Monday, May 30, 2016

Donovan Leitch

Donovan Philips Leitch (aka Donovan) was born in Maryhill, Glasgow in 1946. As a child he contracted polio and his father, a poetry buff, read to his young son. In 1956 the family moved to Hatfield, Hertfordshire where young Donovan grew to like the folk music of Woodie Guthrie and Derroll Adams. He began playing guitar at fourteen and became a regular at the St Albans folk club at The Cock pub. There he met Mick Softly and long-time collaborator and companion Gypsy Dave. Aged 16, Donovan was a competent guitar player and played with a distinctive finger picking style (which he later taught John Lennon). In 1963 he dropped out of Art school and caught the wonder lust, travelling the country as a busker. He started writing songs with his two friends and when they arrived in Brighton, Donovan played during gig intermissions. His reputation grew and Geoff Stephens and Peter Eden employed him as a song writer. When Elkan Allen (producer of 'Ready Steady Go'), heard Donovan’s demos he took the unprecedented action of putting the unknown denim clad folkie on the program. His bold action was rewarded and Donovan became an instant hit with the Mod audiences. Donovan made his TV debut in 1965 and had his guitar emblazoned with the words "This Machine Kills."

Inspiration came from his hero Woody Guthrie whose guitar bore the slogan "This Machine Kills Fascists". Pye Records quickly signed the eighteen year old and his first single “Catch the wind” went to Number three in the UK charts on release.

Many of Donovan songs were inspired by his wife Linda Lawrence. Linda had previously been the girl friend of Brian Jones but eventually Donovan and she got married, and celebrate one of the longest marriages in show business. Donovan follow up was "Colours," then the antiwar "Universal Soldier."

Both did well in the charts but late 1965, Donovan parted company with his original managers and signed with Ashley Kozak, who was working for Brian Epstein's NEMS Enterprises. Ashley Kozak introduced Donovan to American impresario Allen Klein who in turn introduced Donovan to producer Mickie Most. Most had previously made his reputation working with The Animals and Herman's Hermits. Donovan was now acknowledged as a notable UK folk singer. Public comparisons were quickly made with Bob Dylan and the two met in 1965. They enjoyed each other’s company and Dylan invited Donovan to tour with himself and Joan Baez. Pete Seeger, too recognised the emerging talent and invited him to play at the Newport Folk Festival in the US. Donovan had a fan following in the US but ran into contractual difficulties which interrupted his record releases. In 1966 he signed a $100,000 deal with the CBS subsidiary Epic Records. In the same year he was busted for possession of marijuana and became the first high-profile British pop star to be arrested. Now super hippy, Donovan used his notoriety to highlight his political beliefs for nuclear disarmament and against the injustices in a materialistic and violent world. Donovan's best recordings were produced by Mickie Most and featured excellent session musicians including: Jack Bruce (Cream), Danny Thompson (Pentangle), Spike Heatley (upright bass), Tony Carr (drums and congas), John Cameron (piano), Harold McNair (sax and flute), and John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin). Mickie Most and John Cameron (arranger) combined pop with Donovan’s soft folk style to produce a run of psychedelic hits including "Sunshine Superman,", "Mellow Yellow," (arranged by John Paul Jones and featuring Paul McCartney on uncredited backing vocals), and "Hurdy Gurdy Man,"(featuring Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones).

During this time Donovan became a close friend of the Beatles and appeared uncredited on several of their studio recordings including 'A Day in the Life', from the Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album (1967).

He was attracted to the philosophical teachings of the Indian guru, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and journeyed to India with the Beatles to meditate. As the sixties progressed, Donovan continued to record successful material in accord with the developing UK psychedelic but growing tensions between Mickie Most and Donovan came to a head in late 1969. The two parted company and Donovan joined forces with Jeff Beck to produce the rockier, “Goo Goo Barbajagal.”

Disillusioned with the music scene Donovan dropped out for almost six years before he finally re-emerged. His commercial appeal had waned and although he continued to perform and release albums, the popular phase of Donovan music was over. The singer relocated to the US where he continues to have a loyal following and regularly tours. Donovan is a committed conservationalist and enjoys much popularity on the retro circuit.

