Tartan Ribbon

Gordon 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 . . .

Records show that Gordons were numerous across the North East of Scotland from as early as the late 12th century. The original Gordon name seems to be derived from the lands of Gordon in Berwickshire, possibly from the ancient British "gor din" meaning hill fort. In 1320, Sir Adam Gordon (Scottish ambassador) petitioned the pope to remove the excommunication placed on King Robert the Bruce. For his services, Bruce granted Adam Gordon extensive lands belonging the MacDuffs and Strathbogie, which the Gordons renamed "Huntly".

The most distinguished branch of the Gordons were the family of Haddo... James 3rd of Haddo was a loyal supporter of Mary Queen of Scots and James 5th of Haddo was created a Baronet by King Charles I, as a reward for his conduct at the battle of Turriff in 1642. A year later he was captured and held prisoner in a recess of St Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh... this recess is known as "Haddo's Hole" to this day. He was the first royalist to be executed under a judicial sentence and the family estates were sequestered until after the Restoration of Kings Charles II in 1660. The 3rd Baronet of Haddo became the Lord High Chancellor of Scotland and the 1st Earl of Aberdeen.

The Gordons fought on both sides of the 1715 and 1745 Jacobite rebellions... the 2nd Duke of Gordon followed the Jacobites and fought at the battle of Sheriffmuir. In 1745 the 3rd Duke remained loyal to the British crown while his brother formed a regiment to fight for Prince Charlie. It was a troubled time. The branches of the clan who fought against the crown during the 1745 uprising and survived suffered the fate of many highland families and became victims of the Highland Clearances, finding their way to Canada, the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

Nevertheless, other branches remained actrive - especially those of Huntly, who were powerful landowners and influencial in Scottish and British political life, extending their influence throughout the Empire. George (4th Earl of Aberdeen) became British prime minister in 1852 and found himself drawn into the war in crimea. The 7th Earl of Aberdeen served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and Governer General of Canada.

The two regiments known as the "Gordon Highlanders" were raised by the clan; the 81st Regt of Foot was raised in 1777 (disbanded in 1783) and the 92nd of Foot (Gordon Highlanders) raised in 1794. The 92nd was joined with the 75th (Stirlingshire) Regment of Foot to form the Gordon Highlanders.

The two regiments known as the "Gordon Highlanders" were raised by the clan; the 81st Regt of Foot was raised in 1777 (disbanded in 1783) and the 92nd of Foot (Gordon Highlanders) raised in 1794. The 92nd was joined with the 75th (Stirlingshire) Regment of Foot to form the Gordon Highlanders.

The regiment saw much action in India, South Africa, Egypt, Afghanistan, the Peninsular War and as part of the thin red line at Waterloo. It was at the Battle of Waterloo that a legend was born . . .  during the famous charge of the Royal Scots Greys, it is said that the advancing Gordons hung on to the stirrups of the galloping Greys, to carry themselves forward into the thick of battle with even greater urgency. How much truth there is in this story is anyone's guess but it captured public imagination back in Britain and has become part of Gordon Highlander lore.

The Gordons raised 21 battalions during World War I but lost over 1,000 officers and 28,000 men during. The regiment won 65 battle honours in the Great War and added a further 27 honours in World War II, serving in France, Malaya, North Africa, Sicily and Italy. After World War II the Gordon Highlanders saw active service in the Malayan emergency and in Northern Ireland.

The Gordon Tartan is as worn by the Gordon Highlanders, the regiment raised in 1881. The regiment was amalgamated with the Queen's Own Highlanders (Seaforths and Camerons) in 1994 to form the British army's only remaining highland regiment: The Highlanders (4th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland). The passing of such a famous regiment is sad, as with its passing goes much living history.

The Gordon Tartan shown here is the regimental (military) tartan. This is based, like most Scottish regimental tartans, on the Government Tartan (Black Watch) with an added gold stripe (overcheck)... the different coloured overchecks over the Government Tartan undercheck denote various regiments e.g. a white overcheck for the the Douglas tartan of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) etc.

A Dress variant of the Gordon Tartan is also popular for wearing at weddings and other special occasions. The Dress Gordon Tartan is basically the same as the Gordon Tartan shown here, with additional white overchecks. The Dress Gordon tartan is no longer produced in ribbon.  

The Gordon tartan remains one of Scotland's most popular tartans with its smart, military appearance of gold on dark blues and greens, but a word of friendly advice . . . never, repeat never, refer to the Gordon tartan as containing "yellow". If an old Gordon Highlander over-hears you, you're liable to wake up in hospital, vaguely remembering a shout of "there's no yellow in the Gordon!" just before the lights went out! The overcheck is always referred to as gold.

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