Thread carefully – amongst Scottish Country pursuits…
The article explains how one proud Scottish company has woven the best of country sports into its new Tartan.
Tartan, the fabric of history, legend, and enduring practicality, eponymous with the clans and synonymous with battle and allegiance, and in our modern times a product representing quality, style, and exceptional durability.
The meaning of tartan
The reach of its popularity for this endlessly practical woven fabric, its style and its designs are immense, worldwide. It adorns many a bridal party, proud families and indeed royalty. Rather like music is the universal language that crosses continents, countries and other boundaries, tartan does so with its histories, associations designs and flare. What is the common denominator for this fabric phenomenon? Well, I would say it is down to one word really, “Meaning”. The fabric in addition to all of its many laudable qualities has meaning. The meaning might be slightly different to one person, or group than it is to another, but as a fabric with a common purpose, having the ability to demonstrate “meaning” not only makes it a unique entity but ensures that it will continue to last, be popular and desirable forever.
MacIntyre & Thomson Ltd, is a Perthshire-based Scottish company that specialises in providing traditional Scottish country sports. In 2014 we began adding fully British Made products which were associated to country sports, and the journey then started. We began to branch out into manufacturing our own country sports bags from tartan and the obvious choice was to use those associated to MacIntyre and this led to the creation of the Macintyre and Thomson Glenorchy Special Tartan, a delightful tartan in primarily purple and green which also became known as the ‘Heather & Grouse’.
This brought into focus the camouflage benefits with tartan, and how, perhaps we all view the subject of how to best camouflage ourselves when participating in country sports, to blend with our different sporting environments. Rather than a one-stop perception of how we think such should work. These sporting items made from our tartan were popular, but we always harboured a desire to create a new tartan that was personal to us, the business and what we represent, that of traditional country pursuits.
Starting a journey
In 2017 we set about designing our own tartan, and with much thought and effort some five years later it came into being. Registered in the Scottish Registers of Tartan, it is a tartan for MacIntyre & Thomson Ltd, a country sports and apparel provider. The tartan is intended to be used in a range of products. The thread count includes numbers of personal significance to us as the owners of the company, including when we both met and when the business started.
The colours include the company’s corporate colours along with red, brown, and silver and brown. In the first instance, the colours represent the colours from the company logo which includes a red stag and a salmon. The tartan also incorporates brown, grey, red, and yellow which are intended to represent the colours of the partridge, the pheasant, and grouse.
In addition to the obvious symbolism, and traditionally Scottish association with garments and products made from tartan, there is the added advantages of practicality and durability. Tartan is made from wool and is a hard-wearing, breathable substance that can be beautifully woven into cloths of different weights depending on the application for which will be used. The heaviest of these is the 16 oz cloth which is most frequently used for making kilts and we use this weight for our bag manufacture.
The tartans used are made in a selection of three different colour palettes. The first is the Ancient Palette which is lighter in tone as if it has been aged by years of exposure to light, although strangely this is a relatively recent invention from the 1950’s when weavers began to create lighter tones to their tartans as a counterbalance to more modern dyes and there was a fashion for older looking colours. The next palette is the Reproduction, which possibly has the closest link to historically authentic tartans, derived from fragments of tartan cloth more than two centuries old, dug up from the historic Culloden Moor in 1946.
Careful analysis of the dyes led to a range of tartans designed to be authentic in colour and design to those worn in 1745 and before. They have a soft muted effect which is reminiscent of the days when vegetable dyes made from lichens, moss and bark provided the materials for the dyes. The third palette is that of the Modern, and the emergence of chemical dyes in the mid 1800’s brought the possibilities of stronger colours and bright shades, these quickly became popular with the Victorians as tartans woven in these modern colours are characterised by more vivid shades.
Our existing tartan country sports bags spanned colours from the bright greens and blues as found in the MacIntyre Ancient Hunting Tartan, with its red stripe woven within it, through the brighter purple, green, and grey stripe of the Macintyre of Glenorchy Special, through to browns, grey/blue and red stripe of the MacIntyre Reproduction Hunting Tartan. The latest is perhaps an amalgam of all that have gone before, but with our special ingredients personal to the business and the sports we provide.
Standing the test of time
But what of the practicalities of all of this? Well, the material itself is of the highest quality and woven in the Scottish Borders. The gun slips and cartridge bags are constructed from 16oz fabric and trimmed with British Bridal Leather. All are fully lined and as required have a waterproof membrane. This all makes them about as durable as they could possibly be. The quality theme is continued throughout with the finest zips, and fleecy linings, together with the best stocks for our gun bags to protect treasured guns and rifles. Maintenance of the bags just couldn’t be easier, as little is required. Providing the bags are not stored until they are fully dry no damage occurs and any mud that comes upon them, in the field or on the hill is simply brushed off with a soft brush. On the leather parts, an occasional leather clean and the brass buckles were cleaned with a soft cloth. These tartan bags become treasured possessions and will eventually transcend to heirlooms for glorious sporting use for years and decades to come.
So, overall, we now have a range of cloth that from a practical sporting perspective provides tough, durable, and traditional material. It provides every option of camouflage, be it on the hill with heather, bracken, through woodland with the greens and browns, or the granite rock of its grey and mossy green adornments of lichen and such. Because one of their business’s ‘strap lines’ is that “Quality never goes out of style”, we have given great thought to designing a fully British Made product to add to our future range which should endure. We hope that it will act as an ensign for our business, with the new cloth comprised of all the personal touches in colour and form derived from tradition and our history.
Distilled over time, this tartan has emerged from passion, thought and personal inferences for the unique benefit of, in a coded, if slightly understated manner, to represent Scottish Country Sports.
Dr. Simon Wright is the Managing Director of the Scottish Country Sports Agency – MacIntyre and Thomson Ltd, based in Perthshire.