Additional Info

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Share

Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Highland Dress and Armour
From an article in the Celtic Magazine 1882.


NOTES ON THE HIGHLAND DRESS AND ARMOUR.

THE notes on the Antiquity of Tartan, which appeared in our last issue, suggested to us the idea of publishing the following notices of the Highland dress and armour, collected from various sources, and arranged for the Transactions of the "lona Club." We give the translations only, where the original was in Latin, from the Collectanea de Rebus Albanicis, now a very rare and expensive work:-

No peculiarity of the Scottish Highlanders has been the subject of so much controversy as their dress. It is not at present intended to enter into a detail of the opinions that have been at different times expressed on this subject, as it is conceived that, to enable the enquirer to come to a satisfactory conclusion, the best method is first to place before him, in juxtaposition and in chronological order, the various descriptions of the costume of the Highlanders, which can be gathered from books or manuscripts. To these will be added the descriptions of their armour, defensive and offensive, which it would be difficult in most cases to separate from the former.

The earliest allusion to the Highland dress which the editor has met with is in Magnus Berfaet's Saga (the history of that celebrated Norwegian King, written shortly after his death), under the year 1093, being the year in which he conquered the Western Isles, or rather forced them anew to acknowledge the supremacy of Norway, which some late Kings of the Isles had affected to disclaim. The following passage is literally translated from the Norse Saga:—

A.D. 1093.—It is said when King Magnus returned from his expedition to the West, that he adopted the costume in use in the western lands, and likewise many of his followers; that they went about barelegged, having short tunics and also upper garments; and so many men called him Barelegged or Barefoot.

A period of upwards of three centuries now intervenes before we meet with any description of the Highland dress or armour.

Andrew Wyntown, prior of Lochleven, who wrote about 1420, speaks on more than one occasion in his metrical Chronicle of "the wyld wykleyd Helandmen;" and under the year 1396, in reference to the celebrated combat of thirty Highlanders against thirty, fought on the North Inch of Perth in that year, in presence of King Robert III. and his Court, in order to settle the disputes of two contending clans, he uses these words (vol. ii., p.374):—

At Sanct Johnestone besid the Freria
All thai entrit in Barrens
Wyth Bow and Axe, Knyf and Swerd
To deil amang thaim thar last word.

Abbot Bower or Bowmaker (the continuator of Fordun's Scotichronicon) wrote in the reign of James II. of Scotland; and, in describing ,the arrangements for the above-mentioned noted combat in 1396, says (vol. II, p. 420) that it was to be fought

By thirty men against thirty of the opposite party, armed only with swords, bows and arrows, without mantles or other armour except axes; and thus encountering that they should end their disputes, and that peace should be established in the country.

The historian, John Major, who wrote in 1512, notices the Highland dress in two different parts of his work. At p. 34 (Edit. Edinburgh, 1740, 40.), talking of the Highlanders generally, thus describes their dress and armour:-

From the middle of the thigh to the foot they have no covering for the leg, clothing themselves with a mantle instead of an upper garment, and a shirt died with saffron. They always carry a how and arrows, a very broad sword with a small halbert, a large dagger, sharpened on one side only but very sharp, under the belt. In time of war they cover their whole body with a shirt of mail of iron rings, and fight in that. The common people of the Highland Scots rush into battle, having their body clothed with a linen garment manifoldly sewed and painted or daubed with pitch, with a covering of deerskin.

At p. 302, after mentioning the defection of the Clan Chattan and Clan Cameron from Alexander Lord of the Isles, who, in 1492, had raised the standard of rebellion against James I., Major thus describes the customs of these clans, and it may be presumed of the Highlanders at large:-

They pass their days merrily in idleness, living upon the goods of the poor. They use a bow and quiver, and a halbert well sharpened, as they possess good veins of native iron. They carry large daggers placed under the belt; their legs are frequently naked under the thigh; in winter they carry a mantle for an upper garment.

