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Gordon tartan history

As many customers do ask, here's a little "potted history" and some background information on the Gordon tartan, with apologies to all the 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.  It is believed the original Gordons came from Normandy and after the Norman invasion of England in 1066, branches of the family moved steadily Northwards, establishing themselves around Kelso in the Scottish borders and in Strathclyde before eventually heading North to Aberdeenshire


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.  The Gordon clan is one of the most widely dispersed of all Scottish clans, simply because the original families were unlucky enough to live in one particular part of the highlands at the worst possible time


Nevertheless, other branches remained active - 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 British army 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 (the British heavy cavalry), it is said that the advancing Gordon Highlanders hung on to the stirrups of the galloping Greys, to carry themselves forward into the thick of battle with even greater urgency.  This painting shows Sergeant (later commissioned as Ensign) Ewart of the Scots Greys capturing the Eagle of the French 45e Regiment


Both the Scots Greys and Gordon Highlanders record the famous 'stirrup charge' in their regimental histories and, despite there being no other eye-witness accounts, the escapade captured public imagination back in Britain and has become immortalised as part of Gordon Highlander lore


The Gordons raised 21 battalions during World War I but lost over 1,000 officers and 28,000 men.  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 Modern 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


A Dress variant of the Gordon Tartan is also popular for wearing at weddings and other special occasions.  The Dress Gordon Tartan (pictured below) is basically the same as the Gordon Tartan shown here, with additional white overchecks. The Dress Gordon tartan is not 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 should over-hear you, you're liable to wake up in hospital with a vague memory of someone shouting 'there's no yellow in the Gordon!' - just before the lights went out


The overcheck in the Gordon tartan is always referred to as gold


The Gordon tartan ribbon we stock is the Gordon Modern - the famous military variant - and is similar to several other Scottish tartans including MacArthur, Farquharson, MacLaren, Strachan, MacAlpine, MacNeill, MacEwan, MacIntosh Hunting, MacLeod of Harris, Mowat, MacNeil of Barra and dozens more  - although some of these have an additional red overcheck etc.  None of these tartans are produced in ribbon so the Gordon tartan ribbon is an excellent alternative


See our full range of Gordon tartan ribbon

See our full range of tartan / plaid ribbon