Our MacDonald Family Tartan

From postcard 1977


When you learn you are of Scottish origins you of course want to know what your tartan’s look like?  Do I know what our tartan’s are like?  Not really. I have consulted books on tartans and studied the patterns and read the history.  Until we really know which branch we are of Clan Donald then it is only guessing on my part.    The picture of the man in full Scottish dress with a bagpipe was part of a postcard that my brother sent home from his trip to Scotland in 1977.   It is mostly to get us in the mood to discuss tartans.

My Aunt Eddie, sister to my father, gave me wool material years ago that she said was our family tartan. She carefully handled the material and pointed to the thin red stripe. I took it gladly and had plans to make something out of it for it was a rather large quantity.  When I went to look for it one day I could not find it.  I searched high and low in my stash of material.  It was gone!  I was crushed! To this day I have not forgiven myself. How did I lose this piece of family history?  Well, I was probably moving things around and inadvertently gave it to charity.

Now, if I still had this piece of fabric I could compare it to the tartans in various books on tartans and see if there is a match.  Of course I realize that this information would not tell me whether we are truly from this branch of Clan Donald but it would still be a nice family story of my Aunt to have and to share with the family.  I could have photographed the piece of material and posted a sample of it to this blog.  Alas, no such luck!

If my memory serves, the colors in that piece of fabric that my Aunt Eddie gave me were navy blue and green plaid with a thin red stripe running through it. Based on my memory I did consult several books on the subject.  Here are listed a few possibilities:

Book Suggestions:

“Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia” by George Way of Plean and Romilly Squire, Barnes & Noble, 1998.  None of the MacDonald tartans in this book are close to the one my Aunt showed me.

“Scotland and Her Tartans, The Romantic Heritage of the Scottish Clans and Families,” by Alexander Fulton, Colour Library Books Ltd., 1991.  On page 13 of this book is a tartan labeled MacDonald of the Isles which seems closer to Eddie’s example.  This book is listed as a source at the Lyon Court website.

Here is another website on “Tartans of the MacDonald’s.”  They list tartans after tartans.  Some are for hunting, and some are dress tartans.  Here is a statement made on their site which I have quoted below.

“Forty two MacDonald tartans are currently listed by Lyon Court, while more than sixty are recorded by Wilsons, not including the four tartans designed by The MacDonnell Of Leinster Association, even though, with the exception of TS419, none of them have any heraldic significance”



What is Lyon Court?  It is the official heraldic authority for Scotland:  http://www.lyon-court.com/lordlyon/215.180.html

I am not an expert on this topic of heraldry, clans or tartans.  I discovered this website of the Lyon Court when I did some research for a client of mine on his Scottish roots.

As mentioned in the above quote take a look at the website for The MacDonnell of Leinster Association which is very interesting (Seems to have disappeared).

You can be studying this topic forever and get hooked.

The lesson to be learned here is to be careful when using these sites and looking at heraldry, tartan and clan information.  Make sure it has some value before you accept anything they have to offer.  If you are really serious you might want to consult someone who is an expert on these topics.

I have been talking a lot about my Mac/McDonald/MacDonell or rather my Dad’s father’s side but it is not the only Scottish Clan in my family’s background.  The other clan is “Barclay.” This surname is my Dad’s mother Grace’s maiden name.  My mother Marjorie’s also has Scottish ancestors.  Her great-grandmother on her father’s side has the maiden name of McMurray.  We will discuss those families later.

About BJ MacDonald

Interested in travel, really into genealogy and researching my family history, classic novels and movies, fantasy and science fiction, photography, history and more... Here is a tip. Make sure you are commenting on the blog you were visiting and the post you were interested in. My blogs are listed by hovering over my pictures and clicking. Clicking one of them will take you back to the correct blog. You can try me here: bjmcdonell@gmail.com
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