Tartan Day:

Welcome to Tartan Day, 2004! The "tartan" is a kind of plaid, one that is symmetrical. It is most famously associated with the Scottish clans, thanks in large part to the British military, which adopted it as a regular uniform for the Scottish regiments. You can read a bit of the later history here. However, the wearing of woven plaids as mantles or cloaks dates at least the period when the Scot Gaels were still just Gaels on Eire isle. In the early period these mantles took the form of a square of cloth, called a "brat," which was worn thrown across the shoulders and secured with a brooch. The use of this kind of cloak seems to have migrated to what we now call Scotland during the kingdom of Dal Riada ("Riada's share"), and spread across Scotland sometime after Kenneth MacAlpin destroyed the last of the Pictish nobles in the 9th century, establishing Gaelic rule.

I mentioned the clans I belong to below, but what isn't as well known is that there are tartans which don't pertain to clans. Some of these are called "district" tartans, which can be worn by the natives of a place. The state of Georgia has one, in recognition of the importance of the Jacobites of the Clan McIntosh in defending the colony against the Spanish, particularly at the Battle of Bloody Marsh. There are also tartans called "corporate" tartans, which can be worn by any member of an organization. The United States Marine Corps has one, called the Leatherneck. There are also "universal" tartans, which can be worn by anyone, and "trade" tartans, which are--I gather--copyrighted designs of particular weavers.

Wearing the short, or "military," kilt is properly done according to uniform regulations. The great kilt, which in Gaelic is called the Breacan Feile, is not worn in a uniform way. It permits a great deal of artistry and individualism. You can find a guide to it at the Wild Highlander's site.

Celebrating the 1745 rising, Sir Walter Scott wrote this song, which was used in his novel Waverly to rouse the clans to battle:

There is mist on the mountain, and night on the vale,
But more dark is the sleep of the sons of the Gael.
A stranger commanded--it sunk on the land;
It has frozen each heart, and benumbed every hand!
The dirk and the target lie sordid with dust;
The bloodless claymore is but reddened with rust;
On the hill or the glen if a gun should appear,
It is only to war with the heath-cock or deer.

The deeds of our sires if our bards should rehearse,
Let a blush or a blow be the meed of their verse!
Be mute every string, and be hushed every tone,
That shall bid us remember the fame that is flown!

But the dark hours of night and of slumber are past;
The morn on our mountains is dawning at last;
Glenaladale's peaks are illumed with the rays,
And the streams of Glenfinnan leap bright in the blaze.

[The young and daring adventurer, Charles Edward, landed at Glenaladale, in Moidart, and displayed his standard in the valley of Glenfinnan, mustering around it the Mac-Donalds, the Camerons, and other less numerous clans, whom he had prevailed on to join him. There is a monument erected on the spot, with a Latin inscription by the late Dr. Gregory.]

O high-minded Moray!--the exiled--the dear!--
In the blush of the dawning the STANDARD uprear!
Wide, wide on the winds of the north let it fly,
Like the sun's latest flash when the tempest is nigh!

[The Marquis of Tullibardine's elder brother, who, long exiled, returned to Scotland with Charles Edward in 1745]

Ye sons of the strong, when that dawning shall break,
Need the harp of the aged remind you to wake?
That dawn never beamed on your forefathers' eye,
But it roused each high chieftain to vanquish or die.
O! sprung from the kings who in Islay kept state,
Proud chiefs of Clan Ranald, Glengarry, and Sleat!
Combine like three streams from one mountain of snow,
And resistless in union rush down on the foe!
True son of Sir Even, undaunted Lochiel,
Place thy targe on thy shoulder and burnish thy steel!

Rough Keppoch, give breath to thy bugle's bold swell,
Till far Coryarrick resound to the knell!
Stern son of Lord Kenneth, high chief of Kinntail,
Let the stag in thy standard bound wild in the gale!
May the race of Clan Gillean, the fearless and free,
Remember Glenlivat, Harlaw, and Dundee!

Let the clan of grey Fingon, whose offspring has given
Such heroes to earth, and such martyrs to heaven,
Unite with the race of renowned Rorri More,
To launch the long galley, and stretch to the oar.
How Mac-Shimei will joy when their chief shall display
The ewe-crested bonnet o'er tresses of grey!
How the race of wronged Alpine and murdered Glencoe
Shall shout for revenge when they pour on the foe!

Ye sons of brown Dermid, who slew the wild boar,
Resume the pure faith of the great Callum-More!
Mac-Neil of the Islands, and Moy of the Lake,
For honour, for freedom, for vengeance awake!

After the collapse of the Highland army at Culloden in 1746, the victorious Lowland Scots and their British allies banned the wearing of the kilt for a time. But it was resurrected in their service, when the Highlanders went forth wearing it to tame the world for them.

UPDATE: I see that most other bloggers participating in Tartan Day mention the Declaration of Arbroath. Grim's Hall mentions it from time to time, although as a living piece of the political arts rather than simple history. See here and here for two examples.

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