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When the 1st Battalion of the Calgary Regiment was renamed to become The Calgary Highlanders, Government Tartan was chosen; the later alliance with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of the British Army cemented this tartan into regimental dress regulations as it was also the tartan which they wore.

The Government Tartan is also popularly known as "Black Watch Tartan."  The Independent Highland Companies raised by the British Government in 1740, came to wear this tartan exclusively, and it is recognized as the first formalized tartan to be identified by a specific group.  Previously, tartan cloth was not an indicator of membership in a clan, but rather the number of colours in your tartan were generally an indication of your status - the more colours, the higher in rank you likely were within a clan. The Independent Highland Companies, moreover, recruited from across many different clans and in many different areas of the Highlands, and it was decided to have them dress uniformly.  For the first time, the number of threads of specific colours making up the pattern (or "sett") were recorded and given a name.

The Independent Companies became known as the Black Watch, giving their name to this tartan created specifically for them.  After the 1746 Rebellion, the wearing of the kilt was prohibited in the Highlands.  It was after the revival of the kilt many years afterwards that the idea of specific tartans representing specific clans or groups was born, hence it is a fairly modern concept.

The Government Tartan was adopted over the years by many regiments in the British Army, and in the colonies into which Scottish and Highland traditions followed the settlers and pioneers.  In Canada, the Government Tartan was worn by many regiments, today perpetuated by The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada, The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise's), and The Lanark and Renfrew Scottish Regiment.  During the Second World War, the Prince Edward Island Highlanders, Scots Fusiliers of Canada, and the Cape Breton Highlanders had also worn the Government Tartan.

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The kilt-making firm of William Anderson & Sons, Ltd., in Edinburgh has provided the Regiment with direction on the "correct" tartan materials used in the manufacture of Regimental kilts.  At left, the correct pattern of Government Tartan as worn by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (and allied units, including The Calgary Highlanders), at right, the Government Tartan as worn by The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) and allied units.   Slight differences in hue may be seen in the material; they are much more noticeable in Officers' quality kilts.

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The primary difference in the kilts worn by the two regiments and their affiliates is the arrangement of the pleats; according to Regimental tradition, the Black Watch have always worn knife-pleats while the Argylls have worn box pleats.


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Tartans - Pipes and Drums

When the Calgary Regiment was formed in 1921 during the postwar reorganization of the Canadian Militia, a pipe band was also formed.  They adopted the Gordon Tartan as worn by the Gordon Highlanders.   Many musicians in this band had belonged to The Calgary Scottish, a civilian pipe band formed in 1913 about which little is known.  Photographic evidence suggests many members of this band joined the CEF, and in the 1920s some of these men served in the Calgary new pipe band of the Calgary Regiment.  Very likely the Gordon kilts were used as an economy measure until new uniforms could be purchased.

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This occurred in 1923, when Honorary Colonel R.B. Bennett provided new uniforms, as a result of his observations of Scottish Highland units during the Great War.  Royal Stewart was adopted for the entire pipes and drums. Kilts and plaids were in the new tartan, as well as bag covers and pipe ribbons.

In 1929, the Government tartan was introduced for the drummers, reflecting the alliance with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of the British Army.

When the First Battalion of the Regiment arrived in England in 1940 complete with Pipes and Drums, the Regiment was very quickly informed that Royal Stewart Tartan was the domain only of those regiments designated "Royal."  The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of the British Army supplied plaids and kilts of Government Tartan to the Calgary Highlanders' pipers, who continued to wear Royal Stewart bag covers.  It appears also that pipe ribbons in both Royal Stewart (on the upper side of the drones) and Government tartan (on the reverse) were worn. 

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In Canada, the 2nd Battalion continued to wear Royal Stewart tartan kilts.

After the conclusion of hostilities, and the return to life as a single battalion Militia Regiment, the Regimental Pipes and Drums once again went back into Royal Stewart Tartan for pipers and Government Tartan for drummers, with the pipers finally changing over to Government Tartan also - permanently - in 1947.

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Tartan ribbons on bagpipes fell into disuse soon after the Second World War, and it was not until 1992 that the pipers of the Regiment once more began wearing them.  Official permission was secured from the Canadian Forces Director of Ceremonial for these ribbons to be in Royal Stewart tartan and Gordon tartan.  Royal Stewart commemorated the appointment of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as Colonel-in-Chief of the Calgary Highlanders in addition to being a nod to the earlier use of the tartan.  Gordon Tartan commemorated the kilts worn by the Calgary Scottish Pipe Band, from whom many regimental musicians were drawn in the formative years of the band in the 1920s.

At left, Pipe Sergeant Doug Hamilton adjusts the ribbons and banner on his bagpipes before a performance at the Lethbridge Tattoo in May 1992.

At far left, Pipe Major Buchanan, wearing Royal Stewart Tartan kilt and plaid, as well as hosetops, bag cover and pipe ribbons, sometime in the 1920s.  Calgary Highlanders cap badge and collar dogs are evident.


Pipe ribbons on display at a "Public Military Mess Dinner" hosted by the Honourable Guard of the Museum of the Regiments and the Calgary Chamber of Commerce at the Crystal Ballroom of the Palliser Hotel on 13 March 1997.   Piper Jason Lane and Piper Joel Rhodes discuss what to play next as Drummer Michael O'Connor prepares to accompany them.  Piper Rhodes was the son of Pipe Major "Dusty" Rhodes and Drummer O'Connor was the son of Lieutenant Colonel H. Vince O'Connor, one-time Commanding Officer of the Regiment.

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