The Dunlop Tartan




History of Tartan

  Richard Dunlop, creator of the Dunlop tartan in 1982 Grandfather Mountain unveiling of the Tartan

Tartans have become synonymous with Scotland and Scottish clans and families in particular. However, tartans were originally a style of cloth intended to be decorative. They had patterns that were popular within certain districts of manufacture, they relied on a limited range of colour dyes and were made of the local coarser type of wool.

This has lead to the idea of district tartans being the original association, between the land, the community and its cloth. Where there was a strong clan within a district, as was often the case in the highlands, then visitors from other areas might well have been recognised as of a clan from their tartan. This must have been true of visitors from the Western Isles, for instance. It is this concept of clan tartans that today predominates, but the use of tartan is yet richer.

When tartan was proscribed by law, the Government or Black Watch pattern was the only legally one. This was used by the regiments raised within Scotland, forming the basis of the regimental tartans.

By the early 1800s, it was realised that the knowledge of tartans before the ´45 was being lost and, simultaneously, there was a romantic movement concerning Scotland's past. This lead to institutional and individual efforts to preserve tartan designs. Tartans were reconstructed from portraits, collected on pilgrimages, demanded from clan chiefs and recovered from weaver's notes.

Tartans became a backdrop. The weaving and tailoring industries were especially boosted by the visit to Edinburgh of George IV in 1822 and by Sir Walter Scott's statement, as the visit's manager, "Let every man wear his tartan". Queen Victoria gave considerable encouragement thereafter, though this encouraged both fantasy and fact in the study of tartan. (Some royal tartans remain the preserve of the House of Windsor or individual titles within it, just as clan chiefs sometimes have a chief's tartan.)

The significance of tartan as national dress, worn under various circumstances, created clan tartans for every "name", even those that previously had none. These were often supplemented by hunting tartans of subdued character and dress tartans which were brighter.

Further variety was added by fashion, fancy or trade tartans to fill any niche, including various colours of a single pattern. Dancing Tartans originate from the ARISAID or Dress Tartans. There were even some mourning tartans developed.

In recent years the corporate tartans have become popular where an institution or company adopts a tartan design for livery and use in merchandising.

Where no clan tartan exists, families can and have (As we did) developed new Family Tartans. Generally which tartan is worn is controlled by convention there not being a statute for its government. Disputes as to its use and production rely on the civil law of Copyright, Design Act and in rare cases Patents/Trademarks. Most tartans are registered with the World tartan registry or the Scottish Tartan Society to ensure their uniqueness.

Manufacturers often offer a given tartan design in a variety of colour effects, called Modern, Reproduction, Ancient and the like. An ancient and a modern tartan is often the same pattern and should not be confused when the design is being considered.

From the Scotland.Net

"The history of tartan is as old as the Scots people themselves dating back to the 5th century when they arrived from Ireland with their "woollen cloth of different colours", and it remains as it began as a symbol of clan and national identity.

However, in its original form, a rough woollen cloth worn as a plaid, tartan had a highly practical function of providing warmth and shelter from the harsh Scottish weather. Over the years, the plaid became modified into the kilt which was in fairly common use along side the plaid by 1795.

Tartan has fallen in and out of favour as the popularity of the Scots and all things Scottish has grown and waned. In 1747, shortly after the Jacobite rebellion, the Dress Act forbade the wearing of tartan with offenders receiving a punishment of six months imprisonment or transportation. Scotsmen were made to swear an oath pledging their compliance with the law:

"I do swear... as I shall swear to God at the great day of judgement, that I have not, nor shall l have in my possession, any gun, sword, pistol, or arm whatsoever, and never use any tartan, plaid, or any piece of highland garb."

Once the law had been repealed, tartan reappeared slowly, mainly as a military uniform, and it was not until George IV's visit to Scotland in 1822 that it was in vogue once more. In Queen Victoria's day, fashion added new checks, decorative sporrans, and skean dhu's, and these were formally incorporated into our present idea of highland dress.

Over the years, each clan or family has developed its own distinctive "sett" distinguished by the number of threads of each colour in the pattern. Nowadays, tartan has virtually lost its function as a hardwearing cloth for hunting and working purposes, and the more traditional and sombre colours, based on vegetable dyes, have been replaced by dress tartans with their brighter overchecks. To many Scotsmen and women tartan is emblematic of something heroic and indefinable, and they continue to wear it with pride. "

from the Scottish Tartan Society



There are today four Tartan styles of the Dunlop Sett:

The Modern STS#1197

The Hunting STS#1205

The Dress STS#1784

and the Ancient.