In the Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland in August 1538, we find the following entries regarding a Highland dress made for King James V., on the occasion of that Monarch making a hunting excursion to the Highlands:-

The following passage, showing how the Highlanders came to be denominated Reds/lanks, is extracted from the curious letter of John Elder, a Highland priest, to King Henry VIII., anno 1543. The letter itself has been printed at full length in the Coflectanea de Rebus Albanicis, vol. 1., pp. 23 to 32

Moreover, wherfor they call us in Scotland Reddshankes, and in your Graces dominion of England, roghe footide Scottis, Pleas it your Mjestie to unrIerstande, that we of all people can tollerat, suffir, and away best with colde, for bjthe somer and wyntir, (excepte whene the froest is most vehemonte,) goynge alwaies ir leggide and hair footide, our delite and pleasure i9 not onely in huotynge of redd deir, wolfes, foxes, and graies, whereof we abounde, and have greate plentie, but also in rynninge, leapinge, swymmynge, shootynge, and thrawinge of dartis: therefor, in so moche as we use and clelite so to go alwaies, the tendir delicatt gentilimen of Scotland call us Redsbankes. And agayne in wynter, whene the froest is mooste vehement (as I have saide) which we can not suffir hair footide, so veill as snow. whiche can never hurt us whene it cummes to our girdills, we go a huntynge, and after that we have slayne redd deir, we flaye of the skync, hey and hey, and settinge of our hair foote on the insyde thereof, for neide of cunnyge shoemakers, by your Graces pardon, we play the sutters; compasinge and measuringe so moche thereof, as shall retche up to our ancklers pryckynge the uppir part thereof also with holis, that the water may repass when it entrcs, and stretclüde up with a stronge thwange of the same, meitand above our saide ancklers, so, and pleas your noble Grace, we make our shoois: Therfor, we usinge such maner of shoois, the roghe hairie syde outwart, in your Graces dominion of England, we be callit roghe footide Scottis; which maner of schoois (and pleas your Highnes) in Latyn be caUit perone.c, wherof the poet Virgin makis mencioun, saying, That the olde auncient Latyns in tyme of wars uside suche maner of schoos. And althoughe a greate sorte of us Reddshankes go after this maner in our countrethe, )-cit never the lea, and pleas your Grace, whene we come to the courte (the Kinges grace our greate master being alyve) waitinge on our Lordes and maisters, who also, for velvetis and silkis be right well araide, we have as good garmentis as some of our fellowis whihe gyve attendance in the court every daye.

In the account of the campaigns of the French auxiliaries in Scotland in 1548-1540, given by Monsieur Jean de Beaugué, one of the French officers, and first published at Paris in 1556, under the title of "L'Historie de la Guerre d' Ecosse," the dress and arms of some Highlanders who were present at the siege of Haddington by the French in 1549 are thus described (fol. 22, b.):—

Several Highlanders (or Wild Scots) followed them (the Scottish army), and they were naked except their stained shirts, and a certain light covering made of wool of various colours; carrying large bows, and similar swords and bucklers to the others, i.e., to the Lowlanders.

In the year 1552, an Act of Privy Council was passed for the levy of two regiments of Highlanders, to form part of a body of Scottish auxiliaries about to proceed to the assistance of the King of France; and the Earl of Huntly being Lieutenant of the North Highlands, where these men were to be raised, was directed to see that the Highland soldiers were:

Substantiouslie accompturit with jack and plait, steillbonett, sword, hucklair, new hois and new doublett of canvouse at the lest; and slevis of plait orsplenttis, and ane spear of sax clue lang or thairby.

Lindsay of Pitscottie, who wrote his history about the year 1573, says of the Highland dress :-

The other pairts (of Scotland) northerne ar fuh of montaines, and very rud and homlie kyrid of people doeth inhabite, which is called the Reidschankis or Wyld Scottis. They be cloathed with ane mantle, with ane shirt sallroned after the Irisch manner, going bair legged to the knee. Thair weapones ar bowis and dartes, with ane verie broad sword and ane dagger scharp onlie at the on syde.

An Act of Parliament, anno 1574, under the Regency of the Earl of Morton, directing a general weapons/zawing throughout Scotland, makes a distinction between the arms of the lesser gentlemen and yeoman in the Lowlands and those in the Highlands, as under:-

Lawland Arms.—Brigantinis, jakkis, steilbonettis, slevis of plate or mailye, swerdis, pikkis, or speris of sex elnis lang, culveringis, halbertis or tua handit swerdis.

Highland Arms.—Habirschonis, steilbonettis, hektonis, swerdis, bowls and tiorlochis or culveringis.

