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The Scottish Gael
Chapter VI
On the dress of the ancient Celts, and costume of the present Gael

SAVAGES in most countries have been found to paint their naked bodies,
both for ornament, and with a view to inspire their enemies with terror.
Before they have learned to cover their persons with any material, this
may be considered their dress; but long after they have adopted partial
clothing they continue, from attachment to ancient custom, and for the
purpose of distinction, to stain, with particular colors and symbols, those
parts of the body that remain uncovered.

Allied to the custom of painting, for the purpose of rendering them-
selves terrible to their enemies, is the barbarous practice of besmearing
the face with the blood of those who were slain. The Irish, we learn
from Solinus, were accustomed to augment their fierceness of visage by
this method, and, according to Spenser, the custom had not been entire-
ly dropped in his time. The idea of filling an enemy with dread by
personal appeal ance, is not a bad conception; for, as Tacitus remarks,
on the savage figure of the Germans, the eyes of men are first overcome
in battle. It was for the purpose of intimidation that the ancient nations
stained their bodies, cherished their hair, carried strange crests or hel-
mets, and wore peculiar apparel; and from this practice has probablj
originated the military costumes of the present day. The British tribes
were remarkable for the practice of painting their bodies; but it is not
a little singular that no positive authority appears for this mode of dec-


oration among the Gauls of the continent. Except a fragment of a
statue, supposed to be a Gallic Mercury, discovered at Frarnont, that
prolific field for antiquarian research, and here represented, I have uot
met with any sculpture to indicate the prevalence of this custom.*

Pelloutier thinks that Tacitus alludes to the practice among the Iberi-
ans;! ne plainly describes the Arrians of Germany as tincta corpora.
The Budini, a Getic people, painted their bodies blue and red;J and
Virgil describes all the Geloni, or Getae, as picti. The Daci and Sar-
matae delineated various characters or figures on their bodies, and the
women stained their faces with the juice of various herbs. || The Thra-
cians also, especially the ladies, painted their skins. IF The Agathyrsi,
a Scythic nation, who are placed in Scandinavia by Jornandes, and on
the Sinus Codanus by Rudbeck, painted their bodies with blue marks,
the nobles being distinguished by a great number of these spots or fig-

Pnny tells us, the glastum, with which the Britons dyed their bodies,
was found in Gaul, but does not say the inhabitants made a similar use
of it. The inference is that they did, but we have no express authority
for the supposition; from which Dr. Mac Pherson thought, that as the
painting could not have been derived from Gaul, it originated among the
Caledonians. The Picts, by popular tradition, took their name from this
practice ; and their chronicle and Isodore agree in saying, that the Scoti
became Picti from this circumstance.

All the Britons, Caesar says, painted with woad, and described various
figures on their bodies. These consisted of the sun, moon, and other
planets, animals, &c. The women dyed their whole bodies with this
vegetable, the married and young equally, and they appeared so orna-
mented at sacrifices and other solemnities quite naked. "|"j" Claudian
seems to describe Britannia as painted in the cheeks.

The stains were impressed in youth; for it was a sort of tattooing,
similar to what is performed on the Indians, and for this purpose certain
iron instruments were used. The Geloni marked themselves with tools
of this metal, JJ and it was by a similar process that the Picts and other
inhabitants of Britain stained or tinctured their bodies.^ The British

* Montfaucon's Antiquities expliques. t ii. 7. p. 129. ed. 1770.

t Herodotus, iv. Georgics, ii. 115.

|| Pliny, xxii. 1. U Dio Chrysostom.

** Amm. Mar. xxxi. Solinua. c. 15. Virgil. ft Pliny, xxii. 1.

tt Virgil. Claudian de Bello Getica


youth, says Solinus, were "marked with the figures of different animals
by nice incisions, and there was nothing which they bore with more for-
titude than the operation, by which their limbs received a deep coloring
in durable scars." Isodore says, the bodies of the Picts were punctured
with a sharp instrument, and his expression " stigmata Britonurn " seems
to imply a deeper incision than other nations made.*

The marks produced by this operation generally appear blue, -when
the mutter applied is not exactly of that color, as may be observed on
the "hands and arms of seamen and others, from which it may be con-
cluded that the ancient Britons did not confine themselves to the use of
woad. Isodore, who describes the Goths as using red, says, the Picts
colored themselves with the juice of green grass;"}" and Ovid terms the
Britons " Virides." Martial calls them blue, and the expression "cceru-
leas scuta Brigantes,"J is applied to the personal appearance of that na-
tion. Herodian seems to represent the Britons as painted with various
colors, " notant corpora pictura varia et omnifariam formis animalium,"^
which is translated by several authors as meaning paintings of different
colors, and is applied to the Caledonians. Maule says, that Argento-
coxus, or rather Argachocoxus, a celebrated chief of the Caledonian
Picts, derived his name from the ancient word Coch, or Goch, red, and
that therefore he was of the red clan, as others might be of Clan-buy,
the yellow tribe, &.c. The conjecture is ingenious, if not satisfactory.

This practice of staining the body was retained by the Angli, to so
low a period as the Norman conquest. They are even described by
William of Malmsbury, as having their skins marked with figures. || The
custom had before his time been very prevalent, but the attention of the
clergy was at last called to this relick of paganism; and the council of
Cealhythe, in 787, denounces those who used such ornaments, as moved
"diabolico instinctu," the body which was created fair and comely, be-
ing colored with dirty stains, unprofitable to salvation.

Mankind did not at first clothe themselves for the sake of decency.
Dress is assumed more from pride and ostentation among savages, and
is rendered subservient to their protection in war, rather than adopted
as a defence from the severities of climate. The Greeks and Romans
thought it no indelicacy, to appear naked in public. Larcher on Hero-
dotus states a remark of Plato, that the Greeks had not long considered
it ridiculous and disgraceful for a man to appear in a state of nudity.

In dress, as before observed, the chief object was to impress the enemy
with dismay, by producing a strange and terrific appearance: a second,
and not less strong feeling in decorating the person, was vanity. Pride
of dress is found to influence the lowest savages, who are, according to
their circumstances, as ostentatious in this respect, as the most civilized

* Origines, xix. 23. Pliny says, some Eastern nations marked their bodies with lnt
searing irons. t Ap. Maule's History of the Picts.

t Seneca de Claudio. Hist. iii.

U De G. R. A. L. 3, " picturatis stigmatibus cutem insigniti."


No race were more proud of their apparel and personal decorations,
than the ancient Celtae, and their taste in arraying themselves, with thu
singularity and splendor of their attire, struck their enemies with amaze-
ment. The beauty and riches of the dress of the Gauls, at the battlo
of Telamon, was wonderful, for tho whole army shone with purple silk
and chains, and bracelets of gold, which they wore about their wrists
and neck,* and the brilliancy of color in their sagas were the admiration
of other nations, who were proud to make a humble imitation of the

The undressed skins of animals form the first covering of mankind,
and they continue to be used until the art of fabricating more suitable
materials is discovered, or until all have attained sufficient wealth to
purchase them. The Greeks, more particularly the Arcadians, were
clothed in skins, in the time of Aristodemus,j and the Ligurians contin-
ued long to dress themselves in the hides of wild beasts, fastened around
them, by means of a belt.J

Tacitus says, the remote Germans wore the skins of animals, in some
cases from necessity, inothers from choice, and some of them they
diversified with numerous spots. ^ Caesar also describes the Suevi as
arrayed in skins, and Virgil says the Getae made use of the same cover-

According to Dio, the Caledonians were naked: but, as Dr. Mac
Pherson observes, we are not to believe they were entirely destitute of
covering. Herodian represents them as being only partially clad; and
with their scanty covering the expression naked was not inapplicable. |j
At the period of Caesar's descent, most of the inhabitants were clothed
with the skins of animals, 1F but woollen garments were also in use. A
clothing of undressed skins is easily procured, and is the best substitute
for other materials, in a poor country, where manufactures are but little
known. The common people in Germany and Gaul continued to dress
in this manner, long after their chiefs had adopted garments of linen and
woollen cloth. At the commencement of the Christian era, the Belgic
Britons, who were more civilized than the nations of the interior, were
generally dressed in woollen garments; but the use of this manufacture
was chiefly confined to the southern tribes, for it was only the principal
persons in the interior who had begun to use it. We find, in the ancient
Gaelic poems, the skin of a boar as the dress of a hero. The monks
of lona, at a later period, dressed in skins, although they had linen also,
which they imported, no doubt, from the main land; nay, " in the book
of dresses, Paris 1562, from which facsimiles are published," the High-
landers are said to be represented arrayed in sheep skins.**

The ancient Britons had a sort of manufacture of the inner bark of

* Polybius, ii. t Pausanias, iv. 11. J Diodorus.

DP mor. Germ. They also dressed in the skins of sea monsters.

|| Lib iii. 47. IT Bello Gallico.

" Letter on the Highland Dress. Scots' Mag. Nov. 1798, p. 743.


trees, which still exists among the farmers in Germany, Sweden, Den-
mark, &.c. under the name of matten, who employ it for agricultural
purposes. Mathan in Gaelic is a twig, or rush, from which come the
English mat, matted, &c.

The first woollen vestment which we find used by the Gauls and Ger-
mans, was a square blanket thrown over the naked shoulders, and, from
its value, worn only by the chiefs. This was called sagum, the same
name which was given to the inartificial cloak which it had succeeded.
Sac, in Gaelic, signifies a skin or hide. The Belgoe called this part of
their dress lene, or linne. Reno, which Varro says is Gallic, was a
term applied to it by some Germans, while others denominated it mas-

The manufacture of woollen cloth must have existed among the Celtae
from the most early period. They were particularly ingenious in dying
the material, and in its fabrication; and their perfection in the art be-
speaks long use and experience, as well as much taste. The singularity
of the Gaulish habit excited the astonishment of the Romans: but al-
though they adopted the use of the warm cloth which the Belgae manu-
factured, it does not appear that they ever wore the showy pattern which
the Celtae had the honor to invent. Other nations, admiring its gaudy
appearance, were induced to relinquish their own dress and adopt it in-
stead. The Franks were so pleased with the striped sagum that they
assumed it in preference to their own habit. "f" The Saxons, in like man-
ner, imitated the curious workmanship of those ingenious people, and
carried it to great perfection. The place where they worked was called
"the Tuphus of woulle," and women attended to the manufacture. J
The spinners and weavers in Germany worked under ground, in caves. ^

There were different qualities of Celtic wool. That of Lusitania and
of Narbonne was rough and coarse; in Piemont it was chiefly gray; in
Celtiberia it was mostly black; and in Andalusia and Grenada it was
reddish. ||

The Gauls appear to have made a sort of felt without weaving, the
cuttings of which were formed into mattrasses. Perhaps Strabo alludes
to this article when he says the sagum was rough outside. When vine-
gar was used in the preparation of this, it resisted the blow of a sword,
and was even some defence against fire.||

They shore the wool close, says Diodorus, and called their thick cas-
socks, coenas. They also wore the sagum thicker than usual in winter
The Celtic weavers were, certainly, most ingenious artists, and produced
work that astonished other nations, by its richness and singularity.

