01: The origins of plaid wearing in Scotland
by David Caldwell
Dr Caldwell reviews documentary and pictorial evidence from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century concerning the wearing of plaids by men. Initially, sixteenth-century sources that specifically use the term ‘plaid’ are examined, in order to build a working definition, and this is then applied to earlier sources in languages other than Gaelic, where the terminology is uncertain. The early sources provide insight regarding the origins of traditions associated with plaid wearing. It is suggested that the origins of Highland military dress lie in the West Highlands and Islands in the mid-sixteenth century with the adoption of tartan plaids by local warriors.
About the speaker
David H. Caldwell is a director of the SHIHR. He worked for 38 years as a curator for the National Museum of Scotland. He directed excavations at Finlaggan in the 1990s, and his research interests have expanded to cover the medieval and more recent history, archaeology and art of the West Highlands and Islands. He is the Immediate Past President of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and currently a Board member of the National Trust for Scotland. His latest book is Mull and Iona. A Historical Guide (Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2018).
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