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William Amos
William Amos
4 months ago

As ever, these days, Ad Fontes.
I urge all readers to go back to first sources. Read Walter Scott in full and in the original. Read his essays and letters and notice his early and vigorous exposure of the frauds of the Sobieski Stuarts and Ossian. the frauds and impostures which he is now cruelly associated with. Ask any journalist or university lecturer what they know of Walter Scott and they’ll say he ‘invented Tartanry’. It’s the sort of thing people say to sound intelligent and well read.
In actual fact Scott insisted, quite categorically, repeatedly and very much against the current of his times that the ‘idea of distinguishing the clans by their tartans is but a fashion of modern date’.
Highland dress, however, the Clan system, dĂčthchas and the distinct and ancient way of life of the Gaelic Highlands is an undisputable historical fact. The Belted Plaid or breacan an fhĂšilidh is attested at least as early as the 1590’s. ‘Tartanry’ (if we must) exists on and in every record of Scottish history. In it’s language, song and folk memory. It is visible in its statutes and the history of its constitution. Read a single page of Ian Lom, the Bard of Keppoch, or any of the older Ballads. Read Blind Harry or John Barbour from the 13th Century. Read The 16th Century Complaynt of Scotland or the MacMhuirich bards of Clan Currie. These resources are all online.
The work Scott did in transferring the oral and archival traditions of the Highlands to the modern printed book is absolutley extraordinary.
Now, Scott certainly laid on a pageant for the visit of George IV. It was, after all, the first visit of a reigning monarch to Scotland since Charles II. He also collaborated with the actor and set designer, William Henry Murray. And It was also in the context of the Highland Clearances and an ancient Gaelic aristocracy reasserting itself
But, the enduring and high handed dimissal of ‘Tartanry’ comes, as cited in this article, from the Invention of Tradition and the nefarious mind of Eric Hobsbawm and his acolytes. They have worked busily to divorce this nation from it’s own history and position the credentialled higher critic as the arbitrator of legitimate historical memory.
There is of, course another and even less creditable line of criticism that runs from the Whigs of the 18th century, through the Radicals of the 19th century, the Marxists of the 20th and on into the incohate and self defeating resentment of current Scottish Nationalism. It is fluently expressed in the words of the Scotch Belle Lettrist Kevin Williamson (who accompained the remark with an image of himself dancing on Scott’s grave) “Sir Walter Scott was not a great Scottish patriot nor even a particularly good writer–his prose is stodge–but he was an arse-licking royalist, a falsifier of Scottish history and a Tory c*** of the worst order”.
Tartanry and the myths around ‘Red Clydeside’ gang ill t’gither so one of them must be discredited.
But as sure there’s ‘hill’s beyond Pentland and lands beyond Forth’ there is certainly a truth and memory far beyond the schemes and systems of the Academy or the fulminations of the malcontented.

Last edited 4 months ago by William Amos
Bret Larson
Bret Larson
4 months ago
Reply to  William Amos

The Gordon Highlanders tartan does something to my eyes.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
4 months ago
Reply to  Bret Larson

Good or bad?

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
4 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Lots of good memories of the people we used to be, now long gone.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
4 months ago
Reply to  Bret Larson

Scottish women must be forced to wear plaid burkas in light of Islam’s advances.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
4 months ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

Dress Gordon is very sophisticated.

T Bone
T Bone
4 months ago
Reply to  William Amos

Interesting take. I know absolutely nothing of Scott but I did go to a Tartan Themed University in America full of Scottish pageantry!

I do think the author is correct that this tradition has been synthesized into a profitable industry wholly detached from it’s origins and full of exaggerated myths. But that doesn’t negate the truthful aspects.

I think there needs to be a more deliberate effort to bracket thoroughly recorded historical facts from speculative mytho-history. I think the Romantic lineage is the culprit here. Mainly the Marxists, Post-Modernists and even the Anthropologists.

The Neo-Marxists just do revisionist history and center the lived experiences of the so called “oppressed” while sensationalizing the horrors of the so called “oppressors.” The Postmodernists nitpick every documented fact as a biased reimagination of the powerful and the Anthropologist fill historical gaps with speculation.

There’s still room for good ole fashion Empiricism and maybe people should just live with the the fact that we can only know with near-certainty the things that were thoroughly documented through multiple sources and perspectives.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
3 months ago
Reply to  William Amos

It wasn’t a “dismissal” but a good account of how recent many traditions actually are, contra the often quasi-mystical musings (not to say “ravings!”) of some nationalists!

Despite your protests, much “tradition” is in fact invented, or changed out of all recognition, not least the Coronation ceremony or indeed French cuisine. And Scotland isn’t just Gaeldom or the Highlands – the great majority of its population have always been much closer to the Anglo Saxon South!

