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Monday, May 19, 2008

A Tartan Giant Has Passed

I just read the following announcement on the web site of the Scottish Tartans Authority this morning.
James D. Scarlett, M.B.E.
It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Jamie Scarlett MBE just a few weeks short of his 88th birthday. Jamie had been a towering figure in the world of tartan research for many decades and a great friend to the Tartans Authority. He will be sorely missed by very many friends and colleauges. May 19, 2008.


Jamie was one of the few people on this planet who could rightfully call himself a true tartan expert in the academic sense. His many books on the topic included The Tartan Spotter's Guide (1973), Scotland's Clans and Tartans (1974), How to Weave Fine Cloth (1981), The Tartan Weaver's Guide (1985), Tartan: The Highland Textile (1990), and The Origins and Development of Military Tartans: A Re-Appraisal (2003).

His Tartan: The Highland Textile is considered to be his magnus opus, and was a much-needed updating of D. C. Stewart's benchmark text on tartan, The Setts of the Scottish Tartans. His final book on military tartans was perhaps his shortest, but contained some excellent research on this neglected subject, and went a long way towards suggesting a military origin of some of our modern-day concepts regarding "clan tartans." I highly recommend any of his texts to the tartan enthusiast, but most especially these last two.

I regret that I never had the pleasure of meeting Jamie in person, though in my study of tartan, we have exchanged many emails and spoken on the phone a few times. The man certainly had my respect.

I was very sad to hear of Jamie's passing this morning. I only last night returned home from being in Gatlinburg, TN, over the weekend, for the Gatlinburg Highland Games and Scottish Festival. Yesterday evening I checked my email for the first time in three days to find a note from Brian Wilton (director of the Scottish Tartans Authority) saying Jamie had been feeling ill and had just been admitted into the hospital.
I was going to update this blog with a little note of report from the Highland Games. I'll postpone that for the now, however, and end with this brief biography of Jamie, again from the Scottish Tartans Authority web site.

Born in London in 1920 and educated at various private schools. Joined R.A.F.V.R. in March 1939 and served in the R.A.F. in a technical capacity from the outbreak of war until February 1946, picking up various useful accomplishments on the way. After demob, trained as a quantity surveyor, preserving a degree of sanity by indulging in serious photography and learning to fly light aircraft. A chance encounter during a holiday in Perthshire in 1962 re-kindled a latent interest in tartan and led - through the Scottish Tartans Society - to a long and fruitful collaboration with D.C. Stewart which ended only with Stewart's death. Since 1977 has engaged in in-depth analysis of the tartan art form and in the reconstruction of the old styles of tartan weaving, and in the reconsideration of the problem of military tartans in the light of recently discovered information.

Jamie, we will miss you!
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1 comment:

Fr. A. said...

He will be missed in the tartan world. A true giant.

Fr. A.