Worth a listen:
Catch the wind (1965)
Colours (1965)
Universal Soldier (1965)
Mellow Yellow (1965)
Sunshine Superman (1966)
Hurdy Gurdy Man (1968)
Goo goo Barabajagal (1969)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Ronnie Corbett (1930 -2016)

Born Ronald Balfour Corbett in 1930 in Edinburgh, the son of William Balfour Corbett, a master baker, and Annie Elizabeth (née Main) Corbett. Ronnie was the eldest of three children and attended the James Gillespie's High School and Royal High School in the city. He enjoyed amateur dramatics and at the age of 15, he starred in a pantomime at his local church youth club. When he left school he found employment as a clerk at the Ministry of Agriculture. Ronnie joined the Royal Airforce to complete his national service and in 1950 was commissioned into the secretarial branch of the RAF as a pilot officer (national service) at RAF Bridgnorth. At the time, Ronnie at 5 ft 1 in (1.55 m) tall was the shortest commissioned officer in the British Forces. On discharge from the forces he moved to London to start his acting career.

At first, Ronnie Corbett took work where he could and tread the board in various theatres as well as taking bit parts in TV and film. He performed on stage with Danny La Rue and soon attracted the attention of several top TV producers and executives who were impressed with his abilities as a stand-up comedian. By 1955, Ronnie had become a regular member of the Children’s TV teatime program, Crackerjack (BBC). Unlike most of his fellow cast members, Ronnie was quickly given a spotlight to showcase his own stand-up routines.

As a comedic actor, Ronnie Corbett’s appeared in small parts in many films including: You're Only Young Twice (1952) the hapless "Chumleigh" in Fun at St Fanny's (1955), and "Drooby" in Rockets Galore (1958). He also took bit parts in TV and appeared in an early episode of the Saber of London (The Vice) (1955) and the Saint (1962).

Ronnie Corbett served drinks at the Buckstone Club, London between acting jobs then in 1963 he got a starring role in the first London production of the musical The Boys from Syracuse (as Dromio of Syracuse) at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, alongside Bob Monkhouse. In 1965, he was in cabaret at Winston's, Danny La Rue's Mayfair nightclub, during which time he met and married Anne Hart. Then in 1965, he landed the role of Will Scarlett in Will Scarlett in Lionel Bart's Robin Hood musical Twang!!. Sadly, the musical failed after just, 43 performances and Ronnie found himself looking for work in 1966. David Frost was starting a new satirical TV program and had seen Ronnie performing stand-up at Danny La Rue’s club he was attracted to his size and quick wit. Over cucumber sandwiches at The Ritz David invited him to join the team of The Frost Report (1966–67) with the lanky, John Cleese, and amply proportioned, Ronnie Barker to perform a mixture of satirical monologues, sketches and music. The writers and cast were mostly Oxbridge graduates from the Footlights tradition. Corbett and Barker were drawn together as two grammar school boys who had not gone to university. As the show progressed, Corbett and Barker were drawn together and a natural pair for later partnership.

Following the Frost Report, Ronnie Corbett starred in “No – That's Me Over Here!”, a sitcom written by Frost Report writers Barry Cryer, Graham Chapman and Eric Idle (ITV 1967–70). Cryer and Chapman wrote two follow-ups: Now Look Here (BBC 1971–73) and The Prince of Denmark (BBC 1974). Ronnie also took time to appear as "Polo" in the spoof Bond film, Casino Royale (1967) and continued in television with appearances in Frost on Sunday (ITV 1968) as well as hosting The Corbett Follies (ITV 1969). More film work followed with Some Will, Some Won't (1970). Then in 1971 Barker asked him to star in the comedy sketch series The Ronnie Barker Yearbook (1971). As well as being a wonderful comedy actor Ronnie Corbett was also an accomplished after dinner speaker and very funny stand-up comedian. These talents came into play when Barker and Corbett were asked to fill in a few minutes during a technical hitch at an awards ceremony. Amongst the audience was Sir Paul Fox, the then Controller of BBC One who was so impressed by the duo that they were subsequently given their own show by the BBC.

The Two Ronnies (BBC) saw a comedic coupling of matching tastes and styles which ran from 1971 to 1987. It was a marriage made in comedy heaven when Barker and Corbett took part in musical performances and sketches. They quickly became primetime viewing and were only rivalled by Morecambe and Wise. The programme won a Bafta in 1972 for best light entertainment performance and was staple viewing for much of the UK audience on a Saturday night, with more than 17 million viewers. Much of the success was due to the array of great writers behind the sketches, including Ronnie Barker (under the 'Gerald Wiley' pseudonym). These were not only ridiculously funny but also brought with them fantastic wordplay. Barker excelled with his lexiconic brilliance and when Corbett was on his own he specialised in long, rambling jokes delivered from an outsize armchair with his legs dangling in the air. He was usually wearing a Lyle & Scott golfing V-neck sweater.

