Tartan… och weel… a subject that’s surely as alive and well (and as controversial as Nessie) as any issue you’ll find on the front page of today’s newspaper. Nothing will raise up a brawl at a Scottish Gathering faster than the subject of Tartan, particularly late in the day when several libations of Uisghe Beatha have been downed. There is no other touchier subject in the lexicon of Scotophiles, and everyone considers himself an expert! We’re going to try to make some sense of the subject for you.
There are 6 Davidson Tartan setts (i.e. patterns) as registered with the Scottish Tartans Society and 6 Davidson setts registered with the Scottish Tartans Authority, but the 6 patterns as registered with each body are slightly different from each other! There is also an “Ancient” (also called “O.C.” – Old Color) version of the Davidson Modern, although it is not registered with either “authority” as such.
The fact that there are two Tartan “authorities” in and of itself reflects the lack of a “final word” when it comes to Tartan. The simple fact is that virtually all Tartan setts that exist today were invented after circa 1830 by Scottish weavers looking to take advantage of the rise of Scottish romanticism as a way of selling more of their product. Tartans setts are being invented every day somewhere in the world. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Tartan setts in existence today.
And… to put a rumor to bed, there is NO official Clan Davidson Society (USA) Tartan. Wear the Tartan sett of your choice. You will find, however, that only the Davidson Modern and Old Colors can be found easily (or economically, although there is little about quality Tartan that is economical!). To learn a lot more about this quintessential Scottish fabric, read the article which originally appeared in the January 1997 Sporran by clicking the link below. It will answer some questions you may have about the subject.
Actually, no one has a “right” to wear any particular Tartan, unless he/she was the person who invented the pattern for his/her personal use and has it copyrighted. So… if you happen to be particularly fond of, say, Loud MacLeod, have at it! While you’d certainly be odd-man-out at a gathering of your fellow Davidsons, you certainly have the “right” to wear the MacLeod Tartan, regardless of what anyone else says.
Shown below are the 6 Davidson Tartans as registered with the Scottish Tartan Society, plus the Davidson OC or Ancient.