The description of it has been supposed to imply that the fig ires of
flowers were represented in the texture of the cloth, but this nice and

* Cluverius Germ. Ant. " Saga vulgo Sayon a quo milites nostros Savatos appella-
mus." Pol Virgil de Invent, rerum, 1604.

t Favin, also an author in Baluzii capitularia, ii. 741, quoted by Whittaker.
i Fosbrooke, in MSS Pliny. IJ Pliny, viii. 48.


difficult operation in the art is not likely to have been known in those
rude ages. It was much easier to fall on the way of using alternate
colors, both in warp and woof, and thereby produce that appearance
which, at a distance, to those unacquainted with its nature, might readi-
ly be taken for flowering. Diodorus had no name for this manufacture,
which was peculiar to the Celts, and only means to say, as I apprehend,
that it resembled a flowered robe; for he goes on. to describe it as form-
ed in distinct striped squares.* This opinion seems confirmed by what
Pliny says of the Lusitanian manufacture, that the mesh-work of the
homespun garment gave it value. The " scutulato textu " has been
taken for round figures, or lozenge-figured damask. The following note
on the passage is more just: " textus virgatus est macularum instar can-
cellatim et reticulatim distinctus Lausagias Galli vocant."J

If we could give credit to the few dark intimations concerning the
Hyperborei of Britain, a proof that the manufacture, which is plainly
Tartan, existed in this country, at a period long prior to the commence-
ment of our credible history, would be found; for Abaris, the high priest
of that people, wore a robe which corresponds, from the description,
exactly to the Scots' plaid.

It may be presumed, without insisting on an authority so doubtful,
the Gallic colonists brought with them their national artificers and man-
ufactures; as cloth does not appear to have been an article of import
with the Britons, among whom its use was common, at the era of the
Roman descent.

The Belgae are believed to have introduced the use of woollen vest-
ments, an opinion which is founded on their being more generally worn
by those tribes than the less polished inhabitants of the interior. The
skins of animals, as they were more easily procured, appear to have
formed the dress of the common people throughout the island, but the
manufacture of woollen cloth was well understood at an early period.

Bondiuca wore a tunic, interwoven with various colors, over which
was a mantle of a coarser texture, being the dress which she wore at all
times. J Varro says the Britons wore a garment called Guanacum,
which was of divers colors, woven together and making a gaudy sho\v;
and Tacitus says the ^Estii, a German nation, wore the British dress,
which must have been the Gallic.

The Saxons continued the manufacture, which Aldhelm, who was
Bishop of Sherborn about 970, describes in a pleasing manner. Writing
in praise of virginity, he says, " it is not the web of one uniform color
and texture, without any variety of figures, that pleases the eye and
appears beautiful, but one that is woven by shuttles, filled with threads

* " Ac seu floribus conspersas." * * ' * " saga etiam virgata, crebrisque

tesselis florum instar distincta." Pliny says, " Scutulis vestes dividere instituit Gal-
lia ; " while he elsewhere describes the Parthians as weaving letters or characters in
their cloth. Lib. xiii. ii. t Comment, a'd Pliny, in ed. Lngd. 1668.

J Di o Ap. Strutt's Chronicles, p. 275.


of purple and various other colors, flying from side to side, and forming
a variety of figures and images in different compartments, with admira-
ble art."* The Saxons, not having a sufficiently Celtic taste, appear
to have given up this manufacture.

Cloth, in the most simple composition, is left of the natural wool,
without being colored by any artificial process. Hence the Celtiberians,
in general, wore black sagas, | the wool being of that color. Giraldus
Carnbrensis says most of the Irish were clad in black, for the same rea-
son; and the Loughtan cloth of the Isle of Man is made from the natural
wool of a particular breed of sheep, some of which are said still to exist
in St. Kilda and other remote islands. The color is yellowish, or that of
an unblanched bitter alrn-md, and the inhabitants are very partial to it.J

Throughout Scotland, more particularly in the North Highlands, the
cloth was made of the undyed wool, the white and black being generally
appropriated for blankets, or plaids, and for the upper garments, the gray
for hose and mits for the gudeman. The Hodden gray was the general
attire among the fanners, as it still, in most parts of the interior and in
[reland, continues to be. Sheep shearing was, perhaps, unknown to
the primitive tribes. The Shetlanders still continue to tear off* the wool;
a practice less cruel than at first appears, for it is not done until after
the roots have been forced out by the young fleece; but it is very inju-
dicious, for much is naturally cast, and, consequently, lost.

It would appear that, in ancient times, the Irish had garments formed
of hair. A coat of unknown texture was clug from a bog at a depth of
fifteen feet; and in another place, eleven feet under the surface of the
earth, a body was found clothed in a garment of hair. From the singu-
larity of its appearance, the supposition was, that it had been fabricated
from that of the Moosedeer.^ We find that the Irish, in later periods
than those to which the above discoveries are referable, wore " girdles
of women's hair and locks of their lovers ;"|| nurses and children being
girt with belts of female hair, finely plaited. These were rather orna-
mental than necessary apparel, but we find Fin Mac Coul was arrayed
in " hieland pladdis of hair. "IT

Wool is the material which the Celta3 must have manufactured, from
the most remote ao-es, and the texture of the web must have varied ac-

t5 *

cording to the abilities of the workmen, or affluence of the parties. In
1786, there was found among other articles, at a depth of seventeen feet,
in a hog in Ireland, a coat in shape like a spencer or jacket, of a coarse
tvoollen net-work.

* Strutt, ut sup. t Diodorus.

t Histories of the Tsle of Man, Stat. Account, Agric. Rep. &c. The manx word
/joshhyn, signifies burnt, or singed. Lachdan, in Gaelic, is gray. " A Lauchtanc
mantle then him by." The Bruce. Archaeologia, vii.

|| Gainsfrrd's Glory of England, 1610.

TF Interlude of the Droichis, noticed in Sir John (Sinclair's Diss. on Ossian's Poems,
p. xxvii.


The Highlanders sometimes made their plaids very fine, but, for gen
eral wear, they bestowed less pains.* The cathdath, or cadas, was a
thick sort, made for the men, and intended, as its name, battle color,
implies, to be worn during war. Of this milled. .cloth, hose, trews, jacket
and waistcoat were usually made, but the plaid and feilebeag were always
of common tartan. Clodh was used for coats, and was commonly what
is called hodden gray in the Lowlands, and lachdan by the Highlanders
Cuirtan was similar to a common Scot's blanket, but of finer wool and
fairer workmanship.

The luathadh, or process of fulling or cleansing cloth, in the High
lands, is conducted in a singular manner. Six or eight, sometimes even
fourteen, females, sit down on each side of a long frame of wattled work,
or a board ribbed longitudinally for the purpose, and placed on the
ground. The cloth being wet, is then laid on it, and the women, kneel-
ing, rub it with all their strength, until their arms become tired, when
they sit down and applying their bare feet, commence the waulking in
good earnest, singing a particular melody, the notes of which increase
in loudness, as the work proceeds. The following account of the man-
ner of preparing the plaids, and the expense attending the manufacture,
about the middle of the last century, is given in the Agricultural Report
of Caithness. When the web was sent home, it was washed in warm
water, and, if it was necessary to full it, the door was taken off its hinges
and laid on the floor, the web being then taken out of the water and laid
on it. Four women, with bare legs, having set down on a little straw^
at equal distances on each side, on the signal of a song, (similar to the
Ran de Vache, in Switzerland,) each applied the soles of her feet to
the web, and began pushing and tumbling it about, until it was suffi-
ciently done, when it was stretched out to dry. Cloth, if good, and for
sale, fetched Is. per yard, and tartan, if also good, and of fine colors,
Is. or Is. 2d. That industry and simplicity of life, the reporter adds,
are now gone.

This mode of washing is the Luaghadh, described by Pennant, and of
which he has given a print. It is related of an English gentleman, that
having accidentally looked into a cottage where the females were so en-
gaged, he hastily retired, reporting that he had seen a whole company
of furious lunatics.

Woollen must have been at first woven of one color, or an intermixture
of natural black and white, so frequently seen in Scotland, in the present
day. The process of dying increases the expense, and is not at all times
practicable. Buchannan says the prevailing color in his time was brown ,
most likely that above alluded to. Blue was the favorite color of the
painted Britons, from which Britannia was represented arrayed in a blue

Pinkerton and several other writers of less note, have affected to
Believe, that tartan was a recent invention. Its antiquity among tho

* Martin. Gen. Stewart.


Celtse is already proved, and if it was a manufacture of the ancient Brit
cms, there appears no reason to believe that it was ever lost by their de-
scendants. Lesly and Buchannan mention it, as worn by the Highland-
ers; and an old chronicle says, the inhabitants of the Western Isles
delighted "to wear marled cloaths, specially that have long stripes of
sundry colours. Their predecessors used short mantles, or plaids of di-
vers colours, sundry ways divided; and amongst some the same custom is
observed to this day, but for the most part now they are broun, most
near to the color of the hadder, to the effect \vhen they lie among the
hadder, the bright colours of their plaids shall not bewray them." *

" In Argyle and the Hebudae, before the middle of the fifteenth cen-
tury, tartan was manufactured of one or two colors for the poor; more
varied for the rich."'}" Beague describes the Gael nearly 300 years ago
as having a woollen covering, variously colored. In the charge and
discharge of John, Bishop of Glasgow, treasurer to King James III.,
147], are the following items:

" Ane elne and ane halve of blue Tartane to lyne his gowne of cloth of gold. jCl 10a.
Four elne and ane halve of Tartane, for a sparwort aboun his credill, price

ane elne 10s 25

Halve ane elne of doble Tartane to lyne ridin collars to her lady the Quene,
price 8 shillins.

There is a portrait of Sir William Wallace at Taymouth, a seat of
Lord Braidalban, where the patriot is represented with a plaid of tartan
fastened on his breast by a large brooch. The authenticity of this picture
may be questioned, but it is possible for a rude painting to have been pre-
served by a copy, as was done with that of William the Lion in the hall
of the incorporated trades of Aberdeen, which is known to have been
repainted from a very old and decayed portrait, upwards of one hun-
dred years ago. If this, however, were not the case with the one in
question, it is yet of greater antiquity than the period assigned by many
for the introduction of the manufacture. It must have been handed
down from the ancient tribes, but, from change of circumstances, the
patterns were made less rich. The name breacan, which the Highland-
ers give to their upper garment, "derived from breac, chequered, is a
strong proof of its antiquity.

