Woven into the Culture of Scotland

The Goldblatt Family Tartan, The Scottish Register of Tartans

Professor Joe Goldblatt

The Spring of 2023 shall see the soon to be five year anniversary of the Victoria and Albert (V & A) Museum in Dundee. The museum will also launch its first ever Tartan exhibition. As the curators begin to prepare for this major exhibition and the first exhibit curated directly by the Dundee branch as well as celebrate our internationally recognised iconic symbol, they recently put out a call for stories about personal experiences with this unique fabric that has been woven within our Scottish culture.

According to the V & A, “The tartan exhibition, the first exhibition ever to be curated directly by the Dundee museum,  will celebrate the global story of a unique pattern which has connected communities worldwide, expressed tradition, revolt and diversity, and inspired playful and provocative design. It is a complex, rich, and sometimes painful history unequalled by any other cloth or pattern. Tartan is a textile which is adored and derided, inspiring great works of art and design, and representative of unity and dissent, tradition and rebellion. While originating in textile traditions, tartan has also been an inspiration for, and incorporated into, art and design cultures including architecture, product design, fashion, film, fine art, and performance. Tartan has become a global symbol of unity and revolution, and the exhibition will explore the incredible impact that the textile has had on fashion and design around the world up to the present day.”

Historically we know very little about Scotland’s unique cloth. As is most of the history of our bonnie land, many of our stories are based upon legend and myths from Scottish folklore. What we do know is that when His Majesty George the IV visited Scotland in 1822 at the invitation of Sir Walter Scott, the King wore Scottish tartan and so did everyone else. His visit was the first of a monarch to our land in nearly 200 years and therefore Scott wanted this event to be special indeed and with the King’s permission, encouraged all Scots to wear their tartan.

Perhaps this is why that I chose to invest thousands of pounds in the creation of my own family tartan, the first in the Goldblatt clan history. I wanted our arrival in Scotland to be deeply woven into the warp and weft of our cultural landscape and to add our story to the fabled history of Scotia.

In 2014, I had major back surgery to straighten my crooked spine. During the early days of my recovery, I received a surprising telephone call.   Deirdre Kinloch Anderson, owner of the sixth generation Kinloch Anderson tartan design and highland dress firm in Leith called to inquire about my health.   She also offered to help me heal.   ”We would like to design your family tartan.”  I could not believe what I was hearing because Deirdre’s firm held several royal warrants and had designed tartans for many famous folk.   I replied that our family had no obvious Scottish ancestry.  

Deirdre persevered and enthusiastically said “Tartan is Scotland’s gift to the world. You will have your tartan!”   She then instructed me to start dreaming of tartan and when I felt better to come and see her.   Several weeks later we met with her and her designer and she asked me three questions.   What brought me to Scotland? What did I most love about Scotland? What did I most like about my surname?  

The answers to these three queries would help guide the designer to create the first in the world MacGoldblatt tartan!   One month later we returned to Kinloch Anderson and we were presented with multiple designs all incorporating colours from my earlier answers.

There would be blue for the main colour of Queen Margaret University (who brought me to Scotland), purple forthe Scottish thistle from my favourite poet, Robert Burns of Ayrshire and of course, gold for Goldblatt.  

I then shared the designs with my sons and asked for their views. They could not make up their minds regarding their favourite design so I turned to their wives and in short order the final design was selected.  

We returned to Kinloch Anderson for our final appointment to order the products that would be made from my new tartan.   I ordered three kilts for me and my sons, two waistcoats for me and my wife, a shawl, and six neck ties.   Deridre quickly calculated that this would require 15 metres of tartan to be woven.  Then she turned to my wife and cheekily asked “Do you think one day you might have grandchildren?” My wife replied hopefully “Aye!”

Deirdre then sharpened her pencil and said “Then we had best increase this order to 25 metres to guarantee there is sufficient Goldblatt tartan for future generations!”   My usually frugal wife quickly agreed to this suggestion!  

And that is the story of the birth of the first MacGoldblatt tartan that we proudly wear as frequently as possible. Thanks to Kinloch Anderson, our tartan has helped weave our lives into the historic and diverse fabric of our bonnie land and her colourful people.  We are proud to now be, by strong affinity,  engaged members of the Scottish people.

As clan chief of the MacGoldblatt clan, as is the custom, I regularly grant others the privilege of wearing our tartan as I wish to share our love for Scotland with as many people as possible.  

I very much look forward to visiting the V & A exhibition that opens on 1 April 2023. Although this is also traditionally known as April Fool’s Day, I guarantee you, no fooling, that I shall be first in the queue to visit and shall see if I see any Tartan comes close to creating the magic, mystery and pride of the one created for the not so royal nor ancient, Clan MacGoldblatt.

Here is the link to our officially registered Goldblatt tartan:   https://www.tartanregister.gov.uk/tartanDetails?ref=11231

Here is the link to the V & A upcoming Tartan exhibition: https://www.vam.ac.uk/dundee/exhibitions/tartan

Professor Joe Goldblatt is Emeritus Professor of Planned Events at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland. To learn more about his views visit www.joegoldblatt.scot

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