Tartan Day is a celebration of Scottish heritage on 6
April, the date on which the Declaration of Arbroath was signed in 1320. An ad
hoc event was held in New York City in 1982, but the current format originated
in Canada in the mid-1980s. It spread to other communities of the Scottish
diaspora in the 1990s. In Australia, the similar International Tartan Day is
held on 1 July, the anniversary of the repeal of the 1747 Act of Proscription
that banned the wearing of tartan.
Tartan Days typically have parades of pipe bands,
Highland dancing and other Scottish-themed events.
Tartan is a pattern consisting of criss-crossed
horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours. Tartans originated in woven
wool, but now they are made in many other materials. Tartan is particularly
associated with Scotland. Scottish kilts almost always have tartan patterns.
Tartan is often called plaid in North America, but in Scotland, a plaid is a
tartan cloth slung over the shoulder as a kilt accessory, or a plain ordinary
blanket such as one would have on a bed.
Tartan is made with alternating bands of coloured
(pre-dyed) threads woven as both warp and weft at right angles to each other.
The weft is woven in a simple twill, two over—two under the warp, advancing one
thread at each pass. This forms visible diagonal lines where different colours
cross, which give the appearance of new colours blended from the original ones.
The resulting blocks of colour repeat vertically and horizontally in a
distinctive pattern of squares and lines known as a sett.
The Dress Act of 1746 attempted to bring the warrior
clans under government control by banning the tartan and other aspects of
Gaelic culture. When the law was repealed in 1782, it was no longer ordinary
Highland dress, but was adopted instead as the symbolic national dress of
Bonnie Prince Charlie
Dress Act 1746
Kilts and tartan were not always prosperous in
Scotland and sometimes their development was restricted. 1746 saw the
implementation of the Dress Act 1746, which put the future of Highland wear,
the Kilt and Tartan into jeopardy.
The end of the 17th century and the first half of the
18th century was filled with political and religious turmoil around Scotland.
Jacobitism was gaining popularity in Scotland in a stand against the Union.
From 1688 to 1745 several uprisings from the Jacobite loyal against the British
Government. The most famous Jacobite rising from this time are the Risings of
1715 and 1745. (The 1745 Rising was led by the ‘Young Pretender’, Bonnie Prince
Charlie, who lends his name to the Prince Charlie style of jacket.)
After the failed 1745 uprising support for Jacobitism
began to decline. They drew a large amount of their support from the Highland
Clans, and in 1746 the government brought in the Dress Act to dampen their
The Dress Act 1746 restricted the wearing of Highland
Dress, Kilts and Tartan. It states:
‘That from and after the first day of August, One
thousand, seven hundred and forty-six, no man or boy within that part of
Britain called Scotland, other than such as shall be employed as Officers and Soldiers in His Majesty's Forces, shall, on any pretext whatever, wear or put
on the clothes commonly called Highland clothes (that is to say) the Plaid,
Philabeg, or little Kilt, Trowse, Shoulder-belts, or any part whatever of what
peculiarly belongs to the Highland Garb; and that no tartan or party-coloured
plaid of stuff shall be used for Great Coats or upper coats, and if any such person shall presume after the said first day of August, to wear or put on the
aforesaid garment or any part of them, every such person so offending ... For the
first offence,shall be liable to be imprisoned for 6 months, and on the second
offence, to be transported to any of His Majesty's plantations beyond the seas,
there to remain for the space of seven years.’
This Act several restricted the wearing of Kilts and
Tartan outfits. The banning of Tartan cut off a way in which communities and
families associated themselves with each other and the banning of Kilts
suppressed the dress associated with the Jacobite Uprisings.
The ban would stay in place for almost 40 years,
finally being repelled in 1782. The Kilt and Tartan had fallen on hard times,
but its popularity would return in the 1800′s through King George IV’s visit to
Scotland and Queen Victoria’s efforts to revive the Scottish Icons.
On 1 July 1782 Royal assent was given to Repeal of the
Act Proscribing the Wearing of Highland Dress 22 George III, Chap. 63, 1782 and
a proclamation issued in Gaelic and English announced:
‘Listen Men. This is bringing before all the Sons of
the Gael, the King and Parliament of Britain have forever abolished the act
against the Highland Dress; which came down to the Clans from the beginning of
the world to the year 1746. This must bring great joy to every Highland Heart.
You are no longer bound down to the unmanly dress of the Lowlander. This is
declaring to every Man, young and old, simple and gentle, that they may after
this put on and wear the Truis, the Little Kilt, the Coat, and the Striped
Hose, as also the Belted Plaid, without fear of the Law of the Realm or the spite of the enemies.’
King George IV in a Kilt
After the restrictions on Highland wear were removed,
Highland Societies were setup with the aim of promoting the wearing of the Kilt
once again.A great boost was given to the image of the Kilt and
tartan by the visit of King George IV to Scotland in 1822, where he arrived
kitted out in a full Highland Outfit.
