Review: Stillwater Kilts’ Survival Sporran

NOTE: My camera’s “Auto Focus” said “Not Today” during this video. I apologize for the blur. Watch it with a glass of scotch and it won’t matter. This is an unboxing and review of Stillwater Kilts’ Survival Sporran. It’s nylon even though I insist on saying “vinyl.” Nonetheless, it’s well worth the price. Go get one.

Coffee Tartan??

The Kiltmakery

I’ve been enjoying keeping up with the work being done at The Kiltmakery. I follow them on Facebook and love seeing daily posts about new kilts being made, the process of making those kilts and even some brain learnin’ when they post facts about kilt and tartan history. I suggest you follow them too. I’ve got it on my list to have them make me a kilt very soon. It will be my first tailor-made kilt. I have dozens “off the rack” kilts and I’m looking forward to finally having one custom made for me. The only problem is, I can’t yet decide what tartan I want. My clan tartans are Wallace and MacDonald but I have a good many of those already from Heritage of Scotland, Kilt Society, Sport Kilt and some other shops which I can’t remember the names of. I’d like something different this time. Maybe even a tartan I don’t own yet. I’m seriously considering the MacDonald Ancient. I think it’s gorgeous and every time I see someone wearing it I want one.

One of the things I’ve been most impressed by The Kiltmakery is how much cheaper it is to have a kilt custom made than I thought it would be. I’m going to be paying a chunk of money for sure but it’s roughly the cost of three economy kilts. Not bad at all. If you’re like me and have spent a lot of money on cheaper, off the rack kilts, I feel like we owe it to pay a bit more to a real kilt maker at least once in order to help keep the art alive. It’s a way to support our culture and heritage and ensure artists will be custom-making kilts for generations to come. I’m a mural painter (among other things) and my own industry has recently been dominated by cheap, printed wallpaper murals. I understand that, and don’t really have a problem with it but thanks to the people who want to spend a little more to get original hand made art, I can still make a living. If you are a regular kilt-wearer, save up for at least one kilt made by a professional maker and made just for you. We’ll all be the better for it.

While I’m on the subject of custom kilts, I think most of us are aware that there are many tartans that aren’t clan tartans. There are regional tartans, territorial tartans, country tartans and state tartans. Some organizations have their own tartans. There are even tartans to honor certain individuals such as Elvis Presley and Princess Diana. I’m curious, though if you think there should be a limit to that type of thing. It’s obviously a commercial move to sell more tartan fabric and kilts but do you think it cheapens the meaning of clan tartans? Is it a good idea to have a Verizon Wireless tartan? A Kardashian tartan? A tartan just for beer or coffee drinkers? Should there be specific tartans for political parties or religions? How about a vegan tartan? Feel free to tell me your opinion. I’d love to hear what you think about the tartan issue.

Something New, Something Old

Rick with coffeeGreetings Kilties! Well, if you follow my Life In A Kilt Facebook Page, you probably know I announced earlier this year I would be cutting back on my Life In A Kilt duties. May started the 6th year since I began A Year in A Kilt and 5 years since Life In A Kilt. During that time my own life has changed and gotten more hectic in several ways. It has become increasingly more difficult for me to create content for all of the Life In A Kilt outlets: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, videos on YouTube and the weekly podcast. Not to mention this site, which I had intended to turn into a kilt lifestyle magazine. It all kind of grew into a multi-headed monster that I never thought I would need to feed back in 2011 when I put on a kilt for the first time.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time complaining. It was a fun time and I enjoyed all of it. Unfortunately, my life has started becoming unmanageable with too many projects and I had to make some choices as to what I would give up. Life In A Kilt was one of the things that didn’t make the cut. I had started feeling several months ago that my own kilt adventure had served its public purpose. It seemed to have inspired many people (including myself) and I had come to a point where I felt like I didn’t have as much to contribute any more. That and the fact that Facebook and other social media platforms have changed and become much more time consuming to manage helped me to decide to put an end to it. I announced I’d be dropping out of managing the Facebook and Twitter site in March and we made May 2018 the last Life In A Kilt Podcast for the time being.

I hadn’t completely decided what I wanted to do with this site. The magazine concept hadn’t worked out well and for the past few months this site has been stagnant. Still, of all of the Life In A Kilt bits and pieces, this is the one thing I wanted to keep active.  Now that I’ve had a little time to step back and blow the dust off this site, here I am. My intention is to convert it back to a regular kilt blog like I started during the A Year In A Kilt days. There will be some cleaning up I have to do. Some posts need to be organized better. I need to add, change and remove menu items. So it’ll be a process.

I’m not yet sure what I mean by “regular” postings here. I do intend to make an effort to make at least weekly postings but sometimes weeks fly by. I’ll do what I can. I’m going to keep it up mostly for my own amusement, but hopefully people like you will get something out of it too. Feel free to let me know if it serves a purpose for you. I feel like if I use this site as the “hub” for my kilt activities, it may be a little easier to keep it interesting. We’ll see.

Thanks to all who have followed my journey over the past 6 years. Hopefully I’ve inspired you to start your own kilt life or to sustain the one you’ve been living for awhile. I like the idea of blending back into a private, kilt-wearing life but when I do feel the need to make some noise, you’ll here about it here.

17 Christmas 2017 Gift Ideas for Kilt Wearers


Kilt people can be a difficult lot to buy Christmas gifts for. You know they love their kilts but you don’t always know what the little trinkets and hanging things are on their kilts and you don’t know whether they even need new ones. Maybe you’re aware that the person you need to buy a gift for has Scottish ancestry but you don’t know how they would like to show that off in their every day life. Is there a way to purchase something Scottish much cheaper than, say, buying them their own Highland castle? Yes, of course there is and Life In A Kilt in cooperation with the Life In A Kilt Podcast is here to help end your search for the perfect gift with our list of 17 Christmas 2017 Gift Ideas for Kilt Wearers. You can read the list here then listen to us chat about the list on the podcast! No matter if your Christmas gift buying budget is high or low, there is something on this list for everyone so make a choice and you’ll be ready to start wrapping in no time. We recommend the plaid wrapping paper with tartan ribbon. Yeah, we’re kilty like that.


1. Sword of Robert The Bruce

Fortunately, today’s kilt wearers don’t have to weapon up for battle on a daily basis. The sharpest thing I carry with my kilt is a sgain dubh and that’s only occasionally. Nonetheless, most of us still imagine, at some point or another, strapping a broadsword to our backs in case we meet an aggressive rogue clan in the hallways at work. In reality, we may only get to swing the Claymore in the privacy of our own castle but it’s great to have one handy, even if it is hanging from the wall. The Sword of Robert The Bruce by Windlass is both an imposing conversation piece and intimidating blade of high carbon steel “as powerful as the man who would have wielded it.” The beautiful pommel emblazons the Cross of St. Andrew, while the hearty grip is wrapped in soft, black leather and held in place by a corded silver chain. This massive sword comes complete with a matching, thick black leather scabbard and sports a silver Lion of Scotland at its throat and a rounded silver metal shoe at its tip. This is a gift you’ll treasure for years but be careful kids. You’ll put your aye out.

From Museum Replicas Limited

2. Saltire Multifunctional Scarf

Transformers are always awesome, even as a scarf. Who couldn’t make use of a scarf that turns into a cap, sun protector, dust mask, sweat band, hair tie, and protect your identity while preparing to kick English arse on the front line at Stirling Bridge. If only it would also turn into a sleeping blanket it would be like a kilt for your face. Personally, I use these as quick, emergency respirators when I’m spraying or airbrushing non-toxic paint. None of mine have the Saltire on them unfortunately, so, dang it, I’m going to have to gift one or two of these to myself as soon as I finish writing this article. Unless somebody out there wants to give me one for Christmas. I wonder how I can get my wife to read this article.

From Ruffnek

3. Whisky Tasting Collection

Not every kilt wearer drinks whisky. A bottle of Scotch will last a year or more with me but I have friends who can go through a bottle a week. These are the people who always make me feel inadequate  when ordering at a pub. I mean, I only found out a couple years ago what ordering Scotch “neat” means. My friends, however, can have entire conversations about the effects “peat” or aging in specific barrel types or water temperature can have on good Scotch whisky. And, frankly, I don’t want to listen to them. That’s why I give them something they can put in their mouth to shut them up. Like some really good whisky! The smart people at Tasting Collection have put together two unique sets of 12 very special whiskies in a beautiful wooden gift box. Your whisky expert friends will have a blast sampling each 25ml tube of their favorite firewater while you’re still getting used to spelling whisky without an “e.” If your friends aren’t on an expert drinking level, this gift will help them discover their favorite whisky and learn to distinguish the differences while they do become an expert. Then you’ll have even more friends making you feel inadequate at the pub. Maybe you’d better order one for yourself while you’re at it.

From Tasting Collection

4. Contemporary Sporran

When wearing a kilt for the first time, one of the most difficult things to get used to is not having pockets to carry your billfold, keys, cell phone and spare change. You quickly learn the value of a well-made, roomy sporran. While many first purchase a standard, off-the-rack, run-of-the-mill, low-cost sporran, why not help dress up your kilt person’s investment with a hand made artisan sporran? Jennifer Cantwell of Scotland’s Sporran Nation makes limited edition, bespoke and commissioned sporrans, bags and accessories that no one else you know will have and that you’re kiltie is going to love. All sporrans from Sporran Nation feature contemporary designs using high quality materials, including a vegan line for those who abstain from leather products. New works have a particular focus on leather tattooing. Woah, how cool is that? Give your kilt friend a personalized gift that they won’t ever want to do without and they will thank you and think of you every time they reach for their wallet.

From Sporran Nation
£235.00 for “Cross Sporran” (shown above). Other design prices vary.

5. Tartan Necktie

Not all of us are fortunate enough to be able to wear our kilts in every social situation. Work dress codes may say “No” to our kilts but that’s no reason we can’t still sport our family tartan. The visionaries at Sport Kilt have designed neck ties in all of the kilt tartans they offer so whether your kilt lover is a Wallace working in an accounting firm or a police detective with Scottish ancestry, your giftee can still show everyone his or her clan colors as they do their work. Best thing is, no one will stop and ask what they are wearing under their tie.

From Sport Kilt

6. Nine Button Knee High Leather Boots

Any kilt wearer who has visited a Renaissance Festival or Highland Games has spent several minutes drooling in front of the boot vendor booth. We all want a fantastic pair of boots under our kilts that make us look like Rob Roy or Kromtor the super kilted warrior-demon. With kilts becoming more popular, a pair of knee-high button boots can now be purchased online at a discount. But, hold on, we’ve all bought discount shoes before, haven’t we? It only takes a few all-day visits to the Ren Fair before buttons fall off, the cheap leather (or vinyl) scars and tears or the sole comes unglued leaving you soleless and soulless. That tragedy can easily be averted by purchasing a pair of well-made leather boots which will actually get stronger and more comfortable with each wearing. The family of craftspeople at Sons of Sandlar have been hand-crafting leather boots and footwear for over six generations so they know what they heck they are doing. All you have to do is secretly acquire your kilt friend’s boot size, then sit back and hear their shouts of joy after they tear open their Christmas present. Be forewarned, they’re going to want to go for a really long walk.

