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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.