John Lesley, Bishop of Ross, who published his work "De origine, moribus et rebus gestis Scotorum," at Rome in 1578, thus describes the arms and dress of the old Scots, which were still in his time used by the Highlanders and Islanders (pp.56-58):—

In battle and hostile encounter their missile weapons were a lance or arrows. They used also a two-edged sword, which with the foot soldiers was pretty long, and short for the horse; both had it broad, and with an edge so exceeding sharp that at one blow it would easily cut a man in two. For defence, they used a coat of mail woven of iron rings, which they wore over a leather jerkin, stout and of handsome appearance, which we call an acton. Their whole armour was light, that they might the more easily slip from their enemies' hands if they chanced to fall into such a strait.
Their clothing was made for use (being chiefly suited to war) and not for ornament. All, both nobles and common people, wore mantles of one sort (except that the nobles preferred those of several colours). These were long and flowing, but capable of being neatly gathered up at pleasure into folds. I am inclined to believe that they were the same as those to which the ancients gave the name of brachae. Wrapped up in these for their only covering, they would sleep comfortably. They had also shaggy rugs, such as the Irish use at the present day, some fitted for a journey, others to he placed on a bed. The rest of their garments consisted of a short woollen jacket, with the sleeves open below for the convenience of throwing their darts, and a covering for the thighs of the simplest kind, more for decency than for show or a defence against cold. They made also of linen very large shirts, with numerous folds and wide sleeves, which flowed abroad loosely to their knees. These, the rich coloured with saffron, and others smeared with some greese to preserve thdm longer clean among the toils and exercises of a camp, which they held it of the highest consequence to practife continually. In the manufacture of these, ornament and a certain attention to taste were not altogether neglected, and they joined the different parts of their shirts very neatly with silk thread, chiefly of a green or red colour.

Their women's attire was very becoming. Over a gown reaching to the andes, and generally embroidered, they wore large mantles of the kind already described, and woven of different colours. Their chief ornaments were the braclets and neck. laces with which they decorated their arms and necks.

George Buchanan in his history of Scotland, first published in 1582, gives the following description of the dress and armour of the Highlanders (Edit. Ultrajecti, 1669, 8vo, p. 24).-

They delight in marled clothes, specially that have long stripes of sundry colours; they love chiefly purple and blew. Their predecessors used short mantles or plaids of divers colours sundry waies devided; and amongst some, the same custom is observed to this day: but for the most part now they are browne, most nere to the colour of the hadder; to the effect, when they lie amongst the hadder, the bright colour of their plaids shall not bewray them; with the which, rather coloured than clad, they suffer the most cruel tempests that blowe in the open field in such sort, that under a wrythe of snow, they sleepe sound. . . . Their armour wherewith they cover their bodies in time of warre, is an iron bonnet and an habbergion, side almost even to their heeleF. Their weapons against their enemies are howes and arrowes. The arrowes are for tl;e most part booked, with a barbie on either side, which, once entered within the body, cannot be drawne forth againe, unless the wounde be made wider. Some of them fight with broad swords and axes.

Nicolay d' Arfeville, Cosmographer to the King of France, published at Paris, in the year 1583, a volume entitled, "La Navigation du Roy d' Ecosse Jaques Cinquicsme du nom, autour de son Royaume, et Isles Hebrides and Orchades, soubz la conduicte d' Alexandre Lyndsay, excellent Pilote Ecossois." There is prefixed a description, evidently by d' Arfeville himself, of "the Island and Kingdom of Scotland," from which the following is an extract:

Those who inhabit Scotland to the south of the Grampian chain are tolerably civilized and obedient to the laws, and speak the English language; but those who inhabit the north are more rude, homely, and unruly, and for this reason are called savages (or wild Scots). They wear, like the Irish, a large and full shirt, coloured with saffron, and over this a garment hanging to the knee, of thick wool, after the manner of a cassock. They go with bare heads, and allow their hair to grow very long, and they wear neither stockings nor shoes, except some who have buskins made in a very old fashion, which come as high as their knees. Their arms are the bow and arrow, and some darts, which they throw with great dexterity, and a large sword, with a single-eged dagger. They are very swift of foot, and there is no horse so swift as to outstrip them, as I have seen proved several times, both in England and Scotland.

In a MS. History of the Gordons, by W. R,, preserved in the Advocates' Library (Jac. 5th, 7, ii), the following anecdote is given, as occurring about the year 1591 or 1592 :-

Angus, the son of Lauclan Macintosh, Chiefe of the Clanchattan, with a great party attempts to surprise the Castle of Ruthven in Badenoch, belonging to Huntly, in which there was but a small garrison; but finding this attempt could neither by force nor fraude have successe, he retires a little to consult how to compass his intent. In the meantime, one creeps out under the shelter of some old ruins, and levels with his piece at one of the Clanchattan cloathed in a yellow warr coal (which amongst them is the badge of the cheiftains or heads of clans), and peircing his body with the bullet, stricks him to the ground, and retires with gladness into the castle. The man killed was Angus himself, whom his people carry away, and conceills his death for many yeirs, pretending he was gone beyond seas.