From Sons of Sandlar

7. Deluxe Irish Sword and Shield Kilt Pin

For years I’ve been whining that kilt pins are made wrong. The flimsy pin clasps come unclasped far too often, resulting in the loss of a fine pin. This year I was discussing the flaw on the Life In A Kilt Podcast when I was contacted by someone at Stillwater Kilts informing me that they make their own kilt pins and they, coincidentally, make them exactly the way I have been saying for years that kilt pins should be made: with secure, locking “tie tack” pins. I decided to order one of their pins and put it to the test, expecting typical failure and disappointment. What I received in the mail was the best kilt pin I’ve ever owned! The locking clasps will never slip off accidentally and the two “tie tack-style” pins prevent thread-pull damage to my kilts that I always seem to get from the old style of kilt pins. I immediately ordered several more of these pins and I can assure you that your kilt person will love these as well. Even though the kilt pins come in a variety of jewel colors and metal tones, I’m looking forward to a wider variety of designs from Stillwater Kilts in the future. In the meantime, these are the only kilt pins I’ll ever wear.

From Stillwater Kilts

8. Scotty Wallace Clan Tartan T-Shirt

A quick disclaimer: I’m a whore. That’s right, I’m using my own kilt Christmas gift list to hawk one of Life In A Kilt‘s own products. But, hey, I’d still mention Scotty Wallace even if he wasn’t one of ours. He’s cute. He’s sassy. He’s a kilt wearer. And this year we released a Scotty Wallace t-shirt design in dozens of different clan tartans. So whether you’re buying for an Anderson or an Urquhart, you can guarantee Scotty will match their kilt design while at the same time delivering a snarky wise-ass comment. It’s what Scotty does best. What else could a smart and stylish kilt wearer possibly want?

From Life In A Kilt Shop
$19.19 and up.

9. Pipe Band Style Kilt Hose

No one wants to get socks for Christmas. Except kilt wearers! We love them! It seems we never have enough kilt hose around the house and, even when we do, they always seem to be the wrong color. If it was only possible to have a pair in several different colors stashed away, our kilt accessory arsenal would be complete. Well, now it is not only possible but affordable with these piper-style kilt hose from J. Higgins. The mostly acrylic hose are available in extra small to extra large and feature a handsome double fold cuff for a thicker calf look. If you don’t know what that means, take my word for it. It’s what all of us kilt guys look for in kilt hose. It looks great and makes a secure band for our favorite sgian dubh. With such a low price, consider buying three or four pair in various colors to make your kilt person three or four times happier.

From J. Higgins

10. Red Hot Chilli Pipers Music

Everyone thinks all kilt wearers play bagpipes. We don’t. In fact, we don’t all even like bagpipes. But it’s a documented fact that all kilt wearers like good music and we all like bagpipes if they are part of good music. It’s true. If you don’t believe me, stuff your kilt dude’s (or dudette’s) stocking with a CD from kilted bagpipe players of good music, Red Hot Chilli Pipers! No doubt you’ve heard of these guys or seen their unforgettable performances on television. They do bagpipes like no one else. They call their music “Bagpipes with attitude, drums with a Scottish accent and a show so hot it carries its own health warning.” In fact, if you develop medical issues while listening to them, I prescribe CPR. That’s “Chilli Piper Resuscitation.”

From Red Hot Chilli Pipers

11. Salty Dog Cruise With Flogging Molly

ATTENTION: Sailing the sea, kilted, with one of the greatest Irish/American rock bands ever to exist might possibly be the best Christmas gift in the history of Christmas gifts! Seriously! And if you’re willing to give a Christmas gift with a few months delay in the payoff, Flogging Molly’s Salty Dog Cruise is your opportunity to give your kiltie the best Christmas gift they will ever receive in their life! 20 bands, including Flogging Molly, will gather for a 3 day cruise in April aboard the luxurious Norwegian Sky. Your cruise cost includes food, beverages, a free open bar, all concerts and ship amenities. The cruise will depart from Miami and stop in key West and Great Stirrup Cay and will be leaving your kilted butt behind if you don’t hurry up and make reservations. Don’t forget sunscreen and your sunglasses to protect your eyes from going skinblind from all the glowing white Celt skin frolicking in the sun.

From Flogging Molly Cruise
$799 per person. Prices may change. Call 215-663-8800 for availability and restrictions.

12. Tartan County Cap

Help keep your kilt wearer’s noggin toasty and protected with a stylish tartan cap from the world-famous Scottish Tartan Museum. The “country cap” style of hat is very popular today, especially with kilt wearers but they’re also the perfect way to show off your clan tartan on non-kilt days. In fact, a cap like this might be the perfect starter garment for the curious non-kilt wearer. Once they get a taste of tartan-wearing on their heed, they’re bound to want to wrap the fèileadh around their lower regions. These are perfect gifts for kilt aficionados of all ages, sexes and nationalities. Sorry, not recommended for the headless.

From Scottish Tartans Museum

13. Tushy Classic

Let’s be honest, there are battalions of men out there wearing their kilts “regimental.” As the saying goes, “It’s a kilt. If I wore something under it then it would be a skirt.” Whether it’s proper kilt wearing etiquette or not, the reality is, few of us would be very comfortable taking a seat exactly where a “proper” kilted gentleman was just sitting. Am I right? Regarding cleanliness and hygiene, none of us want to take a chance that the previous occupant of our pub seat is unfortunately terrible with TP technique. So, to ensure your own kilted buddy is guaranteed “squeaky clean,” why not give him or her a classic bidet attachment by Tushy? But don’t just take my word for it, the Tushy website says it best: “The TUSHY White and Silver Classic fits your bathroom with a sleek timeless look for the classiest poops you’ve ever had. Our classic bidet attachment washes your bum with a refreshing stream of clean water after you poop.” Yep. That’s what it does all right. And confession time. I bought one of these and it may be one of my most favorite purchases ever. In fact, I love it so much I just bought another one for my second bathroom. It’s that good. It’s easy to hook up and easy to use and… all right, yes, damnit, it’s FUN to use as well! AND it has a price that won’t wipe you out. Yes, I said it. Sorry.

From Tushy

14. Women’s Poly Viscose Mini Kilt

Men seem to get all of the best kilt gifts but at Life In A Kilt we’re always looking out for the ladies too. Often it can be difficult to find the perfect kilt for your favorite women friends and family. Men’s kilts may be too long or too bulky for them and some women’s kilts are so short they could double as a beer can koozy. USA Kilts offers a modern, fashionable tartan kilt for women that still keeps some aspects of a traditional kilt. It’s made with machine washable 11 – 12oz weight poly viscose and available in a multiple selection of tartans. Whether your woman friend would like to celebrate her own Scottish heritage or simply show her support by matching your family tartan, receiving her own kilt would be a perfect Christmas gift.

From USA Kilts

15. Custom Sgian Dubh

Face it, most sgian dubh are crap. I have a half dozen of them right now that couldn’t stab pudding. If I was ever attacked by someone with the intent of doing me major bodily harm, the best I could possibly manage with one of my sgian dubh is open a letter from the local sheriff telling the offender to back off. Assuming the letter was wet. How the Scottish “black knife” devolved from a deadly weapon to an object that could be defeated by a fourth grader with a butter knife is a mystery but it doesn’t have to be that way. In ancient times, sgian dubh were custom forged by skilled blacksmiths or weapon specialists. One edge was lethally sharpened while the handle was hand-carved from wood, bone or stag horns. Rab Gordon of Rannea Studio still makes sgian dubh this way, each one a work of art in itself. Rab’s Sgian Dubhs have their own unique character and identity with their own individual serial number. Many are commissioned as heirlooms to be passed on to the next generation. It’s an heirloom that also instills pride, security, protection and style making one of Rannea Studio’s sgain dubh an exceptional holiday gift.

From Rainnea Studio
Contact for pricing.

16. Haggis

I’m vegetarian but this year at a Burns Supper I decided to try a little bit of haggis. It was the first meat I’d eaten in almost 25 years but I couldn’t turn down the opportunity when it presented itself to me. I’ve always been curious about what it tastes like. And honestly? It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. I certainly didn’t think it deserves the bad reputation it gets from the non haggis eaters. I don’t have plans to eat more of it soon but I think if I did ever found myself eating meat again, I would have no problem piling haggis on to my plate. It’s especially tasty with “tatties” (“potatoes” for you non haggis eaters). If your own Scottish meat eater has never tried haggis, why not give a gift of haggis from McKean’s, haggis makers since 1850. Their carefully blended recipe uses only the finest Scottish oats, accompanied with their secret mix of herbs and spices. It’s a tasty gift your friends are guaranteed not to receive from anyone else and it may, just possibly, bump the Christmas turkey or ham right off this year’s holiday table.

From McKean’s
From £24.00

17. Scottish Beer Gift Set

Every year I run across more than one person on my gift list so difficult to buy presents for, I wish I could just buy them beer and call it done. Well, thanks to Spirited Gifts’ Scottish Beer 12 pack Gift Set I can now do that very thing while still looking classy and honoring my giftee’s cultural ancestry. According to Spirited Gifts, the Celtic tradition of beer has been produced in Scotland for approximately 5,000 years. The Scots like their beer strong and heavy and these beers were aptly nicknamed “Wee Heavies.” Scottish ales are generally dark, malty, full-bodied brews and many have a hint of smokiness derived from the use of peated malt. The Scottish Beer Gift Set includes a sampler of the best that Scotland has to offer so send your favorite Scot on a taste trip to the motherland even while they sit on their couch in their underwear.

From Spirited Gifts
From $120

Life In A Kilt’s 15 Best Holiday Tartans

Christmas and tartan plaid seem to go hand-in-hand. Whether on ribbon prints, wrapping paper, ornaments, blankets, pillows, tree skirts, tablecloths, wreath bows or Santa hats, it seems tartan has always been a part of Christmas our decoration. While a handful of tartan designs have always been the traditional Christmas staples, the last few years have seen new tartans making their holiday appearance, such as the Rob Roy MacGregor tartan seen on many products and decorations at Target and Big Lots. Even Christmas itself now has it’s own Christmas Tartan to specifically honor the holiday season.

If you intend to add tartan to your holiday decor but don’t know where to begin, here are “Life In A Kilt’s 15 Best Christmas Tartans” for your consideration. While we feel like these are the most festive tartans for the holiday season, any tartan is great for adding a traditional Scottish and Celtic element to your celebration, so your own family tartan is a perfect personal touch. For those who would like assistance in their Christmas tartan choices we suggest the following tartans.

15. Cameron Modern

Clan Cameron is said to be one of the most ancient of Scottish clans and is described as fiercer than fierceness itself. They claim descent from the King of Denmark Fergus II on his restoration in 778.

