Check Your Checks

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The Glenurquhart

About half-way down Loch Ness, the stamping ground of that modern dragon known as the Loch Ness Monster, stands the battered old stronghold of Castle Urquhart, overlooking a wide and rugged glen from which is derived the name of the greatest single development in woolen designing - The Glen Urquhart Check - or as it is known in the vernacular of the American woolen trade, The Glen Urquhart Plaid. Originally when the design received the endorsement and approval of the Lady Caroline, Countess of Seafield, for use in her Glen Urquhart estates, it was known as the Glen Urquhart Tartan. The Countess herself was a famed handloom weaver, and for this reason it is possible that tradition has give her credit for creating the design. However there is evidence that the actual designer of the 1st Glen Urquhart check was Lizzie Macdougall, who spun and dyed the blue and white yarn of the original web to be woven by William Fraser. Fraser had some difficulty in following Lizzie’s instructions and she had to draw a diagram with a stick on the muddy front of his “but and ben.” While this original plaid was navy blue and white, it was ultimately superseded by the black and white glen as we know it today. For the sake of the record the first Glen Urquhart Check was designed in or around the year 1848.

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The Small Glenurquhart

The Small Glen Urquhart Check is interesting for many different reasons. Sometimes incorrectly described as the “Small Glen” which is a valley in Perthshire far removed from the native Glen Urquhart, or the Small Glen Urquhart, the alternate two and two sections show stripe down and stripe across. This is caused by the fact that the four and four section in both warp and filling starts and ends with the same colour, light in the warp , dark in the filling. The fact that the four and four section has the same colour on both sides, disposes of the objection sometimes raised to the standard Check which starts with four ends of black and finishes with four ends of white.

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The Prince of Wales

The Prince of Wales, one of the most handsome of the District Checks, owes its name to that of the heir to the British Crown. It follows the lines of the Small Glen Urquhart in that the two and two section is stripe down and stripe across on alternate blacks. Carried out on a red-brown and white ground the four and four section of the glen is boxed in with six ends on either side of navy blue. This pattern assumed fashion importance with the succession of Edward.

 John McKay, 1949