Clan Gathering – April 7, 2018
The Clans will gather once again in Dunedin at the Highland Games. Come and meet the many Scottish Clans and Societies who are proud to show off their lineage and heritage! Our Clans reside for the day of the Highland Games in Clan Village. Take a walk through and go back in time!
Learn a little about the history of clans and tartans below (information from the rampantscotland.com website).
What’s a Clan? A Scottish clan is a kinship group or association among Scottish people. Clans generally are identified with a geographical area where tartans were associated with lowland and highland districts whose wavers produced cloth patterns specific to their districts. Most clan tartans date back to the 19th century. The word “clan” is derived from the Scots Gaelic word “clann” meaning the children, offspring or descendants. Not all surnames in Scotland or even in the Highlands became “clans” (indeed surnames only started to come into use in the 12th century). There is no hard and fast rule but a “clan” is usually of a sufficient size to have established a territory and is likely to have a clan chief.
Within the Scottish Highlands, in the 12th and 13th centuries the concept of “clan” grew beyond immediate family to cover an extended network of people who felt that they had loyalties to a particular clan chief. Sometimes the extension of the clan territory, and therefore the clan members, was achieved by conquest or by alliances or marriage. Eventually, as the Scottish monarchy became established and exercised control, the allocation of clan lands would be granted, or at least authorised, by the king. The clan chief had duties in relation to clan members, which included providing help and support (including the allocation of smaller parcels of land and property) and, in the absence of any other legal framework, resolution of disputes and exercising justice. The clan chief could also demand that clan members join him either in defending clan lands or on raids on adjoining territory to extend clan lands, steal cattle or provisions – or in revenge for an earlier attack by another clan. While the “election” of a chief could and did happen (the eldest son was not automatically adopted – the selection was down to who could best lead a fighting clan) male succession eventually became the norm (although in more recent times a clan chief can be male or female). A notable feature of the clan system was that the clan chief was not put on a pedestal and “looked up to” as a superior individual. English visitors to the area, more used to the idea of landed gentry, nobility and subservience were often surprised by the close relationship between the chief and his people. The clan system, as it had operated for hundreds of years, was essentially destroyed after the Jacobite Uprising in 1745/46 when many clans supported the claim of Prince Charles Edward Stewart to the throne of the (by then) United Kingdom (but see the question below – “Is the Clan System Still Alive?”)
Do I Have a Scottish Clan?
There is no definitive, authorative list of all the clans. But there are a number of Web sites which make a stout effort at assembling as complete a list as they can. Have a look at Wikipedia – List of Scottish Clans. Remember, of course, that over the generations mis-spellings can creep in, especially in earlier days. For an even wider review of just about all the surnames used in Scotland, whether clans or not, then you need to go to one of the authorative books on the subject.
Where Did Tartans Come From?
Tartans Using a long length of cloth as a garment is not unique to Scotland and was in use from medieval times but the belted plaid (“plaid” in Gaelic means “blanket”) or “feileadh mor”, the great kilt, became common around the 16th century. There is a technique to getting from a long strip of cloth, several yards long, to a wearable garment. It was (and is) a versatile garment which kept the wearer warm in winter, allowed freedom of movement and could act as a blanket at night. The striped design of the kilt became part of the weaving process for the material but although different weavers in specific districts no doubt used special patterns, initially there was no clan identification involved. The plethora of different brightly coloured tartans associated with the various clans and septs is a relatively modern development. While such differentiation occured before the visit of King George IV to Scotland in 1822, Sir Walter Scott who organised the event, is often given the credit (or blame) for the explosive growth in identifying clan tartans. But the use of identifying tartans by army regiments in the late 18th century and the number of Border weavers, anxious to increase the market for their products, no doubt played a part. There are also conflicting theories on how and when the great kilt became the “feileadh beg” or little kilt, which does not have the folds of cloth on the upper body of its bigger brother. This is the form of kilt normally worn today.