Clan chiefs were given the task of selecting the tartan or plaid to lead their men into battle, an important task to distinguish friend from foe on the battlefield, and this is probably the origin of clan tartans.
After the battle of Culloden (1746) where the great Scottish Clans were heavily defeated by the English (Sassanagh), one of the laws that were passed in retribution was the proscription of Highland dress...only the military and the Lowland gentry were exempt.
In 1778 the newly formed Highlands Societies in London and later Edinburgh, mounted pressure to have the culture and spirit of the Highlanders restored and the law was repealed in 1782, but by then the art had all but died in the Highlands. However, samples of the various clan patterns and designs were assembled by Highland agents of William Wilson the foremost weaving manufacturer since 1770 and he set about reproducing the genuine patterns of the various clans. It was at this stage that tartans became known by the clan name or single uniform clan tartans. By 1822 William Wilson had recorded over 200 setts in his pattern books and when King George IV visited Scotland that same year (the first visit by the King of England since the rebellion) he was wearing the now highly fashionable Highland kilt. All the Scottish clan chiefs were commanded to attend the Kings banquet at Edinburgh's Hollyrood Castle dressed in their clan tartan and how splendid they must have looked.
Evidence exists to prove that clan tartans date as far back as the third century and in the case of the Sweeney clan tartan we can be certain that the tartan existed long before its first recording in Vestiarium Scoticum in 1842. However a search of clan patterns will not reveal a Sweeney tartan as such, but under MacQueen you will find it. MacQueen is of course one of the variations of the name Sweeney which as we show elsewhere is in Gaelic 'MacSuibhne'. According to Vestiarium Scoticum it is called the tartan of the Clan Revan, so called after Revan Macmulmor MacAngus MacQueen.
Clann tSuibhne are presently negotiating a supply of the clan tartan for some of our members who expressed an interest in obtaining this most beautiful cloth.
Visitors to our previous Rallies will remember our Clan Chief Loughlin wearing his clan tartan sash to the banquets.