In 1594, when Red Hugh O'Donnell, Lord of Tirconall in Ulster, was in rebellion against Queen Elizabeth, he was assisted for some time by a body of auxiliaries from the Hebrides. These warriors are described in the following terms, in the Life of Hugh O'Donnell, originally written in Irish by Peregrine O'Clery, and since translated by the late Edward O'Reilly, Esq. The curious extract from Mr O'Reilly's translation which follows was communicated to the editor by John D'Alton, Esq., barrister-at-law, Dublin :-

These (the auxiliaries from the Isles) were afterwards mixed with the Irish militia, with the diversity of their arms, their armour, their mode, manners, and speech. The outward clothing they wore was a mottled garment with numerous colours hanging in folds to the calf of the leg, with a girdle round the loins over the garment. Some of them with horn-hafted swords, large and military, over their shoulders. A man when he had to strike with them was obliged to apply both his hands to the haft. Others with bows, well polished, strong, and serviceable, with long twanging hempen strings, and sharp pointed arrows that whizzed in their flight.

Camden in his Britannia, first published in 1607, gives the following description of the Highland dress and armour:-

They are clothed after the Irish fashion, in striped mantles, with their hair thick and long. In war they wear an iron head-piece and a coat of mail woven with iron rings; and they use bows and barbed arrows and broad swords.

John Taylor, "the King's Majestic's Water Poet," made an excursion to Scotland in the year 1618, of which he published an amusing narrative under the title of "The Pennylesse Pilgrimage." He describes the dress of the Highlanders in the following account he gives of his visit to Braemar for the purpose of paying his respects to the Earl of Mar and Sir William Moray of Abercaimey (Taylor's Works, London, 1633, folio) :-

Thus, with extreme travell, ascending and descending, mounting and alighting, I came at night to the place where I would be, in the Brae of Marr, which is a large country, all composed of such mountaines, that Shooter's lull, or Malvernes Hills, are but mole-hills in comparison, or like a liver or a gizzard under a capon's wing, in respect to the altitude of their tops or perpendicularitie of their bottomes. There I saw Mount Benawue with a furrd'd mist upon his snowy head instead of a night-cap; for you must understand that the oldest man alive never saw but the snow was on the top of divers of those hills (both in summer as well as in winter.) There did I find the trudy noble and Rigbt Honourable Lords John Erskine, Earle of Marr, James Stuart, Earle of Murray, George Gordon, Earle of Engye, sonne and heire to the Marquise of Huntley, James Erskin, Earle of Bughan, and John Lord Erakin, sonne and heire to the Earle of Marr, with their Countesses, with my much honoured, and my best assured and approved friend, Sir William Murray, Knight, of Aberca.rny, and hundred of others, knights, esquires, and their followers; all and every man in general in one habit, as if Licurgus had been there and made lawes of equality. For once in the yeere, which is the whole moneth of August, and sometimes part of September, many of the nobility and gentry of the kingdome (for their pleasure) doe come into these Highland countries to hunt, where they doe conforme themselves to the habite of the Highland men, who, for the rnoste part, speake nothing but Irish; and in former time were those people which were called red-shanks. Their habite is shooes with but one sole apiece; stockings (which they call short hose) made of a warme stuff of divers colours, which they call tartane. As for breeches, many of them, nor their forefathers, never wore any, but a jerkin of the same stuffe that their hose is of, their garters being bands or wreathes of hay or straw, with a plaed about their shoulders, which is a mantle of divers colours, much finer and lighter stuffe than their hose, with blue fiat caps on their heads, a handkerchiefe knit with two knots about their uecks; and thus are they attyred. Now, their weapons are long bowes and forked arrowes, swords and targets, harquebusses, muskets, durks, and Loquhabor-ases. With these arms I found many of them armed for the hunting. As for their attire, any man of what degree soever that comes amongst them must not disdaine to weare it; for if they doe, then they will disdaine to hunt, or willingly bring in their dogges; but if men be kind unto them, and be in their habite, then are they conquered with kindnesses and sport will be plentifull. This was the reason that I found so many noblemen and gentlemen in those shapes. But to proceed to the hunting.

My good Lord of Marr having put me into that shape, I rode with him from his house, where I saw the mines of an old castle, called the castle of Kindroghit. It was built by King Malcolm Canmore (for a hunting house), who raigned in Scotland when Edward the Confessor, Harrold, and Norman William raigned in England. I speak of it, because it was the last house I saw in those parts; for I was the space of twelve dayes after, before I saw either house, come-field, or habitation for any creature, but deere, wild horses, wolves, and such like creatures, which made me doubt that I should never have seene a house againe.

