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Pratt Family History

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Origin of the name :   PRATT

The Pratt name originated from the Clan Grant of Scotland, and is argued evolved from the an Iceland Nordic family name of Grandr who migrated to Scotland in the 11th century.


The information on the page was collated from the following sites and we are grateful for the research undertaken from these webmasters:

http://www.clangrant.org/frameset.htm
http://www.ndirect.co.uk/~steve-grant/history.htm
http://www.parsonage.net/ClanGrant/default.htm


Clan Grant Septs

A 'Sept' is much like a subdivision of a Clan. Septs came into being for many reasons. A Clan is analogous to a large, extended family, and one only has to appreciate the ups and downs of family life to realise how Septs were formed.
It could be because of divisions, sometimes violent, and at the other end of the scale it could have been a restless son wishing to settle elsewhere with the full blessing and support of the Clan and its Chief.

Septs are often - but by no means exclusively - identified by the prefix 'Mac', meaning 'son of'. Thus MacKerran is the Sept formed by the son of Kerran, himself a Grant. In some cases, Septs rose to positions of power and dominance whilst the original Clan faded to nothing, and there are many proud Clans in Scotland whose original Clan name is lost forever. Equally, a Sept might be called simply after its founder, as in the case of the Allan Sept, founded in the fourteenth century by Allan Grant. To further complicate things, Allan's son followed in his father's footsteps and went on to found the MacAllan Sept - yet it should be remembered that both Allen and his son were Grants.

Our people come from two great glens of the Highlands, Strathspey and Glenurquhart. The first recorded Clan Chief was Sir Lawrence le Grant in the year 1263. The Present Clan Chief Lord Strathspey, is his direct descendant.

Through the years, whilst much of this history is lost to us, the following names are accepted fully as Septs of Clan Grant and are considered full clansmen, spelling is not critical.

Allan  Allen Bisset(t) Bowie Buie Cairns
Gilroy M(a)cAllan M(a)cIlroy M(a)cgilroy M(a)cKerron M(a)cKiaran
M(a)cKessock MacSwain Pratt Suttie

 

The Viking leader Earl Haakon of Trondelag, Lord High Protector of Norway, referred by some even today as King Haakon II, earned the name Haakon the Great after his legendary exploits and military strategy. He ruled Norway between 970 and 995, and it is claimed he acquired the motto 'Stand Fast' after having defended himself in an ambush - tradition has it he was armed with a tree.

His son, Hemming, was converted to Christianity and with his wife Tora, was exiled from Norway and settled in Dub Linh, the Viking settlement we know today as Dublin. Hemming and Tora had six children, two daughters and four sons. The daughters, Gurrie and Astred, married and returned to Norway, where they built two churches 'within a fathom of each other' at Grandtsogn (Grant's Parish) near Christiana, now Oslo. The four sons went to Scotland in the early part of the eleventh century, and Allan, alias Andlaw, was the progenitor of the Clan. His descendant Allan became Sheriff of Inverness, but there is then a gap in known history until the first Grant mentioned in official Scottish records - Gregor, who became Sheriff of Inverness in 1214. He had two sons, Lawrence and Robert.

THE CLAN BADGE
Mountains inflamed, proper. Today, Clan badges are something of which all Clansmen are proud; they remind us of our heritage and are a source of real pride.
Their history has become muddled, rewritten and no doubt in some cases re-designed.
Graphic symbols are common to all cultures for many reasons, and one of the most pressing and persuasive is death. Just imagine how important it would be to a Clansman to know that in the event of his death, he would at least be properly identified? Whether death by natural causes, by violence or by accident, the thought of being left to rot unknown, with no word of any kind being passed to your family, would have been terrible to contemplate. There is no better way than with a sign; a mark or a symbol that would place you with a certain family in a certain region.

The Clan Badge is a clear depiction of mountains on fire - a striking image that is as bizarre as it is distinctive. The message they give could not be less ambiguous - the people who came from the land where mountains burned. How else could mountains burn? One has to balance the probability of the Rock of Alarm and the Druid ritual with that of a Clan originating from a land where the mountains literally spewed flames. Considering that we know for certain that there was a massive eruption in Iceland in the 10th century which would have meant hasty evacuation on the largest possible scale, a badge that says 'the people from the land where the mountains burned' is entirely consistent with all geographical and geological considerations.

