Lt. Col. Peter MacDonald is the leading tartan historian of our times and a talented handloom weaver.  Recently, he kindly contacted the Clan Hay Society to bring to our attention a Victorian tartan blanket he was sent from Canada for identification.   Although it is not immediately evident to most of us, Peter was easily able to identify the tartan as Hay, albeit with some minor colour changes.

The well-known Hay tartan alongside the blanket

Peter observes: “It shows how old pieces can look quite different to the standard setting and colouration of a popular tartan.

“The blanket was taken to Canada in the 1860s by a gentleman of Campbell descent from London and the family assumed that it was in some way connected to their heritage. The photo shows what appeared to be a typical Victorian Merino Plaid/Shawl which were popular fashion accessories c.1860-1900. This was subsequently confirmed by the description of a piece approximately 6ft x 12 ft with a fringe around all around.

“Although not immediately obvious to the untrained eye, the pattern is a version of the Hay tartan in which the green is a teal-bluish shade and the yellow lines so pale that they appear white at first glance. These shades are typical of many Merino plaids/blankets of the period. We don’t know who wove them but these may represent their ‘house colours’. Given tartan’s popularity in the mid-late 19th century it’s likely that someone purchased this piece because they liked it and for no other reason, and certainly not for the clan connection.”

Thank you, Peter, for drawing this most interesting artefact to our attention.

We look forward to hearing from Peter in April, when he will speak to the Clan Hay Society on the Hay tartans as part of the society’s monthly Zoom lecture series.