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
4 months ago

Great start to the day: Bill Gates-myth: Israel’s plans-myth: Aristasia-myth: Trump-myth: Le Pen-myth: Wilders-myth: and crikey! 
 Scottish tartan a myth! I have nothing left to believe in.

Last edited 4 months ago by Gordon Black
T Bone
T Bone
4 months ago
Reply to  Gordon Black

Next up- “Kissinger never made it to China”

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
4 months ago
Reply to  Gordon Black

We used to dance the Gay Gordons in my school’s Scottish dance class.

Rafi Stern
Rafi Stern
4 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

I thought my school was the only one that had a Scottish Country Dancing class. “Rock with Jock” we called it.

John Murray
John Murray
4 months ago

St. Patrick’s Day parades originating in America with Irish soldiers in the British army there, rather than in Ireland itself is another one.

54321
54321
4 months ago
Reply to  John Murray

Throw in all the druidism BS of the Welsh Eistedffords.

There was a practice of bardic competition in Wales dating back to the middle ages, but Eisteddford just means sitting together. It was little more than the Welsh version of the common oral tradition of communities gathering to listen to poets and story-tellers.

But the National Eisteddford is an early 19th century invention, co-opting the practice and under the heavy influence of Welsh romantic antiquarian Iolo Morgannwg, layering on lots of made up druid-y nonsense.

The kicker is that Iolo Morgannwg’s real name was Edward Williams and he forged some of his supposed medieval sources.

Ray Ward
Ray Ward
4 months ago
Reply to  54321

Quite right – but do check how to spell “eisteddfod”.

Caradog Wiliams
Caradog Wiliams
4 months ago
Reply to  Ray Ward

Yes, he’s almost a Welshman but the name 54321 is a giveaway. No real Welshman would fail to spell eisteddfod correctly.
The problem was the Act of Union in 1707. It was so trendy that the Welsh and Scots (Scotch for my friend CS) wanted to be English, not British. There was, of course, a reaction and intellectuals reinvented Welshness. Today’s Welsh and Scottish assemblies are the creation of intellectuals, who want to write books and become important. Correct is British until the union is dissolved by parliament.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
4 months ago

Scotch is something you drink.
Your friend is a racist clown.

54321
54321
4 months ago

“Yes, he’s almost a Welshman”

I can’t decide if that’s the nicest thing anyone has ever called me or the nastiest

😉

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
4 months ago

“The king himself was delighted to claim his Scottish roots, and strut about in a Royal Stuart tartan mini-kilt and pink tights. Lowlanders began dressing in the colours of imaginary highlanders and the tartan biscuit tin was born”

This is exactly the sort of thing I need to read to start the day.

But seriously, “A robust culture is attained through fantasy, through making things up — and continuing to make things up.” is a little dangerous. People living in Australia will know just how robust is the process of creating ‘traditional’ Aboriginal culture, the ‘welcome to country’ etc. Somehow I suspect this fantasy won’t end well.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
4 months ago

Regarding the first sentence of that quote, thank goodness photojournalism didn’t exist in the early 19th century.

Mel Shaw
Mel Shaw
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

But political cartoons did. And there is one satirising his kilt and tights outfit.

John Solomon
John Solomon
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

There is, i believe, a painting. Imagine a fat kraut in pink tights and a mini-kilt instead of a tutu and you have it.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
4 months ago

If Ghanaians think wearing kente cloth if you’re not Ghanaian is cultural mis-appropriation, can we have all their 2 and 3 piece suits back?

William Amos
William Amos
4 months ago

Kente cloth is, in fact, a type of Malay Batik, first produced commercially by the Dutch East India Company in the late 19th Century and exported to the Gold Coast in the 1890’s by the Scottish businessman Ebenezer Brown Fleming.
Effectively all traditional Kente patterns, despite their spurious African folk origins, were actually invented by Dutch and British clothiers and sold to West Africa in the early 20th Century. Many of the most famous, cherished and iconic Ghanaian ‘ancestral’ prints were created in the 1930’s by a Dutchman named Piet Snel.

Last edited 4 months ago by William Amos
Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
4 months ago

Do you enjoy being a misanthrope?

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
4 months ago

I am not a misanthrope.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
4 months ago

Au contraire, cherie – at least judging by your comments around here!

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
4 months ago

If I promise to make misanthropic comments you promise to call me cherie again, d’accord?

Last edited 4 months ago by William Edward Henry Appleby
Stewart Cazier
Stewart Cazier
4 months ago

Cheri I think

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago

I would ignore her, she has nothing to offer but bile.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
4 months ago

Oh dear, racist grandpa doesn’t like being called out!
Won’t stop me from doing so, obviously!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago

QED.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago

What’s new about all this? The late Hugh Trevor-Roper exposed the bogus nature of much Sc*tch history years ago.