Modern (Black'n'Blue),

"Modern" or "standard" is a term regarding Tartan which means that this is the primary tartan of a Clan or Family, and one which is most common. Here Michael, Mike and John Dunlap of Dunedin, Florida show off the Modern. The Dunlop Modern is registered with the Scottish Tartan Society as STS# 1197 and was designed by Richard Dunlop.




"Ancient" is a tartan term which describes the coloring as if being done with ancient dye techniques. These colors would then look "faded or not as coloured" as with modern dyes. Ancient tartans are popular because they look olde. David and Blair Dunlop of Canada wear the Ancient Dunlop proudly.

See the online store at Things Scottish for Dunlop and Dunlap items

many of you have asked where to get Dunlop tartan...below are a few sources....remember the difference between single wide and double wide (56') and the weight  (either in oz or twill...larger # is thicker wool)

Get Modern and Ancient Dunlop at Heritage of Scotland in many packages.

John Morrison Kiltmakers

63 High Street EH1 1SR Edinburgh, Scotland


Get Dunlop Modern and Ancient by the yard at Linda Clifford Scottish Merchant

10 - 11.5 oz Double-Width -$59/yd.
13 oz. Double-Width -$65/yd.
13 oz. Old & Rare Double-Width - $85/yd.
16 oz. Double-Width - $75/yd.
16 oz. Single-Width -$65/yd.

Get Dunlop Modern in many products at  House of Tartan ( $57/yd Medium 335)

 Click here to download a Dunlop tartan desktop theme


  richard dunlop in 2002 reprise at grandfather mountain...twenty years after his unveiling of the Black'n'Blue


History of Dunlop Tartan

Richard Dunlop, of Washington, DC, the second President of our Society, started a journey on April 2, 1974 that culminated in the creation of our Family Tartan.

That day Richard wrote a letter to the Mayor of Dunlop asking if there was any tartan, family or clan, associated with the surname of Dunlop and where he may obtain a picture, description, or the material itself. The response was to write to the Lord Lyon, King of Arms in Edinburgh. After a lot of research and a few years later he connected with Elsie Harnish, the founder and first President of the Dunlop/Dunlap Family Society.

The Society had been started in the Summer of 1979 with Elsie and her son in Pennsylvania, and one member each in Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, Ohio (Reverend John Hanna) and New Jersey. Richard soon joined forces with Elsie and this alliance created the foundation of the Society.

Elsie had written to The Scottish Tartans Society regarding a tartan and on July 18, 1980 received a response from Thomas H. Jones, North American representative of the STS. Thomas advised her to do the following: Have a tartan designed by a tartan weaver. Use an existing tartan that has some link or significance to the Dunlop’s and change a line or two, or a color. Register the tartan with the STS, since there are over (at that time) 1300 different tartans. By registering we would ensure that no one else is using that design, and also that no one else would ever use ours. He also suggested a weaver, the Ferris Wheel in Bethesda, Maryland. Thomas did state that if Elsie pulled this off within a year, it would be very fast!

Correspondence from the Ferris Wheel on Sept 4, 1980 from Thomas Ferris suggested that Elsie contact J. Charles Thompson of Arlington, Virginia, a leading authority on tartans. This gentleman would keep them on the right path.  It turns out that J Charles Thompson is the Chairman of the committee on Heraldry of the Council of Scottish Clan Associations (COSCA). He was instrumental in helping Elsie design the Dunlop badge. He did direct her in November 1980 to the Lord Lyon Court in Edinburgh. He wanted her to ask if there was a chief of Dunlop, what his arms may be, to determine the crest for the Badge design, which Elsie wanted to wear with the tartan once they had found or designed one.  Elsie is now where Richard was six years ago! They needed to go to Lord Lyon.

On May 4th, 1981, now vice-convener Richard Dunlop wrote the Lord Lyon Office in Edinburgh. He announced the formation of the Dunlop/Dunlap Society. He requested their assistance, in the interest on conforming to the rules of heraldry, in the design of a crest, if none existed. He asked for the name, crest, and location of the last chief of Dunlop. After giving them a short history of the Dunlop origins, he told them of the impending creation of a Dunlop tartan and the desire to submit it for approval. Richard then followed this up with a letter on May 6th, 1981, giving more history of possible chieftain lineage and the problem of two crests. One showed the dirk held “proper” and one “with bend sinister” (the Kirk window).

