Did a fire destroy the/a/any tartan register in Scotland, wholly or partly in 2003?
Prior to 2008, tartans were registered only through three bodies. These were the Scottish Tartan Authority (STA), the main register, which incorporated the International Tartan Index established by Brian Wilton MBE, and the much smaller Scottish Tartans World Register (STWR), and the Scottish Tartan Society (STS), none of whom were affected by a fire that we can see. The records of these three agencies, STA, STWR and STS, were all subsumed on its formation by the Scottish Tartan Register (STR).
Scottish Tartan Register
In 2008 the Scottish Government in Holyrood, Edinburgh enacted an Bill of Parliament bringing into being the Scottish Tartan Register (STR), which received Royal Assent. This was to provide an individual, independent, definitive and accessible database and promote, register and preserve tartan within the culture and heritage of a Scottish Government agency. The STR amalgamated the registers of the STA, STWR and the STS and included the ancient tartan register of the Lyon Court in Edinburgh, to form the largest legally constituted Tartan Authority in the world, with thousands of tartans registered, and more added daily.
The STR is part of the National Records of Scotland and as a Scottish Government agency takes advice from the Lyon Court.
The Scottish Tartan Society
The Scottish Tartans Society was first formed in 1963, by several scholars of tartan and highland dress with the encouragement of the Lord Lyon King Of Arms. The society set out to preserve and record every woven tartan known, including clan tartans and artifacts from several museums and private collections. The society also strove to promote the research into highland dress, and to assist in the designing of new tartans.
It was also a recognised Charity, under Scots Law. The society's register of tartans was known as the Register of All Publicly Known Tartans. This register was originally a physical collection, consisting of tartans and fabrics. Later, however, the register was eventually transferred to computer in the form of an electronic database. In 1976, the society was accounted as an "Incorporation Noble in the Noblesse of Scotland", being granted a Coat of Arms by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. In 1988, the society established a museum of tartan and highland dress in Highlands North Carolina, United States.
In 1994, the museum moved to Franklin, North Carolina, where it exists today. In 1996, several members of the society left to create their own organisation, called the ,Scottish Tartan Authority or (STA). The Scottish Tartans Society ran into financial difficulties and ceased to record new tartan designs around the year 2000. By this time, about 2,700 tartans had been recorded by the society. Among the tartans recorded by the society are clan or family, district, individual, commemorative and various other tartans. The society is now defunct.
Scottish Tartans World Register
The archives of the Scottish Tartans Society have been kept, since STS's closure, by the Scottish Tartans World Register, and remain with STWR as of 2008. This organisation is a non-authoritative body, which aims to record any tartan, new or old, upon request. This organisation was formed by the consultant to the Scottish Tartans Society. STWR is the trading name of a registered company, Tartan Registration Limited. This company is also a registered Scottish Charity.
Their database, also called the Scottish Tartans World Register, is based upon the Register of All Publicly Known Tartans, and consisted of a computer database, of about 3,000 tartan designs. The STWR registered tartans upon request. The STWR have been subsumed and their data base included in the Scottish Tartan Register (STR) in Edinburgh database and linking to their register on line takes you to the STR site.
Scottish Tartan Authority
The Scottish Tartans Authority (STA) is A Scottish based organisation dedicated to promoting the knowledge of Scottish tartans. It was first formed in 1996 by former members of the Scottish Tartan Society. The organisation is dedicated to informing and educating the public about tartan, to facilitating research into tartan and Scottish heritage, to representing and supporting the businesses involved in the tartan sector and to maintaining the collection and library of tartan related artefacts, manuscripts and books.
Membership of the Scottish Tartans Authority is made up of organisations involved in the tartan and highland wear industry, such as weavers and retailers, as well as members of the public with an interest in Scottish history and heritage. The Scottish Tartans Authority is a registered charity in Scotland and the only non governmental organisation dedicated to preserving, promoting and protecting tartan, but they no longer act as a register.
The database of the Scottish Tartans Authority is a record of all known tartan designs. This database is very similar to, and was originally based on, the Register of All Publicly Known Tartans of the Scottish Tartans Society, but contains twice as many entries – about 6,000, accordingly the STA's website lists about only 3,500 different tartans as of 2004. The Scottish Tartans Authority's website includes information on how to wear Highland Dress, the history of Tartan and the links between Scottish Surnames and Scottish Clans. They deal with a wide variety of enquiries about tartan. The STA's register has been subsumed into the Scottish Tartan Register in Edinburgh, which is the Scottish Governments official Register of all Tartans (STR).
Fire/ Destruction of a/the tartan register.
Having discussed this with authorities, including those involved with the register here in the UK, who are unaware of any fire destroying any tartan register/history partly or wholly, one therefore can only assume it simply did not happen. They are aware of a Tartan Museum in North Carolina, but it is just a small museum with no pretense of record keeping.
As tartan is of such importance to Scotland, it people and its culture, the news of a fire affecting any records would have spread far and wide, both at home and abroad. No fire damaged the tartan register in 2003, all records remain with the Scottish Tartan Register.
Here is an email to us from Mr Brian Wilton, Tartan Designer and Historic Authority which is published with his permission:
Subject : RE: Tartan Register
Thanks for your 'interesting' email 😊 It's no bother, so please don't worry.
Having been involved with the world of tartan now for over 30 years, the suggestion that 'the tartan Register' was destroyed by fire in 2003 belongs in the realm of fiction. The Scottish Tartans Society around 1987-1990 established the first electronic directory of what they termed 'all known tartans'. In 1995 the affairs of the Society descended into chaos and a group of academics and trade leaders established the Scottish Tartans Authority. I was involved with them from the start and established what we called the International Tartan Index - the basis of which was the existing database from the Tartans Society. I maintained and expanded that database until very recently. The only other tartan database in existence at that time was a smaller one also based on the Tartan Society d/base and maintained by Keith Lumsden and grandly called the Scottish Tartan World Register.
That register attracted very few applications as designers/weavers much preferred the more efficiently administrated and rigorously maintained Tartans Authority one. In 2007 the Authority provided a copy of its d/base to National Records of Scotland as the basis for the new and official Scottish Register of Tartan (SRT). In spite of that, the Authority continued to maintain its own version since it was very much larger and more comprehensive than the official one and, more importantly, it also added any new tartans that it came across that had not been registered with the SRT.
During this whole period, I was in sole charge of the Authority d/base and in close and constant touch with the SRT and Keith Lumsden.I can assure you that there was no other known tartan register in existence and none of the known ones ever had any such calamity as a fire. So . . . where that myth came from, I have no idea. I also have no knowledge of a fire affecting any other set of historical records.
Its is also important to recognise that the National Records of Scotland shows:
*The earliest mention of 'Highland Tartan' was in 1538 *The earliest mention of tartan manufacture was 1734-37 this is not to say that tartan did not exist before this but there are no records to suggest that if it did it was family related.
We also need to remember that as a Border Reiver family, not of a highland clan, the probability of Carruthers wearing kilts, or even clan tartan is both remote and inconceivable. Border clans and families were known to have worn trews (trousers) and as Europe's best light cavalry, that latter attire makes far more sense.
Regarding the Carruthers use of the Bruce tartan (Normally Bruce Modern) which we continue to have the right to wear as a sept of that family, the tartan is registered to Bruce, it is that simple. It is therefore inconceivable and totally disrespectful that we should attempt to claim it as our own.
Carruthers had no registered tartan until 2017 when one was registered and made available to the family; STR Registration 11700, see below on the right. https://www.tartanregister.gov.uk/index