Besides most of the Sc*tch were in fact IRISH, crossing the water as the DĂĄl Riata group of thugs in the mid fifth century. The others, on the east coast, where stuff actually grew were Angles*, Germanic speaking barbarians who would eventually create the Kingdom of Northumbria.

(* From where the word English comes!)

Last edited 4 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Tony Price
Tony Price
4 months ago

So who were the Romans fighting, and failing to conquer, then if no-one was up there before c.450CE?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago
Reply to  Tony Price

The PICTS.
Incidentally the Romans comprehensively conquered the place, but rapidly abandoned it because it was virtually valueless,*unlike for example contemporary Dacia**

(*And still is.)
(**Now known a Romania.)

Last edited 4 months ago by Charles Stanhope
William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
4 months ago

It’s a shame the Romans didn’t build a better wall.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
4 months ago

It would take more than wall to stop the Scots from running the UK.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
4 months ago

Did you mean running, or ruining?

Caradog Wiliams
Caradog Wiliams
4 months ago

As in Dacia Duster.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago

No as in Sarmizegetusa.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
4 months ago

Did Charles’s wife run off with a Scotsman? There must be some reason for this irrational (and inaccurate!) fear and loathing!

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
4 months ago

I bought a roman silver coin in an Aberdeen shire auction.
Cost me 50P in the mid 70’s.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
4 months ago
Reply to  Tony Price

*AD.

John Solomon
John Solomon
4 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Damn right!!

Caradog Wiliams
Caradog Wiliams
4 months ago

Disagree a little but it can’t really be clear. Yes, the Scots were Irish immigrants, displacing the Picts, who moved eastwards. As Mr Roper says, there was a lot of inter-marrying and the Scots culture came to the head of the pile. The Anglea wete involved and there was more inter-marrying. I would say that the ones on the east coast were the Picts, who morphed into the Angles.
Good book though.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago

Kenneth MacAlpin?
The Anglo-Picts seem to have been English speaking by the 13th century if not earlier.
What ‘book’ are you referring to?

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
4 months ago

Standard issue English envy of the Scots!

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
4 months ago

Isn’t it Scottish history not “Scotch” history?

54321
54321
4 months ago

Its no surprise that so many of these so-called ancient traditions in fact date from the early or mid 19th century.
The previous 200 years had been a catalogue of sectarian and nationalist conflicts of various types (civil war, acts of union, jacobite uprisings and religious controversies in the succession of the British crown, American war of independence etc).
The 1801 Act of Union which constitutionally created the UK of GB&Ire marked a kind of milestone after which these various conflicts were (at least temporarily) largely converted into romantic nationalism. Most Scots/Welsh and to a lesser extent Irish might have been resigned to being junior partners in a union with England, but they could still express their national distinctiveness through claims to ancient traditions. Even if those traditions were substantially made up on the spot.
At the same time there was a massive outward flow of people from the UK and Ireland to America and Australia which created large diasporas hungry for a sense of belonging to the “old country”. Their descendants now form a large part of the target market for all the tartans and similar.
I wore a kilt for a wedding in the highlands once. I was an usher for a mate and his family wanted us all to wear one for consistency. I really liked it. They are very comfortable, surprisingly substantial, and I wore a Black Douglas which is a belter of a tartan.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
4 months ago
Reply to  54321

Did you wear anything underneath the kilt? A friend wants to know.

Geoff W
Geoff W
4 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Shoes and socks.

Chris Hume
Chris Hume
4 months ago

When I was a boy in Glasgow in the 80s and 90s, I very rarely saw anyone wearing a kilt outwith a Tartan Army context. You would maybe see someone from the Highlands or one eccentric relative at a wedding, but the concept of an ordinary man wearing a kilt would have seemed bizarre. You would point it out as a curiosity.
Now, it’s generally expected that a groom and the men in a bridal party will be kilted and everyone acts like it has always been the tradition to wear a kilt at formal events. It’s interesting to witness the growth of a ‘tradition’ in real time, but I expect all national traditions emerge with some people looking on scratching their heads.
I wondered if it’s linked to the release of Braveheart, or is it a kind of meta-Americanisation, where our national identity has been packaged up and sold back to us.
In the end though, I think it’s quite simply that women seem to love it and we men are not complicated beings

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
4 months ago
Reply to  Chris Hume

Once you’ve got a kilt, that’s your wedding outfit sorted.
Uncomplicated, as you say. Whether it started last year or last millennium, it’s the ceremonial dress these days.