Eldfjell (fire-mountain), Iceland, 1973

This eruption in 1973 put Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland's most important fishing port, at risk and did enormous damage to surrounding farmland. The inhabitants of the entire island of Heimay were evacuated.

However, in 935, Eldgja (fire-hill) began an eruption that lasted for somewhere between three and eight years.
Vulcanologists estimate that this eruption produced 19.6 cubic kilometres of lava, making it easily the largest 'basaltic flood' (that's lava flow to you and me) in 'modern' times. The fissure was about 30 kilometres long, and the volcano ejected an estimated 219 million tonnes of Sulphur dioxide into the air, which would have produced approximately 450 million tonnes of sulphuric aerosol, or 'acid rain'. By way of comparison, the famous Mt. St. Helens eruption of 1980 produced 1 million tonnes of acid rain.
This massive natural catastrophe happened during the height of the Viking age, and would have meant that survivors would have had no choice but to leave Iceland en masse. No living thing could survive in the area for very long.


The arrival by Norsemen and their families fleeing the mountains on fire in Iceland could only make logical sense if it made geographical sense.

This map shows Iceland in relation to Scotland, together with the prevailing winds and the route the Norse would have had to take to arrive in Grant country.
It also shows another area of Viking settlement - Normandy in France. One can see that the refugees may well have struck out for their homeland, and been driven south and west to the eastern Highland coast. A variation of only ten degrees would have achieved this.

This map to the right shows Scotland in more detail.
The Norse pattern of settlement and invasion throughout Europe demonstrates that they were canny mariners - they would always seek sheltered waters for their beach-head. Coming from the North, the only real options are the Firth of Dornoch, possibly the Firth of Cromarty and finally, the much larger Firth of Moray.
The previous two Firths are of a size that could easily be missed by night, and they are also more difficult to approach in poor weather. Above and beyond all this, these regions belonged to Clan Murray and Clan Fraser, and one can hardly imagine the ancestors of these proud Clans welcoming boatloads of refugees. This particular consignment of Norsemen would have been tired, hungry farmers and their families, not a raiding party looking for trouble. One can easily imagine how any sign of inhabitation would have kept them going.
The map also shows the 'Highland Line' - the imaginary line that separates the Highlands from the Lowlands. In the 10th century, the geographical barrier this represents would have been crucial. Remember that coming from the south, Grant country is on the other side of the Cairngorms and the Monadhlaiths!

 

This is a map showing the region around the Moray Firth, together with the high ground, coded in green.
From a notional landing place on the Firth of Moray, the suggested routes that may have been taken to settle in both areas of Grant country. One can see how exploration of Loch Ness would take them inland to Glenmoriston.

 

map.jpg - 125.6 K
Detail Of Map Inset
Stand Fast, Craigellachie, is the Slogan of the Clan; this was used to rally the Grants to arms from a burning beacon at the summit of Craig Elachie (The Rock of Alarm) high above Strathspey. They would assemble for battle in distinctive red and green tartan - the first clan to adopt it's own tartan. Later, the green and black hunting tartan of the Grants became famous as the "Black Watch" tartan, used by the regiment that had many Grants among its original men.

The Strathspey seat of the Clan was Castle Grant near Grantown On Spey. The Grants of Glen Urquhart and Glen Moriston are associated with the awesome Castle Urquhart which overlooks Loch Ness at the very spot where the Monster is often claimed to have been sighted.

The history of Clan Grant is a reflection of the history of the Scottish Highlands itself. From Norse/Scottish origins, it is a history of feuding and bloody murder, of loyalty and treachery, of politics and of people. The Clans of Grant fought with Wallace. They fought both for the Jacobites and for the Hanoverians. They fought at Culloden. The Grants of Glenmoriston were persecuted whilst the Grants of Fruechie prospered. They were one of the Clans from whom the original companies of the Black Watch were drawn. They built and destroyed castles. They founded a town and rejuvenated a region. They spread throughout the world, leaving the name indelible on the pages of history. Clan Grant is a truly great and ancient Clan, and here, briefly, is our story...

