In my reading and visiting a number of Celtic-Irish-Scottish Festivals I have
come across a number of different questions with as many different answers. So I though
I would feature some interesting resources for those who enjoy reading about
History and Tradition. Each one of these web sites include additional
links for your searching pleasure. Enjoy - EEHealy
Virtuality of Ancient Ireland
A (much) Smaller Social History of Ancient Ireland:
"The old Irish writers commonly prefixed to their books or treatises a brief
statement of "Place, Time, Person and Cause".
The Place, Time, Person and Cause of Writing of these web pages are: Their place
is Cuskinny, Cobh, County Cork, Ireland; their time is the year of our lord one
thousand nine hundred and ninety seven; the author is Brian Walsh; and the cause
of writing is to give knowledge to those who desire to learn about the Old Irish
These pages are based around information in an old book that I came across. Why
is an old book more interesting than a modern study? Could it be that learning
about our history has more to do with trying to understand a slightly alien
culture rather than simply reading a set of facts/opinions. Everything about an
old book - the style of presentation and prose, the texture of the pages and the
binding, and the smell - is an aid to making that mental leap which can aid
The Early History of the Kilt
by Matthew A. C. Newsome
"The kilt . . . an ancient and noble garment . . . remnant of the early Celtic
race of Caledonia. These are some of the pervading attitudes that one might
encounter at the various Scottish festivals and Highland Games around the
Of course, ask an Irishman, and he will tell you that the kilt was actually an
ancient garment from Ireland and only later brought into Scotland by migrating
Gaels, and moreover the Irish also invented the bagpipes, whisky, and whatever
else you care to name. Ask an Englishman and he will tell you how Thomas
Rawlinson, an English native, invented the kilt in the 18th century!
Most of our ideas about the kilt are based on myth, legend, misconceptions, and
(worse yet) Hollywood. Braveheart may get your blood up but depict anything
remotely like historically accurate costuming it does not. I will attempt here
to present the reader with some hard, solid facts about just when and where the
kilt was developed (and when and where it was not), focusing mostly on the
pre-1600 SCA period."
[The original garment of the Gael, both in the Scottish Highlands as well as
in Ireland, was the léine. The word “léine” can be and has been translated from
the Gaelic as “shirt” as well as “tunic.”]
[Throughout our period, the Scottish Gaels maintained various levels of contact
with their Irish brethren. The Scots themselves migrated to the land known as
Scotland from Ireland in the 5th and 6th centuries AD. The léine remained their
common garment throughout our period, although fashions did of course change. We
know the most about this tunic from the 16th century, and we will focus on that
in our discourse. But we shall first have a look at what the early Irish sources
can show us as to the origins of this garment.] See
The Evolution of the Kilt
1600 to 1725 — The Belted Plaid
"Documented from the 15th century, and probably appearing much earlier, the
saffron shirt was the signature garment of the Highland Scots, not the kilt or
any of its precursors. In other words, Rob Roy got it right; Braveheart missed
Help Identify Tartan
Check your Family Records
Identify 1876 Tartan ?
Help me identify this 1840 - 1880 Family Tartan
I Need To Know The Colors and Any Other Facts
Click to download larger file for clarity.
Documents of Ireland is an online database of
text, images, maps, sounds and video.
The objective of the project, Documents of Ireland - from Original to Digital is
to provide a comprehensive integrated approach to the digitization and
dissemination, using new technologies, of primary text, image and other sources.
A project of the University College Cork, it is making a critical contribution
to the preservation of Ireland’s cultural heritage into the 21st century and
Healy Family Coat of Arms
- O' HELUIGHTHE
HEALY - HEALEY - HELY - HALY
O'HEALY - O'HEALEY - O'HELY - O'HALY
"Saepiens Dominabitur Astris"
"The wise man will be governed by
Healy Clan Tartan
historically were in common use in Scotland and are not recorded as such in
Ireland. In recent years with the increased interest in genealogy research
and ancestral traditions, it has become popular to adopt a tartan from a region
or county in Ireland. This, for the most part, has been encouraged with
Those families that have Scottish ancestry lines have adopted the Tartan of their associated Scottish family Clan.
Some Healy folks have expressed an interest in a Healy Clan Tartan. As
previously posted here and now posted on my personal web site I display a 1876
Photo with an unidentified tartan. I continue to search for proper
However, with further research and feedback the Healy Clan does not have an
official Clan Tartan. To adopt one would be a modern invention.
