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History of the Blackwatch

The myriad of tartans available, which we’ve discussed before, never ceases to amaze me! Luckily, most of you who know which clan your ancestors originated from probably know a thing or two about the history of your familial roots. As we mentioned before, for those of us who are clan-less, it’s more than common to wear the super popular, neutral tartan kilt – the Blackwatch.

What do we really know about the history of this beloved kilt?

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Well, let me tell ya, it’s always interesting to hear a bit of history behind such a timeless tartan whose symbolism has been ingrained in the Scottish culture for sooo many years.

In fact, this tartan is representative of the Scottish military, whose origins date waaay back to the early part of the 18th century. The Black Watch is the senior and oldest Highland regiment, which, according to Royle’s book on it’s fascinating history, attributes some of it’s popularity to the story behind it’s creation.

Early on in the Highlands of Scotland, during a chaotic and rebellious time, an infantry regiment composed of tough, fighting soldiers were needed to bring criminals and rebels to justice. This regiment was composed of 525 native Highlander men from six independent companies, who together were known as Am Freiceadan Dubh, which is Gaelic for “the dark” or “black watch.”

The origin behind the name is unclear, however one theory suggests The Black Watch name came from the dark, plaid uniforms they had to wear. This set them apart from the other government regiments whose soldiers wore red coats.

Another interesting theory suggests that they were actually referred to as “black hearts,” since they supported the government’s desire to enforce law and order in the Highland region, going completely against the so-called “true Highland spirit” – which, at the time, included cattle rustling and extortion. Tsk tsk.

Over time, The Black Watch was not only seen as a military regiment, but rather a representation of the country’s people as a whole. One of the regiment’s most distinguished soldiers, Field Marshal Earl Wavell, sums up the essence of The Black Watch quite nicely:

“The Jock of Today comes from the city as often as from the hills or fields. But he still inherits the spirit and traditions of his Highland forebears – the clan feeling ,the toughness, the fierceness in assault, the independence of character, the boundless self-confidence in his own powers in all circumstances and conditions.”

The Black Watch has been around for over two centuries, and evolved into such a well-regarded and admired military force. The history behind its founding and it’s necessity also continue to contribute to The Black Watch’s allure and prestige, which persisted throughout the country’s history!

It’s no wonder the Blackwatch kilt is sooo popular, as the tartan is literally rooted in so much history and Scottish pride. 🙂