The Highland Dress.

The Gentleman's Magazine and Historical Review
by Sylvanus Urban, Gent.
July-December 1864
London John Henry and James Parker. 1864.

August 1864.

SIR, — The subject of the antiquity of the kilt in the Highland dress seems to be a subject worthy of elucidation in the pages of the Gentleman's Magazibe, and I therefore send you a few observations, in the hope that they may lead some of your Scotch correspondents to give us further light upon the matter.

It appears to me that the kilt, as a part of the Highland dress, has been adopted from the Romans. There is a very curious bas-relief described in the Archæologia, vol. xxi. p. 455, of the Emperor Severus and his two sons Caracalla and Geta; the Emperor Severus and his son Geta being evidently dressed in what would now be called a kilt, with the lines of the tartan shewn on it. The second instance are the figures depicted on the famous Forres stone, near the town of Forres, Scotland; on this are several representations of warriors, evidently in kilts. Antiquaries are not agreed regarding the period and the occasion of the erection of this monument; the general opinion is that it was erected in the reign of Malcolm II., to commemorate the expulsion of the Danes.

The next example that may be cited is the figure dressed in the belted from the St. Andrew's sarcophagus; it was found in the vicinity of St. Andrew's Cathedral, and is described in Wilson's "Prehistoric Annals of Scotland."
In the " Art Journal" for 1861, p. 231, fig. 2, in "Costumes of Various Epochs," is given "A Scottish Costume of the Eighth or Ninth Century," after a drawing on parchment extracted from an old book, which, according to the characters on the back, appears to have been written in Gaelic or Erse. According to the assertion of the possessor, this Caledonian document was brought to Germany in the year 1596, during the devastating Reformation in Scotland, when all cloisters and religious endowments were destroyed, so that many persons took refuge with their treasures on the Continent, where the Scottish monks possessed many religious houses, some being in Nuremburg. The figure represents a Highland chief, whose dress is picturesque and extremely beautiful. The Scottish tunic, or blouse, checkered or striped in light and dark green, with violet intermixed, and bordered with violet stripes, is covered with a steel breast-plate, accompanied by a back-piece, judging from the iron brassarts, positively a bequest of the Romans; this, indeed, is also attested by the offensive weapon the javelin; the sword, however, must be excepted, for it is basket-hilted. The strong shield may have descended from the Romans as well as the helmet, which is decorated with the eagle's wing; these, together with the hunting-horn, give the figure a very imposing appearance. We are involuntarily reminded of the heroes Fingal and Ossian, and we might almost think that the figure belonged to the time of the Scottish King Kenneth II., grandson of King Achaius.

Many good examples of Highland weapons and equipments have come down to our time. Thus, a Highland target studded with silver nails was in the Manchester Exhibition of 1859, and in the Armoury of the Castle of Edinburgh are various weapons brought from the field of Culloden, particularly steel pistols of beautiful workmanship, which had been worn by Highland gentlemen. It may also be remarked that the Highlanders sometimes wear the vest of the father's tartan and the kilt of the mother's thus forming a sort of heraldry.

I am, &c. W. H. Clarke. York.

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