As September draws to a close we are sharing some of our Highlights from the busy summer we have had as well as a message from our very busy Social Media Manager.
Clann An Drumma
Clann An Drumma is a Scottish tribal band with a diverse age range amongst their members. Each member has their unique skillset that allows them to add to the quality of the band. They are for the most part Scottish born, with exceptions such as their member Dougie who was born in Singapore. In general, most of the band have been wearing some form of tartan and/or kilt from a young age, as they were in pipping bands in their younger years.
The band have commissioned their own tartan, The Clann An Drumma tartan. This is by far their favourite across the band. Individually, member Dougie also owns a Blackwatch kilt and a ward of the isles kilt, and Jamie owns a Clann An Drumma as well as a weathered Gun and a Culloden. Their ‘least favourite’ tartan would probably be the Anderson tartan. This is less of an aesthetic issue and more historical accuracy, as tartans initially were made with local resources, of which there would often be an overlap between regions, and thus a lot of tartans are similar at least in colours used. They would also blend in with the scenery, and the Anderson would be a poor choice of camouflage.
Upon meeting the band, it is clear how knowledgeable about Highland culture and history they are. They use this knowledge to inform not only their music, but how they perform at gigs and other events. Their way of dressing is not just a performative feature, they are historically accurate and provide talking and learning points. When you see them dressed for events, you may stop to wonder why their sporrans are off to the side as opposed to centred like you may have seen in wedding photos etc. The correct placement is actually to the side, as when performing a Highland charge it would be impractical for it to be in the middle of ones legs.
For the band, dressing in a Feileadh Mòr evokes a sense of pride. They don’t have a favourite element of kilt outfits or a favourite way to wear it, and prefer to dress historically to represent the culture where highland wear has evolved from. Considering that when dressing in a Feileadh Mòr they have to place and pin the pleats each time, they say it is a relief taking it off at the end of an event.
The band are of the belief that whilst at times problematic, the romanticising of Highland life is a vehicle for people to learn about the topic. TV shows such as Outlander are bringing the concept of Highland culture to the masses, and one can only hope they take a genuine enough interest to do further research.
The band enjoys music from artists such as Maggie Bell, Frankie Miller, Battlefiend band and wolfstone. Each member would choose slightly different dinner guests if given the option of 3 Scottish dinner guests, past or present. For band member Jamie, he would choose William Wallace, Alasdair Mac Colla and Rob Roy. Member Dougie would choose Robert the Bruce, Sir James Douglas and of course, William Wallace.
Known as the weavers poet, Robert Tannahill was not as fortunate in his career as our beloved national bard, Robert Burns. The tragic ending to his life is what propelled him into the fame he so desired, and he became a pillar in a town full of innovation and culture.
Born in Castle street in Paisley, Tannahill was born with a slight deformity in his right leg, leading to a limp and contributing to his slight frame. Tannahill came from a family of nine, as noted in a letter he wrote to a friend. When he was of school leaving age (around 12 for most working class/labouring families) he was an apprentice under his father, who was a silk gauze weaver.
Upon completion of his apprenticeship, Tannahill left Paisley to work in Bolton, Lancashire, where he stayed until 1801. He returned to Paisley to take care of his family, with his father passing not long after his return. It is during this time that Tannahill writes the letter to his friend discussing how him and his brother are the sole carers for their mother, and how not many years ago the family used to share happy times over the dinner table.
Tannahill’s works date to his return to Paisley, and one of his earliest poems is “The Fillial Blow” where he discusses the raw emotions of caring for an elderly parent from the perspective of both parties ; “but mostly this o’erclouds her every joy, She grieves to think she may be burthensome, now feeble, old, and tott’ring to the tomb” and Roberts experience of care-taking is heart-wrenching and universally relatable “Tis mine, to hand her down life’s rugged steep: With all her little weaknesses to bear,
Attentive, kind, to sooth her every care. ‘Tis nature bids, and truest pleasure flows, from lessening an aged parent’s woes”.
Despite the lack of fame and admiration whilst he was alive, after his suicide his significance in our culture grew; from annual concerts at the Gleniffer braes to raise money for his statue in Paisley centre, to being included in the Wallace monument’s Hall of Heroes. The quality of his work transcends centuries, and the experiences he speaks to are universal to many.