John Solomon
John Solomon
4 months ago
Reply to  Chris Hume

Chris, you are spot on! I was brought up in the 60s on the West coast and, apart from the occasional soldier, you NEVER saw a kiltie. I once asked my extremely scottish grandfather about kilts, and he told me that if I saw someone (other than a soldier) in a kilt, it was probable that it was an englishman trying to fit in.
I still think the whole kilt thing is risible. Why otherwise normal men think they should wear a comedy outfit to get married in totally astounds me.
I confess I do have a clan tartan tie which I wear on Burns’s night, but that is merely to piss off the locals (I do missionary work in the South) by reminding them of who the superior beings are (that’s fun – like hearing an englishman trying to recite Burns……)

William Amos
William Amos
4 months ago
Reply to  John Solomon

You touch on an interesting but often unappreciated aspect of Scottish History which is the cultural disunity of the Highlands and the Lowlands. Something much obscured in Nationalist historiography.
It was commented at the time of George IV’s visit that to many Lowlanders, particularly in the West and near the Highland Line the Highland dress and Gaelic speech were the garb and tongue of the blackmailer, cattle rustler and thief.
The union of 1707 and measures taken after the ’45 were as significant in ending the ancestral and historic conflict between the Gaelic Highlanders and the frankly Saxon (as they were often called) Lowanders as it was in uniting the crowns of Britain.
We all know about Bannockburn and Culloden but the bloodiest and most decisive battle in Scottish history was the victory of the Lowlanders under the Duke of Albany over the Highlanders under the Lord of the Isles at Harlaw. It is also a splendid ballad.

Last edited 4 months ago by William Amos
Chris Hume
Chris Hume
4 months ago
Reply to  John Solomon

I once asked my extremely scottish grandfather about kilts, and he told me that if I saw someone (other than a soldier) in a kilt, it was probable that it was an englishman trying to fit in.

Ambrose Bierce’s definition of a kilt in the Devil’s Dictionary is a garment worn by Scotsmen in America and Americans in Scotland.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
4 months ago
Reply to  Chris Hume

We love it when you dance in them always hoping to get the question answered do they or don’t they?

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
4 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

With so many kilts being rentals these days, you get charged extra for cleaning if you don’t.

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
4 months ago

In Scotland, too, people continue to invent tartans, now free of clan-connections.

I hope someone is working on a special thermal weave, given the proposals to compel the installation of heat-pumps for people buying properties. A chill wind whistling around the Trossachs can be quite dispiriting.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
4 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

Do those bloody things work? The heat-pumps I mean, not the kilts.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
4 months ago

“Regardless, back in the day it never occurred to me to wonder whether my ancestors would have approved of the kilted Canadian.”
A large proportion of Canadians have Scottish heritage anyway – I’m an Atholl Murray myself.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago

The human intellect and its mangled perception of reality are too limited to deal in anything but myth and fantasy.
A 200 year old delusion is as good as any other supposed foundation for an identity.

William Amos
William Amos
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

With respect to the broader point of history at question here, what is being attempted is a reduction of Scottish identity to a tartan biscuit tin.
Scottish identity is built on a milennium of songs and storys, religion, law, custom and practice spanning the Highlands, Lowlands, Isles and Borderlands in Gaelic and in Scots, in English and in Latin. It bridged the Irish Sea and crossed to the New World. They sing the pure old Ballads in the Blue Mountains of Tennessee and speak Gaelic in Glengarry County Ontario.
One can take the trouble and reap the rewards of investigating the rich and voluminous beautiful and contradictory Story of Scotland or one can dress it up in borrowed rags and throw it in the dustbin of history.
The choice belongs to every reader.

Last edited 4 months ago by William Amos
John Solomon
John Solomon
4 months ago
Reply to  William Amos

I think I have mentioned this before, but when I was 18 I met the headmaster of my old school in Scotland. He asked me which university I was going to (meaning St Andrews or Glasgow, of course) and when I told him it was in England, his comment was “At least we know the average IQ of both countries will go up.”
Best put-down ever!

Geoff W
Geoff W
4 months ago
Reply to  John Solomon

The New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange used the same line when asked about the emigration of Kiwis to Australia.

Last edited 4 months ago by Geoff W
John Solomon
John Solomon
4 months ago
Reply to  Geoff W

Gosh! I wonder how far back it goes. My conversation was in 1974………

Geoff W
Geoff W
4 months ago
Reply to  John Solomon

Lange was PM some time in the 1980s.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
4 months ago
Reply to  Geoff W

It was always attributed to Lange’s predecessor, P. Iggy Muldoon.
He probably didn’t coin the expression either. The wit of politicians is greatly overestimated.

Chris Hayes
Chris Hayes
4 months ago

Ah….brings back memories of my undergraduate days and Eric Hobsbawn’s “Invention of Tradition” (I think he edited it) which certainly opened my eyes on the subject…It immediately brought about a heated discussion as to whether this was an attempt by Cultural Marxist Internationalists to drive a wedge between the Good British People and their history….Oh happy times.