Technically speaking, tartan is a pattern
woven from threads, usually of two or more colours, which cross at
right angles in a rectangular pattern. The primary difference from a
check pattern is that with a tartan there are points where the
different colours cross, forming an intermediate colour, or speckled
blend of the two colours. Historically, patterns dating from the Iron
Age which are similar to today’s Tartan have been found in
China, while samples in Britain possibly date back to the 3rd
century. There are strict rules regarding the design and patterning
of modern Tartans.
To a Scot though, Tartan is so much
more than a distinctive, beautifully patterned weave. Tartan is a
symbol of homeland, family, culture and heritage. Whether worn, or
simply observed during ceremonies, Tartan invariably evokes a
powerful emotional response for people of Scottish descent. From
early times Scots would wear Tartan clothing that was distinctive to
a weaver from their area of origin. Over time, these patterns became
more closely identified with a region, and by extension, often with
the Clan of the same region. Following the Jacobite struggles the
Dress Act of 1746 was passed in an attempt to restrict the wearing of
tartans. The Act was ineffective and only served to create a strong
romantic and nationalistic base for the resurgence of Clan awareness
and tartan identity. The leading weaving manufacturer of the late
18th and early 19th centuries was William Wilson & Sons, and the
company amassed a collection of Tartan samples that were carefully
described and recorded. From 1815 official Clan Tartans were named
and registered, and today virtually every Clan has at least one
Contributed by Alan Wilson
OTTAWA, March 9, 2011 - It's official!
Canada's Maple Leaf Tartan, which has been our unofficial national
tartan for many years, has now become an official symbol of
"The Maple Leaf Tartan has been worn proudly and
enjoyed by Canadians for decades, but has never been elevated to the
level of an official symbol–until now," said the
Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official
"Our national symbols express our identity and
define our history. The Maple Leaf Tartan represents the
contributions that the more than four million Canadians of Scottish
heritage continue to make to our country," added Minister
The Maple Leaf Tartan was created in 1964 by David
Weiser in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of Confederation in
"The tartan is one of the most visual expressions
of Scottish heritage and culture," said the Honourable John
Wallace, Senator (New Brunswick). "Making the Maple Leaf Tartan
an official symbol of Canada highlights the many significant
contributions that people of Scottish heritage have made to the
founding of Canada."
The Second Battalion of the Royal
Canadian Regiment Pipes and Drums has adopted the Maple Leaf Tartan,
and National Defence Headquarters has approved it for issue for
Canadian Forces pipers and drummers who do not have a specific
regimental affiliation. It was also featured in costumes worn last
year during the closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics.
October 21, 2010, the Government of Canada announced that April 6
will be formally recognized as Tartan Day. This April 6, Canadians
across the country will be able to celebrate this day with a new
official symbol of Canada.
As an official symbol of
Canada, the Maple Leaf Tartan joins Canada's most significant
emblems, such as the Coat of Arms and the National Flag of
Tartan Day Approved!
OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct.
21, 2010) - The Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage
and Official Languages, announced today that the Government of Canada
will now officially recognize April 6 as Tartan Day.
tartan represents a clan, a family, and a community, and is an
enduring symbol of Scotland that is cherished by Canadians of
Scottish ancestry," said Minister Moore. "Many Canadian
provinces and other countries already celebrate Tartan Day. As well,
through Tartan Day, Canadians will have an opportunity to learn more
about the various cultures that comprise Canadian society."
Day originated in the late 1980s in Nova Scotia, where it was
declared an official day by the provincial government. It then spread
across the country, with many provinces joining in. This marks the
first time the Day has been recognized by the federal
"By officially recognizing this Day, we
encourage Canadians all across the country to celebrate the
contributions that over four million Canadians of Scottish heritage
continue to make to the foundation of our country," said Senator
John Wallace, who recently introduced a bill in the Senate in support
of nationally declaring Tartan Day.
In Canada, Tartan Day is
celebrated on April 6, the anniversary of the Declaration of
Arbroath, the Scottish declaration of independence. Tartan Day
celebrations typically include parades of pipe bands, Highland
dancing and sports, and other Scottish-themed events.
news release is available on the Internet at
The Following article is from Grip Fast
Volume 4, Issue 2, March 2011.
The Newsletter of Clan Leslie
April 6th is Tartan Day in Canada and the
United States. This date was chosen as it is the date that the
Declaration of Arborath was signed. This Declaration was Scotland's
declaration of independence from England. John Prebble, in his book
The Lion of the North,
stated that "The Declaration of Arborath
was and has been unequalled in its eloquent plea for the liberty of
man. From the darkness of medieval minds it shone a torch upon future
struggles which its signatories could not have seen or understood."
Prebble noted that there are two points that make this
declaration "the most important document
in Scottish history":
it set the will and the wishes of the people above the King."
