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Thursday, April 30, 2009

New Kilt: Duke of York

For the past several months, this kiltmaker has been sitting on the opposite end of the "new kilt" experience. Rather than making a new kilt for someone else, or even for myself, I've been anticipating the arrival of a new kilt from another kiltmaker, Barb Tewskbury, author of The Art of Kiltmaking.

I know Barb through the forum. She's a fine lady, and an expert kiltmaker. I first met her in person when she came to visit the Scottish Tartans Museum and talk with me about the historic box pleated kilt style for a suppliment to The Art of Kiltmaking that she and I were working on. During that visit, I got to see a kilt she was working on in progress and came to greatly admire her skill.

Later on she came down for a week to teach "Kilt Kamp 2008" at the Scottish Tartans Museum, instructing a group of enthusiastic folk on making their own kilts. I got to see more examples of her work in person, and came to know Barb as a real jewel of a person, and knew that I'd be honored to have one of her kilts in my wardrobe.

In the meantime, I had rediscovered a fact that I had forgotten. The hunting version of the Earl of Inverness tartan is also called "Duke of York." This is due to the fact that the Earl of Inverness is also the Duke of York. The tartan was first worn by King George V while he was Duke of York and Earl of Inverness. It was later worn by Geroge VI. The following is an extract from the Oban Times 9th August 1930:
"The tartan of the kilt worn by the Duke of York, Earl of Inverness, when in Lochaber last week, attracted considerable attention, as being of an unusual pattern. It actually is the tartan of the Earl of Inverness, the same pattern having been worn by King george V when he bore the title. The tartan, we may say, has somewhat the colouring of that of MacLaine of Lochbuie, being of deep blue, with red and yellow and white lines."

The reason that this is signifigant to me is that this is the only tartan that I have discovered that actually has some bearing on my surname. When helping people to select a tartan, one peice of general advice I usually give is that, all things being equal, if there is a tartan affiliated with the surname you actually bear, that is a good choice. The reasoning is simple. It only makes sense that "Mr. MacGregor" would be outfitted in the MacGregor tartan, and that "Mr. Mackenzie" wear the MacKenzie tartan. Now if Mr. Mackenzie's mother were a MacGregor, he's certainly in his rights to also wear the MacGregor tartan, but when people ask him about his tartan, it would require more of an explanation.

The Newsome surname is English in origin, and as such does not have a tartan. It is a Yorkshire name meaning "new house" or "new home." Variations are Newsom, Newsham, etc. Most of my Scottish blood comes from my mother's side of the family.

But it has become a common practice to adopt certain Royal Personage tartans as defacto district tartans for the places associated with the titles. For example, the Duke of Fife tartan is often worn as a Fife district tartan and is generally sold under the name "Fife." The Earl of St. Andrews tartan is worn as a St. Andrews district tartan. And the Earl of Inverness tartan is often simply called the "Inverness" tartan and worn as a district tartan for that city.

As the Duke of York tartan is simply the Inverness hunting tartan, it seemed appropriate that it also be used as a district tartan in similar fashion, especially since there is no "Yorkshire district tartan" to be had. One obvious reason why this version has not been as widely adopted as a district tartan as the others I mentioned above is that it is an English city and there simply are not that many Englishmen, or those of English descent, wearing the kilt! But for those of Yorkshire heritage who do wish to wear a tartan, the Duke of York tartan seems to be an appropriate choice.

In contemplating this tartan, I decided I wanted to do something special with it. It would be the one and only kilt I had that actually bore some relation to my family name. Most of my kilts are four yard box pleated kilts -- my preferred style for general wear. I wasn't sure how I would like the look of this particular tartan in a wide box pleat, however, so my thoughts turned to making a knife pleated kilt. I quickly decided that I wanted to ask Barb to make me an 8 yard kilt from this tartan, pleated to stripe.

She was delighted to make the kilt for me -- we exchanged some emails as to the pleating options. I had initially thought to pleat this to the white stripe, but after discussion with her settled for the double yellow to give a more muted effect; a decision I am very happy with.

Last Friday, my patience was rewarded when the postman delivered a familiar-shaped package from New York. I am now proud to have a kilt with a Tewksbury label hanging in my closet alongside all my "Newsome label" kilts. The fruit of Barb's labor can be seen below.

A few comments about the outfit. The sporran is a "Ben Glas" model from the Ferguson Britt line of sporrans, made in black sheepskin. The tie is a "regimental stripe" or club style tie that I just happened to find in a discount clothing shop on a recent visit to Charleston, SC. I immediately noticed the colors as thought it would look great with my "still in the works" kilt, so I snatched it off the rack. This was my first time getting to wear the kilt and tie together and I am very pleased with how well they match.

The socks are the work of my talented wife. It is a new pattern we are going to add to the Royal Cuff line in the museum gift shop. We are not yet sure what we are going to call this pattern, and my hose were the prototype. She was working on knitting the cuffs while Barb was making the kilt, and, like the tie, I couldn't be happier with how they look together.

My general wear kilts are all four yard box pleated kilts, made from heavy weight cloth. This is also made from heavy weight worsted wook, but is a full eight yards of tartan. I had almost forgotten how it felt, so long had it been since I strapped on an 8-yarder! Definitely a different experience. The four yard kilts are definitely lighter and more comfortable, but there is something about the "swish and swing" of all that cloth behind you that just makes you feel grand. I'm still a four yard kilt man, lest you have any doubts. But I wanted something special in my wardrobe for this tartan, and I have just that. Thanks, Barb, for doing such a wonderful job! I never would have expected otherwise.
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David said...

fine looking kilt, and the tartan is of particular interest to me, as Inverness is my home town.

Congratulations on your new kilt!

May you wear it in good health for many years to come.

Kind Regards,


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