Music is an important part of culture all over the world, and Scotland is no different!
Whether it’s traditional Scottish music or the modern music scene across various Scottish cities, there’s something for everyone.
Traditional Scottish Music
Let’s start in chronological order, with the traditional music of Scotland. As with many forms of music, it started as a means of passing the time whilst doing labour intensive tasks. In Scotland, before the industrial age, this would have been work such as farming or clothes making; a “waulking” song was a call and response song that would be sang whilst ‘walking’ the tweed. These were often sang in Gaelic.
The most well known staple of Scottish music is of course, the bagpipes. Believe it or not, the origin of bagpipes did not actually begin in Scotland. According to which historian you ask, you may get a variety of different answers – some believing they were first found in Ancient Egypt, whilst others say Ireland. Either way, Scotland has most definitely adopted the instrument as their own.
Bagpipe music was traditionally used throughout the military and in pipe bands, but has morphed to become part of folk dance music (often played at ceilidhs), and then in it’s most modern form – it is the instrument of bands like the “Red Hot Chilli Pipers.” Of course, many people also choose to have a piper play at their wedding.
Bagpipes are not the only form of traditional music in Scotland. Other instruments that were often played included the fiddle,accordion, pipes and chanters,guitar and clarsach (a Scottish harp).
Modern Scottish Music
As the times change, so does music. Scotland has been home to many successful and famous musicians on top of having a great local scene. Some of Scotland’s most famous artists include the likes of Lewis Capaldi, Annie Lennox, the Proclaimers, Calvin Harris, Paolo Nutini and many more – all of which we have included in our ultimate Scottish playlist. All of these artists branch across many genres and showcase Scotland’s diverse musical landscape. Whether you are native to Scotland or not, we guarantee you there will be something on this playlist that’ll make you say “ I didn’t know they were Scottish!” Who knows, maybe you’ll find your new favourite tune to add to your wedding playlist!
Who, what, when, where and why?
Established in the 17th Century, Kilts (originally called “little wrap” in Gaelic) were the first steps in a separation of the Celts, as prior to this Irish and Scottish Gaels wore similar fashions. During the Jacobite uprising of 1745 there was a “diskilting” act enacted as they were seen as a symbol of rebellion and primitive savagery, the only exception being for those serving in the military. This is perhaps the lifeline of the modern kilt seen today, as historians have argued that Highland costume would not have survived had there not been Highland regiments raised on and dressed in parts of their traditional dress.
Nearly 40 years later, through the efforts of the Highland society of London, the “diskilting” act was revoked. The image of the highlander at this point in time was changing from being seen as other, to an extotic romanticised image which still has an impact in today’s society. This image was also in part response to the industrial revolution; a rejection of the urban and industrial and an embracing of the wild, unpredictable wilderness.
Kilt wearing became national dress after King George IV’s visit to Edinburgh where he walked out on his guests dressed in a kilt, establishing it as national dress for Scotland. This example of a kilt far differs from the traditional Highland wear seen in the previous century.
The tail end of the 20th century is when kilt wearing became more what we are used to seeing today. The connotations the kilt has with masculinity has led to modern designers incorporating elements of the kilt into fashion to suit the young, fashionable male. The punk subculture as well as LGBT+ culture have adapted the kilt due to its associations with traditional masculinity, with more modern takes also allowing for the piece to make more of a statement, whether that be of individuality or questioning the lines between masculinity and femininity.
The Scottish Kilt is traditionally 8 yards ( 7.4 metres ) of pure new wool, and always made in Scotland. There is almost an inconceivable amount of tartans to choose from. Tartans are usually associated with a clan, but can be custom made. Kilts also come in a variety of weights to suit one’s needs or weather conditions:
– 16/17oz cloth ( Heavy weight ) is the best weight of authentic Scottish Kilt cloth as it sits and hangs and gives the best swing to the pleats. Contrary to what you may think, it is not any warmer than a 13oz kilt.
– For broader gentlemen heavy weight is by far the best cloth to use as it hangs much better over the belly and holds its shape and looks a million dollars!