Achy Edgathach, an Irish legislator, is said to have introduced the
Laws of colors to that people, which are represented as having done
more towards procuring esteem and respect than all the trappings of
eastern magnificence. J The number of colors among them and the
Caledonians, indicated the rank of the wearer, a king or chief having
seven, a Druid six, and other nobles four in their robes. In later times,
those who could afford to do so, may have indulged their taste by intro-
ducing a variety of rich colors; the poor were obliged to make their cloth
plain. Green and black, with an occasional stripe of red, seem to have

* Lord Somers' Tracts, vol. xiii. t Heron's Hist, of Scotland, v. p. 28

t Dissertations on the Ancient History of Ireland, 1753, p. 124.


predominated; but some districts have been distinguished for their pe-
culiar taste, as Badenoch, where red tartan was prevalent, and Locha-
ber, where the patterns were remarkably gaudy, &.c.

The Highlanders had neither cochineal, lac dye, foreign woods, nor
other excellent substances to impart various tints to their Breacan; but
their native hills afforded articles with which they had found the art of
dying brilliant, permanent, and pleasing colors. Caledonia was indeed
much less prolific in the materials for this purpose than Gaul, where the
people arrived at high perfection in the art. With the use of herbs only
in the process of dying, they produced colors so beautiful as to excite the
admiration of the polished Greeks and Romans. They had a dye which
rivalled the Tyrian purple. The hyacinth is said to have afforded this
beautiful tint; but the vaccinium, supposed by some commentators to
have been q certain herb, and by others taken for the whortle, scotice,
blaeberry, is particularly mentioned by Pliny, as having been employed
by the Gauls to produce this color,* the hyacinth, which, he says, pros-
pered exceedingly in Gaul, being used to dye red.'j" These people also
produced scarlet, violet, and all sorts of beautiful colors, from various
plants. The first was extracted from the grain of a bramble which they
called us, and the Greeks denominated coccos.J In Lusitania the
royal scarlet was produced.^

The Gauls, says Pliny, were wiser than others, for they did not en-
danger their lives, and ransack foreign countries and seas for articles to
dye their stuffs, to please a licentious populace, but, "with excellent
thrift and good husbandrie, they stood safe upon the drie land, and gath-
ered those herbs to dye such colours as an honest minded person hath no
cause to blame, nor the world reason to cry out upon."|j

The British Gael were, perhaps, unable to give those rich colors to
their stuffs which appeared in the manufactures of the ancient Celtic
tribes of the continent. They had various articles which they employed
successfully in dying their garments; but when engaged in war, they
preferred a dark pattern. Bark of aller, or alder, was used for black,
that of willow produced flesh color. Corkir, or crotil geal, a substance
formed on stone, was made use of by the West Islanders to dye " a
pretty crimson color," and another similar substance called crotil dubh,
"of a dark color, only dyes a philamot," which is, however, very per-
manent. There is a root called rue, once much used for red, but now
strictly prohibited from being taken up, as the sand is loosened, and
thereby becomes liable to overspread the land. IT Other vegetable sub-
stances were employed by the Highlanders, who were able to produce
finer colors than is generally supposed. The Caledonian women, who
" wove the robe for their love," made it " like the bow of the shower."
General Stewart mentions having seen specimens of very old tartan that

* Pliny, xvi. c. 18. t Jbid. xxi. 26. J Pausanias, x. 30. Pliny.

Pliny, xxii. || Ibid. xxii. Holland's Transl. 1601. p. 115.

H Buchannan's History of the Western Islands.


retained the tints in their original brilliancy: and a gentleman assured
me that he had seen a garment upwards of C 2GO years old, the colors in
which were still admirable. The materials for dying were procured
among their native hills, and, like the Gauls, they did not seek for arti-
cles produced in other countries. A Mr. Gordon, of Kirk Michael,
BanfFshire, about 1755, introduced to notice the simple process by which
an elegant purple can be obtained from the crotil, cupmoss, or lichen, to
which he gave the name cudbear, either from cuid a bear, the best part,
or in allusion to his own name, Cuthbert. In the Scots' Magazine
of 1776, he published a certificate from several dyers, that they used
it with much success. It became consequently an article of trade, and
in 1808 and 1809, from 4 to 500 worth was gathered off the rocks in
the counties of Aberdeen and Banff;* but Mr. Gordon did not arrive
at so much perfection in fixing the color as many of his own country-

" Give me bullock's blood and lime," said a Highlander to a friend
of mine, " and I will produce you fine colors." Every farmer's good-
wife was competent to dye blue, red, green, yellow, black, brown, and
their compounds. When we consider the care with which the High-
landers arranged and preserved the patterns of their different tartans,
and the pride which they had in this manufacture, we must believe that
the dyers spared no pains to preserve and improve the excellence of their

"There is a great deal of ingenuity required in sorting the colors, so
as to be agreeable to t*.>e nicest fancy. For this reason the women are
at much pains, first to give an exact pattern of the plaid upon a small
rod, having the number of every thread of the stripe on it.""j" The far-
mer's wife generally dyed her own wool, although there might be some
small dye works in the neighborhood; but whether she colored the
materials or employed others, the pattern of the web was not left to the
weaver's fancy. He received his instructions by means of a small stick,
round which the exact number of threads in every bar was shown, a
practice in use to this very day. Sir Benjamin West regarded the clan
tartans as specimens of national taste, and says that there was great art
displayed in the composition of the various patterns, and in the combina-
tion and opposition of colors.

The particular setts, or patterns, of tartan, appropriate to each clan,
m'ist have been long fixed. Every tribe and every island differed from
each other " in the fancy of making plaids, as to the stripes, in breadth
and colors. "J The breacan of the Highlander was a sort of coat armor,
or tabard, by which his name and clan were at once recognised'. At the
same time, in their undress they indulged their taste in fancy patterns.
It was a valuable reward for good conduct in youth, to bestow a plaid,
in which various colors were introduced, and it appears to have been

" Agric. Rep. for Banfishire. t Martin. t Ibid. p. 208.



prized by those of more advanced years. An old song makes a Celt, in
wooing a Lowland lass, say:

" Bra' sail the setts o'your braid tartans be,

If ye will gang to the north Highlands wi' me."

Tartans may be divided into the general descriptions of green and
red, where these colors predominate. In the five regiments who still
wear the kilt, it is the former. That of the 42nd is the plainest and most
common pattern, and is often called the black watch, from the old name
of the corps, who were so denominated from wearing tartan only, the
red jacket being a late alteration. The regular colors are blue, black
and green, but a red stripe in the middle of the former is often intro-
duced. This is said to have been first added by Lord Murray, who
commanded the regiment, as the Athol sett, and to distinguish the
Feilebeag,, then introduced from the old Breacan feile.* It appeared to
me very ununiform in this regiment, that both patterns should be worn
indifferently. The band continue to wear tartan of the same red pattern
which formed the original dress of the pipers and drummers.

The 78th, or Ross-shire Highlanders, wear the Mac Kenzie tartan,
having been raised from that clan.

The 79th, or Cameron Highlanders, wear their appropriate and well
composed tartan.

The 92nd, or Gordon Highlanders, also wear their peculiar sett,
which is very pleasing, and the 93rd wear the Sutherland tartan, which
appears only different from the plain s.ett of the 42nd in having the green
and blue lighter, the former being shown in the kilt and plaid.

The 71st regiment, or Mac Kenzie Highland light infantry, when
first raised, wore their own clan plaid; the 72nd, or Seaforth Highland-
ers, being also a Mac Kenzie regiment, wore the same tartan and cos-
tume; but the late Duke of York taking a fancy to this corps after their
return from the Cape of Good Hope, called them " the Duke of Albany's
own Highlanders," and gave them a scarf plaid and trowsers of the royal
tartan. It is extraordinary that those two regiments, the oldest embodied
clan corps, should wear trowsers, a dress formerly confined to lame,
sick, or aged Highlanders! It has been a source of great vexation to
their clan and country. Assuredly, Lord Mac Leod, the eldest son of
Mac Kenzie, Earl of Cromarty, who raised the 73rd, now the 71st, and
Mac Kenzie, Earl of Seaforth, who embodied the old 78th, now the
72nd, would never have thought of an alteration so unnecessary and so
uncongenial to Celtic feeling. Whoever has the high' honor to command
the British army, should not forget how strongly the high minded and
brave Gael are attached to their national costume; and as these regi-
ments have still the name of Highlanders, and are composed of them, it
is to be hoped, their appropriate military uniform will be yet restored.

While on this subject, I cannot avoid noticing an unaccountable prac-
tice in some Highland regiments, where the officers seldom appear in

* Stewart's Sketches of the Highlanders.


(he feilebeag, except on field days and particular occasions' Is it from
an idea that it is unbecoming, or that the privates only are obliged to
wear the kilt? It is a strange inconsistency, and a very unmilitary
custom, for which I presume the respective colonels or adjutants are
answerable. Having some time since lived four or five years where the
78th were stationed, I must exonerate that corps from the above reflec-
tions, officers and men being always dressed in proper regimentals.

His Majesty, and all the branches of the Royal Family, wear the
royal plaid of the High Steward of Scotland, as shown in the figure of
the chief of the clan, and described in the table of tartans. His Royal
Highness the Duke of Sussex has a pattern, peculiar to himself, which
is represented in the explanatory plate. It is worn for Inverness, from
which he has the title of Earl. All regular tartans are made, so that, in
the folds of the kilt and plaid, which are formed in what is called quilled,
or box plaiting, a particular stripe shall appear. Thus, in the Gordon
sett, it is yellow, in the Mac Kenzie white, Sec., and wherever one of
these patterns cannot be formed in this way, the web is irregular; and
an error in weaving would equally derange the operation of making up
a jacket, which consumes a considerable quantity of cloth, being cut on
the bias, and is a work of great nicety and skill.

The table given in the Appendix will show the exact pattern of the
tartans appropriate to the respective clans. It is as correct as the most
laborious personal investigations, and the able assistance of some valued
friends, conversant on the subject, could make it: still there are many
clans, especially in the Lowlands, who have peculiar tartans, that are
not included in the table.

The Highland Society, some years since, undertook the laudable task
of collecting specimens of the various distinguishing tartans of the Scot-
ish Celts, and succeeded in procuring a great many specimens. When
we consider the severe laws that were passed, to restrain the Highland-
ers from wearing cloth of this manufacture, and the long period in which
they were rigorously enforced, with the act which at once abolished the
system of clanship, that venerable monument of the policy of our ances-
tors, and gave a deadly blow to the cherished institutions of the Gael,
we must cease to wonder that so much is lost of their ancient manners,
and feel rather surprised that so much has survived "the abolition of
heritable jurisdictions."