During the filming of the "Two Ronnies" Ronnie Corbett found time to branch off into a whole host of other projects as did Ronnie Barker. The wee man appeared in the film version of the farce No Sex Please, We're British (1973); as well as more TV with The Ronnie Corbett Special (1979). In 1979, both he and Ronnie Barker took their families to Australia for a year for job opportunities and starred in a series of The Two Ronnies in Australia (Channel 9).

In 1981 Ronnie Corbett’s best role away from The Two Ronnies was in the sitcom Sorry! (1981 – 88) in which he played the 40-something Timothy Lumsden, dominated by his mother and written by Ian Davidson and Peter Vincent. Following Barker's retirement in 1987, Corbett had a number of roles in the theatre, including The Seven Year Itch, Out of Order and The Dressmaker, while he also took guest roles on TV and in film.

The versatile comedian hosted the BBC One game show Small Talk for two years from 1994-96. He also appeared on the première of the short-lived BBC game show Full Swing, hosted by Jimmy Tarbuck (1996). More film parts followed with Fierce Creatures (1997), and Timbuctoo (1998). In 2005, Corbett reunited with Barker to present a special six-part series looking back at their favorite moments from the "Two Ronnies". In the same year Ronnie Corbett appeared with comedian Peter Kay in the spoof music video for the number one single "Is This the Way to Amarillo?", in which the song, originally by Tony Christie, was mimed, to raise money for Comic Relief. Corbett is remembered for accidentally falling on the treadmill that was out of shot in the green screen video; however, he found the fall funny when played back, and it was kept in the final version.

Ronnie Corbett won a swag of new fans when he played a hyper-realised version of himself in Extras, caught taking drugs at the BAFTA Awards (2006). Then later he appeared as himself in Little Britain Abroad, in which Bubbles DeVere tried successfully to seduce him. In 2010, he reunited with Ian Davidson and Peter Vincent in the BBC Radio 4 series radio series When The Dog Dies and in the same year appeared in Burke & Hare as Capt. Tom McLintock. Already an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), Corbett was promoted to Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2012 New Year Honours for services to charity and the entertainment industry.

The much loved comic actor and popular entertainer died in 2016 at the age of 85.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Brogues: The English look has Scottish origins

Brogan is thought to be an old Scot’s word for shoe. It is unclear whether this was a simple bag of leather or a clog but today brogues are Oxford type shoes (lacing) which because of their sturdiness are associated with outward-bound activities such as hunting, shooting and fishing (Pattison & Cawthorn, 1997). The shoes are connected to the aristocracy but evolved from one of the simplest yet most practical peasant styles.

The Cuaran was a crude shoe originally made from rawhide fresh off the beast and worn by labourers in Ireland & the Highlands of Scotland (Wright, 1922).The skins of deer, cow, horse, and occasionally seal skins were used, often with the animal's hair still on. By the end of the 17th century half tanned leather was used. The people of Aran called them, Pampooties and Lowlanders called them Revilins. Originally these were heelless and kept in place by laced thongs tied behind and before. Sometimes for added comfort hay or straw insoles were fitted into the shoe to prevent chafing (Ledger). The holes in the uppers were functional and allowed water to drain through as the walker forded streams and hiked across bogs. Pampooties were more a bag worn around the foot with no stitching and bound together with leather thong. By the 1700s Most working class Celts wore rough brogues.

The Ghillie was more or less a simple bag of leather for the foot with leather loops sewn to the quarters and did not lace through eyelets like the brogue. The special lacing system gave the shoe improved waterproofing. Much later the term Ghillie was used to describe a land manager in Scotland but few would ever wear Ghillie shoes.

Modern ghillies are worn in Scottish Country dancing

In the 17th century the Squirarchy had heels added and merged the styles of the Cuaran and Ghillie. These hardier shoes were ideal for deer stalking, hunting and fishing. Circa 1640 a shawl tongue was added with a fringe to lend a touch of elegance. It was thought Irish landowners started to decorate their shoes with patterned sequence of holes. In the original shoes the holes served a pragmatic purpose i.e. to allow water to flow through. For good luck the designs incorporated coded symbols. As soon as the style became associated with the gentry the holes became more decorative features (Vass & Molnar, 1999). Later when the holes only served for decorative purposes leather uppers were rubbed with melted candle wax (or tallow) to improve waterproofing. The brogue became refined without losing its sturdiness as the style crossed over into main fashion.