– 13oz Medium weight is adequate if you are under a 44/46″ waist
– 19oz to 21oz is regimental weight cloth – only 6 tartans are woven in this weight now
– 110z Lightweight
Traditionally the Scottish kilt is fully handmade.The kiltmaker will take half a day to check the cloth, check sizes and prepare the tartan.The kiltmaker will then take around two days to make each kilt, there are around 6000 to 7500 stitches!
22 to 28 deep knife pleats ( Note kilts can be box pleated if you wish ).
And reinforced double stitches surrounding the key areas where typically you face the most wear and tear. Kilts can also be partially machine stitched which are also of high quality.
Houston Kiltmakers provides kilts with 3 buckles and straps so the customer has 1.5″ of adjustment for their optimal comfort. All kilts are cut for growth so that they can be adjusted a few inches in years to come.
Kilts can be made to a normal sett where the pleats at the back are folded to repeat the tartan exactly ( so the front and back of the kilt looks exactly the same) or they can be regimental sett. This is also called sett to the line where the kilt maker will take one of the symmetrical predominant pivot lines and sett each pleat to that line so you just see lines down the back of the kilt and the front and back of the kilt look remarkably different. A normal sett kilt is by far the most popular of the two options.
Kilts usually take 6 to 8 weeks to make provided the cloth is in stock. Kilts can be express made quickly in a few weeks or a few days if required at a premium.
If commissioning a special weave and cloth has to be woven, then kilts can take up to five or 6 months to make. For this reason we always recommend booking at least six months before your function date if you can.
Houston Kiltmakers is a 4th generation family business based in Paisley established in 1909 by William.M Houston. Mr Houston’s Great grandson Ewan William MacDonald is now running the business and is passionate about everything tartan. At Houstons we have kiltmakers with decades of experience.
Houston kiltmakers are one of the few kiltmakers in Scotland who offer bespoke options. Our history spanning over 100 years and being established in the threading town of Paisley means we are particularly skilled and provide a niche in this market. If you are interested in getting a bespoke, authentic Scottish kilt you can come into the shop, contact us by telephone on 0141 889 4879 or email email@example.com.
At Houston’s we take great pride in our Kilts and Highland Wear, endeavoring to provide our clients with the highest quality produce. We strongly support the Scottish Manufacturing of Traditional Highlandwear and look to source products locally where possible – Made in Scotland!
All our Kilts are Made to Measure, Made in Scotland and Made to Last! We use several local Kiltmakers, all with many years’ experience in crafting Handmade Kilts. Most of our Kiltmakers are based around the Paisley area (on the Central Belt of Scotland) and work from home. Kilt Making was traditionally a cottage industry, and that is still the case today!
Locally Sourced Tartan Cloth
We source the cloth for our Kilts, Tartan Trews, Waistcoats, Tartan Suits and any other Tartan Accessories from Scottish Mills.* We work with all the remaining Tartan Mills in Scotland to provide any Tartan design our client requests and also have the ability to Specially Weave custom Tartan Designs. We feel that it is important to support this Traditional Scottish industry which has been well-established for many generations. As Vice-Chairman of the Scottish Tartans Authority (STA), Houston’s owner Ken MacDonald continues to work towards protecting Scottish Tartans and the production of this fabric in Scotland for future generations.
Scottish Highland Outfit Accessories
For our Highland Wear Accessories – Sporrans, Silverware, Kilt Pins, Sgian Dubhs and and other items that complete a Highland Outfit – we look to local suppliers. Bespoke, Clan Crested items are made to order and add a special touch to any outfit!
Houston’s also has an in-store workshop where our Seamstress, Beth, works to craft custom Tartan Accessories for clients – ranging from Shoulder Plaids, Ring Cushions and Ties to Ladies Garters, Tartan Flashes and anything else you can think of!
Houston’s Traditional Scottish Outfits are the Real McCoy – Made in Scotland! We are a 4th Generation family run business, working out of the same store on Paisley’s High Street since 1909 and more than happy to help deliver your perfect Highland Outfit!
If you have an enquiries, please contact the shop, click here for all the details and online contact form!
