Tartan… och weel… a subject that’s surely as alive and well (and as controversial as Nessie) as any issue you’ll find on the front page of today’s newspaper. Nothing will raise up a brawl at a Scottish Gathering faster than the subject of Tartan, particularly late in the day when several libations of Uisghe Beatha have been downed. There is no other touchier subject in the lexicon of Scotophiles, and everyone considers himself an expert! We’re going to try to make some sense of the subject for you.
There are 7 Davidson Tartan setts (i.e. patterns as identified by thread counts) as registered with the Scottish Register of Tartans (established by Scottish law in 2008). This is the first Government organization responsible for recording and authorizing tartans. It replaces several earlier “aothorities” or “societies” that kept track of tartan setts (patterns). Contrary to the beliefs of many, the Lyon Court, which is charge of heraldic affairs in Scotland, has no responsibility or authority when it comes to registering a new tartan.
Despite the fact that there is a Government authority charged with authority over tartans, the fact is that weavers have been doing their own thing for nearly 200 years with many variations on the theme. The simple fact is that virtually all Tartan setts that exist today were invented after circa 1830 by Scottish weavers looking to take advantage of the rise of Scottish romanticism as a way of selling more of their product. Tartans setts are being invented every day somewhere in the world. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Tartan setts in existence today.
And… to put a rumor to bed, there is NO official Clan Davidson Society of North America Tartan. Wear the Tartan sett of your choice. You will find, however, that only the Davidson Modern and Ancient ( i.e. Old Colors) can be found easily (or economically, although there is little about quality Tartan that is economical!). To learn a lot more about this quintessential Scottish fabric, read the article which originally appeared in the January 1997 Sporran by clicking the link below. It will answer some questions you may have about the subject.
Actually, no one has a “right” to wear any particular Tartan, unless he/she was the person who invented the pattern for his/her personal use and has it copyrighted. So… if you happen to be particularly fond of, say, Loud MacLeod, have at it! While you’d certainly be odd-man-out at a gathering of your fellow Davidsons, you certainly have the “right” to wear the MacLeod Tartan, regardless of what anyone else says.
Shown below are the 6 Davidson Tartans as registered with the Scottish Register of Tartans.