Lachet shoes are constructed using a last and can be made with or without heels. Sometimes the latchet shoes had large openings between the quarters and the vamp. This was used by the well off to show off their expensive silk hose. Shoes worn by poor people were "closed". In the 17th century, the promise of hobnailed latchet shoes was a major reason many men joined the army and Scottish infantry captains wore latchet shoes in the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) and the British Civil War (1638-1651). These however, were designed for riding and not walking.

Brogues started as latchet shoes made as turnshoes, with a stiff sole stitched on after turning, sometimes there was a low heel added. These were favoured by the Scottish and Irish mercenaries who fought for numerous armies throughout Europe in the 17th century. Turnshoes are stitched inside out then turned right side out with the sole and heel added later. This method of construction protects the stitching from wear. Brogues increased their popularity in the eighteenth century when the machine was invented in the US to stitch uppers. Outside brogues were traditionally brown with black brogues kept strictly for formal dress occasions only. In Scotland and Ireland, the women of the upper class kept a pair of brogues for dress up wear. At the turn of the twentieth century, the Scottish lairds wore their brogues with a fringed tongue. The laces that fastened the shoes ran through slots formed by turning the top edges of the leather under, in a refined form of gillie. This made them more waterproof.

The English Style adopted the brogue and the fashion crossed the Atlantic, early 1900. In the 1920's the style grew increasingly elegant and was soon worn by women on outward-bound pursuits as the shoe became associated with sport. Its apotheosis was reached in the 1930's when the world's arbiter of fashion the Prince of Wales wore it as a golfing shoe and in a lighter form in suede with a grey lounge suit. The shoe became known as the spectator (or co-respondent in the UK) when made in two coloured leathers.

Two-tone leather brogue style was favoured by the fashion conscious during the jazz era. Later screen greats such as Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly wore the highbred brogues in many of their famous dance routines.

Another variation on the theme was the saddle shoe. Originally created for adults and children in 1910 the modified brogue was made from white buckskin with a black or brown leather instep (hence the saddle). By the 50's this style of shoe had been adopted by the young and was worn by both girls and boys. The former with bobby socks.

The style became official when a young Elvis Presley appeared in the film 'Jailhouse Rock" wearing white buckskin saddle shoes. Famous manufacturers like Florsheim have continued to make brogues in various guises. In 1996 this company developed a shoe, which had been chemically treated and did not require to be polished. Their promotional people reckoned ivy leaguers spent ten minutes per day shining shoes. The shoes were promoted with this in my mind and the potential buyer was enlightened as to what they could do with the 400 hours saved over their working career. In proper circles the brogue or semi brogue should not be worn after six o’clock in the evening.

Today there are two styles, the single brogue which consists of, an upper and a sole and the double brogue which has an added strip of leather (or welt) between the upper and the sole. Styles differed between full brogue and half brogue (or semi brogue). The significant difference between the two is the toecap; the former is winged and straight on the latter.

Barthelemy A 2001 Brogans In Benstock S & Ferriss S (eds) Footnotes: On shoes New Brunswick Rutgers University Press 179-196.
Ledger FE Put your foot down Melsham : Colin Venton
Mc Dowell C 1994 Shoes : Fashion and fantasy London: Thames & Hudson
Pattison A & Cawthorn N 1997 A century of shoes : Icons of style in the 20th century 1997 NSW: Universal International 84-93.
Pratt L & Wooley L 1999 Shoes London: Victoria and Albert Museum
Rossi WA (ed) 2000 The complete footwear dictionary Malabar: Kreiger Publishing
Vass L & Molnar M 1999 Handmade shoes for men Cologne: Konemann.
Wilson E 1969 A history of shoe fashions London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons
Wright T 1922 The romance of the shoe London: CJ Farncomb & Son

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A Brief History of Tartan, Clans and Kilts

The great kilt first appeared in Scotland as a filleadh or belted plaid and was also known as a Breacon (checked colours) kilt (Feileadh Bhreacain), towards the end of the 16th century. It is thought to have evolved from a woolen cloak (or brat also known as plaid) which was worn over a tunic by Celtic warriors in Roman times.