THE FOUNDING FAMILIES
Sir Lawrence, together with his brother Robert, were signatories to an agreement dated in September 1258 between the Bishop of Moray and John Bisset of Lovat. The late thirteenth century was therefore an enormously important time, as Grants expanded their lands and influence throughout the region and formed alliances with powerful and wealthy families.
Under Sir Ian, the son of Lawrence, the Grants supported William Wallace and were eventually to pay dearly. Many were taken prisoner at the Battle of Dunbar in 1296, and their fate remains unknown to this day. The hated King Edward forced the submission of many Scottish Barons, whose names were written on four large rolls of parchment - the infamous 'Ragman Rolls'. Rudolph de Grant was dismissed, but his brother John was carried to London, and only released when he undertook to serve King Edward in France, with John Comyn acting as guarantor.

Thus when Robert the Bruce became King in 1306, the Grants numbered amongst his supporters and flourished in Strathspey - referred to even then as 'the Country of the Grants'. They were soon to acquire the power and position of Highland Chiefs, founding in turn the septs of Allan, through Sir Allan Grant of Auchernick, and Thomas, through his brother.
From then on, the story of the Grants is one of expansion, and they soon became one of the most powerful and influential Scottish families, founding estates as far apart as Perthshire and Banffshire, and many proud families and Clans whose roots are traceable directly to the Grants.

The Clan stories of the early days probably owe as much to fiction and folklore as fact - but nevertheless there are common and consistent threads that appear too often to be easily dismissed. One of these is the close ties the Grants have with the MacGregors. According to the Cromdal Text, Alland's brother Gregor was the progenitor of Clan MacGregor which would indicate that both Clans began at the same time.
However, both the Grants and the MacGregors claim a link with the Sol Alpin, and this is also entirely possible because there is no doubt that the Clans originated from Scots, Pictish and Norse origins.
The ties between the two Clans are strong. There is one story, for example, that Castle Grant itself was wrested from the all-powerful Comyns by the Grants and MacGregors acting together, in reprisal for attacks made by the Comyns on the Grants. The skull of the Comyn Chief is held at Castle Grant to this day.

In 1422 Sir Duncan Grant changed the name to Freuchie, and in 1488, the Clan Chief supported James III against his rebellious nobles. By this time, the Grants were a real power above the Highland line, and were ferocious defenders of their lands. It was this ferocity that led to one of the blackest chapters in the Clan's history, when Earl Huntly, the Chief of the Gordons, was forced to remove himself and his clan due to the growing power of the protestants. He erected a castle at Badenoch - far too close to Grant country for their liking. Trouble started when Clan Chattan, vassals of Huntly, refused to furnish materials for the new castle - no doubt stirred into this defiant action by a crafty Grant or two. At the same time, John Grant, 'the Tutor', was refusing payments to a widow who was also a Gordon. In the ensuing argument, a Gordon was killed, John was outlawed and Ballindalloch was besieged and captured by Earl Huntly. One thing led to another, and the Earls of Athol and Moray were dragged into the argument. Huntly was determined to capture John, and when Huntly and his men turned up at Forres, where John was hiding, they were forced to flee to the Earl of Moray's castle at Darnaway. Yet another Gordon was slain, and Huntly's vengeance seemed to know no bounds. The result was that the Bonnie Earl of Moray was slaughtered on a beach, and Huntly sent a force against the Grants in Strathspey, where they killed eighteen Grants and destroyed the lands of Ballindalloch.
After all this, when John Grant of Gartenberg had the opportunity to join the Earl of Argyll against Huntly at the battle of Glenlivet, he struck a treacherous deal with Huntly and retreated with his men as soon as the action started, thereby ensuring Huntly's victory.