In other words, there was no "divine
right of kings." That kings served the
people, and that kings could be made by selection and not necessarily
by birth. "Secondly, the manifesto
affirmed the nation's independence in a way no battle could, and
justified it with a truth that is beyond nation and race. Man has a
right to freedom and a duty to defend it with his life."
will quote from page 27 of Grip Fast: The
Leslies in History by Alexander Leslie
Klieforth who wrote most eloquently:
1320 eight earls and 31 of the great barons and major clergy of
Scotland, among them [Baron] Andrew Leslie, sent a letter to Pope
John XXII, known as the Declaration of Arborath. It is a
revolutionary assertion by a nation of people of their desire for
freedom and the right to choose their own government and is a
statement of the leadership of Scotland about their country and its
aspirations, and as a political document it ranks in purpose and
power of language with the American Declaration of Independence. In
ringing Latin prose it set forth certain claims and affirmations. It
asks the Pope to urge the King of England to desist from his designs
on their nation, to 'leave us Scots in peace, who live in this poor
little Scotland . . . and covet nothing but our own.' "
states the will of the people for independence:
long as but a hundred of us remain alive never will we be under any
condition be brought under English rule.
It is in truth, not for
glory, nor riches, nor honour that we are fighting, but for freedom -
for that alone which no honest man give up but with life
David Leslie White, Chieftain
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Provincial & Territorial Tartans
Canada's provinces and territories, have regional tartans, as do
many other regional divisions in Canada. The first province to
adopt one officially was Nova Scotia in 1955, and the most recent
province was Ontario, in 2000. Except for the tartan of Quebec,
all of the provincial and territorial tartans are officially
recognized and registered in the books of the Court of the Lord
Lyon, King of Arms of Scotland, also with the Scottish Register of
Tartans at www.tartanregister.gov.uk
The official tartan for
Canada as a whole is the Maple Leaf tartan.
1. Maple leaf
3. Prince Edward Island
4. Nova Scotia
11. British Columbia
idea for Alberta's official tartan began in 1961 at the
Edmonton Rehabilitation Society, a charitable organization set
up to teach useful skills to the disabled. The tartan was
designed by Alison Lamb, the Society's director, and Ellen
Neilsen, the weaving instructor, and was officially adopted by
the province in an Act of the Legislature on March 30, 1961.
The green represents the province's forests, while the gold
represents its grain fields. The shade of blue, as well as the
gold, are also Alberta's provincial colours.
International Tartan Index number is 2055.
Columbia's official tartan was designed by Eric Ward in 1966,
to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1866 union of
Vancouver Island and British Columbia. Its main colours are
blue and red, representing the Pacific Ocean and the maple
leaf, and also contains green for forests, white for the
province's official flower, the Pacific Dogwood, and gold from
the coat of arms.
Its International Tartan Index number is
official tartan was designed in 1962 by Hugh Kirkwood Rankine,
and officially adopted by the province in "The Coat of
Arms, Emblems and the Manitoba Tartan Act", which
received Royal Assent on May 1 of that year. The red in the
design originates from the Red River Settlement, founded in
1812 by the Earl of Selkirk, Thomas Douglas, and crofters from
the Scottish Highlands, and the blue was taken from the Clan
Douglas tartan. In addition, the green lines represent the
varying cultures and races that make up Manitoban society, and
the gold represents Manitoba's agricultural history.
International Tartan Index number is 144.
official tartan of New Brunswick was commissioned by William
Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook in 1959 and designed by the
Loomcrofters in Gagetown, New Brunswick. It was officially
adopted as the provincial tartan by an Order in Council in the
same year. The "beaver brown" colour was included to
honour Beaverbrook, and the red honours the courage and
loyalty of the New Brunswick Regiment and Loyalist
Its International Tartan Index number is 1880.
Newfoundland and Labrador
tartan of Newfoundland and Labrador.The official tartan of
Newfoundland and Labrador was designed in 1955 by Samuel B.
Wilansky, a local store owner on Water Street in St. John's.
It was registered in the Court of the Lord Lyon in 1973. The
white, gold, and yellow come from the province's official
anthem, "Ode to Newfoundland":
When sun rays
crown thy pine clad hills
And summer spreads her hand
silvern voices tune thy rills
We love thee, smiling land
When spreads thy cloak of shimmering white
winter's stern command
Thro' shortened day, and starlit
We love thee, frozen land.
represents the pine forests, the white represents snow, the
brown represents the Iron Isle, and the red represents the
Its International Tartan Index number is
Scotia's tartan. Nova Scotia's tartan was designed by Bessie
Murray, the President of the Halifax Weavers' Guild. She had
originally displayed the tartan on the kilt of a shepherd in a
panel at a breeders' convention in Truro in 1953, but the
design was so admired that is was afterwards used as the
province's tartan. It was registered at the Court of the Lord
Lyon in 1956, making it the first provincial tartan in Canada,
and officially adopted by the province in the Nova Scotia
Tartan Act of 1963. Blue is used for the sea; white, for the
granite rocks and surf; gold, for the Royal Charter; and red
for the lion rampant on the provincial flag.
