About Tartan

What is Tartan?

Canada's Tartan

National Tartan Day

Clan Munro Tartans

Canadian Tartans

Origins of Tartan Day

What is Tartan?

Technically speaking, tartan is a pattern woven from threads, usually of two or more colours, which cross at right angles in a rectangular pattern. The primary difference from a check pattern is that with a tartan there are points where the different colours cross, forming an intermediate colour, or speckled blend of the two colours. Historically, patterns dating from the Iron Age which are similar to today’s Tartan have been found in China, while samples in Britain possibly date back to the 3rd century. There are strict rules regarding the design and patterning of modern Tartans. 

To a Scot though, Tartan is so much more than a distinctive, beautifully patterned weave. Tartan is a symbol of homeland, family, culture and heritage. Whether worn, or simply observed during ceremonies, Tartan invariably evokes a powerful emotional response for people of Scottish descent. From early times Scots would wear Tartan clothing that was distinctive to a weaver from their area of origin. Over time, these patterns became more closely identified with a region, and by extension, often with the Clan of the same region. Following the Jacobite struggles the Dress Act of 1746 was passed in an attempt to restrict the wearing of tartans. The Act was ineffective and only served to create a strong romantic and nationalistic base for the resurgence of Clan awareness and tartan identity. The leading weaving manufacturer of the late 18th and early 19th centuries was William Wilson & Sons, and the company amassed a collection of Tartan samples that were carefully described and recorded. From 1815 official Clan Tartans were named and registered, and today virtually every Clan has at least one distinct tartan. 

Contributed by Alan Wilson of Highland Line

^Back to top

Canada's Official Tartan

OTTAWA, March 9, 2011 - It's official! Canada's Maple Leaf Tartan, which has been our unofficial national tartan for many years, has now become an official symbol of Canada.
"The Maple Leaf Tartan has been worn proudly and enjoyed by Canadians for decades, but has never been elevated to the level of an official symbol–until now," said the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages.

"Our national symbols express our identity and define our history. The Maple Leaf Tartan represents the contributions that the more than four million Canadians of Scottish heritage continue to make to our country," added Minister Moore.

The Maple Leaf Tartan was created in 1964 by David Weiser in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of Confederation in 1967.

"The tartan is one of the most visual expressions of Scottish heritage and culture," said the Honourable John Wallace, Senator (New Brunswick). "Making the Maple Leaf Tartan an official symbol of Canada highlights the many significant contributions that people of Scottish heritage have made to the founding of Canada."

The Second Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment Pipes and Drums has adopted the Maple Leaf Tartan, and National Defence Headquarters has approved it for issue for Canadian Forces pipers and drummers who do not have a specific regimental affiliation. It was also featured in costumes worn last year during the closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics.

On October 21, 2010, the Government of Canada announced that April 6 will be formally recognized as Tartan Day. This April 6, Canadians across the country will be able to celebrate this day with a new official symbol of Canada. 

As an official symbol of Canada, the Maple Leaf Tartan joins Canada's most significant emblems, such as the Coat of Arms and the National Flag of Canada.


Other Articles:


^Back to top

Origins of Tartan Day

Tartan Day is a North American celebration of Scottish heritage on 6 April, the date on which the Declaration of Arbroath was signed in 1320. It originated in Canada in the mid-1980s. It spread to other communities of the Scottish diaspora in the 1990s. In Australia the similar International Tartan Day is held on 1 July, the anniversary of the repeal of the 1747 Act of Proscription that banned the wearing of tartan. Tartan Days typically have parades of pipe bands, Highland dancing and other Scottish-themed events.

On 9 March 1986, a 'Tartan Day' to promote Scottish heritage in Canada was proposed at a meeting of the Federation of Scottish Clans in Nova Scotia. Jean Watson, President of Clan Lamont, petitioned provincial legislatures to recognize 6 April as Tartan Day. The first such proclamation was by Nova Scotia in April 1987. On 19 December 1991, in response to action initiated by the Clans & Scottish Societies of Canada, the Ontario Legislature passed a resolution proclaiming 6 April as Tartan Day, following the example of other Canadian provinces. Meeting in 1997 in Sarasota, Florida, the Scottish Coalition USA looked to see Tartan Day recognized in the US as it was being observed in Canada. In 1998, the efforts of the Scottish Coalition with the leading help of Trent Lott saw the United States Senate Resolution adopt April 6 as National Tartan Day. This led in turn to the Congressional and then Presidential passing of the recognition of Tartan Day Observance on 6 April each year.
In Australia, wearing tartan on 1 July has been encouraged since 1989. The day has been promoted as International Tartan Day in Australia since 1996 and has been formally recognised by some states, but not at national level.

