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Cornish kilts and tartans

File:Cornish National Tartan.png
Cornwall's national tartan

Cornish kilts and tartans are thought to be a modern tradition started in the early to mid 20th century. The first modern kilt was plain black, and other patterns followed. It is documented that a garment known as a bracca (a reddish checkered tunic) was worn by Celtic races that inhabited the British Isles, the term indicating its appearance.[1] The Welsh word brech means 'checkered' (compare the cognate Scottish Gaelic breac, 'variegated, freckled'), and the word bracca is derived from the Welsh or Cornish word brythen which in English translates as 'striped' or 'checkered'."[2]

Cornish historian L.C.R. Duncombe-Jewell was the first to prove that plain kilts were in use in Cornwall. He discovered that carvings of minstels dressed in kilts and playing bagpipes on bench ends at Altarnun church dated from circa 1510.[3][4] Some,[who?] however, contend that these images are more likely to be medieval belted tunics that were common throughout Europe. The earliest historical reference to the Cornish kilt is from 1903, when the Cornish delegate to the Celtic Congress, convening at Caernarvon, L. Duncombe-Jewell, appeared in a woad blue kilt. John T. Koch in his work Celtic Culture: a Historical Encyclopedia mentions a black kilt worn by the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry in combat; however, no historical reference is provided to support this claim.

National tartans

First created in 1963, the Cornish National tartan was designed by the poet E.E. Morton Nance, nephew of Robert Morton Nance. Each colour of tartan has a special significance or meaning. The White Cross on a black background is from the banner of Saint Piran, the Patron Saint of tinners, which is also used as the flag of Cornwall;[5] Black and gold were the colours of the ancient Cornish kings; red for legs and beak of the national bird, the chough, and blue for the blue of the sea surrounding Cornwall.[6] A prototype of the Cornish national tartan was first worn by Morton-Nance in the 1963 Celtic Congress held at Carbis Bay attached to a Clan Douglas kilt that he was wearing for the occasion. The Cornish Hunting Tartan was registered in the 1980s.[7]

The following Cornish tartans have been registered or have been previously registered. Some of theses are Cornish family tartans which are worn at family get togethers and weddings.

  • Cornish National Tartan (registry #1567)
  • Cornish Hunting Tartan (registry #1568)
  • Saint Piran Cornish Flag Tartan (registry #1618)
  • Saint Piran Cornish Dress Tartan (registry #1685)
  • Cornish National Day Tartan (registry #1262)
  • Christopher family Tartan (registry #2809)
  • Rosevear Tartan (registry #2541)
  • Curnow of Kernow Tartan (registry #4084).[8]
  • Pengelly, The Cornish (STWR ref: 3145)[9]


  1. ^ Logan James (reprint 1976). The Scottish Gael Or Celtic Manners. John Donald Publishers Ltd. pp. 249–250. ISBN 0-85976-021-9.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^
  3. ^ Tanner Marcus (2006). The Last of the Celts. Yale University Press. p. 241. ISBN 0-300-11535-0. 
  4. ^ Altarnun church
  5. ^ The National Archives of Scotland (16 April 2010). "The Scottish register of Tartans – Tartan Details – Kernbrownek (Personal)". The National Archives of Scotland. Retrieved 10 April 2010. 
  6. ^ Cornish Tartan from the Cornwall County Council website
  7. ^
  8. ^ All tartans checked in The Scottish Tartan Authority online database "The tartan ferret"
  9. ^

External links