In Ireland, the general consensus of the Standing Council of Irish Chiefs is
that the traditional kilt worn by the Irish was a plain solid color. Tartans
(plaids) are a Scottish custom and should remain so.
The Irish kilt may be tailored from regular wool flannel, worsted wool flannel,
Swansdown flannel, wool tweed and be of saffron, one of the "forty shades of
green", heather, earth brown, certain shades of blue color. It has been advised
to seek the adoption of the much older traditional Irish kilt and brat colors.
Update On Irish Tartans
A website is now available to disprove the existence of Irish tartans by family : 'Scottish Tartan Authority'
A list of Scottish tartans were found in this famous book (Clans Originaux) but NO Irish tartans were found.
Edward E. Healy
~ Contact Feedback ~
By Frank Meehan
(an article for Irish Roots Magazine (2000)
The kilt is the national dress of the Celtic lands - Ireland, Wales, Cornwall,
Isle of Man, Brittany and Scotland. It is far more popular at the moment in
Scotland, where almost every clan has its own tartan. The kilt was originally
called the feileadh mor, a belted cloth of about twenty yards and partly
pleated. To dress, the wearer first set his belt on the ground and laid the
pleated cloth over it, with the distance from the waist to the upper part of the
knee. Then lying down on it he would then fold the unpleated parts across his
waist he would then grasp the belt and buckle it around his middle. Then
standing up he would put the upper part around his shoulders tying it to the
lower part with a broach or pin, leaving his arms free.
In early Ireland there were no tartans like we have today. The main colours were
crimson, grey, blue, green and yellow - purple could only be worn by the high
king or ard ri; the minor kings alone could wear red.
Many of the Norsemen who came to Ireland began wearing the kilt, particularly
the nobility. The famous King of Norway - Magnus Barelegs, who spent some years
in both Ireland and Scotland, always wore a kilt.
In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries men in Ireland and Scotland began
wearing shirts and the kilts were changed to the feileadh beag or brat beag
similar to the modern kilt and consisting of about 10-12 yards of a woollen
In the sixteenth century, Nicholas d'Arfelle, ambassador of King Louis XII of
France to James V, King of Scotland, in a letter to his master wrote: the Scots,
like the Irish, wear a large, full shirt coloured saffron, with a great garment
also in saffron wrapped around the waist, tied with a belt and hanging to the
The first person to wear a tartan or multi-coloured kilt was King James III of
Scotland who reigned from 1460 till his death in 1488. In Scotland today almost
every clan or family has its own tartan, Some of them have a few different kinds
i.e. the chief's tartan, the clan tartan, the working tartan, the hunting
tartan, the ceremonial tartan, etc.
In 1956 a piece of a tartan was found in Dungivan, County Derry. It was dated to
about 1500-1650 but did not match any known Scottish or Irish cloth. It is now
known as the Ulster tartan. Very few Irish clans had their own tartan. Among the
clans that had were the FitzPatricks, princes of Ossory. and later barons and
earls of Upper Ossory in Queen's County (now called Laois). They had no less
than five tartans. The O'Murphys of Wexford, the O' Kennedy's of Ormond (North
Tipperary) and a few other families.
A number of Scottish Galloglass clans had their own tartan as well, among these
were the Duffs, or MacDuffs of Leix, the MacDonnells of Clanmalier, the
MacSweeneys of Tir Connell, the MacDonalds of Antrim and a few more. In 1880 a
book, Clan Originaux was published in Paris by J. Claude Fres et Cil and it had
a number of Irish clan tartans in it. It is long out of print.
It is said that King James II granted the use of a special tartan to each county
in Ireland in 1689. When the Penal Laws were enforced in Ireland against the
Catholics by Queen Anne the wearing of kilts was frowned on and the men marked
out for punishment as Jacobites, so to a great extent it fell into disuse.
After the Battle of Culloden in 1645, Scots were fined for wearing the kilt; in
fact it was forbidden to wear it. In order to keep recruits in the army, King
George II allowed the majority of Scottish regiments to wear the kilt and they
became known as 'the ladies from hell'. Around 1820 Sir Walter Scot, the famous
writer, defied the powers-that-be and wore a kilt in public.
