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Old stories are quite wonderful things; sometimes they are rooted in fact and other times are just fanciful creations of an imaginative mind that get passed on somehow.
Families sometimes have stories about their ancestors. For example, there’s a story in my husband’s family that one of his ancestors was involved in captaining a ship involved in the slave trade. In my fifteen or so years of researching our family trees, I have found no evidence of this at all – although one of them was born on Montserrat in the 17th century (which makes me wonder if that’s where the myth came from). Another from my own family; my nan firmly believed that her great, great grandfather was the head coachman at Blenheim Palace. He wasn’t; he was a groom. Interestingly though, his son became a head gardener.
Screenshot captured yesterday which has prompted this post
A story which I have seen on numerous times on Pinterest is that the dress has been continually worn by the family for their weddings since Isabella wore it in 1785 (I should like to add that this did not originate with the family, but seems to have come from elsewhere).
The dress has been worn by four generations only:
– Isabella on 12/1/1785,
– Her daughter in law, Jane, on 3/12/1826. who married Isabella’s 6th (out of 11!), Tavish). It is not known if any of Isabella’s daughters wore the dress for their weddings or not (the romantic in me certainly hopes they did);
– The current custodian in 1978;
– The current custodian’s daughter in 2005;
– and the plaid was worn by the current owner’s new daughter-in-law last month (July 2018).
So, it has indeed been worn by one branch of Isabella’s ancestors (unsurprisingly no longer Frasers or MacTavishes) and will continue to be worn and treasured by them, as well as enjoyed by the rest of the world thanks to the display at the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery.
Although the current custodian’s mother and granny chose not to wear it for their weddings, they both graciously made sure it was exhibited from 1900 onwards. It is thanks to them that the great textile historian, John Telfer Dunbar, saw it exhibited in London in 1939 at the Scottish Art Exhibtion and wrote about it in both The Costume of Scotland (1981) and History of Highland Dress (1962). Telfer Dunbar’s archive is at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, so I hope to see his notes soon on the dress 🙂