For the best part of five decades, I’d assumed that nurture and my obsession with collecting toy soldiers as a boy was responsible for my endless love of the unmistakable plaid of Scotland.
Those classic images of the gallant Black Watch at Waterloo as they prepared for another destructive attack from the French Cuirassiers and scenes captured on celluloid in the blockbuster “Braveheart” are engrained in my soul.
I’d resigned myself to the fact that turning a certain age now entitled me to become a little more flamboyant at formal occasions and substitute the traditional black tie for a modest tartan. A particular consideration was that I could now do this without fear of ridicule from my fellow Yorkshiremen and friends from North of the Wall. In essence, I’d reverted back to my childhood and the right and proper tartan to don was the understated but unmistakable Black Watch.
My faithful pair of trews have now made two outing for traditional suppers to commemorate the great Robbie Burns. All seemed to be going well, almost unnoticed until last July, when confidence got the better of me and I suffered a severe reprimand from my eldest daughter and her husband to be.
I had dared to propose that I should accompany my glamorous daughter down the aisle in a resplendent charcoal grey Argyle jacket and kilt. The look on their faces turned from frown to horror as it dawned upon them that this was a serious proposition and one that I felt would be in keeping with the colour scheme.
I quickly accepted that the plush granite plaid may have been a match made in heaven when a variation of it was chosen as the corporate tartan for Today Translations’ boardroom carpet at the head office in London. However, in this instance, it was sure to cause some serious pre-marital problems if I did not acquiesce.
The week before last, I hosted a family gathering with my wife, daughters and their partners to reflect on their magical, tartan free wedding day. It wasn’t too long before the subject turned to my tartan-antics. After weaving my way out of the potential mockery, the conversation turned to interrogation, the form that only your offspring can employ. “Dad, what possessed you to want to wear full tartan rig? What’s the obsession, you’re a Yorkshireman for goodness sake”.
All valid questions, but not so easy to answer. I tried to explain my early life, the holiday, the books the stories of heroic Highlanders but they were having none of it. I’m an advocate of British manufacturing and all the jobs and benefits that derive from the rag trade but this didn’t wash either. My last thread of defence was to suggest the tweed flat cap which is as quintessentially Yorkshire as Ilkley Moor has parallels to the dandy Tam o’Shanter but by then I was defeated.
And there it rested until last night when the mystery was finally solved. On the eve of the great Scottish independence vote, I met with PR guru Liam Herbert an old friend from who is also from God’s own country. The tepid debate around just how close the result was going to be, soon heated up as we commenced our White Rose Social Ritual, a curious and ancient process that is unique to those from East of the Pennines who live “up in London”. The stages begin with a few light-hearted gags about cricket, food and beverage then progress to nostalgic reminiscences of lost industry. They usually culminate in exaggerated claims as to where Yorkshire would have ranked in the world had it been a sovereign country in the 2012 Olympics.
Liam allowed us to progress a significant way through the well-rehearsed lines before snapping my rousing case in two like a stick of fresh Wakefield Rhubarb! “You can’t say that. You’re not a Yorkshireman! Have you not heard?” I was struck by mixed emotions, akin to those I created when I announced my desire to don my fancy Father-of-the Bride apparel. Then the truth emerged, corroborated by Liam’s iPhone and a link to the Yorkshire Post announcing new evidence that my birthplace of Doncaster is actually in Scotland!
Flabbergasted, my initial disbelief soon turned to enlightenment. Here it was, at last, the truth behind my tartan addiction. It has less to do with childhood holidays and toy soldiers and is something to do with Scottish King David’s unexpired contact with the defeated English. This may have special meaning for Doncaster North MP Ed Miliband and adapting the words of that song to, “Oh ye’ll take the A1 and I’ll take the M1, and I’ll be in Bonnie Doni afor thee”, has a certain ring to it.
More than this, it gives me new ammunition to defend my case to wear plaid at the next wedding – my dearest daughters beware.