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From the misty, northern climes of Caithness and the Orkneys

And from the tragic and haunted hills of Glencoe;

From the gentle beauty of Fordell and Fifeshire

And the border country of Liddesdale;

From the distant shores of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa;

From Ulster in Ireland and from the Americas–both North and South;


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The Henderson Tartan

Celts have been weaving plaid twills for 3,000 years at least.  Mummies from central Asia around 2000 B.C. have been found with archaeological proof. 


The mummies appeared to be neither Chinese nor Mongoloid in facial type; they looked, in fact, distinctively "Caucasian," with high-bridged noses, deep, round eye sockets, fair hair, and - on the men - heavy beards. . . . . historians would not particularly expect Chinese mummies in Central Asia in the second millennium BC but why not Mongoloid? Archaeologists and linguists alike had assumed that the Mongol-type peoples had "always" inhabited this entire area . . . . they also assumed central and northern Asia to be the general homeland of the Altaic linguistic group, which today includes Mongol and the various Turkic and Tungusic languages . . . to find Caucasians was a surprise.

Furthermore, the textiles from at least one of these inner Asian sites look astonishingly like the peculiar plaid twill cloths found in the only place in Europe where ancient perishables had survived well, in the Bronze Age salt mines at Hallstatt and Hallein, in the Alps above Salzburg in Upper Austria. The Austrian plaid twills had been woven by ancestors of the Celts.

The bright colours had amazed us and delighted the discoverers . . . But the feel of the textiles astounded them even more. Still so supple. "It was like handling fabrics from one or two hundred years ago, and yet someone had woven them three thousand years back."

In conclusion, the vast majority of historians have assumed that the idea of plaids (tartans) was relatively new to Scotland in the seventeenth century. Archaeology tells a different story. "The Celts have been weaving plaid twills (tartans) for three thousand years at least."

Tartan Colors:

The colors of the wool were derived from plants In the area the family lived in.  Red was a hard color to obtain, so one can conclude that families with red in the tartan were perhaps of a wealthier family.  Dark earth tones were used by clans that hunted a lot or did not want to be seen.


More importantly than color is the design itself.  For example the MacDonald of Clanranald and the MadConnel of Glengarry are similar but differing n the white stripes to show that they were related to the same parent clan.


The MacKay tartan and the Gunn tartan are related similarly.  The Gunn clan is the MacKay tartan but with a red line added on the green.  The 2 clans were neighbors in the Scottish north.  If the backgrounds are similar, you can assume there were historic links between the 2 clans.


Hence, the Henderson tartan is very similar to the Gunn tartan but without the red line. 

The Hendersons rose to prominence in Caithness, Glencoe, the Shetland Islands and Fordell in Fife. In Caithness, Clan Henderson associated with Clan Gunn. In Glencoe, Clan Henderson forged a close alliance with the powerful Clan Mac Donald. A separate family grouping arose in Liddesdale and Ewesdale, being one of the smaller families of Border Reivers.

The Hendersons known for their size and strength became the personal body guards of the chief of the Clan MacDonald of Glencoe. In 1692, King William III, suspecting the loyalty of Clan MacDonald, secretly set the Clan Campbell upon the MacDonalds and Hendersons in the Massacre of Glencoe. Standing six feet and seven inches tall, the powerful “Big Henderson” of the Chanters was the MacDonald chief’s piper and protector, and fell with the chief in the cold February night of 1692. After the Massacre, many Henderson families emigrated to Ulster ,North America and mid wales.




There are 3 origins for the Scottish surname of Henderson:

  1.  From the Scottish Borders: sons of Henry

  2. From a sept of Clan MacDonald of Glencoe

  3. From a sept of Clan Gunn in the far north


Tartans and the Battle of Culoden: 1782


The Jacobite Army was organized in Clan regiments.  As such, however the men came, they had to identify with a Clan to find their regiment.  Thereafter the Clan Tartan became endeared to the families of the participants in the battle. England banned the use of kilts and tartans and Gaelic after the battle, but the families remembered the loyalties of their families and reinstituted the tartan when it became legal again. In summary, Clan Tartans are a direct legacy of the Jacobite cause.


