After the battle of Culloden in 1745 many Scots, and in particular many border clans were forced to flee their homelands. An immigration of the Scots in the 18th century was the result of eviction of thousands of crofters by Scottish landlords who wanted to make way for sheep farming.
During and after these turbulent times the Scots were dispersed to countries like Canada, America, New Zealand and Australia taking their traditions and most enduring legacy would have to be the clan tartan.
Although the date of the origin of tartan is unkown, somewhere in its begininnings, it became the symbol of identity and continues today to do so, whether it be family identity, district, school or pipe band.
The tartan has survived such upheaval as the Proscription Act, which followed the defeat of the Scots at Culloden. For 36 years the English parliament outlawed the highland dress. No Scot was permitted to wear the kilt and if he did, it was a punishable offence. The first offence was gaol for six months. If a highlander was caught a second time it was transportation for seven years.
The Scots did not destroy their tartan, but rather, hid it away. For 36 years tartan lay hidden in the most secret places, but during these forbidden years the tartan often faded to a state almost beyond recognition. Today the manufacturers have kept this look and it is known as the 'weathered' look.
The act against highland dress was repealed in 1782. Tartan gave every clan and county a sense of belonging and identity, and as a result of this identity, it has continually been developed. Tartan has also gained popularity in the fashion and corporate world.
There are now well over 3000 registered tartans with the Scottish Tartan Society in Scotland.
Today's tartans might not have the long history but in the time they will be known as old setts and tartan will continue to develop into the new millennium.
The history of Tartans and its origins began far back in time. It is not an exact science as to when it all began, but the Scots began a most enduring tradition, Tartan, which has been embraced by the world over. From as early as the 3rd century there is evidence of the tartan being used by the Scots, with the discovery of the Falkirk Sett, excavated from a site near the Antoine Wall.
It is well documented that by the 16th Century the tartan had developed and was gaining momentum as popular attire for dress, even in its simplest form.
In the earlier years vegetable dyes were used to give the fabric its color and vibrance. These dyes were obtained from local 'vegetable sources', i.e. seaweed, mosses, roots, heather and lichen. It was not until the coming of the industrial revolution when chemical dyes were introduced that the tartan became more colorful and colorfast.
For tartan and its journey through the centuries one person had the greatest impact on the promotion and the gaining of its popularity. Queen Victoria's love of Scotland and the highlands enhanced the tartan.
Prince Albert designed the Balmoral Tartan (The Royal Tartan) and today it is seen frequently worn by Prince Charles and other Royals.
At one time the general public could purchase the Balmoral tartan (from Fletcher Jones), however today this tartan has been restricted to the Royal Family. Any ladies, who have purchased the Balmoral tartan prior to its restriction, would surely be in possession of a collectable item.
The tartans have survived such turbulence in all its development with notable events such as the Highland Clearances and the Proscription Act, which was invoked by the English Parliament in 1645. This Act outlawed the wearing of the Plaid (and other forms of Scottish Culture). The Prohibition Act remained for 36 years resulting in a generation of lost weavers.
Today the tartan has not only survived, but has distinguished Scotland and has revived, flourished and prospered. Tartan gave every clan and county a sense of identity and belonging, and as a result of this identity it has developed not only as a fashion statement, but a symbol that is easily recognized in Schools, Pipe and Band and Military Institutions.
Tartan has gained popularity within the corporate world, having their own tartan designed as part of their uniforms.
As the tartan is still seen as one of the most enduring symbols of kinship, I could see a need for Australia to have its own official, accredited and recognized tartan. A tartan that is easily procured by any one who would like it.
So, I set about to design a new tartan for Australia, the concept of the Australian National Tartan was initiated.
I chose the color spectrum to best symbolize Australia in consultation with Mr. Kerry Morcombe, from the Protocol Department of the Federal Government in Canberra.
Mr Morcombe stated, " European settlers to Australia looked for symbols to represent the spirit and attitudes of their new land and its colonial settlements. They desired new symbols as a way to bury their dark convict past and replace it with a promise of a bright future". Quote.
The concept of our registered and accredited Australian National and State Tartans are structured so that they are historically linked, giving their story providence. Supporting colors that blend together which make it both visually appealing and eminently wearable.
The selected colors were red, white, blue, green, gold, and black.
Red, white and blue, these colors stem from our National flag and from the time that Captain James Cook raised the flag (Union Jack) on Australian soil:
Six white stripes represent the Southern Cross constellation, which is unique to the Southern Hemisphere. This also includes our Federation or Commonwealth Star. White also represents the cross of St Andrew (Scotland)
Red stripes represent the Cross-of St George (England) and St Patrick (Ireland).
Green and Gold were formally proclaimed by the Australian Government as National colors in 1984 after many requests were made to have traditional sporting colors.
Black stripe in the tartan represents Australia's early beginnings as a convict settlement- a dark area of our history.
Blue and green colors have the greater proportion within the sett. I have taken this concept from nature. As Australians look out we see mostly blue skies and green trees, so it is these two colors I have given to the background of the tartan.
I have a belief that our Australian tartans both State and National belong to the people of the State communities, therefore should be used for the good of the community.
Tartans have been used for many reasons, but perhaps the most honorable way would be for the Australian Tartans to be used for fund raising for deserving charities. This is not a new concept for the use of Tartan, however, a first for Australia. Perhaps the most celebrated example of this is the Memorial Tartan, which was created in memory of Princess Diana. This particular tartan continues to raise funds for her favorite charity.
Recently there have been Highland Balls organized by very energetic ladies who specialty is to fund raise for charities. The charity that has gained from this is - 'A Cure for Life Foundation'.
At a recent event conducted in Sydney, members and guests were honored with the presence of Dr Charlie Teo, who heads the 'A Cure for Life Foundation'
Dr Teo is not only a skilled Neuron Surgeon, but also an accomplished piper who performed with an inspiring rendition on the bagpipes, a truly remarkable man of many talents.
People like him have inspired me to use the registered and accredited State Tartans in fundraising for charity foundations.
There are now well over 10,000 registered tartans on the World Register. I can only hope that these Australian tartans will perpetuate and serve the community in a deserving way, for many years to come.
What better way than to embrace a symbol that has existed for hundreds of years-the Tartan.
If anyone in the community would like to gather more information about the Australian and State tartans or any family tartan please contact me.