About 15.1% or 4.7 million Canadians claim Scottish descent. As stated above, Tartan Day (French: Journée du Tartan) in Canada originated with a proposal from the Federation of Scottish Clans in Nova Scotia and has since been proclaimed by all the provincial legislatures. In Oct. 21, 2010, the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, announced that the Government of Canada will now officially recognize April 6 as Tartan Day nationally.

The 2011 celebrations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa marked the first time that Tartan Day has been celebrated with Canada's official tartan having been named: the Maple Leaf.

Some Information from Wikipedia

^Back to top

National Tartan Day Approved!

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 21, 2010) - The Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, announced today that the Government of Canada will now officially recognize April 6 as Tartan Day.

"A tartan represents a clan, a family, and a community, and is an enduring symbol of Scotland that is cherished by Canadians of Scottish ancestry," said Minister Moore. "Many Canadian provinces and other countries already celebrate Tartan Day. As well, through Tartan Day, Canadians will have an opportunity to learn more about the various cultures that comprise Canadian society."

Tartan Day originated in the late 1980s in Nova Scotia, where it was declared an official day by the provincial government. It then spread across the country, with many provinces joining in. This marks the first time the Day has been recognized by the federal government.

"By officially recognizing this Day, we encourage Canadians all across the country to celebrate the contributions that over four million Canadians of Scottish heritage continue to make to the foundation of our country," said Senator John Wallace, who recently introduced a bill in the Senate in support of nationally declaring Tartan Day.

In Canada, Tartan Day is celebrated on April 6, the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, the Scottish declaration of independence. Tartan Day celebrations typically include parades of pipe bands, Highland dancing and sports, and other Scottish-themed events.
This news release is available on the Internet at www.canadianheritage.gc.ca under Newsroom. 

The Following article is from Grip Fast Volume 4, Issue 2, March 2011.
The Newsletter of Clan Leslie

April 6th is Tartan Day in Canada and the United States. This date was chosen as it is the date that the Declaration of Arborath was signed. This Declaration was Scotland's declaration of independence from England. John Prebble, in his book The Lion of the North, stated that "The Declaration of Arborath was and has been unequalled in its eloquent plea for the liberty of man. From the darkness of medieval minds it shone a torch upon future struggles which its signatories could not have seen or understood." Prebble noted that there are two points that make this declaration "the most important document in Scottish history":
"Firstly, it set the will and the wishes of the people above the King." In other words, there was no "divine right of kings." That kings served the people, and that kings could be made by selection and not necessarily by birth. "Secondly, the manifesto affirmed the nation's independence in a way no battle could, and justified it with a truth that is beyond nation and race. Man has a right to freedom and a duty to defend it with his life."
I will quote from page 27 of
Grip Fast: The Leslies in History by Alexander Leslie Klieforth who wrote most eloquently:
"In 1320 eight earls and 31 of the great barons and major clergy of Scotland, among them [Baron] Andrew Leslie, sent a letter to Pope John XXII, known as the Declaration of Arborath. It is a revolutionary assertion by a nation of people of their desire for freedom and the right to choose their own government and is a statement of the leadership of Scotland about their country and its aspirations, and as a political document it ranks in purpose and power of language with the American Declaration of Independence. In ringing Latin prose it set forth certain claims and affirmations. It asks the Pope to urge the King of England to desist from his designs on their nation, to 'leave us Scots in peace, who live in this poor little Scotland . . . and covet nothing but our own.' "
It states the will of the people for independence:

'As long as but a hundred of us remain alive never will we be under any condition be brought under English rule.
It is in truth, not for glory, nor riches, nor honour that we are fighting, but for freedom - for that alone which no honest man give up but with life itself.'

