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Just to add a historical costume debate to the continuing political ones,
here is a little something to gnaw on. I present to you a series of
quotes for your scrutiny. The first comes from John Telfer Dunbar, in
_History of Highland Dress_, pub. 1962;
(on the feile-beg, or little kilt) "The kilt worn today would seem to
have originated early in teh eighteenth century, and the evidence of that
century indicates that it emerged about 1725. Many attempts have been
made to produce proof of the little kilt (Gaelic, feilidh beag) before
that date but nothing so far published can substantiate such claims.
Some of the most popular "evidence" has been examined and refuted in
Major McClintock's _Old Irish and Highland Dress_ [which I have not seen-
"A most important letter, dated 1768, was published in the
_Edinburgh Magazine_ for March 1785. It was written by a man of good
position and education living in teh Highlands with first-hand
information on his subject: [he then reprints the letter, which I will
not do here, unless requested. The letter states that in 1718 or
thereabouts an Englishman named Thomas Rawlinson became attracted to
Highland dress and modified it to make it less cumbersome by removing the
upper part, saving only the lower kilt to be belted in place]
"Sir John Sinclair, whose enthusiasm for research on Highland
dress was renowned wrote in 1830: "...it is well known that the phillibeg
was invented by an Englishman in Lochaber about sixty years ago.""
I had always taken this to be the story, and never questioned it.
Recently, while I was doing further research on pre-1600 Irish and
Highland dress, trying to tell when the two stopped bing similar, and
when the great kilt arose, I found these other quotes:
James Logan, in _The Clans of the Scottish Highlands_, pub. 1845;
"This part of the dress [the little kilt] has been called a late
improvement, and introduced by an Englishman! We are prepared to
maintain it's antiquity.
And Charles MacKinnon, in _Scottish Highlanders_, pub. 1984;
"The coat of arms of Skene of Skene is of special interest to
Highlanders, because in the original matriculation of arms in 1672 the
right-hand 'supporter' of the sheild is a Highlander wearing a kilt
without a plaid-- i.e. the little kilt of today, as opposed to teh great
belted plaid which was its forerunner. This makes nonsense of the claims
that the little kilt was the invention of an Englishman more than fifty
years later, since teh Lyon painter could not very well have depicted
something that did not exist."
Ok, I'm not going to take sides here. Both cases are presented for
discussion. I am interested in your learned comments. My own personal
little quest is to find reference to a great kilt before the mid-16th
century (no luck so far), but I will take my Gaelic garb controversy
where I can find it. Has there been more recent finds than these?
Anyone have an opinion crediting or discrediting one of these Scholars?
I have heard rumours that the kilt was actually an Irish invention,
although in all my research I have seen no mention of that in print
(quite the obvious-- the Scotch and Irish Gaels were alike in dress
untill the 16th century when the Scots took up the great kilt). Ok,
guys. Run with this info. Lets see what we can come up with.
P.S.-- on teh subject of Gaelic garb, does anyone have the mundane name
of Lord Cormac macCliuin O'Domnaill, author of _Beyond the Pale; a survey
of Gaelic garb, 1500-1650_?
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