Bruce, Clan Carruthers, tartan

Clan Carruthers: The Bruce Tartan; Ancient, Modern, Hunting etc.

Bruce ancient tartan.jpg
The House of Edgar, weaver’s to Clan Carruthers, show the difference in the ‘ancient’ Bruce from their weave, to that of Lochcarron, but the registration to Bruce remains the same.

Based on our announcement that both registered Carruthers tartans would be made available through our Clan Society Shop, we have decided to concentrate our blog on the tartan we have used as a sept of Bruce. In as much as anyone can wear whichever tartan they wish, unless its a private weave, all Bruce tartans remain registered, recorded and copyrighted to them through the Scottish Tartan Register. This simply means, wear what you want, but please don’t claim it as your own. Carruthers is not Bruce, nor do we own their tartan and it would at the very least be disrespectful to suggest otherwise.

The STR is a Scottish government agency, which has combined all the previous tartan records and registers under one roof. It is charged with keeping the Sett (the pattern), threadcount (the DNA of the tartan) and colours of each Scottish tartan ever made, if its not there, it doesn’t exist, and if it doesn’t say Carruthers, it simply isn’t.

What is a tartan:

For the Registration of all new tartans._163x270.jpgThe Scottish Tartan Register describes it as:  a design which is capable of being woven consisting of two or more alternating coloured stripes which combine vertically and horizontally to form a repeated chequered pattern.’ The tartan pattern is traditionally known as the sett of the tartan’. 

Where the name of a tartan is a surname and that surname has a chief, head of the whole name or commander for that clan or family, then written approval from the chief, head or commander is required. These tartans will be put in the Clan / Family tartan category. Only titles recognised by the Court of the Lord Lyon in Scotland may be used in naming tartans.

Threadcount and colours:

iuAll woven fabrics are made up of the warp – the threads that are stretched out lengthways on the loom – and the weft the threads that are interwoven with the warp at right angles to it.  Using this thread count and adding in the colours which are given letters and described depending of the numbers of that colour as threads in any combination. Colour shades differ between weavers and there is not necessarily a correct set of colours for any tartan.

The display of the tartan as a thread count and colours, seen below, comes from the Scottish Tartan Authority, who remain a source of expertise in all things tartan and its history. They were one of the major registers of tartan prior to the formation of the Scottish Tartan Register and therefore played an integral role in its formation. The Authority site remains a go to place for all things tartan.

Bruce ancient tartan threadcount.jpg

Tartan: the added names:

Each tartan can have multiple variations and descriptions, in part at the whim of the weavers, the most common of which are Ancient, Modern, Dress, Weathered and Hunting e.g. Bruce Modern, Bruce Ancient or Bruce Old etc.

So just what does Modern or Ancient mean in tartan terms? What makes a Weathered tartan weathered and where did Hunting and Dress tartans come from? According to the Scotland Shop online:

Ancient, Weathered and Old

imageCreation-10.jpegimageCreation-11.jpegBefore 1860 fabrics were coloured using animal and vegetable dyes. This produced the softer colours typical of the Ancient, Old and Weathered tartans, mossy greens and sky blues, a more orangey red and some would say showing off the pattern to much greater effect as the contrasts are much brighter than the Modern tartans. The pattern or sett remains the same across all variations of a single tartan, and only the shades or tones vary. Two Bruce tartans fall into this catogory, both classed as old or ancient. The one to the left is from the This Vestiarium Scoticum sett was approved by Lord Bruce, Earl of Elgin in 1967 who believed he had independent evidence dating back to 1571 (a weaver’s chart with threadcount) which was subsequently lost. The original included black guards on the white and yellow (see STR #398) but in this personal variation Lord Bruce dropped them. The same sett is recorded in Clans Originaux (1880). The earliest known date recorded here is from a list compiled by D C Stewart from Wilsons of Bannockburn letters. the one on the right reflects an order dated 1797, in the Wilson’s of Bannockburn (a weaving firm founded c1770 near Stirling) papers, requests ’50 Ells’ Bruce sett tartan’. The Pattern books are in the National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh. There are copies of the Pattern books and letters in the Scottish Tartans Society archive.