The name comes from the Gaelic Camshron from cam (wry) and sron (nose). In the fifteenth century Donald Dubh married into the family of Cambrun of Ballegarno in Fife. This brought together a confederation of tribes which became known as Clan Cameron. It was further confirmed by James V settling the charter of the barony of Lochiel in Lochaber on the captain of Clan Cameron. Achnacarry Castle was built in the seventeenth century (1655) becoming the home of the Camerons. In the 1745 rebellion Donald the 19th of Lochiel gained the name The Gentle Lochiel whilst displaying great bravery. He is credited to saving Glasgow from the ravages of the Jacobite army. The rebuilding of Achnacarry Castle vertually bankrupted the Lochiel estates with much of the tenantry and famillies evicted to the clearances. Clan Cameron is a clan, with one main branch Lochiel, and numerous cadet branches such as Erracht, Clunes, Glen Nevis, and Fassifern. (from Kinloch Anderson)


14. MacKintosh Modern

Mac(K)Intosh results from the Anglicisation of the Gaelic name ‘Mac-an-toisich’.  In old Gaelic ‘toisech’ meant ‘chief, leader or front man’.  The ‘k’ is intrusive, the result of the ‘c’ being pronounced hard.  The name is usually associated with the Clan of the same name from Inverness=shire.  There was also a small Clan of the same name in Perthshire.  There does not appear to be a connection between the two as the latter come from a MacDonald link (John of Islay).

The Clan MacIntosh are descended from the Shaw, second son of Duncan, earl of Fife who accompanied Malcolm IV on an expedition to Moray in 1160, and was rewarded with land there and made Constable of Inverness Castle.

Clan MacIntosh are members of Clan Chattan, a confederation of clans claiming descent from the Bailie of the Abbey of Kilchattan in Bute.  This also includes MacPhersons, MacGillivrays, Davidsons, MacPhails, MacBeans, Gows, Clerks and MacThomases.

During the 17th century the Chiefship was in dispute between the Chief of the MacPhersons and MacIntoshes, settled for MacIntosh in 1692.  The MacIntoshes, and the rest of the Clan Chattan, supported James I against the Lord of the Isles during the 15th century, gaining possession of Lochaber, Keppoch and Innerorgan as a result (although they continued to be controlled by the MacDonalds).

During the revolution of 1688, the clan followed the new monarch but in 1715 and ’45, they supported the Stuart cause.  Two of the most famous MacIntoshes of recent times are Charles Mackintosh (1766-1843), who created the process for waterproofing and creating rainwear, and Charles Rennie MacKintosh (1868-1928), the famous artist and architectural designer from the ‘Glasgow School’.  The tartan is too well authenticated to admit doubt or question, with only minor differences in two counts. (from Kinloch Anderson)


13. Maxwell Modern

Some controversy has surrounded the origin of the name Marshall, because of the form in which it appeared in early records, Maccusville, in the 12th and 13th century.  It was commonly thought to be of Norman origin.  It is however, of Old English derivation from the personal or forename Maccus and the Old English name for a pool ‘wae;’.  The original pool on the Tweed, near Kelso Bridge, is still locally known as ‘Max Wheel’.  It was obtained by grant by Maccus, son of Undewyn, a Saxon Lord, during the years 1124 and 1153 and the lands around the fishery took their name from Maccus’ Weil.

The place name Maxton in Roxburghshire is probably also named after the same person.  The Barony of Maxton passed out of the hands of Maccus and his family at the end of the 12th century.  It is with Maccus’ son Herbert that the name begins to be used in a way which we would today recognise as a surname. While Maccus was recorded as ‘Son of Undewyn’ his son was ‘of Maccuswell’ and it was in this title that he bestowed a charter upon Kelso Abbey.  Herbert’s son John became Royal Chamberlain c1232 and acquired Caerlaverock Castle, succeeded by his brother Aymer.  His descendant Sir Eustace of Maxwell held Caerlaverock Castle in the interest of Edward I’s claim to the throne but later dismantled its fortifications in the interests of Robert the Bruce, becoming one of the signators of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320.

The Maxwells were appointed as Lords of the Marches under James I, and latterly the 5th Lord Maxwell was appointed Regent to King James V.  In the 17th century the family acquired the title Earl of Nithsdale.  The 5th Earl was sentenced to death in Westminister for his part in the 1715 rebellion, but escaped with the help of his wife, and fled to Rome.  The Maxwells have many branches, the principal ones being Carruchan, Monreith, Pollock, Cardoness, Farnham and Sprinkel.  There is no trusted authority for the source of this tartan.  Some similarities are noted with  MacIntosh motifs.  The second count comes from Clan Maxwell Association of USA. (from Kinloch Anderson)


12. MacCaulay Modern

The name MacAulay is common in both Ireland and Scotland.  Two possible derivations exist: both Amhalghaidh (an Irish personal name) and Amhlaibh (a Gaelicisation of the Norse name Olafr), with the prefix ‘mac’, are commonly pronounced MacAulay.  In Scotland these two origins appear split nicely into those of Dunbartonshire, who are said to be of Irish stock, and the Hebridean MacAulays, who trace their descent from Olafr ‘the Black’, brother of Magnus, the last King of Mann and the Isles who lived during the early 12th century.

The MacAulays of Ardencaple (Dunbartonshire) claim to be of the Siol Alpin and were followers of the MacGregors who claim to be the senior branch of the Clan Alpin.  Others suggest the descent from the old Earls of Levenaux, specifically, from a younger son of the second Alwyn, Earl of Lennox (Levenaux).

The family was styled Ardincaple and Alexander de Ardincaple who lived during the reign of James V and was the first to adopt the name MacAuley. There has always been a strong link between the Ardencaple MacAulays and the Clan Gregor; in 1591 the Chief signed a Bond of Manrent which acknowledged the Clan as a cadet of the MacGregors.  The line ended in 1767 when the lands of Ardencaple were sold to the Duke of Argyll.

The Hebridean MacAuleys held Uig in the South of the Isle of Lewis where they were followers of the MacLeods and bitter enemies of the Morrisons.  This small clan were not related by blood or etymology to the MacAuleys of Clan Alpin.

Although little has been written of them, the Lewis MacAulays appear to have fared better than their southern namesakes, among their number were Lord MacAuley the historian, clergymen and a general in the East India Company. (from Kinloch Anderson)


11. Livingstone Modern

The name exists pre 12th century in charters as Livingston.  The name Livingston is derived from lands in West Lothian thought to have been named for a Saxon called Leving.  Sir William Livingston witnessed a charter of the Earl of Lennox in 1270.  Sir William’s lands were received the lands of Callendar from David II in 1347.  The Livingstones of Westquarter, Bonton and Dunipace Kinnaird are descended from the Calendar Livingstones.

Sir James Livingston of Callendar was created Lord Livingston in 1458.  The 5th Lord, Alexander, had charge of young Queen Mary before she was removed to Inchmahome after the Battle of Pinkie. The 7th Lord, another Alexander, was raised to Earl of Linlithgow in 1600, but the family’s involvement on the Rising of 1715 led to the titles being lost.  The Livingstones of Argyll claim to be descended from a physician to the Lord of the Isles MacLeay – son of a physician.  The MacLeays of Appin sometimes anglicised their name as Livingstone, of whom was the celebrated missionary David Livingstone.

The Livingstones followed the Stewarts of Appin, thus their involvement at the Battle of Culloden.  There, Donald Livingstone saved the banner of the Stewarts, returning it to Ballachuish.  The Tartan Society records five setts with varying links to Macleay, some linking to Livingstones of Argyllshire and others to Callendar and Westquarter. (from Kinloch Anderson)


10. Moncrieffe Modern

The name Moncrieff is derived from the Gaelic words ‘monadh’ – a moor or hill pasture, and ‘croaibhe’ (the genitive of ‘croabh’ – tree); the name is therefore a topographical one meaning ‘the moor of hill-land of the trees’.  Bearers of this name are generally regarded to have taken it from their residence in the lands of Moncrieff in the parish of Dunbarny in Perthshire.  Moncrieffe Hill lies on a peninsula between the Rivers Tay and Earn, 3 miles south-east of Perth.  It appears to be a name of Anglo-Norman lineage, one Mortimer, who assumed the name of Moncrieff after obtaining those lands.

A Ramerus de Moncreiff, is named living at the start of the 12th century, who was keeper of the robe to Alexander I.  There is also claim to the name deriving from Celtic origins; from the name Monadh Croaibhe, i.e. Moncrieffe Hill.

There is also a strong link with the Murrays, and an association with Atholl claimed for the mid 13th century.    Other references put the name later mid 13th century.  Interestingly, both the Moncreiffes and MacLachlans claim descent in the direct male line from two different sons of Niall of the Nine Hostages, High King of Ireland c.5th century.  The three main lines of the family descend from the eighth Laird of Moncreiffe, who died around 1496, and are distinguished by the spelling of the name.

The Moncreiffes of Moncreiffe are the chiefly line, while the principal cadets are the Lords Moncreiff of Tulliebole and Moncrieff of Bandirran, from whom the Scott-Moncreiffs and the Moncreiffs of Kinmonth descend.

In the 16th century one family joined the famous Scots Guard of Archers of the Kings of France and established three noble French families.

This tartan is undoubtedly one of the oldest tartans existing and is one known by at least four separate names: Moncrieffe, Old Grant, Old MacLachlan and Robin Hood. (from Kinloch Anderson)


9. MacGregor Modern

Clan Gregor is the senior member of Clan Alpin. They are the descendants of Grigor, third son of Kenneth MacAlpin the King of Scots in the 9th century, hence their Motto: “Royal is my Race.” Robert the Bruce gifted to the Campbells the Barony of Loch Awe, which included MacGregor lands. This caused inter clan confrontation  which lasted for almost two centuries.
The MacGregors retreated into remote Glenstrae operating as cattle raiders in order to survive. They fought against the English Earl of Somerset’s invasion at the Battle of Pinkie in 1547.  In the reign of James IV in 1603, the MacGregors won a battle against the Colquhouns of Luss at Glenfruin, but the Colquhouns had a Royal Commission, and vengeance was swift. The Chief, along with eleven of his chieftains, were captured and hanged at Edinburgh’s Mercat Cross in 1604.

The clan was proscibed forcing many to change their names and for their illusiveness, became known as “The Children of the Mist.” The persecution continued into the reign of Charles I. When the Marquis of Montrose raised the King’s Standard in 1644, the Laird of MacGregor came forward and joined him.

At the restoration, the Clan was therefore pardoned, but it was not until 1775 that the name was restored. Over those 170 years many clan’s folk had sought sanctuary with other clans. Many had changed their names. One of the most notorious of the name was Rob Roy MacGregor (1671-1734). In 1775, a petition was signed by eight hundred and twenty six MacGregors nominating General John Murray of Lanrick, a descendant of Duncan MacGregor of Ardchoille, as Chief. (from Kinloch Anderson)


8. Morrison Modern

The highland Clan Morrison belongs to the Island of Lewis and the adjoining mainland of north-west Scotland.  The Morrisons of Harris claim to be the original stock and the early Morrison stronghold was a castle on the island of Pabbay, 3.5 miles north of Berneray in the Sound of Harris.

The Morrisons of Perth and Lennox formed no clan and have a different Gaelic name; Moiris, Maurice, from the Latin Mauricius, ‘Moorish’.  The Clan is known in Gaelic as Clann MhicGillemhoire which is derived from the Gaelic personal name Gillemoire or McGilmor, Gille-mhoire meaning ‘servant or devotee of St Mary’.  This was sometimes shortened to Gillmore, Gilmore or translated Morrison, Maryson or reduced to Milmore, Miles, Myles.