It will be seen that no Family tartans are introduced in the list. The
investigations of the Highland Society, the stimulus given by the visit
of our Gracious Monarch to Scotland, where the great chiefs brought
their followers to attend him, and where the Celtic Society, dressed in
proper costume, formed his Majesty's body guard, with other circum-
stances which rendered it necessary for individuals to appear in their
peculiar uniforms, have combined to excite much curiosity among all
classes, to ascertain the particular tartans and badges they were entitled
to wear. This creditable feeling unfortunately led to a result different


from what might have been expected: fanciful varieties of tartan and
badges were passed off as genuine, and the attempt to set the public
right on these matters is likely to meet the objections of many. I arn,
however, confident, from the respectability of my sources of information,
that my statements are the most correct of any hitherto published. In
laying them before the public, I claim for myself an acquittal from all
prejudice and partiality.

It is obvious that family tartans must be, in a great measure, depend-
ant on individual taste; for, although many are, no doubt, of ancient
origin, they were not distinctive of tribes. Several, also, have of late
adopted particular tartans, while spurious patterns have been imposed
on others, as appropriate to their name. The difficulty of compiling a
correct list .must be allowed, and without giving all the varieties, it
would be unsatisfactory and incomplete. As the author is preparing a
work expressly, on tartans and badges, with illustrative plates, an object,
for the above reasons, so very desirable, he takes this opportunity of so-
liciting information or patterns from those noblemen and gentlemen who
may feel interested in the subject.

The utility of these lists is apparent. Any one desirous of possessing
the tartan of his clan, may, by inspecting the table, inform himself of the
exact pattern, and with this knowledge he cannot be deceived in making
a purchase. The advantage of these accurate descriptions to the manu-
facturer and dealer is obvious. They will, by this guide, be able to
provide the true sett of any clan tartan.

The word tartan is derived from the Gaelic tarstin, or tarsuin, across.
A friend has suggested an ingenious etymology of cath-dath, before
translated "war color:" it may very aptly signify the " strife of colors,"
as if they emulated each other in brilliancy. The French tyretaine, a
sort of woollen cloth, is certainly of Gallic origin. John de Meum, the
contiriuator of the Romance of the Rose, mentions scarlet woollen cloth
of tyretaine, as forming part of women's dress.

This manufacture appears to be unknown in France. A gentleman
who has travelled on the continent in all directions, for some years past,
declares he never met with it of native fabrication. In a letter which I
lately received, he thus writes; c< It is a certain fact that tartan is not
manufactured any where, not even in England, I believe, as it should
be. A French dealer in such goods assured me that, in France, they
had never succeeded."

Stirling, in Scotland, has been long celebrated for its manufacture of
this cloth, and a very fine web, especially of scarlet, which the High-
landers could not produce- from their native dye-stuffs, was known as
"Stirling Tartan." An old weaver at the village of Bannockburn, in
the vicinity, has, from his intimate acquaintance with the various pat-
terns, been dubbed " the Lord Lyon, of Tartan heraldry."

It has been predicted, that " the tasteless regularity and vulgar glare"
of this manufacture would forever prevent its adoption by genteel societ/


flow changed the feeling of the present age must be, when it ii nut only
so fashionable in the British islands, but popular throughout the civilized
world. A certain writer denounced it as " most offensive to the eyo.'
Sir Benjamin West, whose opinion, is likely to be much more correct,
expressed his admiration of the fine effect of the combination of colors.

It is scarcely possible to illustrate the costume of the ancient Celta;
satisfactorily, without a series of figures, for their dresses seem to have
varied. It is to be regretted, that no authentic monument, of sufficient
antiquity, exists, from which we can ascertain, with certainty, the cos-
tume of that people. The Greeks had some representations of them: a
picture of the slaughter of the Gauls in Mysia, was to be seen in the
tower of the Athenians; and the Pergamenians, who resisted them in
one of their invasions, retained their spoils, and had pictures, i. e. sculp-
tures or paintings of their transactions with them.* There were also
figures of Gauls at Rome, but of a later period; and probably slaves
were the' models. They were not represented from respect, but shown
in attitudes calculated to display their inferiority, and excite contempt. |

There are no monuments or statues of the Gauls, it is believed, in
existence, of an age anterior to their subjugation by the Romans, a
period too recent to illustrate their original costume. The bas-relief that
forms the subject of the vignette to Chapter I. represents Gallic and
German warriors, from the columns of Trajan and Antoninus. The one
at the commencement of this Chapter represents a Celtiberian, from the
shield of Scipio, and a Gallic female, from a bas-relief, discovered at

Those remains that are with every probability attributed to the Celtic
inhabitants, are apparently the figures of Gauls, much altered by the
influence of their conquerors.

The most simple dress was the Sagum, fastened in front, or on the
shoulder, generally with a brooch; or, when the wearer could find noth-
ing better, a thorn, or bit of wood, answered the purpose. J Whittaker
says the Britons fastened it on both shoulders. All the Germans wore
this, and were naked where it did not reach. It was also used by the
Lusitani and Iberi, and continued very long to be a principal part of the
dress of those nations. || Favin, from the monk of St. Gall, describes
the Franks as so pleased with the striped sagum of the Gauls, that they
adopted it in preference to their own long mantle.

The sagum, whether of simple skin or coarse woollen, was long worn
before it was thought necessary to provide covering for other parts of the
body; but the pride of dress, a strong passion among the Celts, and the
occupations of war, so fayorable to a display of personal decorations,
soon lead to the adoption of more complicated attire.

* Pausanias, i. 4.

t Pliny, xxxv. 4, who relates an anecdote of Crassus, connected with one of those
pictures in the Forum. t Tac. de Mor. Germ.

Tac. ut sup. i| Strabo.


In later ages, the Gauls formed a hood to their sagum or cloak, and it
was named Cucullus, or Bardo-cucullus, being worn by soldiers and
countrymen. It was chiefly used among the Xantones, and is to this
day retained by the peasants in some parts of France.* The Gauls im-
parted their gaudy sagum to the Franks, and the Britons communicated
theirs to the Saxons. t

The Carac-challamh, according to Macpherson, was a sort of upper
garment, which Pinkerton from Dio says was worn close. The surname
Caracalla given to the Roman emperor, was derived from a sort of long
Gallic gown. Gallica palla is used by Martial for a man's cassock.
From the Gaelic term for along coat, the Highlanders call the people of
the Low Country, luchd nan cosag.

The military dress of the Celtae was adopted more from ostentation
than as a means of defence, for they disregarded armor, and in battle
were accustomed to strip off almost their whole attire. Diodorus says
they despised death so much, that they fought with only a slight covering
around the loins. At the battle of Cannae, when they fought in this
manner, it could not fail to be " strange and terrible to see them naked
from the waist." J It was the practice of the Asiatic Gauls also to fight
naked. ^

The Irish, according to Solinus, continued the practice of divesting
themselves of all covering in battle; and Spenser, who says the mantle
was in general their sole garment, observes that it was light, and conve-
nient to throw away. The Scots' Highlanders continued to throw off
their jackets and plaids, until the beginning of the eighteenth century.
Martin thus describes their method of fighting. " The chief of each
tribe, after the arrows are spent, advances within shot, having first laid
aside the upper garments and after one general discharge, attack, aut
mors cito, aut victoria laeta."

The Tunic was at first worn by those only who were very wealthy.
It fitted close to the body, was fastened by a belt round the middle, and
reached below the thighs. The Belgians had it slit, with sleeves hang-
ing from the shoulders below the middle. Among the Britons it was
called Cota, and was worn open before, with sleeves that, in men,
reached to the hands, || and fell as low as the knee. The tunic of Bon-
diuca was long and plaited. The Thraciaris, in Xerxes' army, wore a
vest over a robe of various colors. IT The Scythians, from the sculpture
on the arch of Theodosius, dressed in the same manner as the Germans

Those among the Gauls who bore honors, according to Strabo, wore a
vest adorned with gold and fine colors; one sort of which were called

A Gallic monument shows a figure dressed in a striped tunic, fastened
with a belt, and descending to the knee. ft Some fragments dug up in

* Montfaucon's Antiquite Expliquee. t Whittaker. | Polybius, iii.

Livy, xxxviii. || Whittaker. 11 Herodotus, vii 75.

** In Gaelic, cneas is the waist. tt Schcepflin's Alsatia Illustrata.


1711, in the choir of the cathedral of Paris, represented six Gauls, all
armed, arid dressed in long garments with wide sleeves, the sagum ap-
pearing also in some. The legs do not in all cases appear to have been
naked: sometimes they are seen covered with a sort of trowsers, even
when the arms are bare.

A figure found after the great fire of London, had the hair long and
flowing, a sagum thrown over the shoulders, a girdle round the middle,
and the legs hare.*

A fragment of sculpture dug from the ruins of Antonine's wall, and
now preserved at Croy, represents three figures, which are in all proba-
bility meant for Caledonians. The dress is a strict resemblance to the
national garb, and is similar to that of the ancient Celts. |

Gildas describes the Scots and Picts of his time as having only a
piece of cloth tied round the loins: and on the remarkable obelisk at
Forres, in the county of Moray, the Scots are represented in a tunic,
fastened round the waist.

The Saxons wore the short tunic, which they derived from the Gauls,
who had a rooted aversion to the long mantle. It was so convenient
where agility was required, that it was worn by persons of every degree,
and was the constant military habit. It usually terminated a little above
the knee, and was sometimes open at each side.J Eginhart assures us,
that Charlemagne wore the short tunic, strictly adhering to the ancient
manners. It reached only to his knees; and Charles the Bold is repre-
sented in an ancient MS. with two seigneurs, in the same dress, the legs
bare from the knees, except the lacing of the sandals, which are brought
to the middle of the calf, and a sagum fastened on the shoulder with a

The Breacan-feile, literally the chequered covering, is the original
garb of the Highlanders, and forms the chief part of the costume; the
other articles, although equally Celtic, and now peculiar to Scotland,
being subordinate to this singular remain of a most ancient dress.

The Breacan, in its simple form, is now seldom used. It consisted of
a plain piece of tartan, two yards in width by four or six in length. In
dressing, this was carefully plaited in the middle, of a breadth suitable
to the size of the wearer, and sufficient to extend from one side around
his back to the other, leaving as much at each end as would cover the
front of the body, overlapping each other. The plaid being thus pre-
pared, was firmly bound round the loins with a leathern belt, in such
manner that the lower side fell down to the middle of the knee j;>int,
and then, while there were the foldings behind, the cloth was double
before. The upper part was then fastened on the left shoulder with a
large brooch or pin, so as to display to the most advantage the taste-
fulness of the arrangement, the two ends being sometimes suffered
to hang down; but that on the right side, which was necessarily the

* Pennant. t Archeeologia, xxi. p. 456.