When the Civil War began, the Grants, led by James, the sixteenth Chief, rallied to the Royalist cause and raised Charles' standard in the Highlands. So from treachery to a valiant cause - back to yet another dark chapter in the Clan's history - the slaughter of the Farquharsons. The Farquharsons killed a Gordon on Deeside, and Huntly raised his clan, and sought the support of the Laird of Grant. They slaughtered the Farquharsons, almost wiping the Clan from the face of the earth altogether. Some time later, so the story goes, the Laird was dining with Huntly, who offered to show his guest a rare spectacle. They went to a balcony, and saw a mob of starving children fighting over scraps of food in the yard below.
They were the children of the Farquharsons, captured in the previous year. The Laird could not bear this sight, and persuaded Huntly to place them in his care. Thus the children were taken to Speyside and raised amongst the Grants. To this day, the Farquharsons are known unkindly as 'The Children of the Trough'.

The Grants of Freuchie later supported William of Orange and fought against the Jacobites at the Haughs of Cromdale, joining Colonel Livingstone with a force of 600 men - fighting against the Grants of Glenmoriston who supported the Jacobite cause and who had fought at Killiecrankie. In 1745 there were 800 Freuchie Clansmen-at-arms on the side of the Government, although they did not, or would not, fight against 'Bonnie' Prince Charles. The Grants of Glenmoriston, on the other hand, were active in their support of Charles, and raised the Clan to fight at Prestonpans, where they are credited with winning the day due to their welcome reinforcement.

Then came Culloden, and the Jacobite cause was lost.
The Grants of Glenmoriston suffered heavily, pursued as fugitives and outlaws. The Laird of Grant (Fruechie) persuaded seventy Glenmoriston Grants to return to Inverness and surrender their arms, on the promise of freedom. There they were captured, and sent to the colonies as slaves. Grant of Glenmoriston himself had his house burned and his lands destroyed by the Duke of Cumberland - the 'Butcher Duke'. His name was among those on the first Bill of Punishment, but was later removed and the Chief had his estates returned.
Prince Charles, defeated and hunted, was given shelter in Grant country, by the famous 'Seven Men of Glenmoriston', one of whom was 'Black' Peter Grant. Despite having seen everything they own destroyed in the cause of the Prince, and despite rewards which were beyond the dreams of avarice, the seven men of Glenmoriston remained loyal and have earned a special place of honour in Scottish history.

Ancient Clan traditions - the wearing of the tartan, the playing of the pipes and the carrying of arms, were outlawed. However, realising the partisan nature and warrior instincts of the Highlanders, it was decided to raise six companies from the non-Jacobite Clans of Grant of Freuchie, Campbell, Fraser and Munro in 1725. Pictured is a detail from a painting of the First Muster. These men were authorised to wear the kilt and to carry arms, so it was not difficult to find recruits. It was the army which was almost certainly responsible for the general acceptance of tartan as a means of identification. The early Highland Independent Companies, raised from shortly after the Restoration of 1660 onwards 'to Keep Watch upon the Braes' seem to have worn their own tartan, with no regulation.
The first Highland regiments raised at the close of the seventeenth century wore the standard uniform of the line. But, from the raising of the final six Highland Independent Companies in 1725, an effort seems to have been made to standardise the tartans worn; this was certainly the case when these same companies were regimented in 1739 into what is now the Black Watch. The basic military tartan as worn by the original regiment is still worn by the Black Watch today - the familiar Hue. green and Hack sett, whose sombre hues are said to have given the regiment its title. Frequently used by other regiments. it is also known as 'Government' or '42nd' as well as 'Black Watch'. It is worn as a clan tartan by Clan Campbell (usually today in lighter tones) and by such clans as the Grants, the Munros and the Sutherlands.
The argument has been put forward for its having originated as the Clan Campbell tartan as its use by the regiment, it is argued was due to the large number of that clan serving in its ranks. In fact the reverse is almost certainly the case: the regimental tartan was adopted by the Campbell's as theirs because so many of them were already used to wearing it when the whole idea of clan tartans became general. This would, of course, account for its use by the other clans mentioned. all of whom were involved in the Black Watch alongside the Campbell's. Many later Highland regiments also used the same sett, either in its original form or with a slight differentiation, usually in the form of the addition of coloured over-stripes. For example. a yellow stripe was added by the 92nd Regiment, red and white stripes were added by the Mackenzie Lord Nlacleod's 73rd Regiment. and the same red and white, but in a different sequence. were added by the later Loyal Clan Donnachie Volunteers. The use of these modified setts by the regiments led to their adoption as clan tartans by, respectively. the Gordons, the Mackenzies and the Robertsons, the last as a hunting tartan. Within Clan Grant this tartan is known as Hunting Grant.