The long awaited reply came on May 27th, 1981 from Elizabeth Bruce, Secretary to the Lord Lyon, Court of the Lord Lyon, Edinburgh, Scotland. Ms Bruce stated “that the latest Arms were recorded in 1838 (Vol.4, fol.31) in the Public Register of all Arms and Bearings in Scotland for Sir John Dunlop of Dunlop, Baronet. It appeared to her that no one had made up title to these Arms since that time. The Arms did hold the dagger “erect all proper” which would be the correct way for the crest to portray.  She did consult with “the Dunlops of Dunlop: of Auchenskaith, Keppoch and Gairbraid” by JG Dunlop, privately published by Butler and Tanner 1939. She relayed that Mr. Dunlop states that the headship of the Family lay with Roy Neil Wallace Dunlop, son of Arthur Wallace Dunlop, second son of John Andrew Dunlop and Elizabeth Sandwith.  Roy was born in December 1922 and it is likely that he is still alive. If in fact he were living in the States, he would not be barred from being a Clan Chief. As regards to the Tartan, it is the normal practice of this court only to record in the Lyon Court Books (Writs section) the thread counts of tartans when the petition is by the chief of the Name. “ Richard now had some direction.

Richard wrote to the Scottish Tartans Society on May 21rst, 1981. He gave them some history of the now two-year-old Society and told them of the desire to design a tartan of our own. He told them that we could currently wear the Cunningham, since Dunlops intermarried with, fought alongside and were imprisoned with the Cunningham’s, as well as living in that district. He relayed that the Society had decided to use the Cunningham tartan, differentiating it by changing one of the two principal colors (red to blue).  He had discussed this with

. Charles Thompson, and determined it to be acceptable. What does the Family need to do from this point? Can we register a tartan? What must we do to get the above described approved and registered? Is there a charge? Would there be any restrictions on us holding this tartan out as that of those bearing our surnames to be worn anywhere, including Scotland itself? He then gave them a thread count for the proposed tartan.


The STS wrote back on June 26th, 1981. Dr. Michel MacDonald replied that the Scottish tartans Society maintains the Register of all known tartans and acts as the research unit for the Monitoring Committee for Scottish tartans. That body is made up of Representatives of the Lord Lyon, Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs, the National Museum of Antiquities, and various representatives of the tartan weavers and sellers trade. There is a search fee to determine if the requested pattern already exists, a design fee of 100 pounds to design, etc. Dr. MacDonald saw no obstacle for the Society to Register a tartan, and there would be no restrictions regarding wearing of that tartan! The thread count would be sufficient to start the process and soon the Dunlop tartan would be on its way!

Well, Richard will be laughing as he reads this, because he had to write and wait and change and write again at least ten times to the weaver, Mr. Dalgliesh, of DC Dalgliesh Ltd. Selkirk, Scotland. They discussed the shade of Blue, which eventually had to be created as a “Dunlop Blue”. He also conferred with Peter Eslea MacDonald, F.S.A. Scot of the STS regarding design and Thread count, which after many changes and some errors (which ended up better than the original and then were adopted!) were finalized in March 1982!

After many frantic letters and samples, the finalized version arrived in time for the July 1982 Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, where the Dunlop tartan was announced to over 30,000 people who viewed it for the first time ever, as a kilt and a banner.  It was a fitting time for the tartan’s debut, since 1982 was the 200th anniversary of the lifting of the ban on highland dress, under pain of death!

By November 1984, after again many changes and letters to the STS and the weavers, the Hunting and Dress tartans were approved and delivered.  Ten years and seven months later, Richard’s question of where he could find the Dunlop tartans was finally answered.

I have had the opportunity to read all of these correspondences that Richard has saved for posterity. To describe all of the details involved regarding thread counts, line and sett changes, colors, designs, and the two burstingly full notebooks of letters would fill ten newsletters! It is directly because of his incredible perseverance, patience and determination (with input and support from Elsie) that we have the beautiful ‘Black’n’Blue’ and the other tartans that we wear today.

 Thank you, Richard, from all of us!




" Dunlops/Dunlaps wearing the 'Black 'n Blue' Modern "