Defoe, in his "Memoirs of a Cavalier," written about 1721, and obviously composed from authentic material, thus describes the Highland part of the Scottish army which invaded England in 1639, at the commencement of the great civil war. The Cavalier having paid a visit to the Scottish camp to satisfy his curiosity, proceeds (Edit. 1809, P. 201):-

I confess the soldiers made a very uncouth figure, especially the Highlanders; the oddness and barbarity of their garb and arms seemed to have something in it remarkable. They were generally tall, swinging fellows; their swords were extravagantly and I think insignificantly broad, and they carried great wooden targets, large enough to cover the upper part of their bodies. Their dress was as antique as the rest; a cap on their heads, called by them a bonnet, long hanging sleeves behind, and their doublet, breeches, and stockings of a stuff they call plaid, stripped across red and yellow, with short cloaks of the same. These flows looked, when drawn out, like a regiment of Merry-Andrews ready for Bartholomew fair. There were three or four thousand of these in the Scots army, armed only with swords and targets; and in their belts some of them had a pistol, but no musquets at that time among them.

IN the beginning of 1678, a body of Highlanders, "the Highland Host," as it was called, amounting to about io,00o men, were brought from their native mountains and quartered upon the western counties, for the purpose of suppressing the field meetings and conventicles of the Presbyterians. But their irregular and disorderly conduct soon made it necessary for Government to disband them; and therefore we need the less wonder that they should on this occasion be represented in satirical colours. The following is an extract from a letter (Wodrow MSS., Advocates' Library, 4to, vol. xcix., No. 29), dated February 1st, 1678, and evidently written by an eye-witness. The entire letter will be found in Blackwood's Magazine, April 1817, p. 68 :-

We are now quartered in and about this town (Ayr?), the Highlanders only in free quarters. It would be truly a pleasant sight, were it at an ordinary weaponshaw, to ice this Highland crew. You know the fashion of their wild apparel; not one of them bath breeches, yet hose and shoes are their greatest need and most clever prey, and they spare not to take them everywhere. In so much that the committee here and the Counsel with you (as it is said) have ordered some thousand pairs of shoes to be made to stand this great spoil. As for their armes and other militarie accoutrements, it is not possible for me to describe them in writing; here you may see bead-pieces and steel- bonnets raised like pyramids, and such as a man would affirme they had only found in chamber-boxes; targets and shields of the most odde and antique forme, and powder- horns, hung in strings, garnished with beaten nails and burnished brass. And truely I doubt not but a man curious in our antiquities might in this host linde explications of the strange pieces of armour mentioned in our old lawes, such as bosnet, iron hat, gorget, pesane, wambrassers and reerbrassers, panns, leg-splents, and the like, above what any occasion in the Lowlands would have afforded for several hundreds of yeers. Among the ensigns also, besides other singularities, the Glencow men were very remarkable, who had for their ensigne a faire bush of heath, wel.spred and displayed on the head of a staff, such as might have affrighted a Roman eagle.

William Cleland, Lieutenant-Colonel of the Earl of Angus' Regiment, who was killed while gallantly defending his post at Dunkeld against a party of Highlanders, soon after the Revolution, wrote a satirical poem upon the expedition of the Highland Host in 1678, from which the following extracts are taken (Collection of Poems. &c., 12mo, 1697, P.12):

William Sacheverell, Governor of the Isle of Man, who was employed in 1688 in the attempt to recover the stores of the Florida, one of the great vessels of the Spanish Armada (which was blown up and sunk in the harbour of Tobermory, in Mull, exactly a hundred years before), made in that year an excursion through the Isle of Mull, and thence to Icolmkill. In 1702 he published, at London, an account of this excursion, along with an account of the Isle of Man. At page 129 of this volume, he thus describes the dress, armour, and general appearance of the Highlanders as he saw them in the Isle of Mull in 1688.

