Tartans are most commonly associated with Scotland… many people don’t realize that there are also tartans of Ireland.
These distinctive plaid patterns are used to indicate the county or district of birth – unlike Scottish clan tartans, the true Irish tartan does not indicate a family name.
The most important historical examples of Irish tartans were excavated from an Irish bog during the Sixties – they were well-preserved due to their wet, cool “hiding place”.
The true Irish tartan only indicates the county, district, or isle where someone (or their ancestors) came from…all of today’s Irish “family” kilts (and there are many) are not true reflections of the ancient traditions of the Irish people…in fact, there is little evidence that the Irish of ancient times wore kilts at all…
In past centuries, wearing an Irish tartan would tell a story…depending on the amount of colors used in the garment, a person’s placement in society could be ascertained.
For example, one color in a tartan would indicate that someone was a servant, three colors would show that they were a soldier, etc. One to six colors were used in the Irish tartan to show one’s place in the world…only a king would be permitted to wear seven colors in his design.
Commonly, the tartan was worn wrapped across the body and belted. 12 full yards of fabric would be carefully draped and folded into a garment known as a Breacan an fhe/ilidh.
In Scotland, there are a whole variety of tartans, numbering in the hundreds, but the Irish fabrics are fewer. Instead of hundreds of designs, there are a small group of patterns. However, these styles still feature the horizontal and vertical striped plaids that are so familiar to most people…
From the moss-green color of County Armagh plaid, with its yellow and rust highlights, to the crimson and black of County Tipperary…each Irish tartan has become a regional tradition. Today, people enjoy wearing scarves, hats, and other accessories crafted from their special tartan.
Other Authentic Symbols Of Ireland…
In Celtic culture, certain symbols appear again and again on art treasures, on stone monuments, and in illuminated texts, such as the Irish Book of Kells. In many ways, these symbols are more authentic representations of the Irish people and their unique legacy…
The Trinity Knot, an illustration of the Holy Trinity, consists of three separate segments designed to symbolize The Father, the Son, and The Holy Spirit.
For centuries, the master gold and silversmiths of the Emerald Isle have crafted exquisite chalices, brooches, and other artifacts featuring the Trinity Knot. Today, Irish craftspeople honor the traditions of the past by designing Celtic wedding rings, earrings, and pendants that are engraved with this important motif.
This 14k yellow and white gold Ladies Trinity Knot Wedding Band is a perfect melding of ancient and modern…it’s highly-polished surface features a beautifully rendered Trinity Knot.
Faith and the eternal life of the human spirit are the hallmarks of this symbol, which is striking in its beauty, simplicity and historical significance.
For a look at more handcrafted, authentic Irish jewelry designs, please visit our online jewelry store…
6 thoughts on “All About Irish Tartans”
I am a bit puzzled, in that after saying there are no ancient Irish tartans you mention the discovery of an ancient Irish tartan, which was from the 1600’s.
Thanks for your comment. What I meant to say in the post is that the practice of wearing tartan kilts was native to Scotland, rather than Ireland. The Irish may have worn tartan, but probably in other articles of clothing, rather than kilts (such as mantles, etc.). Basically, there were Irish tartans way back when, but the “Irish kilts” produced today may not be replicas of actual tartan clothes worn by the Irish. Thanks for visiting the blog and leaving feedback – I appreciate it.
I have been looking for the tartan that represents the family O’Neal without success. Any help?
Hi Wayne, I’ve had a look around and I can’t seem to find one for the O’Neill family, either. I found this site that lists many Irish family tartans but unfortunately it doesn’t include the O’Neill family: https://www.jakesdirect.com/clanFamily.asp?clantype=Irish&c=153234. You might try contacting this site and see if it’s something that’s available. The best of luck with your search.
It is my understanding that the tartan was not worn but held high during battle to indicate the clan?
Any tartan worn by the Irish would have been the outer garment, the brat, worn like a cloak. They were not belted like in the Scottish fashion, but parts may have been tucked inside the belt over the leine. Many were stitched together with small squares, like a quilt, indicating a checkered pattern. There is an O’Neill tartan here: https://houseoftartan.co.uk/scottish/dir2.asp?secid=80&subsecid=1048
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