David Leslie White, Chieftain Click here to email

^Back to top

Canadian Provincial & Territorial Tartans

All of Canada's provinces and territories, have regional tartans, as do many other regional divisions in Canada. The first province to adopt one officially was Nova Scotia in 1955, and the most recent province was Ontario, in 2000. Except for the tartan of Quebec, all of the provincial and territorial tartans are officially recognized and registered in the books of the Court of the Lord Lyon, King of Arms of Scotland, also with the Scottish Register of Tartans at www.tartanregister.gov.uk
The official tartan for Canada as a whole is the Maple Leaf tartan. 

1. Maple leaf
2. Newfoundland and Labrador
3. Prince Edward Island
4. Nova Scotia
5. New Brunswick
6. Quebec
7. Ontario
8. Manitoba
9. Saskatchewan
10. Alberta
11. British Columbia
12. Northwest Territories
13. Yukon
Nunavut (below)

The idea for Alberta's official tartan began in 1961 at the Edmonton Rehabilitation Society, a charitable organization set up to teach useful skills to the disabled. The tartan was designed by Alison Lamb, the Society's director, and Ellen Neilsen, the weaving instructor, and was officially adopted by the province in an Act of the Legislature on March 30, 1961. The green represents the province's forests, while the gold represents its grain fields. The shade of blue, as well as the gold, are also Alberta's provincial colours.
Its International Tartan Index number is 2055.

British Columbia
British Columbia's official tartan was designed by Eric Ward in 1966, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1866 union of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. Its main colours are blue and red, representing the Pacific Ocean and the maple leaf, and also contains green for forests, white for the province's official flower, the Pacific Dogwood, and gold from the coat of arms.
Its International Tartan Index number is 808.

Manitoba's official tartan was designed in 1962 by Hugh Kirkwood Rankine, and officially adopted by the province in "The Coat of Arms, Emblems and the Manitoba Tartan Act", which received Royal Assent on May 1 of that year. The red in the design originates from the Red River Settlement, founded in 1812 by the Earl of Selkirk, Thomas Douglas, and crofters from the Scottish Highlands, and the blue was taken from the Clan Douglas tartan. In addition, the green lines represent the varying cultures and races that make up Manitoban society, and the gold represents Manitoba's agricultural history.
Its International Tartan Index number is 144.

New Brunswick
The official tartan of New Brunswick was commissioned by William Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook in 1959 and designed by the Loomcrofters in Gagetown, New Brunswick. It was officially adopted as the provincial tartan by an Order in Council in the same year. The "beaver brown" colour was included to honour Beaverbrook, and the red honours the courage and loyalty of the New Brunswick Regiment and Loyalist settlers.
Its International Tartan Index number is 1880.

Newfoundland and Labrador
The tartan of Newfoundland and Labrador.The official tartan of Newfoundland and Labrador was designed in 1955 by Samuel B. Wilansky, a local store owner on Water Street in St. John's. It was registered in the Court of the Lord Lyon in 1973. The white, gold, and yellow come from the province's official anthem, "Ode to Newfoundland":

When sun rays crown thy pine clad hills
And summer spreads her hand
When silvern voices tune thy rills
We love thee, smiling land ...
When spreads thy cloak of shimmering white
At winter's stern command
Thro' shortened day, and starlit night
We love thee, frozen land.

The green represents the pine forests, the white represents snow, the brown represents the Iron Isle, and the red represents the Royal Standard.
Its International Tartan Index number is 1543.

Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia's tartan. Nova Scotia's tartan was designed by Bessie Murray, the President of the Halifax Weavers' Guild. She had originally displayed the tartan on the kilt of a shepherd in a panel at a breeders' convention in Truro in 1953, but the design was so admired that is was afterwards used as the province's tartan. It was registered at the Court of the Lord Lyon in 1956, making it the first provincial tartan in Canada, and officially adopted by the province in the Nova Scotia Tartan Act of 1963. Blue is used for the sea; white, for the granite rocks and surf; gold, for the Royal Charter; and red for the lion rampant on the provincial flag.
Its International Tartan Index number is 1713.