During my stay, I generally observed the men to be large-bodied, stout, subtle, active, patient of cold and hunger. There appeared in all their actions a certain generous air of freedom, and contempt of those trifles, luxury and ambition, which we so servilely creep after. They bound their appetites by their necessities, and their happiness consists, not in having much, but in coveting little. The women seem to have the same sentiments with the men; though their habits were mean, and they had not our sort of breeding, yet in many of them there was a natural beauty and graceful modesty, which never fails of attracting. The usual outward habit of both sexes is the pladd; the women's much finer, the colours more lively, and the squares larger than the men's, and put me in mind of the ancient Picts. This serves them for a veil, and covers both head and body. The men wear theirs after another fashion, especially when designed for ornament; it is loose and flowing, like the mantles our painters give their heroes. Their thighs are bare, with brawny muscles. Nature has drawn all her stroakes bold and masterly; what is covered is only adapted to necessity. A thin brogue on the foot, a short buskin of vanous colours on the legg, tied above the calf with a striped pair of garters. What should be concealed is hid with a large shot-pouch, on each side of which bangs a pistol and a dagger, as if they found it necessary to keep those parts well guarded. A round target on their backs, a blew bonnet on their heads, in one hand a broadsword and a musquet in the other. Perhaps no nation goes better armed; and I assure you they will handle them with bravery and dexterity, especially the sword and target, as our veterane regiments found to their cost at Gillecrankee.

The Rev. James Brome, in his travels over England, Scotland, and Wales, published at London, in 1700, 8vo, gives (p. 183) the following description of the Highland dress and armour, which, although partly translated from Buchanan, has yet in it something original :-

The Highlanders who inhabit the west part of the country, in their language, habit, and manners, agree much with the customs of the wild Irish, and their chief city is Elgin, in the county of Murray, seated upon the water of Lossy, formerly the Bishop of Murray's seat, with a church sumptuously built, but now gone into decay. They go habited in mantles striped or streaked with divers colours about their shoulders, which they call pladden, with a coat girt close to their bodies, and commonly are naked upon their legs, but wear sandals upon the soles of their feet, and their women go clad much after the same fashion. They get their living mostly by hunting, fishing, and fowling; and when they go to war, the armour wherewith they cover their bodies is a morion or bonnet of iron, and an hatergeon which comes down almost to their very heels; their weapons against their enemies are bows and arrows, and they are generally reputed good marksmen upon all occasions. Their arrows for the most part are barbed and crooked, which once entered within the body, cannot well be drawn out again unless the wound be made wider. Some of them fight with broadswords and axes.

In Martin's description of the Western Isles of Scotland (second edition, London, 1716, p. 206), we find the following minute account of the dress formerly worn by the Islanders The first habit wore by persons of distinction in the islands was the lcni-croich, from the Irish word fern; which signifies a shirt, and croich, saffron, because their shirt was dyed with that herb. The ordinary number of ells used to make this robe was twenty-four; it was the upper garb, reaching below the knees, and was tied with a belt round the middle; but the Islanders have laid it aside about a hundred years ago.
They now generally use coat, waistcoat, and breeches, as elsewhere; and on their heads wear bonnets made of thick cloth, some blue, some black, and some grey.
Many of the people wear trowis; some have them very fine woven, like stockings of those made of cloth; some are coloured, and others striped; the latter are as well shaped as the former, lying close to the body from the middle downwards, and tied round with a belt above the haunches. There is a square piece of cloth which hangs down before. The measure for shaping the trowis is a stick of wood, whose length is a cubit, and that divided into the length of a finger, and half a finger, so that it requires more skill to make it than the ordinary habit.
The shoes anciently wore were a piece of the hide of a deer, cow, or horse, with the hair on, being tied behind and before with a point of leather. The generality now wear shoes, having one thin sole only, and shaped after the right and left foot; so that what is for one foot will not serve for the other. But persons of distinction wear the garb in fashion in the south of Scotland.

The plai4 wore only by the men, is made of fine wool, the thred as fine as can be made of that kind; it consists of divers colours, and there is a great deal of ingenuity required in sorting the colours, so as to be agreeable to the nicest fancy. For this reason the women are at great pains, first to give an exact pattern of the plad upon a piece of wood, having the number of every thred of the stripe on it. The length of it is commonly seven double ells; the one end hangs by the middle over the left arm, the other going round the body, hangs by the end over the left arm also; the right hand above it is to be at liberty to do anything upon occasion. Every isle differs from each other in the fancy of making plads, as to the stripes in breadth and colours. This humour is as different through the mainland of the Highlands, in so far that they who have seen those places are able, at the first view of a man's plad, to guess the place of his residence. When they travel on foot, the plad is tied on the breast with a bodkin of bone or wood (just as the spina wore by the Germans, according to the description of Tacitus). The plad is tied round the middle with a leather belt; it is pleated from the belt to the knee very nicely. This dress for footmen is found much easier and lighter than breeches or trowis. The ancient dress wore by the women, and which is yet worn by some of the vulgar, called arisad is a white plad, having a few small stripes of black, blue, and red. It reached from the neck to the heels, and was tied before on the breast with a buckle of silver or brass, according to the quality of the person. I have seen some of the former of an hundred marks' value; it was broad as an ordinary pewter plate, the whole curiously engraved with various animals, &c. There was a lesser buckle, which was wore in the middle of the larger, and above two ounces weight; it had in the centre a large piece of chrystal, or some finer stone, and this was set all round with several finer stones of a lesser size.