imageCreation-8.jpegPost 1860 chemical dyes replaced the natural animal and vegetable dyes and the Modern Tartans were born with their stronger and bolder colours. The soft greens and blues become bottle green and navy blue, reds are scarlet. (Depending on the weavers colour pallett, tartans from the same pattern can look differently as can be seen above Ed.).


imageCreation-4.jpegThe Hunting Tartans are the camouflage tartans and some clans don’t have these variations because they are already predominantly green or brown and don’t need amendment to blend in with nature’s colours. The Black Watch or Gunn tartans are examples of these, whereas a tartan such as the Fraser is predominantly red and would not provide much cover for men out hunting.


imageCreation-12.jpegThe Dress Tartans were designed as the name suggests for celebrations and highland dance. The sett or pattern of the tartan remains the same and the main colour is changed to white, or extra white is added to the pattern to give it a brighter, more “fancy” appearance. The Scots do like to bend the rules and occasionally instead of white thread, yellow is used and this is where the rather wild MacLeod Dress Modern and Barclay Dress Modern came from. Currently Bruce has no dress tartans listed although the ‘Dance’ tartan of Bruce of Kinnaird is described as ‘Dress’.

All the tartans shown are registered under Bruce in the Scottish Register of Tartans and it is important to understand that the mills will only choose to mass produce from those recorded on the Register. 

Choosing the right tartan:

One thing to remember if you are ordering your tartan to match an existing kilt or accessory is that although the sett and colours are the same, there can be a slight difference in colour from one mill to the next e.g. Lochcarron to House of Edgar, from Kinloch Anderson to DC Dalgliesh, this is purely down to the yarn dying by the mill itself, so if you need an exact match we suggest you order a ‘swatch’ to double check. The variations may also be named differently depending on the source e.g. Weathered, Ancient and Old may well represent the same thing. With this in mind, it is not the add on description that makes the tartan, it is the threadcount and the sett, the latter of which repeats itself across the cloth.

Bruce listings in the Scottish Register of Tartans

There are 14 tartans registered under Bruce, some personal, some clan/family, one district etc. The pattern of the tartan produced reflects and is dictated by the registered threadcount and sett. However, as was stated earlier, the colours may change from weaver to weaver, mill to mill and from natural or synthetic dyes.


Here is an example of the Bruce tartan being worn by the son of the Chief of Bruce, but in this weave only natural plant and animal dyes were used, hence the more orange colour predominant in this example of the Bruce kilt. The tartan on the left is Thomson/Thompson/MacTavish Hunting tartan, the one on the right is Braveheart Warrior Tartan, all three listed and recorded in the Scottish Tartan Register.


As a Carruthers we have, since the late 1800’s early 1900’s worn the Bruce tartan. This was through our entitlement in our classification as a sept of that family. We remain proud of that link both historically and currently and remain in friendly relations with that family. Prior to supporting a petition to the Lord Lyon with regards a confirmation of a Carruthers Chief, a discussion was had with a senior member of the Bruce family, with regards our plans and why. They were quite happy for us top proceed, suggesting, the more the merrier.

As we await the announcement of a chief, we are aware that many Carruthers will still chose to wear the Bruce tartan, and that is ok, but we will progressivly no longer be listed as one of their septs. This occurs as we will listed, in any future publications relating to Scottish Clans and Families, as an official clan in our own right. We therefore wish to thank the Family and Noble House of Bruce for their support through the many years we have been listed with them, but as an ancient family and clan in our own right, Carruthers are proud to stand alone.


We therefore advise that you should enjoy wearing the tartan, appreciate its history and what it means as a visual signature if linked to a specific clan or family, and please give them the respect that is due.

As Carruthers we remain ready and faithful, and can now wear our own tartan with pride.

Clan Carruthers Society WP footnote grey Final to use

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