Prior to the 16th century a knee-length shirt of leather, linen or canvas called a léine croich was worn for fighting and this was sometimes heavily pleated and quilted for protection. A famous Highland clan battle, between the Frasers, the MacDonalds and the Camerons is known as Blar-na-Leine, or 'Field of the Shirts'. The Feileadh Mòr (great plaid) was a very basic garment which was both hard wearing and long lasting. The term kilt is derived from the Old Norse kjalta and means to tuck up (the skirts) round the body. (Scots: to gird).

The abundance of sheep in the Highlands meant good quality wool was available for weaving. Woolen cloaks got bigger and were gathered up and belted. Originally a length of thick woolen cloth was made up from two loom widths sewn together to give a total width of 54 to 60 inches, and up to 7 yards (6.4 m) in length. The great kilt was gathered up into pleats by hand and secured by a wide belt. The upper half could be worn as a cloak draped over the left shoulder, hung down over the belt and gathered up at the front, or brought up over the shoulders or head for protection against weather. It was worn over a léine (a full-sleeved garment stopping below the waist) and could also serve as a camping blanket.

Tightly woven wool proved almost completely waterproof and was ideal for the Highland climate. The kilt allowed freedom of movement, was warm, and the upper half could provide a voluminous cloak against the weather. Woven wool dried quickly and the kilt was much less uncomfortable to wear than wet trousers. Versatile the great plaid also provided a very adequate overnight blanket. Kilts were more or less confined entirely to the Highlands. Lowlanders, treated them with contempt, branding kilt wearers "barbarous" (or 'blue' with cold).

Highland women wore a curraichd of linen over their heads which fastened under their chin. The tonnag was a small square of tartan worn over the shoulders, and the arasaid was a long self-coloured or tartan garment, which reached from the head to the ankles, pleated all round and fastened at the breast with a brooch and at the waist by a belt.

Tartan is thought to have originated among the Celtic branch of Indo-European culture and survived in the outskirts of the Celtic empire (Barber). The word tartan is thought to have derived from the French word tartarin meaning "tartar cloth", alternatively it may be from the modern Scottish Gaelic tarsainn, meaning "across". Plaid, derived from the Scottish Gaelic plaide, meaning "blanket", and was first used to describe any rectangular garment. In America the term plaid is commonly used to describe tartan. Tartan describes a pattern consisting of crisscrossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours. Originally it was made of woven wool with alternating bands of coloured (pre-dyed) threads woven as both warp and weft at right angles to each other. The weft is woven in a simple twill, two over and two under the warp, advancing one thread at each pass. The diagonal line formed where different colours cross. Visually this gave the appearance of a new colour blended from the original ones. The resulting blocks of colour repeat vertically and horizontally in a distinctive pattern of squares and lines is known as a sett.

The earliest documented tartan in Britain, known as the "Falkirk" tartan (3rd century AD). The remnant was found was stuffed into the mouth of an earthenware pot containing almost 2,000 Roman coins. The Falkirk tartan has a simple check design, of natural light and dark wool. Early forms of tartan like this are thought to have been invented in pre-Roman times, and would have been popular among the inhabitants of the northern Roman provincesas well as in other parts of Northern Europe such as Jutland, where the same pattern was prevalent. At first highland tartans were only associated with regions or districts, rather than specific Scottish clans. Tartan designs were produced by local weavers for local tastes and would only include the natural dyes available in that area. Patterns were simply checked-cloth patterns, specific to a region and chosen by personal preference. It was not uncommon for highlanders to wear a number of different tartans at the same time.

By the 16th century weavers took great pains to give exact patterns of tartan by identifying each colour of every thread upon a piece of wood known as a maide dalbh, or pattern stick. Weavers started to use chemical dies to make more elaborate patterns with vivid and varied colours. During the 16th and 17th centuries, tartan was exported south at prices fixed in order to prevent overcharging. Prices were determined by the number and shades of colour in the cloth. One of the earliest references to the use of tartans by royals was by the treasurer to King James III, who in 1471 purchased a length of cloth for the king and queen. King James V wore tartan whilst hunting in the Highlands in 1538, and King Charles II wore a ribbon of tartan on his coat at his marriage in 1662.

