"No subject in the field of costume history generates so much heat as the controversial aspects of the origin and significance of tartan..."
Brian Wilton MBE of the Scottish Tartans Authority shared his vast knowledge on this subject with me.[caption id="attachment_3287" align="alignleft" width="900"] Black Watch Tartan worn by the independent companies raised in the Highlands[/caption] By 1725 six independent companies were raised in the Highlands, all known as the Black Watch because of the dark tartan they wore. They all wore the same tartan due to orders from General Wade who wrote
"the plaid of each company to be as near as they can of the same Sort and Colour."
Between 1739 and 1800 over 20 regiments were formed, many of which only lasted for a few years, Thorburn’s paper on Military tartans explained,
"...evidence is very strong that the normal appearance was similar to the Black Watch...Regimental distinction was achieved in several cases by superimposing extra coloured lines...a device which has caused some of the confusion as to what are clan and what are military tartans."
The 71st Regiment was raised by John Mackenzie who adopted the Black Watch tartan and added a red stripe and later included white in to the pattern. The weavers Wilsons of Bannockburn named this as the 71st but when selling it to civilians, referred to it as MacKenzie.[caption id="attachment_3284" align="alignleft" width="900"] MacKenzie Tartan as worn by the 71st Regiment[/caption]
The Macleod tartan also started life as a modified Black Watch for the 78th Regiment in which Major John Macleod had served.[caption id="attachment_3286" align="alignleft" width="900"] MacLeod Tartan as worn by the 78th Regiment[/caption]
When what is now the Gordon Highlanders were formed in 1794 the Gordon's being a lowland family meant they had no tartan of their own so they adopted the Black Watch tartan and added a yellow line.[caption id="attachment_3285" align="alignleft" width="1018"] Gordon Tartan as worn by the Gordon Highlanders[/caption] Campbell of Cawdor, Sutherland District and Lamont tartans are all further examples of adjusted Black Watch tartans. Not all military tartans originated from Black Watch, The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders Regiment was raised in 1793 by Alan Cameron of Erracht who used a brand new tartan which is said to have been designed by his mother, another example of a military tartan changing it's persona to that of a clan. Although the subject has been oversimplified here, the main thrust shows that the military origins of a good number of clan tartans is well-proven and that although sad for many specific clan tartans were not necessarily the order of the day. Undoubtedly there were some tartans where the original district significance was reassigned by use for a particular 'Clan' but this is though to have been relatively few. Many clans had to await the 1822 Edinburgh visit of Geroge IV for their clan tartans to reappear or be allocated by Wilsons of Bannockburn. There is no doubt in W.A Thorburn's mind that during the 35 years of the Prohibition Act, only the existence of the Highland Regiments prevented the complete disappearance of tartan, although there are many that will disagree with that view.
Tartan continues to be worn within the Military today and is an integral part of uniform within Scottish regimental pipe bands, as trews and kilts worn in ceremonial dress and is often included as a patch on the tam o'shanter style of headdress, many regiments have also adopted tartan in to their uniforms more recently.105th Regiment Royal Artillery reserve regiment are based in Scotland and Northern Ireland. We spoke to Captain Lori Sharp when she contacted us to place an order for a custom made Tartan Bolero Jacket, she explained that she was choosing her tartan due to the link between the Ross Hunting Tartan and 105 Regiment Royal Artillery. [caption id="attachment_3283" align="alignleft" width="1024"] Captain Lori Sharp, wearing the Regimental tartan as part of her Uniform[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_3228" align="alignleft" width="480"] Lori proudly wearing her Ancient Ross Tartan Bolero Jacket[/caption] Captain Sharp ordered her Bolero jacket to wear to a ball held at Edinburgh Castle, a place of great importance to Lori as she works there and was also recently the first female Commissioned officer to fire the One O'clock Gun. One of the highlights at Edinburgh Castle the One o'clock gun is fired at 13:00 every day except Sundays, Good Friday and Christmas Day, a tradition that began in 1861 to provide ships in the Firth of Forth with an audible time signal to accompany the visual signal of the time-ball dropping at the top of the Nelson Monument. This helped shipping set the maritime clocks needed to navigate the globe long before satellite navigation was available. [caption id="attachment_3229" align="alignleft" width="436"] Captain Lori Sharp, the First female Commissioned officer to fire the One o'clock gun[/caption] Captain Lori Sharp was selected by the Army in Scotland to fire the gun as part of International Women's Day celebrations earlier this year. She joined the Army Reserve in 2001 before commissioning into the Regular Army in 2006 and is currently posted as Adjutant of 105th Regiment Royal Artillery, living in Edinburgh Castle. The firing of the One o'clock gun is usually a job for soldiers with only one commissioned officer having fired the gun in the past. Lieutenant Colonel James Cook fired the gun in 2014 to mark the end of his tenure as commanding officer of the Scottish and Ulster gunners. Previously Bombardier Allison Jones was the first female soldier to have fired the gun during previous International Women's Day celebrations. I would like to thank Lori and her colleagues as well as Brian Wilton for sharing their story and photos with me. I have learnt so many new facts about tartan, the military and Edinburgh castle.
"We wear the Hunting Ross tartan on our headdress (tam o' shanter) and on our rank slide. It is a fairly recent addition and was introduced in 2001. Major Ross was a Battery Commander at the time. His father in law was the Chief of the Clan Ross so they decided to adopt the tartan. Major Ross then promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and Commanded 105th Regiment Royal Artillery."