J Stiutt s Hist, of the English Dress.


longest, was more usually tucked under the belt, as shown in the figure
of the Gordon in the copper plate. In battle, in travelling, and on other
occasions, this added much to the commodiousness and grace of the

From this description, it will appear that the Highlander would re-
quire some assistance at his toilet if he wished to dress with requisite
precision, but it was generally sufficient to spread the breacan on a box,
table, over a chair-back, or otherwise, and when abroad he spread it on
a sloping bank or rock, and, having the belt under it, laying himself on
his side, and, buckling his girdle, the object was accomplished. He
was, however, so nice, that he took considerable pains to arrange the
folds after it was put on.

The cloth that composed this part of the dress was simply a plaid or
piece of tartan. When disposed on the body as above described, it re-
ceived, in the Low Country, the appropriate appellation of the belted
plaid, to distinguish it from the more usual way in which it was worn by
the inhabitants, who merely wrapped it over the left shoulder, having
small clothes under it.

The belted plaid was, however, bv no means unknown as a dress in
many parts accounted lowland by the natives of higher districts. It
was peculiarly convenient for pastoral occupations, and was the common
dress of the shepherds in the inland parts of Aberdeen, Banff, and other
counties north of the Grampians, until towards the end of the last cen-
tury. In the old song of the " Baron of Braikley," written in 1666,
his lady tells him to soothe his alarm, on being attacked by the Farqu-
harsons, " they were only herd widdifu's wi' belted plaids."

This primitive garment is preserved in the uniform of the Highland
regiments, which is an improvement on the simplicity of the original
breacan. Being more convenient, as well as better adapted to the altered
state of society, the modern belted plaid is much worn by the present
Highlanders. The difference is this, that where, formerly, the lower
and upper parts of the garb were attached, they are now separated, the
lower part having the folds fixed by sewing, and being often worn with-
out the other appendages. The plaid is fastened round the body and
suspended from the shoulder, being, in like manner, made up by the
tailor to imitate the ancient form. The loose end is represented by a
small triangular piece of cloth suspended from the right side, where the
end of the breacan was tucked under the belt. When the Highlander
took the field during war, when he was engaged in hunting, tending his
flocks in the mountains, or had occasion to travel far, he dressed in the
feile-breacan; when he remained at home, he wore the feile-beag, as the
most convenient.

The shoulder plaid is worn by the present Highlanders chiefly for
ornament, as may be seen in the 72nd regiment, being too narrow to
answer the purposes for which it was at first intended. It is, however,
susceptible of being thrown into a very becoming drapery.


The Highland garb worn by one who knows how to dress properly in
it, is, undoubtedly, one of the most picturesque in the world. Other
nations mav have an original garment resembling the feile-beag, or kilt;
but the belted plaid is indisputably the invention of the Gael, and bears
no resemblance, either in its materials or arrangement, to the habit of
any other people.

The ample folds of the tartan, that are always arranged to show the
characteristic or predominant stripe, and adjusted with great care, grace-
fully depending from the shoulder, is a pleasing and elegant drapery,
which being of itself, as it were, the entire vestment, presents an ensem-
ble equally remote from the extremes of Asiatic and European dresses.
It partakes of the easy flow of Oriental costume, suited to the indolence
and effeminacy of the inhabitants of the East; and, avoiding the angu-
lar formality and stiffness of European attire, combines a great degree
both of lightness and elegance.

It is well known that the antiquity of the national garb has been ques-
tioned, and the right of the Scots to claim it as original has been denied.
In this respect, it has met no more favor than most of the peculiarities
which distinguish this interesting portion of the British empire.

John Pinkerton, an author notorious for his anti-Gaelic spirit, and
whose learning is sullied by a rancor of feeling and heat, of temper
which he, nevertheless, reprobates in others with intemperate severity,
asserts the antiquity of the feile-beag among the Highlanders to be very
questionable; that it "is not ancient but singular, and adapted to their
savage life was always unknown among the Welsh and Irish, and that
it was a dress of the Saxons, who could not afford breeches, Sec."* He
had before observed, that " breeches were unknown to the Celts, from
the beginning to this day!"|

Many papers have also appeared at different times in various publica-
tions, discussing the question of its antiquity, and generally with a view
to prove its late adoption by the Scots' Highlanders. These communi-
cations have, in many cases, been answered, sometimes very ably, but
in many instances without effect. , Appeals to tradition are not very con-
vincing arguments to set against the apparent authority of historical re-
cord, but the passages which have been selected to show that the High-
landers did not, until lately, wear the dress to which, from time imme-
morial, we find them so much attached, do not, certainly, bear the con-
structions that have been put on them. The point is, however, so unde-
niably settled, that it is unnecessary to enter into a lengthened refutation
of those writers, many of whom are anonymous. Alexander I. is repre-
sented on his seal, engraved in Dr. Meyrick's superb work, with the
feile-beag and round targe. Fordun, who wrote about 1350, describes
the Highlanders as "forma spectabilis, sed arnictu deformis." Major,
who flourished in the beginning of the sixteenth century, says " a rnedio
crure ad pedem caligas non habent; chlamyde pro veste superiore," &c.

* Introd. to the Hist, of Scotland, ii, 73, &c. t Ibid. i. 3U4.



Lesly and Buchannan also notice it. Lindsay, of Pitscottie, who wrote
in the vulgar tongue, cannot afford matter for the regret which some
writers have expressed, that the terms in the Latin authors are vague
and unsatisfactory. " The other pairt northerne," says he; " ar full of
montaines and verie rud and hornelie kynd of people doeth inhabite,
which is called the Reidschankes,.or wyld Scottis. They he cloathed with
ane mantle, with ane schirt, fachioned after the Irisch manner, going
hair legged to the knie." *

That the descriptions of this costume are neither very accurate nor
very plain, is not much to be wondered at, when its essential difference
from other habits is considered. It was certainly difficult for those who
were unacquainted with its details to convey a proper idea of it. The
old Scots of the Low Country mentioned it as " the Highland weed,"'}'
"a light dress," &c.; and, except to those who lived near the hills, or
had intercourse with the inhabitants, their peculiarities were little known.
Diodorus was unable to describe the singular dress of the Celts, which
he thought was formed of cloth, ornamented in. flowered work; and
Beague, in 1549, from a superficial view of them, describes the High-
landers as going almost naked, and says they wore painted waistcoats! J

At the present day, although it has recently become so well known,
there are many thousands who have a very indefinite idea of this cos-
tume; and the ignorance of many who array themselves in tartan ag
members of societies, or to figure at fancy balls, with the paltry or ill
adjusted trappings of the stage, do not convey the best idea of so pic-
turesque and interesting a costume.

In general, the legs of the ancient Celtre appear naked from the knee
downwards. A figure of a man, represented in Montfaucon's interest-
ing work, has his tunic falling a little below the knees, the lirnbs having
no other covering, and this appears to have been no less a personage
than Magister vici sandalarius of Metz. Some of the Germans and
Daci, represented on the column of Trajan, appear in a sort of trowsers
that are fastened at the ancles, and fit pretty close to the limbs. They
reach to the waist, above which the figures are generally naked, except
the covering of the sagum that hangs loosely from the shoulders. It is
evident, from other remains, that this dress was not uniformly worn, for
we see, on the same pillar, &c. the above and other nations indifferently
represented with their legs covered and exposed.

The Gauls and Britons, it is asserted, wore the same chequered cloth
which composed their upper garments, loosely wrapped around the limbs,
and this part of their apparel is described under the term Braccas, from
which the English " breeches " are derived. Poiybius says, the Boil
and Insubres of Caul wore the braccas of their country; but Strabo con-
tines their use to the Belgs. From this garment, which Tacitus call*

* Chronicles of Scotland, Ixxiv. 4to. ed.
i Spalding's Troubles of Scotland, 1645.
J History of the Scottish Campaigns, ap. Stewart's Sketches.


"a barbarous covering," part of Gaul was called Braccata; the other,
having adopted the long gown of the Romans, received the appropriate
appellation Togata. Etymologists seem to agree that this name was
expressive of the red or chequered appearance of the habit; but that it
was similar to modern trowsers, is not so satisfactorily proved. Dr.
Mac Pherson, who remarks that saga and braccge were used indiscrim-
inately by the Romans, says every Highlander in Britain knows that the
bracca was an upper garment of diverse colors. Brat, in Gaelic, is a
mantle or covering, and in some parts of Scotland it is used for clothes.
The Welsh, brati, tattered, Camden thinks, is derived from the Celtic
braccae; but this does not favor the opinion that they were trowsers.
They were used by the and other Scyths, and Pinkerton asserts
that they were always the grand badge of the Goths. " I have no proof/'
says Strutt, "from the Anglo-Saxon delineations, that the drawers were
in use in this country prior to the ninth century, for the tunics of the
soldiers are often represented so short, that much of their thighs are ex-
posed to the sight." Polybius seems to prove that this part of Celtic
dress was not of the form usually supposed, when he says that the Bo-
louians and Milanois, in the battle of Telamon, made choice of such aa
wore braccse, being at most ease in their dress, to stand the brunt of the
action. Wolfgang describes it as a small tunic, that was fastened about
the middle, and reached to the knees, a covering for the loins, a little
cassock of various colors, covering one's nakedness.*

Newte says the name for breeches in Gaelic is literally "a lock for
the posteriors." In Welsh, they are termed Ihoudar, and in Cornish,
lavrak. The common name in the Highlands for this part of male attire,
is briogas, from briog, restraint. The English breeches appear to have
retained a name, at first expressive of the color, or effect of the garment
which covered the lower part of the body. The braccae, or reddish
chequered tunic, was worn by all the Celts, and the breacan is still the
national dress of their descendants, the term indicating its appearance,
like the Welsh, and Armoric, brech, which signifies chequered.

Pelloutier | derives the French brayes from the braccae, and says they
were the German hosen. Whittaker savs brog, or brae, red, otherwise
battais, or botes, were the untanned buskins of the Gael and Cumri*.
Here is the origin of boots, the prototypes of which must have been the
red covering which the Celts had for their feet, and which has been since
supplied by stockings and shoes.J Diodorus says the Celtiberians wore
rough hair greaves about their legs; and the ancient Gauls, according
to Cluverius, wore skins with the hair outside, tied on their feet. A
similar covering was long worn by the Highlanders and Scots of Ulster,
from which they obtained, among their southern neighbors, the name of
red shanks: and although they have, for a considerable time, dropped the

* De mig. Gentium, p. 157, &c. t Vol. ii. p. 152.

t The mullei, anciently worn by the kings of Alba, were red, and i cached to the
middle of the leg. Rubenius de vet. vest.


use of the untanned hide, which reached towards the calf of the leg. the
hose supply their place, and the favorite color of these has always been

The CUARAN reached higher than the BROG, which simply covered the
foot, both being fastened with laces of thong. The cuaran was worn in
Man, and throughout the whole Highlands, where it is not yet, I believe,
entirely disused. Their construction was simple: an oval piece of raw
cow or horse's hide was drawn neatly round the foot by thongs of the
same material, by means of holes in the margin. The hair was often
kept inside for warmth: they were perfectly flexible, and were pierced
with small holes, for the purpose of allowing the water received in cross-
ing rivers and morasses to escape. The " veteres Bracha3 Britonis
pauperis" is sufficiently expressive, if the term was applied to the cover-
ing of the feet and legs, as there is so much reason to believe. It is in
these days a common saying, to imply the utter uselessness of any thing ;
that it is not worth old shoes; and brogs, when worn out, were certainly
good for nothing. Perhaps the Romans frequently saw the cast off
brachre of the Gauls, as the English did the cuarans of the Scots when
Douglas evacuated his camp in 1327, leaving upwards of 10,000 old
ones behind.*

Cluverius says the Celtic shoes were formed with a sharp peak, like
those worn in the middle ages.| Those of the old Highlanders were
made, Martin tells us, according to Locke's mode, recommended in his
system of education. They were always made right and left.