Sir James Grant founded Grantown-on-Spey in 1776, which has since become a notable Scottish resort and is regarded by Clansmen the world over as the heart of Grant country.

The infamous Grant Fencibles, who mutinied against the thought of being despatched overseas (they had been raised for service only in Scotland) had four men condemned to death. They were forced to draw lots, and two were shot on July 16th, 1795.

In 1811, Sir Lewis Grant succeeded to the Earldom of Seafield, and added the name Ogilvie to his own, thus enhancing the comparatively new Earldom (founded in 1701) with the respect of the ancient name of Grant.

The seventh and eight earls undertook extensive reforestation of Strathspey, restoring its original character and literally altering the climate of the region. Meanwhile , many ordinary clansfolk emigrated, though thankfully most did not suffer under the Highland clearances. There are strong Clan links throughout the English speaking world, that have not just endured but are growing . It is not by chance that Lord Strathspey also bears the title of Baron of Nova Scotia, where there are strong links Interest in the Clan has developed since the mid 50's and enabled the establishment of a Clan Centre at the Kirk in Duthil which was given to the Clan for such use. Clan Societies have been active during this time with the founding of the US Society and the re-emergence of that in Canada. These societies have been extremely generous with their financial support for the Clan Centre The advent of the Internet has provided a means of speedy and effortless communication, encouraging Grants to contact and develop links for the future and renewing old traditions.
Certainly the Clan has entered the second millennium with confidence. A major programme surrounding the 2000 gathering was so successful that plans are now afoot to mount a similar event in 2004.

The origin of the name was first mooted by the Victorians, who did much to romanticise and lyricise the clan system. Queen Victoria was a lover of Scotland, and she directed much interest into Scotland, it's history and its peoples. I refer also to John Brown's act of selflessness at Windsor, which did much to elevate the status of the noble and independent Scot in the eyes of the nation. It was during this time of romanticism in the arts and in culture that the clans came to the fore, and there is little doubt that there was much assumption and 'filling in of blanks' which we now accept as fact. Be that as it may, we clansmen owe the Victorians a great debt, because it was they who 'rediscovered' our rich heritage, be it embellished or not.

So where does that leave us?

  1. The accepted origin of the name is founded solely on the similarity between the French 'Grand' and Grant. I know of nothing else that supports this contention.
    Yet we have Old Norse Grandr, the Gaelic Grannd and the name Grant.
  2. The arms depict mountains on fire. The only place in Northern Europe with active volcanoes is Iceland. There are none in Normandy.
  3. Grant country is accessed down the Moray Firth precisely as one would predict Norseman to travel.
  4. The Scotland of 1214 was full of Norse ascendants, and the evidence is there today in place names, family names, burial mounds and much more besides.
    Balbeg. Essich. Eskadale. Gorthleck. Killin. Ord. Ardnagrask. Strone. Lenie. Ordhar. Ruthven. Tornagrain, Torness just a few of the Norse names from Grant country.

Look at the sequence of events:

Not until 1072 is there any substantial French influence in Northern Britain, when William invaded southern Scotland and defeated the foolish Malcolm, who later fought back (1093). In 1138, the Scots invaded England under David I. Throughout this period, the Nordic influence above the highland line remains completely dominant. Nowhere is there any evidence of any French settlement whatsoever. Indeed, it is not until the treaty of Perth in 1266 that the Norwegians cede the Western Isles - some 52 years after the name Grant first appears in official records in reference to Grigor.