There is much supposition around the origins of the clan; some connections with O’Muirgheasains of Donegal making their way to the north-west coast of Lewis.  Another trail depicts a Ghille Mhuire, washed ashore following a shipwreck, a natural son of King Olav and thus half-brother of Leod, the progenitor of the Macleods.  Whichever route the story takes, we do know Olav’s son married the heiress of the Gows, or Clan Igaa, who held Pabbay in the Sound of Harris.  The Gows were noted armourers.

In 1346, Cedhain, son of Maclain of Ardnamurchan, married the heiress of the Morrisons of Lewis.  In 1493 the Lordship of the Isles was finally dissolved and the Crown granted feudal charters to various chiefs.  Hence a small clan like the Morrisons of Ness, became susceptible to attack from their neighbours the MacLeods and the MacAulays. (from Kinloch Anderson)


7. Lennox Modern

The ancient earldom consisted of the whole of Dunbartonshire as well as large parts of Renfrewshire, Stirlingshire and Perthshire.  From the Gaelic ‘Leven-ach’, the Celtic Mormaers of Levenax emerged as the Earls of Lennox who would become joined to the royal house of Stewart.  Some dispute exists over the origins of the Earldom.  Some suggest a Saxon baron called Arkyll was conferred lands by Malcolm III and subsequently married a Scottish heiress who had a son, the first Earl of Lennox.  Others look to William the Lion giving the title to his brother, David, Earl of Huntingdon; the Lennox family not being established until after William’s reign.

At the end of the 13th century Lennox nobles were powerful; supporting the Bruce in his claim to the Scottish crown.  Malcolm. The fifth earl, besieged Carlisle in 1296, and while swearing fealty to Edward I of England, was at the forefront of the campaign for Scottish Independence.  In 1373 the earldom passed through his daughter to Walter de Fasselane.  Their granddaughter Isabella married Murdoch, Duke of Albany, Regent of Scotland between 1419 and 1425.  Connections to Albany proved catastrophic for the Lennoxes; Isabella’s husband and father both being executed while she was imprisoned at Tantallon Castle.

John, Lord Darnley assumed the title of Earl of Lennox in 1488.  Matthew, the second Stewart Earl of Lennox was slain at Flodden in 1513.  The younger son of the fourth Stewart Earl was Henry, Lord Darnley, the husband of Mary Queen of Scots.  The title passed through a complex set of familial links including James IV, ending up with Charles II after another line had failed.  He conferred the now Dukedom of Lennox on his illegitimate son, Charles Lennox.  In the 19th century, the Lennoxes of Woodhead, later Lennox Castle near Glasgow claimed the right to succeed to the title.

Reference to the tartan first appeared in the D W Stewart’s ‘Old and Rare Scottish Tartans’ in 1893, depicting a tartan depicted in a 16th century painting of either the Countess Lennox, mother of Lord Darnley or perhaps Queen Mary.  There is uncertainty over these origins. Others suggest it is likely to be a family tartan rather than a district one, given the Earl of Lennox was a Scottish Noble and not a highland Chief. (from Kinloch Anderson)


6. Nesbit Modern

The surname Nisbet is derived from the barony and lands near Edrom in Berwickshire.  The lands are likely to have been named after a geographical feature such as a nose-shaped hill or bend.  In clan circles the name is best known through the work of Alexander Nisbet (1657-1725), who was one of the greatest authorities on Scottish heraldry.  Alexander Nisbet established his connection to the chiefly line of the clan and he is regarded as authoritative on the pedigree of the family.  He stated that the lands of Nesbit, during the reign of King Edgar, son of Malcolm Canmore, were donated to the monks of Dunfermline to pray for the soul of his father.

A William de Nesbite appears as a witness to a charter by Patrick, Earl of Dunbar in c.1160.  From 1219-1240 Thomas Nisbet was Prior of Coldingham.  In 1296 Philip de Nesbit appears on the Ragman Rolls submitting to Edward I.  Also appearing on the rolls are James, John and Adam Nisbet.  It is likely that Adam was the Nisbet who received a charter for the land of Knocklies from Robert the Bruce.  They were involved in defending the Scottish Borders in the service of David II.

Their descendant, Alexander, was a royalist devoted to Charles I.  Alexander Nesbit was appointed sheriff of Berwickshire, later joining the King’s standard at Oxford.  Nesbit’s eldest son Philip was abroad when the civil war broke out but was knighted on his return and given command of a regiment.  He was lieutenant governor of Newark-on-Trent during the Siege of Newark.  On leaving Newark, he became an officer for James Graham, first Marquis of Montrose.

Philip was captured at the Battle of Philiphaugh and executed in Glasgow on 28 October 1646.  Two of his brothers were also killed during the Scottish Civil Wars. (from Kinloch Anderson)


5. MacKinnon Modern

MacKinnons are a branch of the Siol Alpin, descendants of Kenneth MacAlpin.  ‘Fingon’ in Gaelic means ‘fair-born’.  The MacKinnons on Arran were friends to Robert the Bruce while he was a fugitive, helping him escape to Carrick.  Following victory at Bannockburn, they were gifted land on Skye.  The Chiefs lived at Dunrigall Castle.  A branch of the family also became hereditary abbots of Iona, the last of which was John MacKinnon, who died c.1500.

The MacKinnons were rivals to the MacLeans.  During the reign of James IV the government of the Isles, and independence of the Chiefs, was put to the test.

In 1609, Lachlan MacKinnon and other chiefs were forced to subscribe to the Statutes of Iona, curtailing their powers.  However, the MacKinnons were loyal to the Stuarts, fighting with Montrose at the Battle of Inverlochy in 1645.  In 1651, Lachlan Mor fought on the royalist side at the Battle of Worcester.  Latterly, the chief was made a knight banneret by Charles II.  Again, the MacKinnons supported the royalist cause at the Battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715.  They also fought at Culloden.  Prince Charles was protected by the MacKinnons in a cave. (from Kinloch Anderson)


4. Grant

After the Normans had established themselves in England, the name Grant became widespread, appearing in many documents from various areas.

The earliest recordings of Grants in Scotland, however, are from the mid-thirteenth century, and describe the acquisition of Stratherrick land through the marriage of a Grant to Sir John Bisset’s daughter Mary. One of their two children was Sir Laurence le Grand, who became the Sheriff of Inverness.  The family supported Robert the Bruce towards his acquisition of the Scottish crown.  At the Battle of Dunbar in 1296, both Randolph and John de Grant were imprisoned for a time.

The family continued to acquire lands in Glen Urquhart and Glenmoriston. With Bruce’s victory came rewards and endorsement of Strathspey property.  Marriage brought yet more power for the Grants when Sir John Grant married Maud, the daughter of Gilbert of Glencairnie.  Maud was heiress of the cadet branch of the ancient Celtic Stathearn dynasty, an Earldom older than written records.  Their eldest son was the first of the Grants of Freuchie, while a younger son was the progenitor of the Tullochgorm branch.

The Grants consistently supported Royalty.  James V rewarded their support by granting James Grant of Freuchie, known as James the Bold, with a charter placing him outwith the authority of all royal courts except the Supreme Court of Edinburgh.  Ludovick Grant, 8th Earl of Freuchie, supported William of Orange, and in 1694 his Barony of Freuchie was raised to a regality, effectively giving him the power of a king in his own Highland kingdom.

In the years of the Jacobite risings, again all but a few of the Grants were on the side of the Royalists.  The family reaches out into many branches today with the Grants of Rothiemurchus being one of the principal branches. (from Kinloch Anderson)

3. Scott Modern Red

The surname Scott is one of the twelve commonest in Scotland where is has a long association with the Border region as well as being found frequently in the northern counties of England.  The name as we know it today is Old English and originally meant ‘an Irishman’, the name obviously came into English from the Latin, brought by the Roman occupation, Scotus was the Latin name for Ireland.  The Scotii tribe on spreading into Scotland gave their name to it and so Scott must have been settlers from beyond the Forth.  There will of course be many families of the name in that area, each having no connection except that they were regarded as Scots by the southern neighbours.

The first of this name to be recorded in Scotland was Uchtred filius Scot who appeared as a witness in an inquisition of Earl David c.1124.  His son, Richard, called Richard le Scot was living in 1158.  He is said to have two sons, Richard, Richard le Scot de Murthochston, and Michael.  From Richard stemmed the Buccleuch family and Sir Michael was the progenitor of the Scotts of Balwearie and Ancrum.  Sir Michael possessed large estates in Fifeshire including the lands of Ceres that he acquired from Margaret whom he married.

Richard married Alicia, daughter of Henry de Molla from whom he received lands in Roxburghshire in the reign of Alexander II.  His heir William had two sons, Walter and Richard who both swore fealty to Edward I of England in 1296.  Walter of Scotstoun was the elder and his descendants remained the senior line until they died out some fifty years later.  Richard married the heiress of Murthochston in Lanarkshire and assumed into his arms ‘the bond of Murdiestoun’.  He later became ranger of the Etterick Forest which brought him the lands of Ranhiburn in the county of Selkirk later known as the Buccleuch estates.

Richard died in 1320 and his son Sir Michael was a staunch supporter of Bruce and later David II.  He was killed at the Battle of Durham in 1346.  He left two sons, Robert who added Scotstoun to the estates of Buccleuch and John from whom descended the ancient cadet House of Synton in the counties of Selkirk and Roxburgh from whom descended the Scotts of Harden and the Lords Polwarth.

The powerful position of the Scotts continued and was maintained in the borders due to numerous cadet houses of the name and their large land acquisitions.  The Synton race produced the house of Harden.  That line died out in 1770 and the estates devolved to Walter Scott of Highchester who married Mary Countess of Buccleuch.  Other branches of the Scotts include: the Scotts of Ancrum, Thirlestane, Tushielaw, Raeburn, Mallery, Duninald, Benholme, Logie, Brotherton, Scotstarvet, and Hassendean.  The famed poet and novelist Walter Scott, was descended from the Harden branch. (from Kinloch Anderson)


2. Hay Modern

The de la Hayes were a powerful Norman family, princes of whom came with William the Conqueror to England in 1066. The name means hedge, and was not translated into the English language. In Gaelic, however, the nameholders became Garadh, a word encompassing hedge, wall, dyke and also a defensive stockade. To this day the Chief of Clan Hay is known as Mac Garaidh Mor.

By 1160 the Hays were well established in Scotland. William de la Haye was cupbearer to Malcolm IV, becoming the first lord of Errol, and husband of Eva, Lady of Petmulin, a Scoto-Pictish heiress. Their son David integrated the line further into the ruling classes by marrying Ethna, daughter of the Earl of Strathearn, one of Scotland’s most ancient earldoms.

Sir Gilbert Hay, 5th Lord of Errol, was a comrade-in-arms of Robert the Bruce at numerous battles, including Bannockburn. He was rewarded with the powerful hereditary position of Constable of Scotland, and given much of the lands of Bruce’s defeated enemies the Comyns, including their stronghold Slains, on the Buchan coast.

When the Reformation was forced upon the country, the Hays, with other Catholics such as the Red Douglases and the Gordons, attempted to negotiate an alliance with Philip II of Spain. Ultimately, Errol and Huntly were declared outlaws by James VI, and both had to go into exile, while the King personally supervised the demolition of Slain Castle, leaving it as it can still be found today.

