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The Invention of Scotland Kindle Edition
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* ..though Bill C's one-star review proposes three English myths, and I have to say a bearskin outdoes a kilt in sheer ludicrousness. Let them fight it out!
Trousers and trews are relatively recent types of garment. Some scholars trace the origin of trousers to a female garment worn in ancient China. More often than not in the ancient world men wore loose, skirt-like garments under which they wore a loin cloth. Roman soldiers wore skirts which looked exactly like kilts, under which they wore a kind of knee breeches. Numerous engravings and paintings of ancient Egyptians show that the men in those days wore kilts or skirts. The great kilt was a garment worn by Scottish Highlanders from a long while back and it consisted of a long length of woollen cloth belted round the waist with the loose end thrown over the shoulder and it was inconvenient and cumbersome for anyone engaged in such tasks as tree felling and furnace feeding.
In 1728 Samuel Rawlinson, an English Quaker from a long line of iron-masters in Furness, came to an arrangement with Ian McDonell, the chieftain of the McDonells of Glengarry, to lease a large area of birchwood, which Rawlinson used for making charcoal to fuel a furnace for iron smelting. Realising that the kilt cum plaid worn by his highland employees was unsuitable and even hazardous for tree felling and working with furnaces, with the help of a regimental tailor from Inverness, he designed the phillibeg or small kilt as we now have it. Thrilled to bits with it, Ian McDonnell was happy to wear it. Happy to follow the example of their clan chieftain, all of Rawlinson's employees were soon wearing garments of the same design. The kilt as now worn by Scotsmen is virtually the same as this garment.
The first royal person to be portrayed wearing this type of kilt was George IV when he was Prince Regent. No Scottish king ever wore the kilt. Great Scottish Kings such as Macbeth, Robert the Bruce and James IV would have disdained being seen dressed as a wild Highlander wrapped in the great kilt and probably would not have cared much for the Rawlinson design either. Wishing to popularise Hanovarian royalty among the Highlanders, George IV had his own reasons for wearing a Rawlinson type kilt. There are certainly a number of illustrations showing men wearing small kilt type garments pre-dating the time of Rawlinson. However, considering that men all over Europe used to wear a kilt type over-dress above gartered hose, this is not surprising. I have a picture of King Canute wearing a kilt-like garment over gartered hose and Alfred the Great is always shown dressed like that. When is a kilt not a kilt? Seeing pictures of men in kilt-like garments pre-dating Rawlinson does absolutely nothing to disprove the fact that he designed and invented the kilt as now universally worn on special occasions by some Scots people. As Hugh Trevor-Roper points out, such learned Eighteenth Century Scottish authorities such as John Sinclair and John Pinkerton were happy to accept that Samuel Rawlinson invented the kilt as we now have it.
All told, Hugh Trevor-Roper has done the Scottish people a great service by exposing and disproving a plethora of nonsense believed about Scotland and its people. Over the past 2000 years and more waves of different peoples have invaded what is now Scotland and played their part in creating and defining the present day inhabitants of that country. When the Romans ruled Britain the Scots were no more than an Irish tribe living in parts of what is now the province of Ulster. The Celtic language spoken throughout Britain was a precursor of modern Welsh. And the Picts were probably not as mysterious as we now believe them to be, but simply just another tribe speaking an early form of Welsh. However, by circa 450 AD the Scots had begun to arrive from Ireland and eventually set up the Kingdom of Dalriada there. In the Scots' wake came Saint Columba bringing with him Celtic Christianity. Later on, the Angles invaded and annexed the south east corner of what is now Scotland and some centuries after them the Norwegian Vikings invaded the Northern and Western Isles, Caithness and Sutherland. Well into the Middle Ages Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles and the Isle of Man were ruled from Norway. In the Nineteenth Century there was another Irish invasion especially in and around Glasgow and for the past 200 years English people have continued to settle in Scotland in a steady stream which has ebbed and flowed and grown stronger in recent times.
The Scots can be justly proud of their contributions to the development of the modern world and there's an immense amount more to their contribution to progress than kilts, bagpipes and the modern concept of the tartan, which are all imports invented and created by people from other lands and cultures. However, golf, whiskey, haggis, porridge, telephone, television, steam power and much else besides were all invented or discovered by the Scots or Picts. We must all be grateful to Hugh Trevor Roper for killing the myths and setting the record straight. This is a great book.
Who would have thought that the kilt was effectively invented by two Englishmen in the mid 19th Century.
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