The wearing of the tartan and linking the patterns (called setts) to particular families has done so much to unite Scottish culture world-wide and to reestablish our connections with our ancestors and with our fellow "Scots of the diaspora." It is good to care about the past and to connect with our cultural roots and traditions. And there is no doubt at all that the Highlanders invented these wonderful plaids. Find your tartan and wear it with pride!


How to wear a kilt

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Sash2 on right chieftainess
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Sash 4 on right for dancers.jpg

Kilt Pins

Kilt pins come in many designs and I’ve seen some very nice ones

adorning your kilts at our gatherings. It may interest you to know

that Queen Victoria was not amused by kilts that were allowed to

blow freely in the wind so she used her royal influence to decree

that all military kilts must be fastened down to keep everything

under them covered? A good idea I think:)

For highlanders kilt pins served a function. Being that they were

made from silver with gemstones embedded into them, the more

decorative they were, the more wealthy the person was who was

wearing it. Then if a highlander died in battle, the silver and gems

were used to pay for his funeral.

To wear your kilt pin it should be pinned to the right side of the kilt

front apron about 3-4 inches from the bottom and 2 inches from the

side fringe. Do not pin it through other layers as this could cause

damage to your kilt and affect the way it hangs.

How to Wear a Sash

The method of wearing sashes or light scarves had customary significance even two centuries ago, and although the wearing of sashes in any particular manner is of no legal significance whatsoever nowadays, ladies may feel more comfortable knowing that tradition is being observed!

All the following suggestions are based on a study of old portraits, prints and traditional practice and were approved by the then Lord Lyon King of Arms. The terms and criteria used are rather quaint and reflect a lifestyle that has all but disappeared even from the Scottish social scene.

Left ~ Clanswoman
The sash is worn over the left shoulder across the breast and is
secured by a pin or small brooch on the shoulder.

Right ~ Chieftainess

The wife of a clan chief or the wife of a Colonel of a Scottish Regiment would wear a slightly wider sash over the left shoulder and secured with a brooch on the left shoulder.

Right ~ Ladies married out of their clan but who wish to use their original clan tartan
This sash is usually longer than the Style 1. version and is worn over the right shoulder secured with a pin and fastened with a large bow on the left hip.


Right. Often worn by Scottish country dancers or where the lady wishes to keep the front of her dress clear of the sash - as when wearing the ribbons or decorations of any chivalric order. This style is very similar to a man's belted plaid and is really a small arisaid. It's buttoned on at the back of the waist or held by a small belt and is secured at the right shoulder by a pin or small brooch so that the ends fall backwards from the right shoulder and swings at the back of the right arm.

Scottish Dancing

Scottish Foods

The cuisine of Scotland can be quite distinctive.


Here is a sampling of some unique, Scottish foods.







Arbroath Smokie: This is a wood-smoked haddock, produced in small family smoke-houses in the town of Arbroath, on the East Coast.


Bannocks (or Oatcakes): These are barley and oat-flour biscuits, which are baked on a gridle. Bannocks are often eaten with cheese.




Scottish Beef: The Aberdeen-Angus beef cattle  breed is renowned for rich and tasty meat, which make excellent steaks.

Scotch Broth or Hotch-Potch: This is a rich stock made by boiling mutton, beef, marrow-bone or chicken. It is poured over a choice of vegetables, which should be diced. Carrots, garden peas, leeks, cabbage, turnips and a stick of celery can all be used. The final consistency should be thick and served piping hot.

Black Bun: This is a very rich fruit cake, made with raisins, currants, finely-chopped peel, chopped almonds and brown sugar with the addition of cinnamon and ginger. It takes its name from the very dark color.

Colcannon: Is a dish found in the Western Islands of Scotland and also in Ireland. It is made from boiled cabbage, carrots, turnip and potatoes. This mixture is then drained and stewed for about 20 minutes in a pan with some butter, seasoned with salt and pepper
and served hot.

Crowdie: Is a simple white cheese, made from the whey of slightly soured milk seasoned with salt and a touch of pepper. The seasoned whey is squeezed in a muslin bag to remove excess water, left aside for two days and then rolled in oats and served.

Scottish Salmon: The Rivers Tay and Tweed are major salmon fisheries in Scotland and since Victorian times these and other rivers have hosted wealthy fishing parties on the estates of the aristocracy. Poaching (illegally catching) salmon is an equally traditional activity.