Whether better for his soul or not, Errol found changing his religion better for his position, and returned from exile into royal favour. The Order of the Thistle was given by James VIII, the ‘Old Pretender’, to the 13th Earl of Errol for his support in the 1715 rising. His sister and successor, Mary, was deeply involved in the administration of the Jacobites, using Slain Castle’s ruins as a contact point. She brought the Hays out to fight for Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745. When she died in 1758, her great-nephew, James Boyd, inherited all, taking on the name Hay, the Earldom and the Chiefship.

James would have been the Earl of Kilmarnock also, had the title not been removed from his father, along with his head, for treason in 1746.

The 19th Earl, William Hay, founded the fishing village of Port Errol, and was known for his generous support of fishermen’s widows.

Other branches of Hays include the Hays of Yester who became the Marquesses of Tweedale. (from ScotClans)


1. Royal Stewart Red

The name is found spelt two ways, Stewart or Stuart; the reason for this is in the French language there was no “w”. It is derived from the Old English word Steward, a person who tended domestic animals. In Scotland it is the term used to mean magistrate or person appointed by the King to administer lands hence a  “stewartry”. It became a surname in the seventeenth century.

The family came from Brittany acquiring lands in England after the Norman conquest, and moved to Scotland when David I (1124-1153) ascended to the throne of Scotland. They were granted (1141) extensive estates in Renfrewshire and in East Lothian with the office of High Steward of Scotland were made hereditary to the family. The result was the family became powerful.

Through marriage and royal patronage it acquired lands and influence with the major families/clans. Examples would be Stewarts/Stuart of, Atholl, Barclye, Buchan, Bute, Rothesay and others.

Walter Stewart, 6th High Steward by marrying Marjorie Bruce, daughter of Robert the Bruce founded the Royal  House of Stewart which came to the throne with Robert II (1371). It ended in 1707 on the Act of Union in Queen nn’s reign.  The Jacobite uprisings in the 18th century, the “Fifteen” and the “Forty Five”, were lead by Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie). He was the exiled claimant to the throne.

Stewarts fought mostly for the Jacobites many of them having their estates forfeited. Today the Stewart clan does not have a clan chief . The Earls of Galloway are now considered to be the principal Stewart branch, their crest, motto and arms are used by the clan. Of the other two  ‘Stewart’ clans that are recognised, Stuart of Bute and Stewart of Appin, the former is the only one with a recognised chief.  The Queen is the chief of Chiefs and as a result the Royal Stewart and the Hunting Stewart tartans are seen as “universal” tartans so are used by anyone without clans or a tartan. (from Kinloch Anderson)

The 1990s: A Good Decade For Men In Kilts At The Movies

william wallaceWhere have all the movies with men in kilts gone? Admittedly I may not go to the cinema as much as I once did, but I can’t remember the last occasion on which I saw a man in a kilt on screen.

This wasn’t the case in the 1990s when a whole plethora of films featuring kilt wearers were released.

Two movies that were issued in 1995 immediately spring to mind. They both portrayed real-life Scottish heroes of old. Liam Neeson starred as Scottish outlaw, Robert MacGregor, in Rob Roy and then there was Mel Gibson’s kilt-wearing portrayal of William Wallace in Braveheart. Whether William Wallace actually wore a kilt going into battle against the detestable English is a moot point, but it certainly made for some unforgettable scenes in the movie.

Billy Connolly stars as another famous real-life kilt wearer, John Brown, in Mrs. Brown (1997). Historians and movie buffs alike will recall that Brown was the Scottish servant with whom Queen Victoria formed a close relationship after her husband’s death.

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) is another movie from the same era that includes a famous kilt-wearing scene. The wedding in Scotland of Andie MacDowell’s character, Carrie, to ghastly politician, Sir Hamish Banks, gives the perfect justification for most of the men to appear in kilts. Sadly this occasion does not end well for Gareth (played by Simon Callow), who drops dead and becomes the unfortunate recipient of the funeral in the film’s title.

So I Married An Axe Murderer (1993) is another movie that features multiple characters wearing kilts at a wedding. Mike Myers plays the dual roles of a San Francisco poet, unlucky in love, and his Scottish father, hence the kilt-wearing connection.

As if that wasn’t enough, the kilt-wearing wedding scene strikes again at the end of A Life Less Ordinary (1997). This black comedy, directed by Danny Boyle, stars Ewan MacGregor, a bona fide Scotsman who has been known to wear a kilt in real life.

Possibly the only redeeming feature of the much panned 1998 movie re-make of 1960s classic TV programme, The Avengers, is Sean Connery’s kilted villain, Sir August de Wynter. Nothing more to say on this movie other than the obvious question – with such a stellar cast how did it turn out so badly?

You would expect a movie called Loch Ness (1996) to feature a kilt wearer and it does not disappoint. The Beautiful Game (aka The Match) from 1999 is also set in Scotland. Set in an idyllic Highlands village, this very British comedy tells the story of a football grudge match between two pubs. Unsurprisingly, given the setting, one of the characters wears a kilt throughout the movie.

All in all, this constitutes quite a list of notable movies from the 1990s. That is before we consider kilt wearing cameos such as the Highland regiment that appears in The Last Of The Mohicans (1992) and the Scottish student at a party in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore (1998).

It has been good to recall the halcyon days of the kilt in the movies during the 1990s. It must surely be time for a movie to be made about the tempestuous life of Bonnie Prince Charlie, or even Robert Burns. Either of these biopics would enable the kilt to make a much overdue comeback on the silver screen.

— Margaret Brecknell


What’s Your Kilt Number?

What's Your Kilt Number

We’ve all seen those television commercials for a certain mattress company where the couples discuss their “sleep number.” Unfortunately, I’m not rich enough to have one on those mattresses (which reminds me, visit the Life In A Kilt Store and buy stuff) so I have no idea what those numbers mean. I don’t know if 72 is hard or soft. I don’t know if 151 is up or down. And aside from the fact that, at middle age, my ability to control hard and soft and up and down ain’t what it used to be, I don’t really care about sleep numbers. My interest is in the Kilt Number. What’s your Kilt Number?

The Kilt Number is simply a number invented by an incredibly smart, handsome, studly kilt-wearer, who can’t tell up from down. Yeah, okay, I invented it. The sole purpose of the Kilt Number is just to evaluate how often you wear kilts compared to how often you wear pants in your life. Let’s face it, not everyone can wear a kilt 24/7 but if you are able to do so, your Kilt Number would read like this:


That little equation, for those slower than I, means Kilt Number [K#] Equals [=] 100 [100% of time in kilts] Compared To [/] 0 [0% of time in pants]. I should point out right here that I flunked algebra in high school so I consciously devised an equation that is both simple and nonsensical. But it still kind of works, you know?

The equation has no purpose other than just to make it somewhat easier for those of us who wish to communicate to others the amount of time we spend in a kilt. It’s not meant as a number of superiority nor fertility. It doesn’t mean, necessarily, that a K#=85/15 can toss the caber farther than, say, a K#=5/95. That’s what Highland Games are designed to settle. It’s really just a simple number designed  to inspire more Facebook arguments and insults personal growth and self confidence. It’s a number just for fun. Entertainment only. Please no betting or wagering.

In 2012, when I started “A Year In A Kilt,” my Kilt Number was K#=100/0. I wore a kilt every day. That was the purpose of the experiment. A month after I stopped “A Year In A Kilt,” my Kilt Number probably dropped to K#=25/75. After spending every second of a year in a kilt, I think I wanted to say “hello” to my neglected pants friends again. It wasn’t long before my Kilt Number started increasing again and I was back in high marks right about the time I decided to kick off “Life In A Kilt.”

As of today, my Kilt Number fluctuates depending upon weather, schedule, events and work. I often work from home and make very little effort to get out of sweat (or sleep) pants. Those days definitely bring my Kilt Number down. Sometimes it isn’t practical at work for me to wear my kilt. Again, my Kilt Number takes a hit on those days. And then, there are those sweltering Atlanta summer days when I need to make a quick run out to the grocery store and it’s much simpler to put on a pair of shorts than to buckle up my kilt, belt, sporran and boots. Those are the “shame hits” to my Kilt Number. I know it doesn’t really matter to anyone but me but those are the ways I know I can improve my Kilt Number score over time. Maybe it will make me feel more like a man, I don’t know.

The ancient Scots didn’t have a Kilt Number. They wore their kilts every damn day. And if they weren’t wearing it, it meant they were probably naked and doing things with your woman you don’t want to know. But this is the modern times and we thrive on competition. We need numbers and scores to tell us how we are doing and if we might, in fact, be #1 in our division, region or maybe even the world. We thrive by counting our steps, calculating our BMI and evaluating the individual stats of our Fantasy League players. Knowing our Kilt Number will give us a new daily goal and fill us with the necessary pride and superiority to live in this 21st Century. And we’ll never again have to worry about going soft.


Life In A Kilt Podcast Episode 46 – The Procedure

You may have heard us reference it a bit the last couple weeks but we’re now officially part of the ESO Broadcasting Network! The ESO Network has many great geeky shows and we feel like the Life In A Kilt Podcast will be right at home in the middle of it all. Go check out the other ESO Network shows and you may find something there you really like! This week on the Life In A Kilt Podcast, Rick has a procedure that involves… going under the kilt. Way under the kilt, if you know what I mean. Better let him tell all of the details. Cheri warns that your favorite craft beer may, in fact, actually be owned by a big corporation. Rick exposes the sometimes shifty business practices of some off-the-rack kilt companies. Cheri has purple Facts for Life and Rick inducts a new member into the Dumbass Hall of Fame. Our Live Beer Review spreads some Peanut Butter and Jelly Time Specialty Brown Ale by Catawba Brewing.

Life In A Kilt Podcast Episode 45 – 4th of JuLIVE

This week’s episode was broadcast LIVE on our Facebook page and we had a lot of fun! Because of that, you can find the video of this podcast on our Facebook page or on the Life In A Kilt YouTube channel. Our Live Beer Review is the patriotic Brew Free or Die IPA by 21st Amendment Brewery. Freeeeeeedom!!

Tartan Wallpaper For Your Castle

If you ever had the urge to live in a room full of Royal Stewart tartan but didn’t know how to make it happen, it’s your lucky day! The folks at have a line of tartan wallpaper that will serve as the perfect accent for your pub, man cave, kilt closet or warrior room. The Royal Stewart pattern comes in two shades of red and if red is not your thing you can choose from several other colors as well. You can see all of the patterns has to offer on their company website or You’ve been meaning to paint your nasty old walls anyway, right? Well, forget the paint and just wallpaper them! It’ll be like living underneath a kilt! Only without all that moisture and leg hair and… oh never mind.

As of this post date, the price for the wallpaper on is $120 a roll. A sample sheet is available for $30.

Life In A Kilt Podcast Episode 44 – Buying Pants

In Episode 44, Rick has to buy PANTS! WTF?? Not only that, but it didn’t turn out to be a very positive experience. Cheri tells of a great customer service experience she had last week while Rick has a really bad one. We introduce two new segments: The Facts of Life and the Dumbass Hall of Fame. We trust both segments will be useful to you. Our music feature this week showcases “At Last Our Time Is Here” by Eamonn Flynn. Hear more of Eamonn’s music on BandCamp at: Our Live Beer Review quotes The Poet Oatmeal Stout by New Holland Brewing. Thanks for listening and stay safe out there, friends!