The Scots continued to be constant threat to England for a long time to come, and in 1295, the Auld Alliance was struck between France and Scotland. Scotland and France were united by a common 'enemy' - not by immigration and settlement. The Normans never made it past the Highland line during this period, and certainly not as far as Strathspey - never mind the northern banks of Ness.
So what of this long-held view that the Grants were originally Norman?
It cannot possibly be correct. If it were, we'd have to re-write Scottish history.
Clan Grant fought with Wallace.
Moray was Wallace's greatest friend, and it is as likely that he was a Grant as a Murray. Grant country is right on the Moray Firth, and Murray country is well to the north. Whether he was in fact a Grant or a Murray we shall never know, but we do know that he would not have anything to do with a 'Norman' clan - (which is a contradiction in terms). If the Grants were Norman, Wallace and his followers would have put the entire clan to the Sword.

THE ROMAN EXPERIENCE
The mighty Romans found the Scots far too troublesome and the land too inhospitable, to the extent that they drew a line on their empire and built Hadrian's wall.
This is a point worth consideration.
If the Scots had been merely protective of their lands, what would be the point of such a wall? If on the other hand, if the Scots were aggressive, the wall makes perfect strategic sense. Hadrian built it not to keep them in - but to keep them out.
Thus we have a people of such a warlike disposition, the greatest European empire in history decided that the best course of action was to protect itself from these belligerent northern tribes. Is this the history of a people who would later allow all and sundry to wander up and settle where they would?

THE 'FRENCH' CONNECTION
The connection between Grant and the French Grand relies on nothing more than a similarity in spelling. It has become widely accepted, and in the fashion of Chinese whispers, the conclusion drawn that the name must have originated in France. The series of steps to this popular belief are simple:

  1. Grant is similar in spelling to Grand.
  2. Therefore, the name Grant must have originated in France.
  3. That means the original Grants must be French.
  4. The only influx from France anywhere close to this period was from Normandy.
  5. Therefore, the Grant Clan must have originated from Normandy.
This is simplistic in the extreme, and bears no scrutiny whatsoever. Let's look at it again:
  1. Grant is similar in spelling to Grand.
    It's also similar to Gaelic Grannd and Norse Grandr, but Eyre-Todd and the Victorians were far more familiar with French than Gaelic and Old Norse, so these other similarities were probably never identified.
  2. Therefore, the name Grant must have originated in France.
    Because of one letter in name at least 1,000 years old, a Highland Clan is moved so far south they're in another country.
  3. That means the original Grants must be French.
    Using this logic, the Grants could also be from Spain, Germany or Italy.
  4. The only influx from France anywhere close to this period was from Normandy.
    Close, but only if you ignore a century or two. The Grants must have been in the highlands long before the Normans got anywhere close to Scotland. There is no evidence whatever of the Normans above the Highland Line. And what of the long-standing claim to common ancestry with MacAlpin? We can't just ignore time differences of hundreds of years!
  5. Therefore, the Grant Clan must have originated from Normandy.
    Again - only if you ignore every other historical fact and conveniently ignore the passage of time.
It simply cannot be.

WHO WERE THE NORMANS?
The final and indefatigable nail in the coffin of the French theory is that the Normans were not even French. This region of France was invaded and settled by Norsemen long, long before they invaded England. It was known as the lands of the men of the North. Nor-man. Such was their tenure, the French decided that being unable to beat'em, they'd join'em - or more accurately, ask the Vikings to join the French. Thus they gave up the ghost and in 912 made it a duchy and handed it over to the Viking leader Rollo. The entire region from the Gulf of St. Malo up to Dieppe in the north and down to a rough line to what is today Laval and Chartres was territory inhabited by, and eventually ceded to, the Vikings.

The fact is that even if one ignores the entire raft of inconsistencies with the French connection and accept the historically impossible theory that the Grants originate from Normandy - that STILL means the Grants were Norsemen.

THE POLITICS OF CONVENIENCE
There is little doubt that the French connection theory has persevered; and this is because there is a wealth of early records referring to the various Grant families and their extended links and alliances with other families, notably the Bissets. The Grants also settled in central and eastern England, where there was undoubted friendships, alliances and marriages with families of Flemish and French origin - as well as the by then indigenous Danes. Grantham is an old English town, and the River Cam (on which Cambridge stands), was previously the River Grant.

