Today, Ross Truslove looks at tartan designs in the Scottish Register of Tartans, which was created by the Scottish Parliament in 2008 as a single independent register to promote and preserve information about historic and contemporary tartans from Scotland and throughout the world…

This design is the MacDuck tartan – recorded with a predecessor of the Scottish Register of Tartans by Walt Disney Enterprises in 1942 and later incorporated into the modern Register.

It was designed for “the ancient MacDuck” clan – best known for the miserly Scrooge MacDuck, who later featured in movies including Mickey’s Christmas Carol, a cartoon that I remember watching with my brother at Christmas over thirty years ago. 

It seems strange to say it now but when I was a child, one of the most exciting things about Christmas was the day the television guide arrived at the house.

My brother and I would pore over the Radio Times to see what shows, Christmas specials and movies would be shown over the festive period. Highlights included sci-fi adventure movie The Black Hole in 1982 – particularly exciting because not only was it a new premiere, my mum and dad allowed me to stay up as late as 9.30 pm to watch it!

Christmas and children’s TV always went hand in hand for me and that’s still true today, as my two-year-old daughter and I will tune in to enjoy Zog and the Flying Doctors on Christmas Day this year. 

And so I was tickled to discover that there’s overlap between children’s entertainment and the Scottish Register of Tartans, which is administered by National Records of Scotland, with tartans dedicated to some much-loved classics of the big and small screen.

The Register contains many different types of tartan with varying inspirations – clan tartans; designs for families and football teams, people and products, as well as tartans designed for television shows and movies.

The Balamory tartan

Some tartans are designed to be worn by cast members – the Balamory tartan was designed for and worn by Archie the Inventor, an ingenious creator of strange machines from household objects in the quirky Scottish children’s show.  

Other tartans seem to have been inspired by existing creations. The Register includes a “Nutwood” tartan based upon the yellow trousers of Rupert the Bear, while a K9 tartan recorded in 1977 was based on the collar of the time travelling robot dog, faithful companion of Doctor Who. And a remarkable six tartans were registered to tie in with 1970s show The Wombles!

Others were designed to mark particular occasions, like the Blue Peter tartan from the long-running children’s TV show, registered as part of celebrations of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. The colours were chosen reflect the famous Blue Peter badges that the show has awarded to children for over sixty years.

The Blue Peter Tartan

There are promotional tartans for charities and fundraisers like Children in Need and there’s even a design for American music video channel MTV, registered in 2014 ahead of their European awards show, held that year in Glasgow.

And others are designed for social groups and clubs like the International Star Trek Fan Association, which registered the Starfleet tartan earlier this year, in colours representing the famous uniforms of the TV show.

And there’s a surprising array of tartans made for Hollywood stars – the tartan worn by leading man Liam Neeson in the 1995 movie Rob Roy, for example, and a tartan created in tribute to Jack Nicholson’s fantastic baggy trousers, worn while playing supervillain the Joker in the 1989 Tim Burton movie Batman.  

The Shrek tartan was recorded in 2007, ahead of the release of the third movie about the famous swamp-dwelling ogre. The designer presented actor Mike Myers, who voiced the cantankerous cartoon character, with a kilt in the ogre’s beloved skin-tone greens and bog-mud browns.

The Shrek tartan

There’s a DunBroch tartan used in the Pixar movie Brave; another based on the movie The Da Vinci Code, with its scenes set in Roslyn Chapel in Midlothian and, of course, there’s a tartan designed for the 1995 historical epic Braveheart

A designer was even inspired to register a sett for the Colonial Marines, the rough and ready heroes of the 1986 action sequel Aliens.

You can search thousands of registered tartans at the Scottish Register of Tartans website. I’m still finding designs I’ve never encountered before, even after years of working with the Register, some of which featured in this article.

If you have spare time this Christmas – assuming you can tear yourself away from your TV – you can search by name, by colour or by thread count and if you’re feeling particularly creative, you could try designing and applying to register a tartan of your own!

One thought on “Tartan on TV

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