The Gael began to improve their manufacture, but, like their ances-
tors, covering for either feet or legs was quite dispensable. At Killi-
cranky, they had neither. Birt mentions' a Laird in the North, whom he
once visited, and found a well educated and polite gentleman, who ap-
peared without any other clothing for his lower extremities than what his
breacan afforded. When the Highland regiments were embodied, dur-
ing the French and American wars, hundreds of the men were brought
down without either stockings or shoes, articles considered so necessary
by those who live in more favored countries. Shoes, all of one piece
and neatly stitched, have been discovered in the bogs of Ireland, where
they must have lain for many ages. In the ancient vessel dug from the
former bed of the river Rother, in Kent, shoes of a single sole, with no
quarter, were found.

About fifty or sixty years ago, brogs were made in the Northern
counties of Caithness, Sutherland, Ross, &c., by itinerant shoemakers,
at two pence a pair and victuals; the employer finding leather, hemp
anc rosin. Simple as these were, it is acknowledged that the shoes of
modern times are not more durable. J An old Highlander, expatiating
on the good old times, told me that the last pair he ever had, he wore so

* Froissart.

t GallicoB were a sort of wooden pattens ; Cicero ; or Galoches, Montf.

} Agricultural Reports.


.ong, that, at last, he actually threw them away, when they were *$till fit
for use. Latterly, brogs had a piece of leather on the toes, called frio-
chan, from serving to protect them from the roughness of the heath.
This was always cut in Vandyke fashion.

In some parts, this native manufacture is given up, in consequence
of the decay of the copse wood, which afforded the bark used in tanning
the leather.

STOCKINGS, in Gaelic, Ossan, are said to have been derived from the
Romans, the Celts originally wearing nothing but the untanned buskins.
In Montfaucon's splendid work, pi. 196, I find a countryman represented
with a chequered covering, resembling tartan hose: and a figure intro-
duced by Wolfgang has a similar appearance.

The sort of stockings now generally worn is represented in the figure
of the Gordon, and is the military pattern; but the more ancient resem-
bled that worn by the Stewart, which is copied from the painting of the
regent, Murray, formerly at Fonthill Abbey. Various fancy patterns
are worn in the Highlands, where they were formerly of the same sett
as the plaid. They were not originally knitted, but formed out of the
web with a considerable degree of ingenuity; those of the common men
in the Highland regiments are still made in this manner.

The GARTERS are now chiefly red, but the native Gael continue to
wear them like their fathers, striped in various colors. Among other
presents given at Michaelmas in the Island of Uist, on occasion of
annual horse racing, " the women presented the men with a pair of fine
garters of divers colors."* The Lochaber garters were fringed, and
when made of silk and fine wool would cost 2s. Qd. to 7*. Mrs. Mac
Hardy, of Laggan, in her 100th year, knit a pair, which were presented
to the Duke of Gordon by the celebrated Mrs. Grant. They were for-
merly woven in a particular sort of loom, and some are said to be still
manufactured in this way on the banks of Lochow.

There is considerable taste displayed in tying the garter. In the 42nd
regiment, it is fastened with a handsome knot: in the 92nd, this ornament
is formed like a rose, by the needle, and is attached to the garter, a
mode unknown to the genuine Highlanders, who often showed no tying,
but even frequently turned the stocking over the garlan. The 78th, or
Ross-shire Buffs, leave both ends depending from a tasteful knot. It is
reckoned a great insult by the Gael to be told to tie their garter.

It is here necessary to say something of the ancient habit of the Irish
Gael, which has been described as a "mantle," and often as "trouse."'
Of this latter garment there appears to be as little known as of the
brachce: it has been attempted to identify both with the modern trow-
sers. In the time of Giraldus Cambrensis, the Irish wore trouse and
mantles, that formed the common dress until the time of Charles I, and
continued in partial use even later. Solinus says " they ben single and

* Martin's Western Islands p. 80


unseemly of clothing, having foldings instead of mantles and cloaks."*
In the time of Richard II. Froissart describes them as breechless; f and,
at Agincourt, Speed says there were 1,600 who were able men, but
almost naked. Derrick also speaks of them as wearing no breeches,
and describes " a coat of strange device,"

" His skirts be verie shorte,

With pleates set thick about,

And Irish trouzes, &c."

They were "not lightly proud of apparel, "J but went commonly naked,
according to Spenser, or at least "with naked sides and legs," the
mantle being the principal covering, and it was "light to beare," and
otherwise an advantageous garment. In summer, the wearer could have
it loose: in winter, he could wrap it close: at all times he could use it,
for " it was never heavy nor cumbersome." " It was a fit house for an
outlaw, a meet bed for a rebel), and an apt cloake for a thiefe."^ My
opinion is, that the Irish trouse and mantle were formed like the belted
plaid of the Scots' Highlanders, although the materials were not the
same as in the breacan. We have seen how conveniently the plaid can
be thrown over the shoulders, like a cloak: the Irish, in 1673, are de-
scribed as being partial to this use of the mantle; || nay, Spenser says
it was frequently wrapped over their left arm, so closely did it resemble
the Highland garb.

The Gaelic, triubhas, or triughas, the Irish trius, and Welsh trws,
signify the vestment which covers the loins, derived from the root trus,
gather, truss or tuck up, from which is trusgan, a covering, and also
those parts which mankind first conceal. The breacan was always
tucked up; but the term which was applicable to it, was given to the
trowsers adopted on the prohibition of the ancient dress.

In farther proof that the Irish costume resembled the belted plaid, it
may be observed, that Camden says the Scots and Irish resembled each
other in dress and arms; and Birt, in describing the Highland dress,
observes that " it was thought necessary in Ireland to suppress that habit
by act of Parliament," without any dissatisfaction being evinced by the
mountaineers in that country. A law passed in the parliament of 1585,
by which it was ordained that none should appear in that assembly with
Irish attire, to the great discontent of the members. Tirlogh Lenogh,
chief Lord of Ulster, begged the Deputy to allow him to take his chap-
lain in the trouse along the streets with him, because he was laughed at
by every body in his new dress. I think it is Chaucer who relates a
facetious story of these habiliments, which also tends to confirm the
opinion of their not resembling modern trowsers.

The Irish seem to have relinquished their ancient garb with less reluc-
tance than might have been expected. The Scots could not be induced
to lay it aside, notwithstanding the enactments against it; and so great

* Trevisa's Polychronicon, xxxiv. f. 34. 1 Tome x. 161.

1 Riche, p. 34. Spenser. || Present State of Ireland


was their aversion to quit the dress of their fathers, that the law was
ingeniously evaded, or openly contemned. General Stewart relates
many of the curious expedients which were adopted to comply with the
order to wear breeches, and yet retain the loved breacan. The law,
however its infringement might be overlooked, was imperative against
the Highlander, who could neither, with safety, wear his native cloth,
nor carry his proper arms. I have read, in a Scots' newspaper of 1750,
the trial of a person for murder, who was eventually acquitted, as the
individual he killed wore a tartan dress! In 1782, this oppressive and
ineffectual law was modified, inasmuch as the prohibition against cos-
tume was repealed. The strong attachment of the Highlanders to the
breacan-feile might be illustrated by many anecdotes. It served as a
mark of distinction from the people of the machair, or plain land, for
whom they had no great affection. An old farmer in the Highlands of
Banffshire said he "would never lippen to a bodach that wore the
breeks." When the Fencible regiments were ordered to assume
breeches, many of the soldiers had never worn such articles of dress,
and were consequently, for some time, extremely awkward in dressing,
which their displeasure at being deprived oi their wonted habit did not
tend to remove. An old man in a certain corps had put on his small
clothes as Paddy did his coat, the back part before. His officer and
some of his companions were laughing heartily at the mistake, when
Donald, nettled at their jeers, observed that he was indeed ignorant of
such dress, and never thought he should know any thing of the unmanly
gear; and, as his indignation waxed high, "the deevil damn the loon,"
he exclaimed, " that sent them to us! "

The TRIUGHAS, pronounced trius, are pantaloons and stockings, joined,
and are either knit like the latter, or, according to the ancient manner,
are formed of tartan cloth, nicely fitted to the shape and fringed down
the leg. They were sometimes merely striped, and wejre fastened by a
belt around the loins, with a square piece of cloth hanging down before.

It required considerable skill to make the trius. The measure was a
stick, in length one cubit, divided into one finger and a half. There is
preserved a Gaelic saying respecting this garment, by which we are
given to understand that there were two full nails to the small of the leg,
eleven from the haunch to the heel, seven round the band, and three to
the breech, a measure inapplicable to few well-made men. The purse
and other articles were worn equally with the trius as with the feilebeag.

BOINED, or cappan, was the Celtic name for the covering of the head,
fhe materials of which, among the most ancient Gauls and Britons, were
different. We may presume that as the form was not much unlike the
present, the same woollen was occasionally adopted. It mqy he noticed
that Giraldus Cambrensis mentions Beaver hats, to which the inhabi-
tants are still partial, having been discovered in Cardiganshire.*

The round bonnet was, however, not only worn by the Britons, but

* Tour in Wales, 1775.


was formerly used over almost all Europe; * the shape, at least, resem
bling that worn by the Scots, although the materials might have been
different. It was either to encourage the woollen manufacture, or to
repress extravagance in dress, that so many laws have been passed. In
England, it was ordained in 1571, that every person above seven years
of age should wear, on Sundays and holidays, a cap of wool knit, thick-
ened and dressed in the country by the cappers, under the penalty of
3s. 4d. for every day's neglect; lords, knights, gentlemen of twenty
marks' land, such as have borne offices of worship, gentlewomen, ladies
and maids being excepted. In 1489, the price of caps was fixed at 2s. 8d.
General Stewart remarks that the Basques wear caps, in materials and
form, exactly like the Highlanders. A relation of the author, who
entered France with the British army, was surprised to find his native
bonnets worn by the peasants inhabiting the Pyrenean mountains.