The plad being pleated all round, was tied with a belt below the breast; the belt was of leather, and several pieces of silver intermixed with the leather like a chain. The lower end of the belt has a piece of plate, about eight inches long and three in breadth, curiously engraven; the end of which was adorned with fine stones, or pieces of red coral. They wore sleeves of scarlet cloth, closed at the end as men's vests, with gold lace round them, having plate buttons set with fine stones.

The head-dress was a fine kerchief of linen strait about the bead, hanging down the back taper-wise; a large lock of hair hangs down their cheeks above their breast, the lower end tied with a knot of ribbands.

The ancient way of fighting was by set battles; and for arms some had broad two-handed swords and beadpieces, and others bows and arrows. When all their arrows were spent, they attacked one another with sword-in-hand. Since the invention of guns, they are very early accustomed to use them, and carry their pieces with them wherever they go; they likewise learn to handle the broad-sword and target. The chief of each tribe advances with his followers within shot of the enemy, having first laid aside their upper garments; and after one general discharge, they attack them with sword-in-hand, having their target on their left hand (as they did at Keliernkey), which soon brings the matter to an issue, and verifies the observation made of them by your historians :—Aut Mars cito, aist Victoria lata.

The following is the description of the Highland dress given by Captain Burt, an English officer of engineers, employed under Marshal Wade on the military roads through the Highlands, begun in the year 1726. It is taken from his amusing work, "Letters from a Gentleman in the North of Scotland" (2d edition, London, 1759), to which such frequent reference has been made in the works of Sir Walter Scott :-

The Highland dress consists of a bonnet made of thrum without a brim, a short coat, a waistcoat, longer by five or six inches, short stockings and brogues, or pumps, without heels. By the way, they cut holes in their brogues though new made, to let out the water when they have far to go, and rivers to pass; thus they do to prevent their feet from galling.

Few besides gentlemen wear the trowze, that is the breeches and stockings all of one piece and drawn on together; over this habit they wear a plaid, which is usually three yards long and two breadths wide, and the whole garb is made of chequered tartan or plaiding; thus, with the sword and pistol, is called a full dress, and to a well-proportioned man, with any tolerable air, it makes an agreeable figure; but this you have seen in London, and it is chiefly their mode of dressing when they are in the Lowlands, or when they make a neighbouring visit, or go anywhere on horseback; but those among them who travel on foot, and have not attendants to carry them over the waters, vary it into the quelt, which is a manner I am about to describe.

The commoner habit of the ordinary Highlanders is far from being acceptable to the eye; with them a small part of the plaid, which is not so large as the former, is set in folds and girt round the waist to make of it a short petticoat that reaches halfway down the thigh, and the rest is brought over the shoulder, and then fastened before below the neck, often with a fork and sometimes with a bodkin or sharpened piece of stick, so that they make pretty near the appearance of the people in London, when they bring their gowns over their heads to shelter them from the rain. In this way of wearing the plaid, they have nothing else to cover them, and are often barefoot, but some I have seen- shod with a kind of pumps made out of a raw cow hide with the hair turned outward, which being ill made, the wearer's foot looked something like a rough-footed hen or pigeon. These are called quaxiants, and are not only offensive to the sight, but intolerable to the smell of those who are near them. The stocking rises, no higher than the thick of the calf, and from the middle of the thigh to the middle of the leg is a naked space, which, being exposed to all weathers, becomes tanned and freckled..—(Vol. ii., p. 183.)

The plaid is the undress of the ladies at Inverness, and to a genteel woman who adjusts it with a good air, is a becoming veil. But as I am pretty sure you never saw one of them in England, I shall employ a few words to describe it to you. It is made of silk or fine worsted, chequered with various lively colours, two breadths wide, and three yards in length; it is brought over the head, and may hide or discover the face according to the wearer's fancy or occasion; it reaches to the waist behind; one corner falls as low as the ancle on one side; and the other part in folds hangs down from the opposite arm.—( Vol. i., p. 100.)

The ordinary girls wear nothing upon their heads until they are married or get a child, except sometimes a fillet of red or blue coarse cloth, of which they are very proud; but often their hair hangs down over the forehead, like that of a wild colt.