Life In A Kilt Podcast Episode 43 – Dan Carroll of Dragon Con

On Episode 43 of the Life In A Kilt Podcast, we’re with Dan Carroll of Dragon Con talking about all the fun history and events of this major convention. Make sure you come for a visit on Labor Day weekend! Check for details. Back in the studio, Rick is missing an entire bottle of Scotch which makes him realize he’s going to have to learn to make his own Scotch when he is living off the land in Alaska. Rick can’t understand why someone would say they would never wear a kilt. Ever. What’s wrong with these people? Our music feature is “Unbroken” by kilt wearing rock god Dann Gunn. Check out more of Dann’s music on Bandcamp at Our Live Beer Review is Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale by Lagunitas Brewing Company. Happy summer! Stay cool, friends!

15 Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Men who Wear Kilts

Now that Mother’s Day has come and gone, the fathers in our lives will soon have their turn. On June 18, dads and granddads all over will be hit with an onslaught of items emblazoned with some variation of the phrase “World’s Best Dad.”

But if the special daddy in your life wears a kilt, then the average Father’s Day gift just won’t do. Sure, you can fall back on the usual necktie or coffee mug. But why settle for the same-old, same-old when you can choose a gift that honors your favorite kilted men?

Men who wear kilts deserve a Father’s Day gift that speaks to them personally and shows you went the extra mile in thoughtfulness. So if you’re looking to get your kilt-wearing father or grandfather an exceptional gift on his special day, here’s a list of ideas to help you do just that.

Deluxe Antique Thistle Leather Sporran

No kilt is complete without an accompanying sporran. This beauty is crafted of fine leather and boasts a magnificent antique-finish thistle medallion. Three elegant chain tassels add a regal touch, making this sporran fit for a laird.

Clan Crest Kilt Belt Buckles

These pewter belt buckles are made in dozens of Irish and Scottish family names so your kilt-wearing dad can add a badge of clan honor to his outfit. Perfect for the next Highland Games or clan gathering, or any occasion that calls for Celtic pride.

Scottish-Irish Sash

Skip the plain old necktie and get your special dad a gorgeous sash in a range of Scottish and Irish tartan patterns. It also comes in tartans representing the Armed Forces and several US states.

Stag Horn Sgian Brew

This variation on the traditional sgian dubh is cleverly converted into a bottle opener for wearing in public places where weapons aren’t allowed. Not to mention convenience for the next trip to the pub.

Personalized Whiskey Barrel

This lovely barrel comes in three different size options and can be personalized to your specifications in a number of different font types. It’s a thoughtful gift, and it’ll make your dad the most popular guy on the block.

Piper Etched Pewter Tankard

Your kilt-wearing dad can enjoy his favorite beverage in this beautiful tankard that features an intricate engraving of a kilted bagpiper. However, Dad will have to provide his own bagpipe music.

Scottish Meat Pies

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so treat your father to a taste of Scotland with a savory meat pie. Beef, lamb, chicken, pork, and beans are among the flavor choices for these tasty treats, which Dad might share if you ask him really

Whisky Honey

Possibly the best culinary pairing since peanut butter and chocolate. Your dad can spread it on his morning toast, add to his favorite tea, or you could use it to make him a batch of baked goods with an extra kick-up-the-arse.

Walton’s Scottish Tin Whistle Value Pack

For the kilted music-loving dad. The instruction booklet features traditional Scottish favorites, so your dad can learn to play in no time. Just make sure he doesn’t play it too loud—don’t want the neighbors to be unhappy!

Celtic Cross Bodhran

A majestic Celtic cross graces the head of this classic Celtic drum. It comes with a cover, a beater, and an instructional DVD. Suggestion: Throw in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones for yourself.

Scottish Spurtle

In case you don’t know, a spurtle is an iconic Scottish kitchen tool, mainly used for preparing that Scottish breakfast of champions—porridge. If your kilt-wearing dad likes puttering around in the kitchen, this will be a Father’s Day gift that keeps on giving.

Scottish Thistle Flask

A flask is a useful item for any kilt-wearer. Decorated with a Scottish thistle, this stainless-steel flask can hold whisky, water, or whatever your dad likes to quench his thirst.

Hopped Up Coffee Scottish Ale

Here’s another beverage idea for the flask mentioned above. Now your dad can enjoy his morning coffee with an extra kick. This specialty coffee combines delicious Scottish flavors for a brew he’s sure to love.

Acorn TV

Does your dad love UK television shows? Give him a gift he can use with a subscription to Acorn, the premier website for the best British TV shows so he can enjoy his favorite stories commercial-free. Great for when he has a weekend to himself or when he needs to zone out.


The Naughty Little Book of Gaelic

Nobody does “naughty” like the Scots. Celtic scholar Michael Newman has assembled all the dirtiest bits of Gaelic into an entertaining little book. Dad will have endless fun mastering all kinds of curses for different occasions from the barroom to the bedroom. Not for the easily offended, but if your father wears his sense of humor as well as a kilt, go for it.

All the ideas on this list are just suggestions, but they’ll give you plenty of inspiration. So if you know an awesome father or grandfather who wears a kilt, show him how much you care by getting them a Father’s Day gift that speaks to him in a language he can understand. By giving him a memorable gift, you’ll touch his heart and let him know how much he means to you. To all the dads out there, kilted or otherwise, Happy Father’s Day! Or, as they say in Scotland, Beannachd Latha na Athair Dhut!

—Heather McNamara

Rufus Harley: America’s First Kilted Jazz Bagpiper

© Blue Cat

Recently I was in the studios of Atlanta’s radio station WABE 90.1 in full kilt gear, preparing to do an interview about Tartan Day and Kilt Con 2017. While waiting to go to the “City Lights” recording studio, I met H. Johnson, the station’s jazz expert and host of “Jazz Classics” and “Blues Classics.” He took a look at my kilt and asked me if I was familiar with the jazz musician Rufus Harley. Now, even though I’m a long-time jazz lover, I had to admit I was unfamiliar with Rufus Harley. “He was the first jazz bagpiper,” Johnson said. “He performed in a kilt. You should look him up.” Well, of course I had to do just that and soon discovered the fascinating story of jazz bagpiper, Rufus Harley.

Rufus Harley was born of mixed African-American and Cherokee descent in North Carolina on May 20, 1936 and not long afterward, his family moved to Philadelphia. While in high school, Rufus sold newspapers so he could purchase his first saxophone and eventually started playing sax and oboe in the local Philadelphia jazz clubs.

In 1963, while watching the Black Watch Pipe Band play at President Kennedy’s funeral, he found himself inspired to learn the bagpipes after unsuccessfully trying to mimic the bagpipe sound on his saxophone. Harley searched several local pawn shops for a decent set of bagpipes and finally found a set in New York City for $120. During his learning period, neighbors would call the police about the noice coming from Harley’s apartment. Harley would ask the cops, “Do I look like I’m Irish or Scottish?” keeping the police officers away long enough for him to learn the instrument. In 1964 Harley made his first public appearance playing his bagpipes.

Over the course of his career, Rufus Harley played with artists such as John Coltrane, Herbie Mann, Sonny Stitt, Dizzie Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, Laurie Anderson and The Roots. He began making appearances in the 60s and 70s on television shows, including “To Tell the Truth,” “What’s My Line?” “I’ve Got a Secret, ” Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” and Bill Cosby’s “Cosby Show.” It was said that his bagpipes technique was unorthodox in that he played with the drones over his right shoulder rather than his left.

Rufus Harley regularly played wearing a kilt and at one point, a Scottish family presented him with his tartan, the MacLeod tartan, after seeing him on television. Harley wore that tartan for the rest of his life.

Rufus Harley died of prostate cancer on August 1, 2006 in Philadelphia at the age of 70.

—Rick Baldwin

Book Review: Highland Fire: Guardians of the Stone, Book 1

Title: Highland Fire (Guardians of the Stone Book 1)
Author: Tanya Anne Crosby
Publisher: Oliver-Heber Books
Publication Date: January 15, 2014
Print Length: 335 pages

In the year 1123, King David of Scotland has established a tenuous peace across the kingdom. Only one obstacle remains in his path towards lasting peace: the Dun Scoti, a wild Highland tribe fiercely opposed to outside rule. In a last-ditch effort to form an alliance with the dun Scoti, David arranges a marriage between clan leader Aidan and Lileas MacLaren. However, Lileas happens to be the daughter of the man who betrayed the dun Scoti clan, and lives under a tragic curse as punishment for her father’s crime. Even worse, Lileas is blackmailed into the arranged marriage under threat of bodily harm to her precious son. In spite of her troubled past, and his own resistance, the wild warrior Aidan finds himself growing unable to resist Lileas’s beauty and kindness. As kings and nobles play politics over the fate of Scotland, love brings two hearts together in a bond that will determine the land’s destiny.

A companion series to author Tanya Anne Crosby’s previous Highland Brides novels, the Guardians of the Stone books take the reader on a journey to Scotland on the cusp of its birth (the Stone in question being the fabled Stone of Destiny, which determines the true King of Scotland). This first entry presents a tale of warring cultures, as the dun Scoti clan clings to the traditions of its Pictish ancestors in a land that is changing far too fast for their comfort. Crosby brings across the story of the dun Scoti with a palpable poignancy, the wistful dreaminess of a culture on the brink of oblivion. History buffs will want to read this with a grain of salt, as Crosby freely admits to taking some liberties with historical details in crafting her story. But this isn’t meant to be a factual historical tale. It’s a speculative “what-if?” yarn, an elegy to a culture that has shaped Scotland to this day, despite vanishing without a trace.

As with any romance, the characters are key to the story’s enjoyment, and Crosby does not fail to provide us with a bevy of colorful personalities. Lileas is a strong, capable heroine with a kind heart; despite the curse laid upon her for her father’s sins, she refuses to give in to self-pity. Drawing on her healer’s skills and gracious ways, she wins over the dun Scoti clan in almost an instant. Her betrothed, clan leader Aidan, is a fine Highland hero, a battle-hardened warrior whose new bride brings out the gentle heart buried deep within. The chemistry between Lileas and Aidan is undeniable. Their coming together as a couple is the stuff that romance novels are made of, a mutual awakening of desire and trust that can only come forth in a love that was meant to be.

The cast is rounded out further by a motley crew of fascinating side characters, particularly Aidan’s sisters, warlike Lael and exuberant Sorcha. The enigmatic Druid priestess Una is an intriguing side character, a mysterious entity whose mysticism quietly shapes the clan’s destiny. The main villain of the story is Rogan, the brother-in-law of Lileas’ late first husband and the driving force behind the marriage. His cruelty and lack of concern for anyone other than himself make him the sort of villain you long to see get his just desserts.

Guardians of the Stone currently has three books out, with a fourth due in July 2017. With its clever combination of history and magic, it’s a series that fans of Highland romance will devour, and have them coming back for more.

Highland Fire is available in paperback and audiobook formats, and in digital format for Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook.