The Scottish clan system started around the 11th century with most forming around the 13th or 14th centuries. The term clan (from Gaelic clanna, meaning "children”) described a kinship group which gave a sense of shared identity and descent to members. They were generally identifed with geographical areas originally controlled by their founders, sometimes with an ancestral castle and clan gatherings, which formed a regular part of the social scene. Most of the followers of the clan were tenants, who supplied labour to the clan leaders. Contrary to popular belief, the ordinary clansmen rarely had any blood tie of kinship with the clan chiefs, but they took the chief's surname as their own when surnames came into common use in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Clans developed a territory based on the native men who came to accept the authority of the dominant group in the vicinity. A clan also included a large group of loosely related septs or dependent families who looked to the clan chief as their head and their protector. Clans/families prominent in a particular district wore the tartan of that district.

The emergence of clans had more to do with political turmoil than ethnicity. War lords took the opportunity to dominate local families who accepted their protection, after the northern rebellions of the 12th and 13th centuries. This was further encouraged when in the 13th century, the stranglehold of the Norsemen was broken with the conquest of Argyll and the Outer Hebrides by the Scottish Crown. Warrior chiefs were mostly of Celtic origin but by the 14th century, there was a further influx of kindreds whose ethnicity ranged from Norman or Anglo-Norman and Flemish. When Robert the Bruce garnered support against the English during the Wars of Scottish Independence clans were promised land in return. This created a hierarchy among the Highland Clans and Feudalism to the Scottish Crown. Clans became a community distinguished by heraldry and recognised by the Sovereign and clans with recognised chiefs were considered a noble community under Scots law. Clan tartan patterns only became established from the 19th century.

By the time of the British Civil Wars in the mid-17th century, the Scottish clans were further divided over support for English King Charles I. He was defeated in 1645, and surrendered to a Scottish force that eventually handed him over to the English Parliament. Charles eventually forged an alliance with Scotland, but by the end of 1648, Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army had consolidated its control over England. Charles was tried, convicted, and executed for high treason in January 1649. The monarchy was abolished and a republic called the Commonwealth of England was declared. The monarchy was restored to Charles's son, Charles II, in 1660. James Duke of York (the king’s brother), instituted the Commission for Pacifying the Highlands in 1682, which worked in co-operation with the clan chiefs in maintaining order. When he became King James VII, he retained popularity with the Highlanders. All these factors contributed to the continuing support for the Stuarts when James was deposed by William of Orange in the Glorious Revolution. James had been the last Roman Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland and supporters of James were called Jacobite (from new latin Jacobus meaning: James, or latin meaning Jack).

After the Jacobite campaign of 1715 the government opened the Highlands to outside exploitation. One industrialist entrepreneur to take advantage of the invitation in 1720, was a Quaker from Lancashire called Thomas Rawlinson. He went into partnership with the chief of the MacDonnells of Glengarry, Ian MacDonnell and together they began manufacturing charcoal from the forests near Inverness to smelt iron ore. The belted plaid worn by the Highlanders they employed was too "cumbrous and unwieldy" for the work, so, with the help of a tailor from the regiment stationed at Inverness, Rawlinson produced a kilt which consisted of the lower half of the belted plaid worn as a "distinct garment with pleats already sewn" to improve the grip to the waist. The little kilt was popular and the MacDonnells’ clansmen preferred it to the traditional belted kilt. Whether this was the beginning of the modern kilt is debated but the tailored aspect of the little kilt was certainly unique to what had come before. Tailored kilts were adopted by the Highland regiments of the British Army, and the military kilt and its formalized accessories passed into civilian usage during the early 19th century and has remained popular ever since. The earliest extant example of a tailored kilt is from 1792 (currently in the possession of the Scottish Tartans Authority).

English and Scottish Lowlands troops were reluctant to serve in the Scottish Highlands and to appease Whig clans (those loyal to the Government) happy, private militia were set up between 1603 and 1763 to help keep the peace in the Highlands and enforce the law. These were called Independent Highland Companies and officially recognized by the Government. At various times the Highland militia were disbanded, then reformed when clans loyal to the government were under attack from lawless elements and Jacobite clans. Evidence suggests that by 1725 the Independent Highland Companies may have worn a uniform tartan, chosen to avoid association with any particular clan. By 1738 General Wade reviewed the six Independent Highland Companies who by this time were known officially as Am Freiceadan Dubh (or Black Watch). The name is thought to have come from the sombre dress which distinguished them from Lowland and English soldiers who were known as Seidaran Dearag (Red Soldiers). After the 1745 rising, the government banned the wearing of Highland dress and tartan as part of their campaign to quash further threat of a Jacobite insurrection. One exception was made to the Dress Act of 1746 and that was the Highland regiments of the army could legally wear it but only in the regimental colours. Pipers were permitted to wear a kilt and other ervice men wore the Balmoral with their clan badge on it. Some believe it was the fear they may mutiny if the tartan had been removed. As these regiments multiplied their tartan uniforms were differentiated and regiments opted for modern kilts (or half kilts) for dress uniforms. There were no more Independent Highland Companies formed after 1763 but from the remaining Highland Companies came the world-famous Highland regiments during the remainder of the 18th century. The great kilt remained as undress uniform but was phased out by the early 19th century.