However, this expansion of the Clan happened hundreds of years after the period discussed in this site, and is not in question. Noted scholars and historians, such as Sir William Fraser and Robert M. Gunn acknowledge that the history of the clan must pre-date this period.
Sir William acknowledges that the Grants must have resided for some time in Morayshire, and Robert M. Gunn leaves his readers in no doubt whatsoever about the effects of the Norse influx in Scotland.
More tellingly, Skene was scathing in his criticism of the 'foreign family theory'. He noted that many clans claimed origination from continental families, and that close investigation revealed consistently that the claims arose more often for social and political reasons than from historical fact. One must remember that the long alliance between France and Scotland against the English was valuable to both nations, and one can only guess at what tales were hatched to reinforce this alliance. What better way to ensure continuity than to lay claim to a common ancestry?

Some Thoughts On The Grant Tartan

The Laird of Grant specified in the well-known edicts of 1704 - 5 that his men were to be all dressed in red and green "broad springed." As "Hank" Grant pointed out in his fine monograph on the Grant tartars, there was no sett specified. However, "Hank" went on to point out that if Grant expected them to be ready in forty-eight hours, they must have had the clothing on hand. The present "Red Grant" tartan was set at least as early as 1819. In the 1819 Key Pattern Book of Wilson's of Bannockburn, a well-known tartan weaving firm of that era, the following handwritten entry appears alongside the pattern known as "New Bruce". "Note: How this pattern was named Bruce cannot be found out. In 1819 Patrick Grant of Redcastle, Ross-shire, head of a great branch of the Clan Grant ordered 200 yards of this Pattern as the tartan of his own Clan."

Ever since the current Lord Strathspey asked his clansmen and women to wear the 1860's sett - and ever since I saw the Locharron Mills version of that sett -- I have been scratching my head (that's how the hair disappeared). The relative widths of the red and green are equal in the so-called "1860's" by Lochcarron -|but it wasn't always so, especially in the middle of the last century

The red "Grant" that Grant of Redcastle purchased had wider green than red stripes: Green 178, Red 156 threads, about fourteen percent larger in the green. The "Grant Kilt" sett in the same book was a "busier" pattern, but green was still larger, Green 76, Red 74 threads. This is about the same ratio as used by some mills today, a 50-50 ratio.

By mid-century, the reverse was true, red was larger, much larger. Illustrations in Keltie's Scottish Highlands: Highland Clans and Regiments (1871) and in James Grant's The Tartans of Scotland (1886), both in our personal collection, clearly show that the red had grown. Red 36 to Green 28. This represents almost thirty percent more Red area than Green.

As late as 1950, the Red still predominated, this time by as much as a third. D. C. Stewart wrote concerning the "Red Grant" in his now classic The Setts of the Scottish Tartans, "The usual design [#70] is ... Red 64, Green 48."

What does all this mean? Since tartan is in `'colour blocks" as defined in the "Red Grant" by the azure stripe, for example, the original 1819 sett has almost twice as many threads within the azure square as the red beyond it - i.e. smaller blocks of red. A striking difference at any distance. The 1860's sett is almost the reverse, with more red than green it appears to be "squarer" in design - especially since the four blue stripes in the centre are of equal width. When Shirley Grant-Smith and I stand side by side, others often ask, ``We know that Shirley's is a 'Grant' but what tartan is Phil wearing?"

So, how do your garments compare? The "Red Grant" on a targe by our fireplace is Red equals Green. Kilts by different manufacturers are often equal Red and Green Others have mare Red than Green few the reverse, more Green than Red as it was in the tartan purchased by Grant of Redcastle. In any case, the 1860's sets" of the "Red Grant" isn't the way it was in the "real 1860's." The Locharron designers clearly believe that the current version "looks better." But then, it really doesn't matter - as long as they are all red and green "broad springed."

This page was last updated August 27, 2002

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