The Black Watch Tartans

The use of a three colour check, with black separating green and blue, is unlikely to have been an existing design in 1739 when it was proposed. It has since been associated with Campbell because of their role in leading the Black Watch and other Government forces.

Being a subdued tartan, with benefits for camouflage rather than display, it perhaps influenced the later creation of Hunting Tartans in the late 1800s.

This tartan was differenced by the Duke of Gordon by adding a yellow over check, to create the Gordon (1793) and by the early 1800s, the Duke of Argyll and other Campbell houses had adapted a number of variations like Campbell which is a lightened Black Watch.

During the 19th Century, the "tartans for every name" movement, begun by Sir Walter Scott, and the adoption of tartans throughout the Scottish regiments, led to a vast range of variations of the Black Watch, but usually in lighter shades of blue and green.

Variations of the Black Watch

The full Black Watch tartan gives the impression of a shorter pattern than it is, because the under check is Blue - Black - Green. However the real under check is Blue - Black - Green - Black - Blue and this allows the opposite blues to carry a different over check.

The first blue can carry a single tramline in its centre, whilst the last blue can have the distinctive double tramline leaving the centre clear, and this is the most significant feature of the full pattern. The eye can be confused by the combinations, off the main diagonal, of single and double tramlines crossing and the pattern therefore appears very complex yet having coherent elements.

When this Government pattern was adapted, the blues and greens were usually lightened as in the Campbell and the pattern reduced in size to the more expected Blue - Black - Green under check.

However, a number of tartans use the full pattern. They usually start by "Decorating the Green" under check.

Continued: Decorators of the Green