In 1745 the Jacobite rising of 1745 was the attempt by the exiled Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stuart) and grandson of James II to regain the British throne. The Young Pretender took the opportunity to sail to Scotland and raised the Jacobite standard at Glenfinnan in the Scottish Highlands, where he was supported by a gathering of Highland clansmen. The march south began with an initial victory at Prestonpans near Edinburgh. The Jacobite army, now in bold spirits, marched onwards to Carlisle, over the border in England. When it reached Derby, some British divisions were recalled from the Continent and the Jacobite army retreated north to Inverness where the last battle on Scottish soil took place on a nearby moor at Culloden. The Battle of Culloden ended with the final defeat of the Jacobite cause, and Charles Edward Stuart fled to France.

Most authorities accept clan tartans (as they exist today) were not in use at the time of the Battle of Culloden in 1746. The method of identifying friend from foe in the battlefield was not by the tartan they wore but by the colour of ribbon worn upon the broad bonnet or balmoral. These were generally dark blue, green, and brown in colour, sometimes with a red pom-pom, but the ribbon provided a clear visible indication as to affiliation of the highlander. During the Jacobite uprising the white cockade (from the French cocarde or the Old French coquarde meaning "vain, or cocky") was worn in the bonnet to identify supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

In the mind of the rest of the nation so much fear and disgust were engendered by the Jacobite rebellions only hatred existed and since the most effective fighters for Jacobitism were the supporting Scottish clans, this led to the association of tartans with the Jacobite cause. The government in London attempted to purge the Highlands of all unlawful elements, after the Battle of Culloden (1746), by seeking to crush the rebellious clan system.

Highland Scots become a despised underclass and what followed was consistent with ethnic cleansing of the Highlands by the son of George II, Prince William, "Butcher", the Duke of Cumberland. An Act of Parliament was passed which made the carrying of weapons and the wearing of tartan a penal offence. The Dress Act of 1746 was rigorously enforced and the penalties were severe; six months' imprisonment for the first offense and seven years' transportation for the second. By the time the Act was repealed in 1782, Highlanders had lost all enthusiasm for their tartan garb. By 1785, tartan was a thing of the past, many of the weavers had died and with them the details of the old patterns were lost as their wooden pattern sticks had rotted away.

After the Jacobite threat subsided the tartan ban was overturned in 1782. This was followed by a process of the rehabilitation of highland culture. James Macpherson (1736–96) made popular translations of poetry written by the ancient bard Ossian, (Finn McCool). Despite the ambiguous authenticity to his claims, the works became an international success and everything highland was more or less romanticised. As part of ‘Highlandism’, highland aristocrats set up Highland Societies in Edinburgh (1784) and London (1788). English Aristocrats and landowners often posed for portraits bedecked in Scottish fancy dress bur by contrast pre-nineteenth century portraits of the chiefs and lairds painted in tartan are remarkably few; in general, apart from those wearing kilted military uniforms, they preferred to have their pictures painted in ordinary dress of the time. Individual clan tartans were largely defined and became a major symbol of Scottish identity in 1815 the Highland Society of London began the naming of clan-specific tartans.

The changing role of clan chiefs from trustees for the clan (duthchas); to rightful landowners (oighreachd) meant they could improve their investments unopposed which included forcing many crofters off the land into cheap labour on their colonial plantations in Jamaica, Georgia, New York and The Carolinas. The vacated land was used in large scale sheep farming. This was the beginning of the Highland Clearances.

Sir Walter Scott (1771 – 1832) was a Tory Wig and feared a Revolution with the gathering of Scottish Socialists. Loyal to the crown he caught the movement for highland nostalgia and wrote fanciful romantic novels which became incredibly popular.