Bridies: This is an oval delicacy, similar to the Scotch Pie but unlike the pie, filling is crimped into the pastry case. In the centre is placed minced beef, a little suet and a sprinkling of very finely chopped onion. The pastry is then folded over along its longest dimension.

Haggis: Perhaps the best known Scottish dish. Haggis is made from sheep’s offal (or pluck). The windpipe, lungs, heart and liver of the sheep are boiled and then minced. This is mixed with beef suet and lightly toasted oatmeal. This mixture is placed inside the sheep’s stomach, which is sewn closed. The resulting haggis is traditionally cooked by boiling.



Arbroath Smokie.jpg
Aberdeen Angus.jpg


Scottish Customs


 Hand-fasting, or trial marriages, were very common in Scotland up until the 16th Century.  At annual fairs the unmarried of both sexes would choose a companion with whom to live for a “year and a day.”  If the parties remained pleased at the expiry of this probation period, they remained together for life; if not, they separated and were free to find another partner.

If either party insisted on a separation, and a child was born during the year of trial, it was to taken care of by the father only and ranked among his lawful children next after his other heirs.  This child was not treated as illegitimate.

Hand-fasting was considered socially unacceptable by the Scottish Protestant reformers and they went to great lengths to repress it.  In 1562, the Kirk-Session of Aberdeen decreed that all hand-fasted persons must be married by Clergy.


Arranging a Wedding

When a young man set his heart on matrimony, he didn’t go the parents but rather, adjourned to the local pub or tavern.  There he told the owner of his intentions and a messenger would be dispatched to bring the “intended” to the tavern.  If she appeared, the wedding arrangements were confirmed, while ale, whiskey and brandy were consumed. To seal the arrangement agreements, the two to be married linked their right thumbs, pressed them together and made a vow of fidelity.

 After the Wedding

On the second day after the wedding the “Creeling” took place.  The newly married couple and their friends would assemble in a field and a basket would be filled with stones.  The basket would be picked up by a man and he had to carry it, without putting it down, until a woman (not the bride) kissed him.  He could then pass the basket to another man. This was repeated until all the men but the groom had carried the basket of stones.  When the grooms turn arrived, he had to carry the basket of stones farther than any of the men before him.  None of the young women could take pity on him.  However, once he had carried it farther or longer than anyone else, his new bride would kiss him and he was relieved of the burden.  This custom was intended to mirror the burdens a man takes on with marriage but of which it was within the power of a good wife to relieve him.

The Fiery Cross

When an emergency required that a Chief summon his clan, he would kill a goat. Next, he would make a cross of light wood and set the four points of the cross on fire.  Once the ends were charred, he dipped the cross in the goats blood to extinguish the flames.  The cross was then given to a fleet footed messenger to travel through the lands of the Clan.  Every Clansman, from age 16 to 60 was obliged to rally to the Chief.  If this summons was ignored, the Clansman was subjected to the penalties of “fire and sword”—bloody cuts and burns, intended to scar for life.

 Touch the Steeple to Go Free

If a man was found guilty of a serious crime, and sentenced to death, he had an out. If he could escape the crowd assembled to watch his execution and then climb a Church Steeple without being subdued or caught, he was free man. 


Scottish Superstitions

Bad luck  

According to Scotssuperstitions, it is unlucky to:

  • Have a black cat in any room where a wake is taking place.

  • Lay a baby down for its first sleep in a new cot.

  • See a funeral procession on the way to your wedding.

  • See a pig on the way to your wedding.

  • Take pigs on fishing boats.

  • Cut a young babies’ nails with scissors as it will make them dishonest in later life.

  • Cross two knifes on a table.

  • Be “first-footed” by a flat-footed or a fair-headed person.

Note: To be ‘first-footed’ is a New Year (Hogmanay) tradition in Scotland. It is customary, after the New Year has been brought in, to pay the first visit of the year to friends and neighbours and to also welcome people into your own house (for a drink no less). It is traditional for the first caller to be tall and dark-haired as it is thought that brings good luck. The ‘first-footer’ traditionally should bring with them a lump of coal (to bring heat to the house), a bottle of whisky and something to eat (to signify plenty of food and drink in the coming year).