*A small, select range of Tartans are woven in England. Welsh Tartans are woven in Wales. We don’t use any Tartan Fabric from outwith the UK.
If you have ever seen someone dressed in a Kilt or Highland Outfit you might have noticed, peeking out the top of one of the wearers hose, a hilt of a small knife. This little detail on the Highland Outfit is the topic of today’s post, the Sgian Dubh.
History of the Sgian Dubh
There are many origin stories of the Sgian Dubh (pronounced ‘ski-en doo’), but the most common tale is that it had its beginnings as a dagger held under the armpit as a hidden blade. When entering a house a visitor would hand over his weapons and reveal any hidden blades as an act of trust. This hidden blade would be displayed at the top of the sock or stocking for the host to see. This is the position where the Sgian Dubh is worn today.
In the early days these small knives would have been used as a hunters knife to skin animals.
In the modern Highland Outfit the Sgian Dubh has taken a more aesthetic than practical role, adding some decoration to the Kilt Hose.
How to Wear a Sgian Dubh
A Sgian Dubh should be worn down the sock on the same side as your dominant hand (Left sock if left-handed, right sock if you are right-handed.) It should be positioned with only the hilt (handle) protruding from the top of your hose. (See image)
Types of Sgian Dubh
In the same way that there are different types of Sporrans for different occasions, Sgian Dubh have variations for when you are wearing them. There are 2 main types of Sgian Dubh.
Day Sgian Dubh
Simlarly to the Day Sporran, these Sgian Dubhs are made for less formal events. The handles can produced in many different materials from Stag Horn to Oak and everything in between!
Dress Sgian Dubh
Again, much like the Dress Sporran, these Sgian Dubhs are suited to formal events (Weddings, Black Tie events etc.). These also come in many variations, often with the option of customization with a clan crest. They come in many different materials, usually with some metal plating. They can also be made in solid silver for those very special functions! Many variations have a decorative gemstone at the base of the hilt, which can be changed.
Safety Sgian Dubh
This replica Sgian Dubh looks just like the real thing, however the sheath does not contain a blade. This is a great safe option for kids (and adults!) to prevent themselves getting cut on the blade. A Safety Sgian Dubh can also be worn in situations where it isn’t possible to carry a blade – traveling overseas to some destinations for instance.
As you can see there are Sgian Dubh’s for every occasion. All are worn the same, but can give your outfit a different look depending on the event you are wearing your Highland Outfit too!
Houston’s offer a wide range of both Dress and Day Sgian Dubh’s, some with the option of having Clan Crests attached, customizable Gemstone colours and a variety of finishes.
You can see our range of Sgian Dubh’s here.
Houston Kiltmakers owner Ken MacDonald is a well renowned Tartan Designer. As well as offering a personal tartan design service for customers, Ken has also produced prestigious tartan designs for Kilt outfits for royalty and dignitaries. Over this series of posts we will pick out some of Ken’s design and take a closer look into the story behind them. This article will put the Bute Heather Tartan range under the spotlight.
The Bute Heather Range consists of 10 tartans that while sharing similar styling have very distinct characters behind each design. There is a tartan to suit every colour scheme from the warm Red’s of Autumn Bute, the traditional Purple’s of Modern Bute to the more subtle Blue’s of the Kyles of Bute.
Tartans in the Bute Heather Range include: Ancient, Modern, Autumn, Glencallum, Straad, Grey, Kyles, Black, Midnight and Hunting.
While each design is based on the same sett, the colours used in each Bute Heather tartan means that each Tartan has its own character. Grey tartans are very much in vogue and the Bute Heather range contains 7 Grey tartans, each with a dash of colour through the design.
Behind every tartan design there has to be a strong inspiration. Ken cites his time spent on the Isle of Bute as a strong influence towards the Bute Heather Tartan range.
“It’s great to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and take some time to relax. The Isle of Bute provides the perfect calm, peaceful surroundings for me to create my designs by taking inspiration from the landscape.”
“The greys and purples used create contemporary designs, which match with the popular colour schemes used for today’s weddings.”
The latest tartans added to the range are ‘Bute Heather Straad’ and ‘Bute Heather Kyles’, which joined the tartan collection in the last year.