— Heather McNamara

Book Review: Falling for the Highlander

Title: Falling for the Highlander
Author: Lynsay Sands
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: January 31, 2017
Print Length: 384 pages

Having been dealt one tragic blow after another, Lady Murine Carmichael comes under the cruel guardianship of her gambling drunkard of a half-brother. When Lord Danvries tries to sell Murine in exchange for a pair of Scottish horses, she decides enough is enough and boldly makes a break for it. To her surprise, Dougall Buchanan, the gallant Highlander who refused her brother’s offer, is more than willing to help Murine escape Lord Danvries’ clutches. Under the escort of Dougall and his valiant brothers, Murine sets out on the journey to freedom. But she gets more than she bargained for when and Dougall find themselves ever more drawn to each other. As she discovers that Dougall’s desire to protect her comes from a place far deeper than mere chivalry, and the passions he awakens within her, it isn’t long before she finds herself slipping under the dashing Highlander’s spell.

In another sweeping tale, Lynsay Sands, bestselling author of the Argenau vampire romance series, takes us back once more to medieval Scotland, where kilted Highlanders offer up body and soul to protect the women they love. Many of the characters in Falling for the Highlander have appeared in previous novels, but while it helps to have read those, it’s not entirely necessary to enjoy this story. Any of Sands’ Highland romances are worth a read, and in this her latest, she continues to deliver the goods. Serving up a tasty dish with the just the right mix of humor and suspense and a generous helping of sex, Falling for the Highlander is tailor-made for reading while sipping a hot mug of tea on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

All the ingredients for an enjoyable romance are present. The story is populated with sympathetic-yet-flawed characters worth investing in and caring about. Murine’s tendency to faint is balanced out with plenty of scenes that show her wits and guts; Dougall is as loyal and loving a Highlander as you could ask for. Sands has a particular gift for drawing out the characters’ growing feelings for one another, capturing the confusion they feel over their increasing attraction and concern. Dougall doesn’t understand why he feels so violently jealous of his brothers’ attention to Murine; Murine doesn’t understand the fierce carnal desires Dougall is bringing out in her. This is a true hallmark of a great romance author—the ability to create characters you want to cheer for even though their words and actions may make you want to bang their heads together.

Another of Sands’ excellent storytelling skills is wrapping an element of mystery within her tales. This mystery is presented here in the form of unanswered questions surrounding the deaths’ of Murine’s relatives and how she wound up under her creep of a brother’s care. This lingering sense of suspense weaves itself seamlessly into the tale as one more obstacle that Murine and Dougall must overcome before they can have their well-deserved happy ending.

Lynsay Sands has delivered another winning Highland romance with all the right stuff. With six more bachelor Buchanan brothers, one can only hope she’ll be penning yet another entertaining story soon.

Falling for the Highlander is available in hardcover, mass-market paperback and audiobook editions, and in Kindle and Nook formats.

— Heather McNamara

Apologies and Updates

When I first started Life In A Kilt Magazine a couple years ago, I intended on creating a publication unlike anything that existed in either print or digital. I wanted to create a kilt lifestyle magazine that included more than just kilts. I envisioned articles and information in all areas of life of interest to kilt wearers. I mean, we all love kilts and sporrans and Highland Games but we also love beer, travel, movies, technology and a ton of other stuff. Why can’t there be a magazine with articles and information about all of that stuff?

I decided I could make the magazine happen but only with the help of contributors. Creating a magazine with continually fresh content would be more than a full time job and I already have a couple of those. Initially, I did get some contributions from some great people but over time the contributions faded and the task of continually updating the website was left only to me. Rather than tackle the scale of work necessary to keep the website updated, it became much easier to ignore it. It’s been a continual source of stress, knowing it’s there and needs work but having no time to update it.

Recently I spent some time looking over the entire task and asking myself what do I need to do to fix this? Do I even need to fix it? Should I take the site down and let it all go? Is it possible to keep my original ideas and make this something I can still work on by myself?

I’m not completely sure of all of the answers to those questions but I do know a few things. First of all, I want to keep the site going. I feel like there is a need for it and I think it needs to continue to exist. In order to do this, though, I have to make it something I can do completely on my own. I may get lucky occasionally and get help from contributors but ultimately this is my baby and my job to keep it full of delicious content. That won’t be easy to do with my current work and life schedule but it can be managed if I make a few changes. Initially I wanted the magazine to be weekly. Then monthly. Maybe now it has to be quarterly. And, ultimately, it can be outside of any schedule. Just whenever I can add content. That certainly will be better than yearly. Or never.

So, I ask your patience over the next few weeks as I retool this entire venture. I never wanted this site to be a blog site but maybe it will become a little of that as well. I may have to play around with the design and departments a bit to make it more functional. The entire look of the site may change from one day to the next as I try to find something more design friendly to the new format. It may become a bit more simple to navigate and the design may be streamlined a bit but hopefully that will allow for more content.

During this “rebuild” feel free to suggest what you’d like to see. What works and doesn’t work for you on the site. How can I improve the site to your liking? And if you ever want to contribute, well, our email address is

Holiday Silent Auction: 6 Original Scotty Wallace Cartoons!

Attention Fans of “Scotty Wallace and His Irresistible Kilt of Freedom.™”

Scotty Wallace Auction

You can own an original Scotty Wallace cartoon to hang on your own wall or give as a holiday gift!


That’s right, we’re conducting a silent auction to give away 6 framed limited edition, original, hand-drawn and colored Scotty Wallace and His Irresistible Kilt of Freedom™ cartoons. These cartoons will be ready and shipped out to you in plenty of time to give as a special holiday gift to your favorite Scotty Wallace fan or kilt lover.

Each cartoon is completely hand drawn so no two cartoons will be alike. In fact, you can choose what tartan you would like Scotty Wallace to be wearing in your original cartoon! And since only 6 of these cartoons will be produced, you’ll have a one-of-a-kind piece of art you can show off forever! Each cartoon comes displayed in an 8″ x 10″ frame.

Cartoons will be awarded to the top 6 bidders of the silent auction. Please read the Auction Rules for more information. YOU MUST USE THE BIDDING FORM BELOW TO BE OFFICIALLY ENTERED.


25% of the winning bids will be donated to Kilted to Kick Cancer.




• All bids must be placed using the Bidding Form below.

• E-mail address must be bidder’s address. Please do not list a third-party email, or cloaked email address. We must be able to get in touch with you using this email address. Email addresses which do not conform to this rule will be disqualified.

• All communications with the winner will be through email. Notifications, mailing address information and other specifics will be obtained through email communication.

• Only the 6 highest bids will win a cartoon. In case of a tie, the entry dated earliest will be chosen. Bid amounts will not be revealed publicly. If you want to increase your chances of winning, bid higher than you think others will.

• Bid as often as you would like, but only one cartoon per person will be awarded to the 6 highest bidders.

• Winner can choose the tartan for Scotty’s kilt. The tartan will be rendered as close as possible keeping in mind the style of the hand-drawn cartoon.

• All payments for winning bids must be transacted through PayPal and payment must be received before cartoon is created. Winners will be contacted regarding payment details. Winners will be responsible for additional shipping charges or requests not involved in regular, first class US postal rates.



YOU MUST USE THIS FORM FOR BIDDING. No auction bids will be accepted through Facebook, Twitter, direct email or other communication.

5 + 10 =

A Tartan for Everyone: A Guide to Non-Scottish Tartans

If you’re interested in wearing a kilt, chances are at some point you’ve wondered which tartan you should wear. There are literally thousands of tartans to choose from. You may decide to wear the tartan of your Scottish ancestors or a tartan associated with a particular district of Scotland.

But what if you don’t know which part of Scotland your ancestors came from?  And what if you’re not Scottish at all?

nonscottartansYou absolutely do NOT have to be Scottish to wear a tartan. While tartan patterns may be associated with the Highland Scots and wearing kilts, tartan patterns have been woven all over the world for centuries. You also don’t have to worry about not belonging to a particular clan to wear that clan’s tartan. Most Scots of a particular clan would actually be quite tickled; after all, out of thousands of possible tartans, you chose theirs!

No matter what your ancestry, there is a tartan out there for you. To help you decide which tartan you’d like to wear, here is a guide to the range of possible tartans to choose from.

Universal Tartans

There are certain tartans that are not specific to any Scottish clan and can be worn by anyone. The most popular of these is the Royal Stewart tartan. It is believed to have been worn by supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie during the Jacobite Rising of 1745. Other universal tartans include the Flower of Scotland, Heritage of Scotland, Highland Granite, and Caledonia Tartans. These are appropriate for anyone regardless of ethnicity or nationality. They would also be good if you think you may be Scottish but aren’t exactly sure where your ancestors came from.

National Tartans

Prolific tartan designer David McGill has created tartans for several nations of Europe, Africa, and Asia. Many of McGill’s designs were created in recognition of Scotland’s close ties with these countries. For instance, countless European nations such as France, Germany, Denmark, Iceland, and Poland have ancient links to Scotland, having shared cultures and ideas for centuries. If you have any European ancestry, there is almost certainly a tartan for you. The continent of Europe also has its own special tartan, which was created after World War II as a symbol of international peace.

African tribes have their own ancient traditions of weaving tartan patterns. The Masai of Kenya are particularly known for their contribution to this beautiful art. The aforementioned Mr. McGill also has a “Tartans for Africa” collection, featuring tartans for 24 African nations from Angola to Zimbabwe. He has also produced tartans for Asian countries such as China, Japan, and the hopeful nation of Kurdistan. All of McGill’s designs can be found at his International Tartans website.

Tartans exist for practically every nation and ethnic group. No matter what your ancestry, there’s a tartan out there that lets you fly your colors with pride.

Tartans of Ireland and Other Celtic Nations

The Celtic world comprises six nations: Ireland, Scotland, Wales, The Isle of Man, Cornwall, and Brittany. While tartans have been created for the other five nations, this is a subject with a fair amount of controversy.

There is evidence that the weaving of tartans was practiced by all Celtic peoples in ancient times. However, it must be stressed that no other Celtic nation besides Scotland has any tradition of family or district tartans. The Irish tartans that you see advertised in catalogs are recent inventions created to fill the demand for tartans of other Celtic nations.


Irish National Tartan

Some early Irish carvings and illustrations show Irish warriors wearing a leine, a knee-length tunic belted at the waist and often mistaken for a kilt. But there is no definitive evidence that the kilt was worn by any Celts outside Scotland.

In the early 20th century, Irish nationalists advocated wearing solid black or dark green kilts as a symbol of resistance against all things English. This practice never caught on in Ireland, but it took off in the Irish diaspora, where people wanted to show pride in their heritage. This led to an increasing demand for Irish tartans. The first Irish tartans appeared in Celtic catalogs in the mid-1990s. Tartans for other Celtic nations soon followed.

Today, the kilt has become a symbol of pride to all Celtic people. As far as we know, the kilt is the only piece of traditional Celtic dress to survive into modern times. That’s something any Celt can be proud of. If you like Irish or other Celtic tartans, by all means wear them and enjoy them. Just don’t believe it when people tell you they’re of ancient origin.

US State and Canadian Provincial Tartans

An estimated nine to twenty million Americans claim Scottish ancestry. There are millions more who have Scottish ancestry but don’t know it.