His attempt to unify Scottish identity came at a time when British royalty were anxious to claim legitimacy through their rather attenuated historical connection with the royal house of Stuart. Walter Scott was the founder and chair of the Celtic Society of Edinburgh (1820) and helped organise new Scottish traditions including a "gathering of the Gael", bedecked in plaid and plumed in tartan array. He also actively encouraged Lowlanders to wear a stylised version of the kilt.

In 1822 he played host to the royal visit of King George IV to Scotland, the first visit of a reigning monarch to Scotland in nearly two centuries. George wore a tartan kilt which resulted in a massive upsurge in demand for kilts and tartans. Following his Royal visit several books were published documenting tartans. Many of these publications were of dubious nature but none the less sold well enough to feed the new craze for Celtic identity.

In 1815, Highland Society of London (founded 1778), established a formal register of clan tartans by asking all the clan chiefs to submit as much information as they could about patterns for their clan tartans. Most had no idea, but were keen to comply and provided authentic signed and sealed samples. Once approved by the Court of the Lord Lyon, after recommendation by the Advisory Committee on Tartan, the clan tartan was recorded in the Lyon Court Books as a "proper" clan tartan. Protocol determines clan tartan should only be worn by those who profess allegiance to that clan's chief. In the Scottish clan system, the Lord Lyon states membership to a clan passes through the surname. This means children who bear their father's surname belong to the father's clan (if any), and that children who bear their mother's surname (her maiden name) belong to their mother's clan (if any). The concept of the entitlement to certain tartans has led to the term of universal tartan, or free tartan, which describes tartan which can be worn by anyone.

Queen Victoria first visited the Braemar Society's highland gathering at Invercauld in 1844. She and Albert loved the highlands and acquired Balmoral Castle in 1848. The Queen displayed enormous pride in her Stewart ancestry, ignoring the fact that if that family had triumphed a hundred years before, her own would have remained in undistinguished obscurity. Prince Albert decorated the castle using the red Royal Stewart and the green Hunting Stewart tartans for carpets, while using the Dress Stewart for curtains and upholstery. The Queen designed the Victoria tartan, and Prince Albert the Balmoral. The young princes were dressed in the kilt, which widening its appeal. Ironically, as the craze for 'Balmorality' swept over Scotland the Highland population continued to suffer grievously from the Highland Clearances, when thousands of Gaelic-speaking Scots from the Highlands and Isles were evicted by landlords to make way for sheep.

Entrepreneurs were quick to jump on the band wagon and introduced tartanwear to eager consumers. Tartan was incorporated in an assortment of common household objects, such as snuffboxes, jewellery cases, tableware, sewing accessories, and desk items. Tourists visiting the Scottish Highlands went home with it, and Scottish-based businesses sent tartanware out as gifts to customers.

Victorians had a penchant for ordered taxonomy and tartans with the same name were labeled as either dress or hunting. The dress tartans commonly used in Highland dancing are based on the earasaid tartans worn by Highland women in the 17th and 18th centuries. Dress tartans tend to be made by replacing a prominent colour with the colour white. Hunting tartans by contrast are made up of subdued colours, such as dark blues and greens. Despite the name, hunting tartans these have very little to do with actual hunting. Mourning tartans, are quite rare, and associated with funerals. They are usually designed using combinations of black and white. New chemical dyes further facilitated a faux-nostalgic view of Scottish history by creating new patterns of bright colours, or "dress" tartans. As tartan gained international popularity people started to design their own tartans.

Many Scottish units wore the kilt in combat during the First World War. In particular, the ferocious tactics of the Black Watch led to their acquiring the nickname "Ladies from Hell" from the German troops that faced them in the trenches. It is absolutely no coincidence that the kilted 51st Highland Division was rated by the Germans as the most formidable of all the formations they came across during the First World War.

The Highland regiments of the Commonwealth armies entered the Second World War wearing the kilt, but it was rapidly recognized as impractical for modern warfare, and in the first year of the war was officially banned as combat dress. Nonetheless, individual exceptions continued, and it is believed the kilt was last widely worn in action at the evacuation of Dunkirk in May 1940. However, on D-Day, June 1944, Lord Lovat, commander of 1 Special Service Brigade, was accompanied by his personal piper Bill Millin, who wore a kilt and played the bagpipes, while German bullets whizzed around him. Lovat defied a War Office ban on pipers and ordered him to march around Sword Beach where he played Highland Laddie and the Road to the Isles, Some injured troops are said to have cheered as Millin walked by, while others called him a ‘mad bastard'. After the battle, it is said German troops decided not to shoot at him on the beach, thinking he was insane.

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