If they wear stockings, which is very rare, they lay them in plaits. one above another, from the ankle up to the calf; to make their legs appear, as near as they can, in the form of a cylinder; but I think I have seen something like this among the poor German refugee women and the Moorish men in London.—(Vol. ii., p. i94.)

The same author thus describes the arms:

When any one of them is armed at all points, heis loaded with a target, a firelock, a heavy broadsword, a pistol-stock, and lock of iron, a dirk; and besides all these, some of them carry a sort of knife, which they call a skeen.accles [sgian achiaf:), from its being concealed in the sleeve near the armpit.—(p. 222.)

The blade [of the dirk) is straight, and generally above a foot long, the back near an inch thick; the point goes off like a tuck, and the handle is something like that of a sickle. They pretend that they can't well do without it, as being useful to them in cutting wood, and upon many othes occasions; but it is a concealed mischief hid under the plaid, ready for the secret stabbing, and in a close encounter there is no defence against it.—(p. 174.)

Mr Gough, in his additions to Camden's Britannica (Edit. London, 1789, vol. iii., P. 390), gives the following accurate description of the Highland dress and armour, as they were to be found in the district of Breadalbane previous to the proscription of the dress :-

The dress of the men is the brechan or plaid, twelve or thirteen yards of narrow stuff, wrapped round the middle, and reaching to the knees, often girt round the waist, and in cold weather covering the whole body, even on the open hills, all night, and fastened on the shoulders with a broche; short stockings tied below the knee; Iruish, a genteeler kind of breeches, and stockings of one piece; cuoranen, a laced shoe of skin, with the hairy side out, rather disused; kelt orJillebeg, g.d., little plaid, or short petticoat, reaching to the knees, substituted of late to the longer end of the plaid; and lastly, the pouch of badger or other skin, with tassels hanging before them. The Loc/a&r axe, used now only by the Town Guard of Edinburgh, was a tremendous weapon. bows and arrows were in use in the middle of the last century, now, as well.

as the broadsword and target, laid aside since the disarming act, but the dirk, or ancient puglo, is still worn as a dress with the knife and fork.

The women's dress is the kirch, or white linen pinned round behind like a hood, and over the foreheads of married women, whereas maidens wear only a swod or ribbon round their heads; the tanac or plaid fastened over their shoulders, and drawn over their heads in bad weather; a Plaited long stocking, called ossan, is their high dress.

The following detail of the complete equipment of a Highland chief, and instructions for belting the plaid, were communicated by a Highland gentleman to Charles Grant, vzcomte de Vaux, &c., &c., by whom they were printed in his "Mémoires de la Maison de Grant," in 1796 (pp. 6-7):---

1. A full-trimmed bonnet.
2. A tartan jacket, vest, kilt, and cross belt.
3. A tartan belted plaid.
4. A pair of hose, made up [of cloth].
5. A pair of stockings, do., with yellow garters.
6. Two pair of brogs.
7. A silver mounted purse and belt.
8. A target with spear.
9. A broadsword.
10. A pair of pistols and bullet mould.
11. A dirk, knife, fork, and belt.

METHOD OF BELTING THE PLAID.—Being sewed, and the broad belt within the keepers, the gentleman stands with nothing on but his shirt; when the servant gets the plaid and belt round, he must hold both ends of the belt, till the gentleman adjusts and puts across, in a proper manner, the two folds or flaps before; that done, he tightens the belt to the degree wanted; Olen the purse and purse-belt is put on loosely; afterwards, the coat and waistcoat is put on, and the great low part hanging down behind, where a loop is fixed, is to be pinned up to the right shoulder, immediately under the shoulder-strap, pinned in such a manner that the corner, or low- flyer behind, hang as low as the kilt or hough, and no lower; that properly adjusted, the pointed corner or flap that hangs at the left thigh, to be taken through the purse belt, and to hang, having a cast back very near as low as the belt, putting at the same time any awkward bulky part of the plaid on the left side back from the haunch, stuffed under the purse-belt. When the shoulder or sword belt is put on, the flyer that hangs behind is to be taken through, and hung over the shoulder-belt.

N.B.—No kilt ought ever to hang lower than the bough or knee—scarcely that far down.

[We make a present of these Notes to those ignorant Cockney scribblers, and their unpatriotic Highland and Scottish imitators, who, "to earn an honest penny," in Southern organs, belie their country and its history, by, among other things, imposing on their credulous readers, insisting that the Kilt and the Highland Dress are the modern inventions of an Englishman.]


Return to our Historic Articles Page