Clan Munro Tartans
Tartans made with modern chemical dyes have much brighter colours than those made using traditional vegetable dyes which have softer colours and both are approved by the Clan.
Modern Red/Black Tartan
Ancient Hunting Tartan (Black Watch)
Modern Hunting Tartan (Black Watch)
Weathered Hunting Tartan
The Origins of Tartans
Some writers give the origin of the word as French “tireaine”, though an ancient Irish manuscript has “tuartan”. A bill for a new suit for James V in 1538 is one of the very earliest uses of the word “tertane”.
The usual Gaelic word “breacan”, means speckled. In earliest times, local families or settlements in the Highlands would produce cloth with colours dependent on locally available dyestuffs.
After tartan was banned by the government after the last Jacobite uprising in 1745-46, many local dyerecipes were forgotten when the ban was lifted – other chemical methods were introduced to meet military and later fashion demands of the early 18th century.
To help the cloth take the chosen colour, “Mordants” were used, such as alum, iron, copper, urine, fir-club moss or oak-galls.
Actual dyes were obtained from several species of mosses, plus plants like bilberry, devil’s bit scabious, Elderberry (blue), yellow iris (blue-grey), ladies bedstraw, blackthorn (red), crowberry, bramble, elder, sundew, St. John’s wort (purple), bog-myrte, bird’s foot trefoil, heather, birch (yellow) and water-lily (black).
Originally, the Scottish Tartan was a distinction of rank or position. It was not identified by weave but by the number of colours in the weave. If only one colour was used it depicted a servant, two a farmer, three an officer, five a chieftain, six a poet and seven for a Chief.
Eventually, clans or families adopted their own tartan, using a range of animal and earth colours which were frequently secret, only know to the weavers. Seven different type of tartans emerged:
- Chief’s Dress Setts – worn by the Chief and members of his/her family
- The Clan Tartan – worn by members of the clan
- The Hunting Tartan – Fall colours worn by members of the clan
- Mourning Setts – worn by mourners
- District Setts – regional, worn by anyone in that region
- The Women’s Setts – usually black and white colours
- The Royal Sett – The Royal Stewart, purportedly a free tartan which can be worn by anyone