A Tale of Tartan

Culloden Battlefield

The name ‘Tartan’ would be unknown to ancient Highlanders as the true Gaelic word is breacan which derives word breac meaning chequered. By changing the colours; varying the width; depth; number of stripes, different patterns can be formed. Tartan patterns are called “setts”; the sett being the complete pattern and a length of tartan is made by repeating the pattern or sett over and over again.

cull tart Culloden Tartan

To form a tartan pattern there were normally six main stages: gathering the wool, preparing the fibres by combing it to the desired texture for soft or hard tartan, and spinning by a method involving a drop spindle, or distaff and spindle, in which the yarn or thread was spun by the fingers and wound round the bottom of the spindle. (This was later replaced by the spinning wheel, and ultimately by modern machinery.) The wool was then dyed, woven and finally…

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5 thoughts on “A Tale of Tartan

    • Thanks for writing, Jim. And welcome to the vast amount of people worldwide with Scottish heritage. As you know, Ian is a first generation Scottish-Canadian, a highlander from Campbeltown in Kintyre. Gayle’s Moore great-grandparents originally came from Edinburgh to Ontario in the late 1800s and then her grandfather emigrated to North Dakota. Now she has taken the Scottish side back to Canada. I guess you could say she is a third generation Scottish-Canadian-American. How did you learn of your Scottish heritage?


      • Hi Gayle
        My sister has been an amateur genealogist for more than 35 years. She traced our ancestors to Ireland, who emigrated 150+ years ago to New Brunswick. On further study she was able to trace those ancestors to Scotland. Evidently, when the English conquered Ireland they’d killed off so many able-bodied men they had to import thousands to grow food and rebuild the country. Many if not most were indentured Scots, our ancestors among them. My sister is checking reports from relatives in Britain that we are descended from the first King of Scotland, whose anglicised name evidently is Kenneth Mac Alpin. Still to be proven. Wouldn’t that be something?


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