In 1822 King George IV paid a state visit to Edinburgh and Sir Walter persuaded
him to wear the Royal Stuart tartan, which he did. Then the nobility all turned
up for royal receptions in Edinburgh Castle and Hollyrood Palace in their kilts
and clan tartans. It was again fashionable and the thing to wear a kilt on every
Slowly also they came back into fashion in Ireland later during the reign of
Queen Victoria. Young boys in secondary colleges wore it as a part of a school
uniform. The Gaelic League encouraged male dancers to wear the kilt. Most of
these kilts were not tartans, but saffron, green, blue and brown. Then in 1880
the Hon. Bernard Fitzpatrick wore a kilt of the Fitzpatrick tartan in the House
of Commons as MP for Portarlington. He succeeded his father as 2nd Lord
Castletown in 1883 and wore his kilt in the House of Lords to garden parties in
Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace, Dublin Castle and the Viceregal Lodge in
He was a fluent Irish speaker and a leading member of the Gaelic League. He
encouraged young men to sing and dance at feiseanna throughout Ireland and to
wear the kilt with pride. On his estates at Grantstown Manor in Laois and
Doneraile in Cork, he always wore the kilt when receiving visitors.
Pierce 'The O'Mahony' of Kerry (1850-1931) Home Rule MP for North Meath from
1886 to 1892, wore the saffron kilt with a black coat and green cloak in the
House of Commons. A famous breeder of Irish wolfhounds and a well-known figure
in Dublin society, he seldom wore trousers.
Douglas Hyde (1860-1949) friend of Castletown and Ashboume, founder of the
Gaelic League, first President of Ireland, wore the saffron kilt also with
pride, going to feiseanna and meetings all over Ireland.
Eamonn Ceannt, who was executed for his part in the 1916 Rising was married in a
kilt. In Rome in 1908 for the Silver Jubilee of Pope Pius X he led the Irish
athletes on to the field for the Jubilee Games playing the pipes with full
Celtic costume and kilt. Later he played the pipes in St Peter's Square and was
summoned the following day to appear and play for the Pope with some of the
cardinals in a private session, which he did dressed in full kilt uniform.
Sir Shane Leslie 3rd Baronet (1885-1975) historian, author, cousin of Sir
Winston Churchill always wore the Leslie tartan on his travels around the world.
The Marquis of Hamilton, later 3rd Duke of Abercorn (1869-1953) who was Governor
of Northern Ireland from 1922-1945 and he also wore a kilt.
In France the famous clothes designer Jean Paul Gaultier, says the kilt is the
best form of dress for men and wears one all the time with his own special
tartan and long boots.
The kilt-is slowly coming back into fashion for men. Irish film star Richard
Todd wears one from time-to-time and he wore it in two films: the first film
version of Rob Roy and The Hasty Heart in which his co-star was the former US
President Ronald Reagan. Green Party TD Trevor Sargent was married in a kilt in
The extraordinary thing is that the word kilt is not Gaelic, yet it has become
the sine que non of Celtic and Highland dress. The word is in fact English and
was first used in the eighteenth century and it possibly was derived from the
word quilt, because the padding and pleats gave a quilted effect, or because in
earlier days it formed the main cover for men, but was also used as a blanket.
It could also be derived from a word of Viking origin tilt, meaning to tuck up a
garment with a string and a pin.
The Irish army does not wear a kilt even for ceremonial dress and only the Irish
army and air force pipe bands wear the kilt.
In 1996 Admiral Sir Julian Oswald, a Scot and a former First Sea Lord at the
instigation of Commander Hobbs of the Royal Navy got Queen Elizabeth II to grant
to officers and men of the Royal Navy the right to wear kilts of Scottish,
Irish, Welsh, Manx and Cornish origins at mess dinners and certain ceremonial
occasions provided they wore the Navy short coat of the uniform. However if they
wanted to wear the kilt they had to buy it themselves!
In Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, the kilt is now as popular as it is in
Scotland, all due to a football match in 1993. A number of Scots settled in the
city, married Estonian girls, opened a Scottish style public house and cafe and
wore only the kilt. It caught on quickly and is now something the Estonians call
their own and the city has its tartan and kilt shop.
In Dublin, one will find men wearing St Patrick's tartan and county tartans
during the summer months. Yet it would be easier to find a needle in a haystack
than buy an Irish county tartan kilt in Dublin. It seems most Irish kilts and
tartans are now supplied by MacNaughtons, kilt makers and woollen mills in
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