Good luck

According to Scots superstitions, it is lucky to:

 * Have a rowan tree outside your house as it helps keep witches away.

* Place silver in a new born baby’s hand as it will bring great wealth to them in later life.

* Touch iron if you see or even hear evil.

* If you are a bride, to put a silver coin in your shoe.

* Wear a sprig of white heather.


Superstitions Associated with Birth and Babies

The Howdie


The Howdie is the mother-to-be’s main attendant and it stems from an old Scottish term for “handy woman”.  In addition to being a midwife, the Howdie insures the parents are knowledgable of the rituals that will keep both Mother and baby safe.  These include:

Prior to birth:

  • Untie any knots in the Mothers clothing

  • Unlock all the doors and windows in the house, as this makes the baby’s passage into the world easier.

  • Turn over all mirrors, so the babies soul won’t be captured.

  • Give the mother an herbal mixture containing Rowan berries from a Rowan tree.  Rowan trees are sacred and provide protection against the Evil Eye and fairies (mischievious imps).

After the Birth:

  • The howdie puts a protective substance into the baby’s mouth to ward off the Evil Eye.  This is whisky, although butter or salt can be used.

  • Every woman present at the birth has to take three spoonfuls of a mixture of oatmeal and water.  This brings the baby strength and luck.

  • The Howdie must bury the afterbirth.  A tree should be planted at the spot.  The tree will reflect the childs life as they grow together.  A leafy tree that grows straight and tall means the child will always be healthy and strong.  If the tree is leafless, then the child will be infertile.  If the tree is sickly, so the child will be, as well.

Omens and Signs

  • In Scotland, a baby born on the first day of the month is considered to be lucky.  Also, what day a baby is born on has an impact on its future.  Here is a famous Scottish Rhyme:

Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go.
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living
But the child that is born on the Sabbath Day
is blithe and bonnie and good and gay

  • Giving a baby a silver coin is lucky and is still widely practiced.  It is called “Hanselling” and how the baby accepts the coin is important.  If the baby grabs the coin tightly, it will be miserly and penny-pinching.  If the baby drops the coin quickly, it will be a spendthrift.

  •  The seventh son of a seventh son will have great foresight.




A child must be protected from a Changeling, as soon as it is born.  Changlings are fairy babies that are exchanged for the new born.  The child remains in danger from Changelings until it can be baptized.

Protective Measures against Changelings

  • The new born baby must not be taken from the house unless absolutely necessary.  This helps hide the baby from the fairies.

  • The baby must not be praised, for word of this will reach the fairies and they will come to see the baby.

  • The cradle should be made of rowan or oak and have iron nails.  These provide protective properties against fairies.

The Christening

  • The Howdie can perform a “temporary” baptism until the priest can come.

  • Christening must be done in a church and on a Sunday.  It should be done as soon as possible after birth.

  • A young woman, not the mother, should carry the baby into the church.  The young woman should have some food, ideally cheese, meat, or bread.  The first stranger (man) that the young woman meets is offered the food.  If he accepts it, the child will have some good luck.  If he rejects it, the baby will suffer a misfortune.

  • If more than one child is being christened, it is important for all the girls to be christened first.  This is because when boys are christened they leave evidence of their beards in the water.  If a girl is christened after a boy, she will grow to have facial hair and not be pretty.

  • If the baby cries when water is poured over its head, it is a good sign (sometimes priests would use VERY cold water to help ensure the baby cried.)

  • Once the child is christened, it is a member of the church and therefore it is safe from fairies.

Gaelic Language

Scots-Gaelic, the language of the Scots also referred to as Gaidhlig or Gaelic, is a Celtic language.  It has a common root with Irish Gaelic.  In 2001, the UK census found 58,652 speakers of Gaelic in Scotland.  In the past, there were other dialects of Gaelic, with ne major aplit between Highland Gaelic and Lowland Gaelic.  Today's Scots-Gaelic grew out of the Highland=Gaelic dialect.  Gaelic replaced Combric, Pictish and Old English after being introdu ec in Scotland around the 4th Century, eventually evolving into the modern Scots-Gaelic language spoken today..

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