The Bute Heather range tartans are woven on the Isle of Bute by the world famous Bute Fabrics, whose fabric is used in many prestigious locations around the world, including the Scottish Parliament and the Queen’s residence of Buckingham Palace!
With the 2014 FIFA World Cup currently being held in Brazil now seems like the ideal time to look back over the years at some examples of Football Kits here in Scotland that have taken inspiration from the iconic Scottish design, Tartan. The links between Tartan and Scotland’s favorite pastime over the years have been infrequent but leave a lasting impression when they have collaborated on a Kit design.
One of the first time that Tartan has been used in a Football Kit was back in 1953 where Dundee FC wore this design for their Kit on a tour of South Africa for their 60th anniversary:
While many teams at this time had Kits with two different coloured strips or hoops, Dundee pushed the boundary with a full tartan kit. I imagine this design was chosen for their visit to South Africa to show off our traditional national attire overseas.
It took the Footballing world till the early 1990’s to recover from Dundee FC’s tartan getup before Greenock Morton released two Tartan Kits, a Home and Away Kit. The blue home Kit tartan is quite similar to the later registered Greenock Tartan. The away kit has the blue and red’s inverted.
Greenock Morton returned to a similar blue Tartan Kit between 2005-2007 too.
It wasn’t only domestic club sides that were getting in on the trend of Tartan Kits. The Scotland National Team’s supporters, known as the ‘Tartan Army‘ were joined by the players on the pitch in dressing in Tartan at the 1996 European Championship in England.
The kit appeared the normal dark blue from afar, but the intricate Tartan design was more apparent on closer viewing.
After several years without tartan, the 2014 Scotland Kit contains a dash of Tartan spirit. Tartan trim around the edges give a flash of Scottish heritage. There is a tip of the hat to Robert the Bruce also hidden on the top in the form of a Spider. His phrase…
‘If at first you don’t succeed – try, try again.‘
…fits well with the ethos of the Scottish National Team!
For the 2014/15 one of the ‘Old Firm‘ has chosen to have a tartan design on their Kit. Celtic’s Away Kit carries a tartan design, showing that the influence of Tartan stretches to the biggest teams in Scotland too. Here is their design:
It seems fitting that Tartan and Football go hand in hand, such strong Iconic Scottish symbols. Hopefully in the years to come we shall see more Tartan designs for kits, perhaps even Kilts replacing shorts!
It would be difficult to talk about the history of the Kilt without talking a little about the designs that were on them. Tartan, as the designs are known, was first seen as far back as the 3rd century with the discovery of ‘The Falkirk Tartan‘. This early check design is credited as being one of the first instances tartan.
Through the years tartan has developed. The basic check design has remained the same, but the amount of colours in the pattern and detail in the sett has changed.
The tartan we know today is thought to have fully developed around the 16th century. The differences in tartan patterns and the links to different family names or island residences is thought to have been first observed by Martin Martin in his 1703 writing ‘A description of the Western Isles of Scotland‘, where he said,
‘…each Isle differs from the other in thir fancy of making Plaids, as to the Stripes in Breadth and Colours. This Humour is as different thro the main Land of the Highlands, in so-far that they who have seen these Places are able, at the first view of a Man’s Plaid to guess the Place of his Residence…‘
Being able to tell where someone is from by the tartan of their Kilt perhaps is not as easy today with the increased movement of people, but when choosing a tartan a good place to start is with a family name (own name, mothers maiden name etc.). There are no restrictions for what tartan you can wear, so it is personal preference if your family isn’t associated with a clan (or your family tartan isn’t the flashiest!)
Along with developments to the tartan patterns came changes to the design of the Kilt. In 1723 Thomas Rawlinson introduced a Kilt design that made working in his charcoal factory more practical. Essentially he had removed the Plaid from the Great Kilt, so the wearer was just left with the bottom half. This design grew popular and is what we know as the Kilt today.
The new design stuck and this is the most popular design for a Kilt today.
In the next blog post we will look at the troubled period of the Dress Act 1746 which made the wearing of Highland Dress (including Kilts and Tartan) illegal in Scotland! Find Part 3 HERE!