The birth of the MacGoldblatt tartan – Professor Joe Goldblatt

In the spring of 2023, nearly five years after it opened, the Victoria and Albert Museum in Dundee will hold its first-ever tartan exhibition.

Joe Goldblatt and his wife Nancy Lynner, dressed in the new 'Clan MacGoldblatt' tartan, take part in the Tartan Day Parade in New York City in April this year
Joe Goldblatt and his wife Nancy Lynner, dressed in the new 'Clan MacGoldblatt' tartan, take part in the Tartan Day Parade in New York City in April this year

As the curators prepare for this major exhibition and celebration of our internationally recognised fabric, they have put out a call for stories about personal experiences of this iconic symbol of Scottishness.

According to the V&A, the exhibition will “celebrate the global story of a unique pattern which has connected communities worldwide, expressed tradition, revolt and diversity, and inspired playful and provocative design. It is a complex, rich, and sometimes painful history unequalled by any other cloth or pattern. Tartan is a textile which is adored and derided, inspiring great works of art and design, and representative of unity and dissent, tradition and rebellion… a global symbol of unity and revolution.”

In addition, it says that this unique cloth has also been “an inspiration for, and incorporated into, art and design cultures including architecture, product design, fashion, film, fine art, and performance” with the exhibition set to “explore the incredible impact that the textile has had on fashion and design around the world up to the present day”.

Historically, we know little about the origins of tartan. As is much of the history of our bonnie land, many of our stories are based upon legend and myths from Scottish folklore.

One thing that we do know is that, when His Majesty George IV visited Scotland in 1822 at the invitation of Sir Walter Scott, he wore Scottish tartan. His visit was the first of a monarch to our land in nearly two centuries and Scott wanted this event to be special indeed.

Perhaps this is why I chose to invest thousands of pounds in the creation of my own family tartan, the first in the human history of the Clan MacGoldblatt. I wanted our arrival in Scotland – from the USA – to be deeply woven into the warp and weft of our cultural landscape and I believed that having a tartan might just help advance this dream. However, it remained a dream until I received a special offer from a friend.

Read More

Read More
Nationwide appeal for memorabilia for Scotland's biggest ever celebration of tar...
Professor Joe Goldblatt

In 2014, I had major back surgery to straighten my crooked spine. During the early days of my recovery, I received a surprising telephone call. Deirdre Kinloch Anderson, owner of the sixth-generation Kinloch Anderson tartan design and Highland dress firm in Leith, called to enquire about my health.

She also offered to help me heal. ”We would like to design your family tartan.” I could not believe what I was hearing because Deirdre’s firm held several royal warrants and had designed tartans for many famous folk.

I replied that our family has no Scottish ancestry. Deirdre persevered and enthusiastically said: “Tartan is Scotland’s gift to the world. You will have your tartan!”

She then instructed me to start dreaming of tartan and when I felt better to come and see her. Several weeks later, we met with her and her designer and she asked me three questions. What brought me to Scotland? What did I most love about Scotland? What did I most like about my surname?

The answers to these three queries would help guide the designer to create the world’s first MacGoldblatt tartan! One month later, we returned to Kinloch Anderson and we were presented with multiple designs, all incorporating colours from my earlier answers.

There would be blue for the main colour of Queen Margaret University, purple for the Scottish thistle from Robert Burns’ home in Ayrshire and, of course, gold for Goldblatt.

I then shared the designs with my sons and asked for their views. They could not make up their minds regarding their favourite design so I turned to their wives and, in short order, the final design was selected.

We returned to Kinloch Anderson for our final appointment to order the products that would be made from my new tartan. I ordered three kilts for me and my sons, two waistcoats for me and my wife, a shawl, and six neck ties.

Deirdre quickly calculated that this would require 15 metres of tartan to be woven. Then she turned to my wife and cheekily asked: “Do you think one day you might have grandchildren?” My wife replied hopefully: “Aye!”

Deirdre then sharpened her pencil and said: “Then we had best increase this order to 25 metres to guarantee there is sufficient Goldblatt tartan for future generations!” My usually frugal wife quickly agreed to the suggestion.

And that is the story of the birth of the first MacGoldblatt tartan that we proudly wear as frequently as possible. Thanks to Kinloch Anderson, our tartan has helped weave our lives into the historic and diverse fabric of our bonnie land and her colourful people. We are proud to now be, by strong affinity, engaged members of the Scottish people.

As clan chief of the MacGoldblatt clan, as is the custom, I regularly grant others the privilege of wearing our tartan as I wish to share our love for Scotland with as many people as possible.

And I very much look forward to visiting the V&A exhibition that opens on April 1, 2023. Although this date is also traditionally known as April Fool’s Day, I guarantee you, no fooling, I shall be first in the queue to visit and shall seek to find out if any other tartan comes close to the magic, mystery and pride of the one created for the not-so-royal-nor-ancient Clan MacGoldblatt.

Joe Goldblatt is professor emeritus of planned events at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh. To learn more about his other views visit www.joegoldblatt.scot

To learn more about the V&A’s tartan exhibition, visit its website. The Goldblatt tartan has now been officially registered.

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.