Not only was George’s trip to Scotland the first time
a reigning monarch had visited Scotland since 1650, but the tartan pageantry
surrounding the visit meant that the popularity of the Kilt and it’s
association with Scotland were raised to a new level. It was exactly the shot
in the arm that Kilts and Tartan needed to get them back to being part of
Scotland’s national identity.
King George VI was advised by Sir Walter Scott to
purchase a Highland outfit for his visit. He duly obliged and purchased an
outfit from George Hunter & Co., outfitters of Tokenhouse Yard, London and
Princes Street, Edinburgh, for £1,354 18s (a sum equivalent to £110,000 today).
His Kilt outfit was crafted with a red Royal Tartan, which is similar to what
we call the ‘Royal Stewart Tartan’ today.
"Clap along if you feel like a room without a
A pop song that conveys being happy. When Bottom
returns, he explains his 'dream' and over enthusiastic about it. At this time
during the play, everything is settled and in order. Bottom has returned with
the Mechanicals, the lovers are loving, the Fairy King and Queen are getting
along, and Theseus & Hippolyta's wedding day has arrived.
Midsummer Night's Dream is a
comedy written by William Shakespeare in 1595/96. It portrays the events
surrounding the marriage of Theseus, the Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the
former queen of the Amazons. These include the adventures of four young
Athenian lovers and a group of six amateur actors (the mechanicals) who are
controlled and manipulated by the fairies who inhabit the forest in which most
of the play is set. The play is one of Shakespeare's most popular works for the
stage and is widely performed across the world.
Theseus, duke of Athens, is
preparing for his marriage to Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, with a four-day
festival of pomp and entertainment. He commissions his Master of the Revels,
Philostrate, to find suitable amusements for the occasion. Egeus, an Athenian
nobleman, marches into Theseus’s court with his daughter, Hermia, and two young
men, Demetrius and Lysander. Egeus wishes Hermia to marry Demetrius (who loves
Hermia), but Hermia is in love with Lysander and refuses to comply. Egeus asks
for the full penalty of law to fall on Hermia’s head if she flouts her father’s
will. Theseus gives Hermia until his wedding to consider her options, warning
her that disobeying her father’s wishes could result in her being sent to a
convent or even executed. Nonetheless, Hermia and Lysander plan to escape
Athens the following night and marry in the house of Lysander’s aunt, some
seven leagues distant from the city. They make their intentions known to
Hermia’s friend Helena, who was once engaged to Demetrius and still loves him
even though he jilted her after meeting Hermia. Hoping to regain his love,
Helena tells Demetrius of the elopement that Hermia and Lysander have planned.
At the appointed time, Demetrius stalks into the woods after his intended bride
and her lover; Helena follows behind him.
In these same woods are two
very different groups of characters. The first is a band of fairies, including
Oberon, the fairy king, and Titania, his queen, who has recently returned from
India to bless the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta. The second is a band of
Athenian craftsmen rehearsing a play that they hope to perform for the duke and
his bride. Oberon and Titania are at odds over a young Indian prince given to
Titania by the prince’s mother; the boy is so beautiful that Oberon wishes to
make him a knight, but Titania refuses. Seeking revenge, Oberon sends his merry
servant, Puck, to acquire a magical flower, the juice of which can be spread
over a sleeping person’s eyelids to make that person fall in love with the
first thing he or she sees upon waking. Puck obtains the flower, and Oberon
tells him of his plan to spread its juice on the sleeping Titania’s eyelids.
Having seen Demetrius act cruelly toward Helena, he orders Puck to spread some
of the juice on the eyelids of the young Athenian man. Puck encounters Lysander
and Hermia; thinking that Lysander is the Athenian of whom Oberon spoke, Puck
afflicts him with the love potion. Lysander happens to see Helena upon awaking
and falls deeply in love with her, abandoning Hermia. As the night progresses
and Puck attempts to undo his mistake, both Lysander and Demetrius end up in
love with Helena, who believes that they are mocking her. Hermia becomes so
jealous that she tries to challenge Helena to a fight. Demetrius and Lysander
nearly do fight over Helena’s love, but Puck confuses them by mimicking their
voices, leading them apart until they are lost separately in the forest.
When Titania wakes, the first
creature she sees is Bottom, the most ridiculous of the Athenian craftsmen,
whose head Puck has mockingly transformed into that of an ass. Titania passes a
ludicrous interlude doting on the ass-headed weaver. Eventually, Oberon obtains
the Indian boy, Puck spreads the love potion on Lysander’s eyelids, and by
morning all is well. Theseus and Hippolyta discover the sleeping lovers in the
forest and take them back to Athens to be married—Demetrius now loves Helena,
and Lysander now loves Hermia. After the group wedding, the lovers watch Bottom
and his fellow craftsmen perform their play, a fumbling, hilarious version of
the story of Pyramus and Thisbe. When the play is completed, the lovers go to
bed; the fairies briefly emerge to bless the sleeping couples with a protective
charm and then disappear. Only Puck remains, to ask the audience for its
forgiveness and approval and to urge it to remember the play as though it had
all been a dream.