Northwest Territories
The idea of an official tartan for Northwest Territories was proposed by Janet Anderson-Thomson after she attended an RCMP ball in 1966 and noticed that the piper was, as she later described it, "terribly drab". She and her husband John, a land surveyor, both discussed the idea with Stuart Hodgson, then Commissioner of Northwest Territories, who supported it. The design was then created by Hugh MacPherson (Scotland) Limited of Edinburgh, a tartan designer and manufacturer, with Anderson-Thomson's colour suggestions: green for the forests, white for the Arctic Ocean, blue for the Northwest Passage, gold for the territories' mineral wealth, red-orange for autumn foliage, and a thin black line to represent the tree line. The tartan was registered at the Court of the Lord Lyon in 1972, and officially adopted by the Territorial Council in January 1973.
Its International Tartan Index number is 662.

The tartan was registered with the Scottish Tartans Authority in August 2008.
Dark blue was chosen to represent the deep, icy, blue waters, which were and still are vital to the people, and the richness of the blue depicts the richness of the culture. The blue also reflects the importance of hunting to Inuit culture.
White is used four times to represent the great impact that ice and snow has upon the lifestyle in the north and also depicting the purity of the new Territory.
Yellow represents the return of the sun to the north every year, the warmth of its people and the bright future ahead.
Light purple represents the Territorial Flower, the Saxifrage, and Black represents the vast mineral resources found within the tundra of the north.

Ontario's official tartan was designed in 1965 by Rotex Ltd, but not officially adopted by the province until 2000, when MPP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound Bill Murdoch introduced the Tartan Act, which received Royal Assent on June 23, 2000. The three shades of green represent Ontario's forests and fields; the red, its natives; the blue, its waters; and the white, the sky.
Its International Tartan Index number is 6627.

Prince Edward Island
Designed by Jean Reed of Covehead, the official tartan of Prince Edward Island was selected through a contest across the province, and adopted on June 16, 1960. The red-brown represents the famous red soil, the green is for the grass and trees, the white is for the surf, and the yellow is for the sun.
Its International Tartan Index number is 918.

Quebec is the only province whose tartan has not been officially adopted. Known as the Plaid of Quebec (French: Plaid du Québec), it was designed in 1965 by Rotex Ltd, which also designed the tartan of Ontario in the same year. Its colours are derived from the province's coat of arms, with blue from the upper division, green for the three maple leaves, red from the centre division, gold for the crown and lion passant, and white for the scroll containing the province's motto, Je me souviens (English: "I remember").
Its International Tartan Index number is 1949.

Saskatchewan's tartan was created in 1961 by Mrs. Frank Bastedo, wife of Frank Lindsay Bastedo, former Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan. The predominantly yellow palette is meant to represent Saskatchewan's identity as the "breadbasket" of Canada, with gold for wheat and yellow for rapeseed and sunflower. The other colours are green for forests, red for the prairie lily, white for snow, brown for summerfallow, and black for oil and coal.
Its International Tartan Index number is 1817.

The official tartan of Yukon was designed by Janet Couture of Faro in 1965. Its unique colour palette represents various aspects of Yukon's culture: yellow for the Klondike Gold Rush and midnight sun, purple for its mountains, white for snow, blue for water, and green for forests. It was first proposed as the territorial tartan in 1967, during the Canadian Centennial, but was not officially adopted until 1984, when the Yukon Tartan Act was passed by the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Its International Tartan Index number is 2129.

The Maple Leaf Tartan
The Maple Leaf Tartan was approved as an official symbol of Canada on March 9, 2011 by Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages.
The Canadian Maple Leaf tartan was designed by David Weiser in 1964 in anticipation of the centenary of the granting of Dominion status to Canada in 1967. The name Maple Leaf was chosen as Maples are indigenous to Canada and the leaf, a symbol of nationhood, forms the central feature of the Canadian Flag, introduced in 1965. It was designed as a commercial venture by a Canadian, who had been in the fashion world for many years.
In the words of the Commercial Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Canada - "In creating the Maple Leaf Tartan fabric, David Weiser captured the natural phenomena of these leaves turning from summer into autumn. The green is the early colour of the foliage. Gold appears at the turn of autumn. Red shows up at the coming of the first frost. The two tones of brown find their way throughout the leaf creating a prolific profusion of colour."
Its International Tartan Index number is 2034.

^Back to top

Layout Copyright © CMAC