Scottish Culture/WALKER TARTAN


QUESTION: I am trying to find the correct tartan/colors for my Walker family.  My ancestor was John Alden Walker who came to the United States ca 1791 and was from the Highlands Ayr, Scotland.  I would appreciate any help you can give me.

Thank you so much,

ANSWER: Dear Susan

Just because people are from Scotland, it does not follow that they have Highland clan ancestry. If your ancestor was indeed from Ayr, then he was a Lowland Scot (Ayrshire is in the Southern part of the country, below Glasgow and has never been part of the Highlands - there is a concept known as The Highland Line and Ayr has never been within the Highland area). Ayr appears in several of Robert Burns' poems.

Walker is one of those names which developed from a person's occupation, not from their familial connections - in the same way the names Smith, Brewer, Wright etc developed. I believe that Walker originates from waelcere - Anglo-Saxon for the occupation of a fuller.

I must emphasise that this does not in any way lessen your Scottish ancestry. There are many families in Scotland who have no tartan etc - you only have to consider the lowland Border clans and families.

That said, there are Walker tartans - have a look  at <a href="</a>. Please note the dates associated with them. The oldest is 1818, and has a stated designer - others are from c. 1993 onwards and the designers are American. It wold be up to you whether you chose to adopt one of those or not.

Remember, it was not until the 19th century that tartan began to be ascribed to different highland clans and families. specific designs and colourations are thought to have been regional rather than family specific, with evidence coming from sources after the 1745 Rising.

I hope this helps you in some way.

Best wishes


[an error occurred while processing this directive]---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Forgot to include the info. that we were part of a Campbell clan and were from the Highlands of Scotland...not sure if that would change any info. I already gave you ....thanks so much for your help.   Susan

Hi Susan

That does indeed make a difference - you could align yourself with the Campbells. However, you'll need to do some digging if you're looking for accuracy, as the Campbells were (are) a large clan with different cadet branches etc.

I would suggest that you start in the present and work back (if you haven't done so already). You may find useful, but you may also need to track down shipping lists etc. Argyll (in the North West) is a Campbell heartland, but due to the  (shall we say) acquisitions of the clan, the territory was quite extensive.

The 19th century allocation of tartans, however, still stands, so (as with us all with clan ancestry) you are going by the 19th century interpretations of who wore what and when.

Another option is to check out portraits of notable Campbells - of which there are many, and see if you can recognise the settts they are wearing.

I hope this helps in some way - happy hunting!


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Kaye McAlpine


Lifecycle (birth, marriage, death) customs in Scotland, Early Modern Scottish social customs, modern Scottish social customs, Border March laws and procedures, criminal processes and judicial execution practices, social history in Early Modern Scotland, ephemera printing in Scotland. While I have some knowledge of the clan system and function of the clan society (Highland and Lowland), I am not a an expert in clan genealogy. Having traced back my own family over a couple of centuries, and traced others due to academic research, I do know how the system works, however. This doesn't mean that I'm a genealogist. Please note that I do not speak Gaelic.


Research Fellow (University of Edinburgh). Contributer to various books and journals on ballads, including Scottish Life and Society: A Compendium of Scottish Ethnology, The Ballad and History and The Harris Repertoire. Freelance tutor in outreach courses from Edinburgh University on Scottish Culture and Tradition, including lifecycle customs, broadsheet ballads in Scotland, the traditional ballad and history. Freelance writer, guest presenter on Ch4 History Hunters programme, contributor to BBC Radio Scotland's 'Songlines' series on 'The Dowie Dens of Yarrow'. Currently co-director of a media production company

Books: Forthcoming: The Gallows and The Stake Published: Compendium of Scottish Ethnology, vol. 10, chapter on The Traditional and the Border Ballad; The Harris Repertoire (2000, Scottish Text Society, co-editor), The Ballad in History (chapter on Border ballads). Journals include Folklore, The Review of Scottish Culture,Sottish Studies, and The Scottish Literary Journal

Ph D, M. Phil, BA (hons)

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