romantic ideas, where do people get these notions..?
    That's a new one for me too which I'll add to the 'Tartan Myths' mix. It's a bit like the one that claims that a black stripe in the MacDonald of the Isles tartan, and probably others too, was in remembrance of those that died at the Battle of Harlaw in 1411.

    Someone obviously started these myths but it's usually impossible to find the source. By contrast, I think I've managed to trace the source of the 'tartan was banned after Culloden/as part of Proscription' myth to an Annex in a book published in 1960.

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  12. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Troglodyte View Post
    An article in the Braemar Gathering souvenir programme from a few years ago talks informatively about tartan, giving the less well-informed than we are here a bit of an insight into origins and inspiration for new setts.
    As an aside, when was this and who was the author?

  13. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by figheadair View Post
    As an aside, when was this and who was the author?
    I suspect that Mr. Thompson's book "So You Want To wear The Kilt" could well be responsible for many misconceptions on traditional kilt attire, I could be wrong but, I think it was printed for the American market and from memory, he was amongst other things, very keen on the "Mary Jane" style of shoe as well as the ghillie brogue as well.

    I was brought up(1940's) by a large family of kilt wearers , who were of the opinion that brogue shoes were the way to go for day attire and for formal evening attire, a pair of light, in weight, black oxfords were the way to go. Anything else, like ghillie brogues and the "Mary Jane" things were considered to be unnecessary and frivolous. Over the many following years I see no reason to change those views. What others choose to do is entirely their affair.
    Last edited by Jock Scot; 7th June 24 at 04:41 AM.
    " Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the adherence of idle minds and minor tyrants". Field Marshal Lord Slim.

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  15. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Touchstone View Post
    I'm not sure I even understand how that would work. That only folks with white stripes in their tartans were allowed to fight at Culloden? That they added a white stripe after the battle? (And wouldn't that make it a different tartan?)
    Exactly..!

    Which is why the idea is so bizarre.

    Perhaps we should put it about that red in tartan is to represent the blood spilt by Jacobites in the '45, and black stripes are the same as black armbands, so a public display of loss and mourning.

    We could go on for ever, giving new meaning to every colour and shade - green for the glens emptied during the Clearances; yellow for the setting sun the emigrant ships sailed towards; blue for the clear Highland skies...

    Hey, I'm on a roll now, so look out for my next best-seller - The True Meaning of Tartan Colours - What You've Never Been Told available in all languages and at every tartan-tat shop on the Royal Mile.

    Remember, you saw it here first...

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  17. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by figheadair View Post
    As an aside, when was this and who was the author?
    Full details in due course...

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