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Where did Tartan come from?

Tartan – An amazingly complex design One of the problems with charting the birth and progress of tartan is that the very word itself is relatively modern and restricted to the English language. Many other countries had – and still have – no such word, so we have…

The Russian Scots

Foreword. As someone who spent almost 14 years training in the RAF preparing to ‘go to war’ with certain countries east of Dover, it may seem strange to be working closely for many years to promote Scotland’s cultural relationships with Russia. But… it doesn’t take a master’s degree…

The Manual

Terrible to say but until 6 months ago I had never heard of The Manual – a vibrant and exciting online ‘magazine’ that offers a suite of guides from experts on a wide range of topics whether it be fashion, food, drink, travel, grooming or culture. It’s labelled…

An Unforgettable Cause

A range of ‘Alzheimer’s cushions’ spread out before the backdrop of Ann’s beautiful quilt. In the run-up to Christmas last year, Alzheimer’s Scotland launched their newest initiative which was the Alzheimer Scotland Action on Dementia Tartan that I designed for them. They made a delightful video advert called…

An Abomination!

Whenever I gave a talk on Highland dress in the USA and spoke of the white stockings (hose) that one so frequently sees worn with the kilt, I would – in the manner of an old-fashioned southern preacher – boom: “White hose is an abomination unto the Lord”….

Irish and Welsh Blarney

Such is the universal popularity of tartan that commercial temptations often overcome historical reality and countries to whom tartan is quite alien, suddenly find themselves the proud legatees of previously unknown treasures. Frequently such ‘Road to Damascus’ revelations are accompanied by fantastical claims that this country or that…

To Russia with Love

One of the most evocative tartans that I’ve ever designed was that for the75th Anniversary of the first Russian Arctic Convoy to leave Scotland’s shores. To give some background, here are some brief details gleaned from Wikipedia: The Arctic convoys of World War II were oceangoing convoys that…

The Case of the Mysterious Portrait

During my many years as Director of the Scottish Tartans Authority, one of my favourite pursuits – but one that I had never enough time for – was historical research. This particular piece concerns John Brown – Queen Victoria’s Ghillie and personal servant. The Queen commissioned a series…

The Fabulous Isle of Eriskay

I was delighted recently to be asked to design a tartan for that fascinating little Isle of Eriskay. Despite its tiny size (2.5 x 1.5 miles) it punches well above its weight in the unique selling point ring. For a start this was the first Scottish footfall for…

Underground Tartan

Why is one of the Big Apple’s subway trains decked out in a tartan from a tiny studio on the edge of the Scottish Highlands? First build in the early 1900s, that subway train is actually New York’s 42nd Street Shuttle, an historic automated, 820 metre (two minute)…

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