The figure of St. Andrew in the sceptre of Scotland, made in the time
of James V., wears a broad bonnet. This appears to have been formerly
the general headdress in Scotland, the hat having rapidly come into
use. In the agricultural report of Caithness, it is stated that, in 1793,
eight boxes of hats .only were imported, but in 1803 they amounted to

The ancient head-piece of a full dressed Celtic warrior was a skull-
cap; from the minstrel Harry, we find that Wallace wore one within his

The bonnet is thickened, by a peculiar process, into a body of consid-
erable density. The color is commonly dark blue, but it was formerly
also black, or gray, and a narrow stripe of red, white, or green was
often carried round the lower edge; and occasionally these were pleas-
ingly combined. The chequer work, worn by the military, is now the
common ornament, but it does not appear to be very ancient. Accord-
ing to General Stewart, it originated in the time of Montrose's wars,
and represents the armorial bearing of the royal family. The Stewart's
belt, or fess, is, however, cheeky argent and azure. The bonnets ter-
minate in a knot, generally of the same color, but often red, white, or
black. They are usually augmented to a small tuft, and are sometimes
formed of silk. I have heard it said that some of the officers, in the re-
bellion of 1745, had them of silver and gold fringe. Beautiful substi-
tutes for the old chequer are now to b.e had of those who furnish the

The inhabitants of Badenoch, Strathspey, Strathdon, &c. wear the
bonnet cocked. The Strathdee men are distinguished by having it flat,
as numbers 1,2, in the plate.

The bonnet is cocked, or made into the desired shape, by means of
padding, &.C., the broad sort being distended by a small hoop. The
Scots' military appear, from old prints, to have worn bonnets; but the

* The Irish formerly wore a cap of frieze, called cappeene. The regal cap was called
Asioit. It is singular to perceive the shape of the modern hat in many ancient figure*

PURSE. 177

present shape is not ancient. Before the black plumes weie introduced,
bear's skin was used, as in the caps of modern grenadiers. The bonnet
was bound with leather, by the common sort; with black ribbon and
velvet, by others; and a cockade of the same materials, with a pin, in
some cases of silver, but usually formed from the shank bone of a deer's
leg, ornamented with the person's crest, motto, and initials, and called
dealg, secured the badge and the eagles' feathers.

The Highlanders bestowed much of their usual attention to dress, in
making up the bonaid, and took particular care to have a sufficient
length of ribbon to wave about their ears. The officers of the 9'2nd
used, formerly, to have three of black velvet, fixed to the cape of the
jacket behind, which had a pretty effect.

This dress is said, perhaps untruly, to be too warm for the head. It
has this convenience in wet weather, that the Highlander can take it off
and wring out the water.

Kilmarnock is the most noted mart for this article, but ct The bonnet
makers of Dundee " are celebrated in their national music. The central
Highlanders supply themselves in Perth.

The PURSE, sporan, of the Highlanders, like the other parts of their
costume, is not only useful, but highly ornamental. Anciently, it was
small, and less decorated than it is now seen. That of the unfortunate
Lord Lovat is of this description. The tassels, instead of the silver or
other adjuncts, were fixed with small strips of leather, neatly and ingeni-
ously interwoven. In many cases, the purse was formed of leather,
like a modern reticule, and appears to have been tied in front. It is
formed into several distinct pockets, in which the Gael carried their
money, watch, Stc., and sometimes also their shot; but, anciently, they,
bore a similar wallet, or builg, at the right side, for the latter, or for a
quantity of meal or other provision. This was termed dorlach, and was
the knapsack of the Highland soldier; and, small as that of the present
military is, among the Gael, it was still more portable. " Those of the
English who visited our camp," says an author quoted by Jamiesou,
"did gaze with admiration upon those supple fellows, the Highlanders,
with their plaids, targets, and dorlachs." The purse admits of much
ornament, but, according to my taste, when too large, it hides the beauty
of the kilt. The village of Doune, in Perthshire, was, at one time, cel-
ebrated for the manufacture of purses, which is now entirely given up.

The first covering which mankind adopt is necessarily loose, and must
be fastened round the body. Dress is, also, first assumed as a military
costume; the belt which secures the garment serving to sustain the
sword, and, from the primitive fashion of raiment, the ancients continued
to call putting on armor, begirding.*

The baldricks of the Celts received a large share of ornament; and
the Highlanders displayed, in the sword and dirk belt, as well as in that

* Pausanias, ix. 17. " Girded " was used in this sense by the Scots.


whi'jh bouna the female dress, precious stones, handsome buckles
crests, mottoes, devices, and foliage.

The shot-pouch attached to the belt, which is around the middle, is a
late improvement; and the eadharc an foudre, or powder horn, suspend-
ed also on the right side by a silver or other chain, was, likewise, recent-
ly introduced.

The shoe buckles cannot date higher than their introduction to Scot-
land. They were only invented about 1680.

In 1673, it was remarked that Irish gentlemen seldom wore bands, or
neckcloths. These were unknown to the old Highlanders, who left the
neck bare, even when linen shirts became a usual article of dress; some-
times a black ribbon supplied their place.

In addition to what has been above explained, may be added a de-
scription of certain articles essential to the dress of ancient arid modern
times, but more correctly coming under the denomination of ornaments.
The Celts, in the most remote ages, as we have seen, evinced their per-
sonal vanity by their gaudy and costly ornaments. The Gauls had little
or no silver, but plenty of gold, with chains of which they loaded them-
selves. The massy torques, of pure and beaten gold, which hung around
their necks, were a desirable booty to the avaricious Romans; besides
which, they wore bracelets of it about their arms and wrists, and had
croslets of gold upon their breasts.* Polybius describes their whole
army in Hannibal's service, as shining with the splendor of their dress.

A sort of fine golden carcanets, of green-colored gems, called by the
Romans viria3, were properly Celticas; and the necklaces of gold, called
viriohe, were distinguished as Celtibericse."]" The Britons were equally
vain of their persons, and studious to deck themselves in rich attire.
Those who could not obtain gold or silver, imitated their more fortunate
companions in less valuable materials. Herodian says the Picts wore
chains of iron for ornament. In the South, the precious metals were
less scarce. Bondiuca wore a massive chain of gold around her neck;
and a great number, taken with the noble Caractacus, were borne in
procession before him at Rome. The Caledonians, from some discove-
ries, appear to have worn armlets. J These were often of massy gold,
in South Britain.

Small jet, and other ornaments, have been found in sepulchres
throughout the Highlands; but it is impossible to enumerate the various
articles discovered in British interments, every grave, almost, producing
something different from what has been before seen.

The dress of the Celtic women was, anciently, little different in form
from that of the men. The tunic was bound round the waist, and had

* Diodorus. Polybius. t Pliny, xxxiii. 3.

{ A barrow opened at Glenholrn, Peeblesshire. Stat. Acct. iv.

Those who are curious to know something of the variety of ornaments among
these ingenious people, are referred to Douglas's " Nennia Britannica," Sir R. Hoare's
" Ancient Wiltshire," the " Transactions of the Ant. of London and Scotland," " Sib-
bald's Erud. Ant. Misc." 2, &c.


seldom any sleeves, their arms being left bare, and their bosoms partly
uncovered. They wore a sagum, which they fastened, like the men
with a pin or brooch, as they did other parts of their dress, whence,
Pinkerton thinks, may be derived the usual perquisite of females, pin
money. Bondiuca wore a tunic of various colors, long and plaited; over
which she had a large vest and thick mantle, which was the dress she
wore at all times.

A passage in Ossian may allude to the introduction of the Roman toga,
adopted by the South Biitons: of Moina, daughter of Reuthamor, king
of Balelutha, it is said that her dress was not like that worn by the Cale-
donians, "her robes were from the strangers' land." The females are
represented, some centuriessince, as wearing sheep skins; but the
authority for this is doubtful.

The Irish women wore a mantle similar in form to that used by the
men, but longer. Pinkerton, on the authority of Giraldus, says they had
little caputii, or hoods of plaid, and linen vests. This mantle seems to
be described, in 1673, as " a sort of loose gowns."* Women in the
Highlands, befjre marriage, went with the head bare; when they were
privileged to cover it, they wore the curch, curaichd, or breid, of linen,
which was put over the head and fastened under the chin, falling in a
tapering form on the shoulders. A large lock of hair hung down each
side of the face to the bosom, the lower end being ornamented with a
knot of ribbons. The Welsh still wear a handkerchief, fastened in a
somewhat similar manner to the Highlanders.

The TONNAG is a small square of Tartan, or other woollen stuff, worn
over the shoulders, in manner of a mantle.

The AIRISAID was a peculiar garment, the same as was worn by Bon-
diuca, and is mentioned in one of the poems of Alexander Mac Donald
as having been worn so late as 1740."j"

The plaid, which was usually white, with a few stripes of black, blue
or red, and made of sufficient length to reach from the neck to the an-
kles, being nicely plaited all round, was fastened about the waist with a
belt, and secured on the breast by a large brooch. The belt was of
Jeather, and several pieces of silver intermixed, giving it the semblance
of a chain, and, " at the lower end was a piece of plate, about eight
inches long and three broad, curiously engraven, the end of which was
ingeniously adorned with fine stones, or pieces of red coral." This
singular ornament and vesture are now unknown.

The chief ornament of the Gael, both of Albin and Erin, was the
brooch for fastening the plaid, on the shoulders of men and on the breasts
of women. It was formed of brass, silver or gold, and adorned with
precious stones, according to the fancy or means of the wearer.

It was sometimes as large as an ordinary sized platter, and had a
smaller one within, for fastening the dress, that weighed between two

* Present State of Ireland.

t Quoted in Mr. Ronald Mac Donald's collection of Gaelic poems.



and three ounces, and was ornamented with a large crystal, or cairngo-
ruin, in the centre, with others of a lesser size set around it. The whole
was curiously engraved, the figures being the well-known tracery, ani-
mals, &.c. Martin says, he has seen some silver buckles worth 100 marks.
The one here represented in possession of Air. Donald Currie, is
drawn by a scale half the size of the original. It is of silver, weighing
two ozs. twelve dwts., and is a good specimen of the general form ana
ornaments of the brooch.

A simple form of fibula, found in a barrow near Canterbury, is shown
at the end of this chapter, but the ancient Britons had some, very in-
geniously and elaborately constructed. The old Highlanders had also
brooches of superior workmanship. That of Bruce, in possession of
Mac Dougal, of Lorn, according to the description of a gentleman who
has seen it, is silver, of a cup form, with a large cairngorum or topaz in
the centre. It was some time in the custody of the Campbells, of Glen-
lyon, who have another similar relic, of silver, studded with pearls and
uncut gems, having underneath a centre bar and two pins, or tongues.
Of this brooch Pennant has given an engraving.

The ladies, in those days, wore sleeves of scarlet cloth, like those of
the men, laced with gold or silver, and adorned with buttons of plate, set
with precious stones. The old Irish adorned themselves with large jewels.

