Tartan Ribbon

Buchanan Tartan History


As many customers do ask, here's a little "potted history" with apologies to better historians than me for the bits I've undoubtedly got wrong . . .  

The Buchanan clan is one of the most ancient in Scotland. Their story begins with Swein the Fork Beard, a Danish king who took control of most of England and Ireland in 1013-1014. His son Canute (he of the famous story of facing the tide) was to become King of England. Swein ordered celebrations to be held in Limerick and ordered that one thousand beautiful daughters of the Irish nobility be present. Instead of 1,000 beautiful Irish maidens, the Irish nobles sent 1,000 Irish youths, disguised in women’s habits with long Irish skeans (daggers) below their cloaks. The Danes were massacred. One of these youths was Anselan Buey Okyan or Ocahan or even O'Kyan (pronounced Okane), son of the King of Ulster. In 1016, as a result of this exploit, he fled Ireland and emigrated to Argyll in Western Scotland.

A charter of 1353 exists which refers to “carucate of land called Buchquhaane”. The clan gained more lands including on Loch Lomondside and fought alongside King Robert the Bruce during Scotland's Wars of Independence.

Later, an Alexander Buchanan fought alongside the French against the English King Henry V. Help was given to the French King after his defeat at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 and it is claimed that Sir Alexander Buchanan killed the English Duke of Clarence at the Battle of Baugé in 1421. It is because of this that the Buchanan crest shows a hand and arm holding aloft a Ducal cap. Through political marriages, the Buchanans were once the closest clan to the Royal House of Scotland and when King James I was beheaded in 1425, were all but set to take over the throne.

A certain George Buchanan was a famous scholar, humanist and reformer and tutor to Mary Queen of Scots between 1536 and 1538, and to her son King James VI of Scotland, who later became James I of England in 1603 following the Union of the Crowns. Under Buchanan's advice and tutorage, James VI & I authorised the translation of the Holy Bible from Latin into English.

The clan's fortunes waned and all was eventually lost when the 22nd Laird died in 1681, leaving two daughters and huge gambling debts (he put it all on red and it came up black!). The Estates were latterly purchased by the Duke of Montrose, who built Buchanan Castle. The Buchanans fought on the side of the British Government against the Jacobites during the 1745 uprising.

Although there has been no official clan chief since the 17th century, the clan has spread far and wide across the world and one James Buchanan did achieve chieftanship of sorts, by becoming the 15th president of the USA (1857-61).

The tartan remains one of the most famously recognisable of all Scottish tartans, with its irregular weave pattern.

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