How the Dunlop tartans came to be:

The Odyssey of Richard E Dunlop and Elsie Harnish.


 By Mike Dunlap


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-covener 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 Cunninghams, 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

 J. 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. Micheil 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!


The Footsteps of our Clan walk through the Scottish Tartans Society, and the Court of the Lord Lyon himself, in Edinburgh.


(Sources: Correspondence files of Richard E. Dunlop, Esq.)