Scottish-Americans have played a major part in American history from the beginning. Half the signatories of the Declaration of Independence were of Scottish descent. So were 11 American Presidents, half the Secretaries of the Treasury, and one-third of the Secretaries of State. With contributions to our nation like these, Americans of Scottish descent can hold their heads up high.

There are 34 American states that have their own tartan. There are an additional 630 tartans representing American companies, cities, police and fire departments, military organizations, schools and universities, sports teams, Highland games, and a wide range of organizations.

In 1998, the US Senate declared April 6 National Tartan Day to recognize the contributions of Scottish Americans to the United States. The first Tartan Day Parade was held in New York City in 1999. It is now an annual event boasting hundreds of pipers, thousands of marchers, and still thousands more cheering from the sidelines in celebration of Scottish pride. Grand Marshalls of the Tartan Day Parade have ranged from noted actors such as Sir Sean Connery to members of Scottish Parliament to prominent kilt designers. This single parade has exploded into a whole week of events including performances by Celtic musicians, exhibitions of kilt collections, presentations, and lectures on notable Scottish Americans.

With the exception of Nunavut, each province of Canada has its own tartan. The colors of these tartans tend to reflect the natural beauty of Canada, such as forests, maple leaves, wheat fields, snow, and the sea.

The map of Canada is sprinkled with Scottish place and family names. Scores of Canadian towns, rivers, and mountains have been named for famous Scots. Notable Canadians of Scottish heritage include John A. MacDonald, the country’s first prime minister; Alexander MacKenzie, the first man to find a route from the East Coast to the West Coast; entrepreneurs such as Donald Alexander Smith, founder of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and Robert Dunsmuir, who became Canada’s first millionaire thanks to building Vancouver Island’s first railway link; and James Douglas, the “Father of BC,” who transformed a small trading post on Vancouver Island into the province of British Columbia.

In the 1960s, Canadians of Scottish descent comprised the nation’s third-largest ethnic group after English and French Canadians. Canadians of Scottish descent have carved out a niche in Canadian history that endures to the present, giving all Canadians something to be proud of.

The Scottish have enriched the histories of the United States and Canada with their contributions to politics, the economy, and numerous other fields. That’s a wonderful reason for any American or Canadian to wear tartan, regardless of ancestry or ethnicity.

Corporate, Organizational, and Military Tartans

There are a number of businesses that have designed their own tartans to promote themselves and unite their employees. The earliest known corporate tartan is that of the Highland Spring mineral water company, established in 1987. Today, companies that have tartans include American Express, Holiday Inn, Compaq, Land’s End, and Tommy Hilfiger. These tartans may be worn by company employees, members, or affiliates. Several charitable organizations have tartans as well, such as the Salvation Army and Amnesty International, Even the Olympic Games has a tartan of its own.

Christian priests and ministers also have their own special tartan. The Clergy Tartan does not represent any particular sect or denomination, so any clergyman may wear it. There is also an Episcopal Tartan designed to mark the bicentennial of the death of the United States’ first Episcopal bishop, and which honors the clergy of the Episcopal Churches of Scotland and the US.

fire fighter tartan

The Firefighter Tartan

Many police forces have their own tartans. Police pipe and drum bands across the world wear tartans when they participate in marches and other special occasions. Police tartans include, but are not limited to, the International Police Association tartan and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police tartan. There is also the Firefighter tartan which honors American firefighters. Designer Linda Clifford makes a donation to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation with every purchase of this tartan.

The use of military tartans can be traced back to the 18th century. In 1725, General George Wade organized the Highland Watches, a militia intended to keep the peace among Highland clans, prevent cattle raiding, and enforce the new disarmament laws. Wade used a tartan pattern to boost the morale of his troops, who would eventually become the Black Watch regiment, and for a time would be the only troops allowed to wear tartan of any kind. Today, several military branches such as the Marines and the Coast Guard have a tartan that has become part of their identity, as do military academies such as West Point and the Citadel. If you’ve served in the military or your family has a history of military service, you might consider wearing a tartan of your military branch.

Celebrity Tartans

In recent times, several famous people have had tartans created in recognition of their talents and gifts to the world. The late Diana, Princess of Wales, for instance, has a tartan designed to honor her for her tireless humanitarian work during her lifetime. Earlier this year, legendary musician Prince was honored after his untimely death with the Purple Rain Tartan, inspired by the star’s signature hit song.

Living people have been honored with tartans as well. In 2014, Caitrionation, fans of Irish actress Caitriona Balfe, star of the hit TV series Outlander, created the Caitriot Tartan to celebrate the one-year anniversary of her casting. The tartan was designed with Ms. Balfe’s favorite colors and hand-woven by fan and master weaver Susan Targove. The finished tartan cloth was presented to Ms. Balfe by her fans along with a donation to World Child Cancer, a cancer research charity which she supports. The Caitriot Tartan is officially registered with the Scottish Register of Tartans.

Design Your Own Tartan

Still can’t find a tartan you like? Thanks to the power of the Internet, you can design your own tartan! Several websites allow users to design their own unique tartan. These sites allow you to experiment with color combinations and thread count, produce an image, use a screen capture to send in a document or Internet file, and order products featuring your own tartan design.

Before you start work on your masterpiece, though, it helps to know a few things about tartan aesthetics and history. Otherwise, your tartan could come out a real eyesore.

First, know the reason why you’re creating your own tartan design. Is it for your personal use? Is it for your company? Your church? A community organization? The story behind the tartan matters as much as the design, so it’s important to establish your reasons for designing the tartan before you start.

Next, read up on tartan history and study existing tartan patterns. As you familiarize yourself with different tartans, learn to analyze what makes a good pattern. Notice the combinations of colors and their position in the tartans and the narrowness of lines. Ask yourself why good tartans work the way they do and then apply what you learn to your own design. And don’t rush it. A good tartan takes time to develop. Play with various colors and line thicknesses until you find a design that appeals to you.

When you’ve got a design that you’re happy with, you may wish to have it woven into a piece of cloth. There are several different companies you can hire to weave your tartan for you. However, try to find a local weaver. This will make it easier for you to consult with the weaver about materials, thread count, and the size of the pattern. You’ll be doing your part to support local businesses, too.

Anyone can wear tartan, regardless of race, nationality, or religion. There is a tartan out there for everyone, no matter where you live or where your ancestors came from. Choose the tartan that appeals the most to you, and wear it with pride.

—Heather McNamara

October Brings Stone Mountain Highland Games to Georgia

Stone Mountain Highland Games

Image provided by Stone Mountain Highland Games INC. All rights reserved.

Fall in Georgia means changing colors, cooler days, and, upcoming holidays. On the third weekend in October, it means Tartans, Kilts, and the sound of bag pipes at the Stone Mountain Park in DeKalb County, Georgia. Each year, The Stone Mountain Games transform the meadows and meandering tree-lined paths of the park into an impressive mix of sights and sounds of a Scottish Highland Games presented in a uniquely southern style. Kilts are defiantly the order of the day as visitors come and learn what this most unique of men’s apparel means.

Attendees of the games become part of a two full days of Scottish culture. Guests thrill to the sounds of the Great Highland Bagpipe as bands from around the Southeast (and beyond) compete to see who is “best” for the day. They watch as kilted Highland Athletes perform amazing feats including the “tossing” of the Caber (looks like a telephone pole to some). Visitors experience the art of the Scottish Highland dance, or Join in the fun at the Scottish Country Dance platform.

It would not be a Highland Games without a gathering of the clans and their Tartans. Stone Mountain Highland Games hosts over 100 Scottish Clans and Societies. These groups setup temporary headquarters along the meandering, tree-lined, Clan Row. Welcoming Clan members and visitors alike, each clan proudly displays their unique symbol of heritage (tartan) and are eager to discuss it with you. Many groups hold social functions or other activities during the festival weekend. Highlighting the weekend is the much-anticipated annual Parade of Tartans. A true sight to see with hundreds of Kilted Clan members at one time.

Shops of Stone Mountain Highland Games

Image provided by Stone Mountain Highland Games INC. All rights reserved.

Looking for a new kilt, sporran, or jacket? The Vendor’s Village is the place to go. Stone Mountain Games features more than two dozen Scottish Import shops and Artisans ready to provide any item for the well-dressed Scotsman or kilt enthusiast. In addition the games have special Scottish food vendors so you can get your fill of Fish & Chips or even Haggis. Everything needed for a “Kiltie” in one place.

If Celtic music is what one craves, then Stone Mountain Highland Games is the place to be. Variety is the key to the musical offerings. You’ll find a widely varied offering of top-notch musical acts on three festival stages located throughout the grounds. There is plenty of music for every taste.

Children are our future. The Children’s Activities area allows the smallest and youngest to experience and participate in learning about their Scottish heritage. The Wee Laddies and Lassies area is a place where kids can enjoy event-wide educational activities for our future warrior poets. Children’s activities, crafts, entertainment, and athletics are conveniently labeled and located together in a new and expanded area to give them the weekend of their lives.

There is so much more to the Stone Mountain Highland Games that it is hard describe it without experiencing it. This year’s Games (October 15-16, 2016) promises to be one of the best events in the United States. Details can be found via the Stone Mountain Highland Games website.

See you there!


Bands of Stone Mountain Highland Games

Image provided by Stone Mountain Highland Games INC. All rights reserved.

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Update: Life In A Kilt Podcast



I’m frequently asked, “What happened to the Life In A Kilt Show podcast? Are you planning new episodes?” Okay, so here’s the scoop.

In 2013 when I “upgraded” A Year In A Kilt to Life In A Kilt, I kicked it off with a companion podcast called the Life In A Kilt Show. The format of the podcast was a discussion about kilts and kilt issues between my podcast partner, Cheri, and myself. We tried to work in a little comedy and to be entertaining while also being informative about kilts. After about 7 episodes, the show ceased production, due in part to creative issues, business commitments and personal issues. For a couple of years I made a few attempts to launch the podcast again. Cheri had other commitments so I searched for another cohost, without success. I decided to attempt the podcast solo but, after a few test runs, I didn’t find it as interesting or exciting as the shows with a cohost. I continued to delay a relaunch.

Earlier this year I made the decision to put as much effort as I could into reviving the podcast. I wasn’t quite sure what form or format the podcast would take, I just knew I wanted to bring it back into production. One day I was telling Cheri about my plans and she expressed interest in returning as cohost. We discussed the possibility and, after a few planning sessions, we’ve decided to start production on the Life In A Kilt Show again.

From the beginning, one of the biggest difficulties we found in producing a regular kilt podcast is that there really aren’t a lot of fresh discussions one can have about kilts without being repetitive. We covered most kilt topics after only 7 episodes and we became concerned we wouldn’t be able to sustain interest. For the new version of the podcast we feel like there needs to be some adjustments. While the new incarnation of the Life In A Kilt Podcast will still center around the kilt life, it will spend even more time exploring the “life” side of the topics. With this, we feel like we can keep the podcast fresh, current and cover a wider spectrum of topics in addition to kilts. We also hope to make it more entertaining and hopefully add a good deal more comedy. Those are the intentions anyway.

Plans are for the first of the new episodes to be released in late September or early October. We hope you’ll download episodes and become a regular listener. Let us know your thoughts and suggestions for the new Life In A Kilt Podcast.

Visit the Life In A Kilt Podcast site here.

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