International Tartan Index number is 1713.
idea of an official tartan for Northwest Territories was
proposed by Janet Anderson-Thomson after she attended an RCMP
ball in 1966 and noticed that the piper was, as she later
described it, "terribly drab". She and her husband
John, a land surveyor, both discussed the idea with Stuart
Hodgson, then Commissioner of Northwest Territories, who
supported it. The design was then created by Hugh MacPherson
(Scotland) Limited of Edinburgh, a tartan designer and
manufacturer, with Anderson-Thomson's colour suggestions:
green for the forests, white for the Arctic Ocean, blue for
the Northwest Passage, gold for the territories' mineral
wealth, red-orange for autumn foliage, and a thin black line
to represent the tree line. The tartan was registered at the
Court of the Lord Lyon in 1972, and officially adopted by the
Territorial Council in January 1973.
Tartan Index number is 662.
tartan was registered with the Scottish Tartans Authority in
Dark blue was chosen to represent the deep,
icy, blue waters, which were and still are vital to the
people, and the richness of the blue depicts the richness of
the culture. The blue also reflects the importance of hunting
to Inuit culture.
White is used four times to represent
the great impact that ice and snow has upon the lifestyle in
the north and also depicting the purity of the new
Yellow represents the return of the sun to the
north every year, the warmth of its people and the bright
Light purple represents the Territorial
Flower, the Saxifrage, and Black represents the vast mineral
resources found within the tundra of the north.
official tartan was designed in 1965 by Rotex Ltd, but not
officially adopted by the province until 2000, when MPP for
Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound Bill Murdoch introduced the Tartan Act,
which received Royal Assent on June 23, 2000. The three shades
of green represent Ontario's forests and fields; the red, its
natives; the blue, its waters; and the white, the sky.
International Tartan Index number is 6627.
Prince Edward Island
by Jean Reed of Covehead, the official tartan of Prince Edward
Island was selected through a contest across the province, and
adopted on June 16, 1960. The red-brown represents the famous
red soil, the green is for the grass and trees, the white is
for the surf, and the yellow is for the sun.
International Tartan Index number is 918.
is the only province whose tartan has not been officially
adopted. Known as the Plaid of Quebec (French: Plaid du
Québec), it was designed in 1965 by Rotex Ltd, which
also designed the tartan of Ontario in the same year. Its
colours are derived from the province's coat of arms, with
blue from the upper division, green for the three maple
leaves, red from the centre division, gold for the crown and
lion passant, and white for the scroll containing the
province's motto, Je me souviens (English: "I
Its International Tartan Index number is
tartan was created in 1961 by Mrs. Frank Bastedo, wife of
Frank Lindsay Bastedo, former Lieutenant Governor of
Saskatchewan. The predominantly yellow palette is meant to
represent Saskatchewan's identity as the "breadbasket"
of Canada, with gold for wheat and yellow for rapeseed and
sunflower. The other colours are green for forests, red for
the prairie lily, white for snow, brown for summerfallow, and
black for oil and coal.
Its International Tartan Index
number is 1817.
official tartan of Yukon was designed by Janet Couture of Faro
in 1965. Its unique colour palette represents various aspects
of Yukon's culture: yellow for the Klondike Gold Rush and
midnight sun, purple for its mountains, white for snow, blue
for water, and green for forests. It was first proposed as the
territorial tartan in 1967, during the Canadian Centennial,
but was not officially adopted until 1984, when the Yukon
Tartan Act was passed by the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
International Tartan Index number is 2129.
The Maple Leaf Tartan
Maple Leaf Tartan was approved as an official symbol of Canada
on March 9, 2011 by Honourable James Moore, Minister of
Canadian Heritage and Official Languages.
Maple Leaf tartan was designed by David Weiser in 1964 in
anticipation of the centenary of the granting of Dominion
status to Canada in 1967. The name Maple Leaf was chosen as
Maples are indigenous to Canada and the leaf, a symbol of
nationhood, forms the central feature of the Canadian Flag,
introduced in 1965. It was designed as a commercial venture by
a Canadian, who had been in the fashion world for many
In the words of the Commercial Division of the
Office of the High Commissioner for Canada - "In creating
the Maple Leaf Tartan fabric, David Weiser captured the
natural phenomena of these leaves turning from summer into
autumn. The green is the early colour of the foliage. Gold
appears at the turn of autumn. Red shows up at the coming of
the first frost. The two tones of brown find their way
throughout the leaf creating a prolific profusion of
Its International Tartan Index number is
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