The Cuirtan, or white twilled cloth, made from fine wool, was used
exclusively for under petticoats and hose, before the invention of modern
stockings, and the industry of young women was judged of by its fine-
ness and whiteness. A large sort of hose were called Ossan preasach.

A favorite pattern of stuff for female dresses, was crimson arid black,
in stripes of three or four threads in the woof, the warp being all black;
besides which, there was a sort much worn by women and children. It
was made party-colored, by tying cords very tight round the hasps of
yarn, when undergoing the process of dying; thus, supposing the color


blue, the spots preserved white by the ligatures would appear irregular-
ly throughout the web, forming a motley texture, or cloud-figured pattern.

The upper garment of the females of former ages, throughout the
North and West of Scotland, was the full plaid, which usually contained
three yards in length and two in breadth, and which, in the Highlands,
was often of the cuirtan, or white sort, but, in the Low Country, was of
all manner of showy patterns, either worsted or silk.*

This garment is worn over the head, and fastened under the chin with
a brooch or pin, like the habit of certain nuns, or otherwise only over
the shoulders, as the state of the weather may permit. From the change
of manners, the use of the plaid is now almost confined to the elderly
females, but was formerly worn by the married, whether young or old.
An English gentleman, who visited Edinburgh in 1598, says, " the cit-
izens' wives, and women of the country, did wear cloaks made of a coarse
cloth, of two or three colors, in checker work, vulgarly called Ploddan." j

In Edinburgh, where Birt says it was the undress, and, perhaps, in
other places, the ladies formerly denoted their political principles by the
manner of wearing their plaids, those who were Jacobites being thus
distinguished. When adjusted with a good air, the plaid was very be-
coming, the ends either falling as low as the ankle, or being held up in
graceful folds; usually by the left arm, to leave the right at liberty, but
sometimes by both.

Those who have been in the brae country of Scotland, cannot forget
the picturesque effect of the congregation of a kirk on Sunday, loitering
in the churchyard until the commencement of worship, or moving along
the mountain paths, the men in their varied tartans and smartly cocked
bonaids, the married women in their gaudy plaids and snow-white mutch-
es, or caps, the girls with their auburn hair neatly bound up in the snood.

The shirts of the Highlanders were formerly of woollen, from the use
of which rheumatism, and other complaints, were little known. Although
linen was not in very general use, it was far from being rare; and the
expense to which the Gael went in their shirts was astonishing. The
Lenicroich, or large shirt, worn by persons of rank, was dyed of a saf-
fron color, and contained twenty-four ells. In Ireland, the natives are
said to have required above thirty yards in the composition of this vest-
merit, a fashion so expensive that a law was passed by Henry VIII., by
which they were prohibited from putting more than seven yards in it,
under a severe penalty .J Great quantities of linen were formerly made
to supply the demand for these garments. The Lenicroich was fastened
round the middle by a belt, and reached below the knees, being gathered
into folds, or pleats, like the breacan, but was not, as its name would
seem to imply, worn under other clothing: it was an upper garment. It

* Plaids, all of scarlet, were latterly reckoned most genteel.
+ Arnot's Hist, of Edinburgh ; it is still called plaiding, in the Low lands,
t A Description of] -eland, Leyden, 1627, quoted by Gratianus Lucius. Acts of Par


would appear from Spenser that it was worn by both sexes, the women, as
Riche describes them, wearing deep smock sleeves, like herald maunch-
es. " Linnen shirts," says Campion, " the rich doe weare for wanton-
nes and bravery, with wide hanging sleeves, playted, thirtie yards being
little enough for one of them. They have now," he continues, " left
their saffron, and Tearne to wash their shirts foure or five times in a

The Celts had, in very early ages, attained celebrity for the perfec-
tion to which they carried the growth of flax and manufacture of linen.
The Iberians of Tarraconia excelled in its fineness, and those in the
army at Cannae were clad in shirts of linen, worked with purple, after
the manner of their country."!"

The use of linen appears to have been more common among the
Gallic and German females, than among the men. Beyond the Rhine,
the females thought themselves most grand when dressed in fine linen.J
The vests of the German ladies were embroidered with purple.^ Whit-
taker says, the skiurd, or shirt, was derived from the Romans; but
surely these linen vestments were shirts, to all intents and purposes.
Lein is the Gaelic for this part of apparel. By the Cadurci, Caletes,
Rutene, Bituriges, Morini, and throughout all Gaul, linen cloth and
canvass for sails were manufactured.

The Gauls and Britons pounded the flax, when spun, in a stone mor-
tar with water; and, when woven, it was beaten upon a smooth stone
with broad clubs. The more frequently and forcibly, the whiter and
softer it became; and, to make the water more efficacious in cleansing,
some put into it the roots of wild poppies and other herbs. || This mode
of bleaching, or whitening linen, by beating it, is still practised in Scot-
land and Ireland, where it is called beetling, from the wooden imple-
ment with which it is struck.

The Scots' women, both single and married, have generally good
store of sheets and blankets.

The hardihood of the Celtic race has been before noticed. Their
dress inured them to the vicissitudes and severity of the climate. The
lusty youth, says Marcellinus, had their limbs hardened with frost and
continual exercise.

Pelloutier relates an anecdote which shows how little these people
regarded exposure to cold. One morning that the snow lay deep on the
ground, one of their kings, who was well clothed, perceiving a man lay-
ing down naked, asked if he was not cold? " Is your face cold? "replied
he. " No," said the king. " Neither, then," returned the man, " do
I feel cold, for I am all face. "IT

The Highlanders, before the subversion of their primitive institutions,
were indifferent to the severity of a winter night, resting with content in

* Hist, of Ireland, 1571. t Polybius, iii. f Pliny, xix. I

Tacitus. || Pliny, xix. xx. 2 and 3.

IT Tome ii. c. 7, from Lilian, Var. Hist. vii. 6.


the open air, amid rain or snow. With their simple breacan they suffer-
ed "the most cruel tempest that could blow, in the field, in such sort,
that under a wreath of snow they slept sound." The advantage of this
vesture was almost incalculable. During rain it could be brought over
the head and shoulders; and, while other troops suffered from want of
shelter, the Highlander carried in his mantle an ample quantity of
warm covering. If three men slept together, they were enabled to
spread three folds of warm clothing under, and six above them. The
42nd, 78th, and 79th regiments, who marched through Holland in 1794,
when the cold was so severe as to freeze brandy in bottles, suffered in-
comparably less than other corps who wore plenty of warm apparel.

O'Leary, contrasting the ancient state of his countrymen with their
degeneracy, and, alluding to their practice of sleeping in the woods,
observes that "the uprising combatant had not the ringlets of his hair
bound with frost." Breeches formed no part of their ancient costume;
and, even in 1712, Dobbs tells us that they went bare-legged most part
of the year. From constant exposure to a cold and inconstant climate
the Gael were inured and indifferent to hardships. They were so habit
uated to wet, that it had no effect on their constitutions.

However rude and unpolished the ancient Gael were, according tc
our ideas who live in an age of so high refinement, they were certainty
in possession of many curious and useful arts. Giraldus Cambrensis is
convicted of falsehood, in saying that the Irish had no manufactures, it
being evident, even from his own testimony, that they had knitters,
weavers, dyers, fullers, tailors, &.c. If they had not the art of making
cloth, where did they procure the braccae, the phalangium, or sagum,
with caputii of various colors, which he says they wore?

While the Highlanders were able to produce cloth of many brilliant
and permanent colors, the inhabitants of other countries were less skil-
ful manufacturers. I believe it is Camden who relates, that at the tirm
of the Spanish Armada invasion, the people of England were general!}
obliged to wear white cloth, because they could not send it to the Low
Country to be dyed.

That the Franks and Saxons retained, for a long time, the manufac-
tures of their Celtic ancestors, has been shown. Charlemagne, adher
ing to the primitive costume, dressed like the Scots' Highlanders; and
from Windichind's description of a Saxon, he closely resembled a Cale-

The costume of the Gael, like their language, being so different from
that of the other inhabitants of the British islands, was fondly retained
as a national distinction, and a memorial of their independence.

This strong predilection led to repeated enactments. By an act of the
fifth of Edward IV. the Irish were ordered to dress like the English, un-
der the pain of a forfeiture of goods; and a similar law was passed in the
tenth of Henry VII. These statutes had little effect, for, in the twenty-
* Camden's Britannia.


eighth of Henry VIII. another enactment prohibits, under a severe pen
alty, all persons from shaving above their ears, wearing cromeal on their
lips, or glibes on their heads; or from dressing in any shirt, smock,
kerchor, bendel, neckerohor, mochet, or linen cap, colored or dyed with
saffron; or to wear in their shirts or smocks more than seven yards of
eloth, according to the king's standard.*

The Irish, notwithstanding these peremptory statutes, which were
strictly enforced by Queen Elizabeth, had not entirely laid aside their
ancient garb, in the middle of the seventeenth century. It was, how-
ever, confined to the peasantry, the dress of others being assimilated to
the prevailing fashion in England, although, in some parts, an adhe-
rence to ancient custom was apparent. The costume of the gentry, at
the above period, is described as consisting of a leather quilted jacke,
long-slieved smocks, half-slieved coats, silken fillets, and riding shoes of
costly cordwaine.j

The Highlanders were prohibited from carrying their arms by the
first parliament of George I., 1716. In 1747, a similar act was passed,
with these more oppressive and absurd additions, that " neither man nor
boy, except such as should be employed as officers and soldiers, should,
on any pretence,, wear or put on the clothes commonly called Highland
clothes, viz. the plaid, philibeg, or little kilt, trowse, shoulder belts, or
any part whatsoever of what peculiarly belongs to the Highland garb;
and that no tartan or party-colored plaid, oftstuff, should be used for
great coats or for upper coats." In 1782, the Duke of Montrose brought
forward a bill, by which " so much of the above, or any other acts, as
restrain the use of the Highland dress, is repealed."

The costume of the Gael is no longer deemed a mark of disloyalty,
and an object of legal prohibition. The harsh and unnecessary law
which denounced the use of tartan has been expunged from the statute
book; and one of the most popular objects of the Highland Societies of
London and Edinburgh, with their various branches, is to cherish and
promote an attention to this honorable and manly costume, so appropri-
ate a concomitant to the peculiar language and manners of the Scotish
Gael. The Highland dress is universally admired and respected. On
the Continent, where the bravery and moral worth of the Scots is known
and appreciated, it is not merely an object of interest: it is a passport
to the best society, and a uniform that can rank with the proudest of
orders. Our gracious Sovereign, when he visited the capital of his north-
ern dominions, personally fixed it as the court dress of Scotland.

Harris's ed. of S. J. Ware's Antiquities of Ireland, ii. 178. t Spenser.

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