Competitors for the world championship, dancing the Reel of Tulloch, Scotland 1947.
Competitors for the world championship, dancing the Reel of Tulloch, Scotland 1947.Hans Wild—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Competitors for the world championship, dancing the Reel of Tulloch, Scotland 1947.
Ancient Castle Rock and its fortifications (upper right) have frowned on Edinburgh since time immemorial. Royal residence of Scottish kings beginning in 1004, it was also the scene of witch burnings. The "Royal Mile," a mile of streets connecting castle and Holyrood Palace, begins beyond the castle at the extreme right. Essayist Thomas De Quincey is buried in the cemetery of St. Cuthbert's Church (lower left).
Eilean Donan Castle guards Loch Duich in the western Highlands near Dornie. Under the low cloud (right) lies the Isle of Skye to which Prince Charlie once fled, disguised as the serving maid of Scottish Heroine Flora Macdonald. The castle was wrecked by British gunfire in 1719 when it was a headquarters for Spanish and Scottish leaders in one of the endless revolts against the English crown. This land once was prowled by a legendary giant who created islands in nearby lochs by throwing stones.
Key to the Highlands was once this old bridge over the Forth Stirling. For centuries it was the only escape route for clansmen fleeing north.
Lord Lyon King of Arms, Thomas Innes of Learney, is supreme judge of all Scottish genealogies, determines precedence and succession of clan chiefs. His full accouterments include an appliquéd tabard, chain of office, Grand Cross of Royal Victorian Order and Baton.
In full dress a piper of the famed Black Watch regiment pipes a pibroch at Perth Barracks.
In Stewart Tartan an Aberdeen lass competes in a championship Highland dancing contest held each year at the Cowal gathering at Dunoon. Other events: piping, the fling.
Outtake from essay on Scotland, 1947.
Outtake from essay on Scotland, 1947.
Outtake from essay on Scotland, 1947.
Outtake from essay on Scotland, 1947.
Outtake from essay on Scotland, 1947.
Outtake from essay on Scotland, 1947.
A four year old boy branding the newly sheared sheep with tar, Scotland 1947.
A champion steer standing in a pasture, Scotland 1947.
A newly released prisoner of war, bringing carcasses (shot the night before) up to shore, Scotland 1947.
St. Giles Church is where Knox preached. Near it, in now-vanished yard, he may be buried. Nearby also stood Tollbooth Prison (Scott's Heart of Midlothian).
Outtake from essay on Scotland, 1947.
Glamis Castle, first built in the 11th century, where Macbeth supposedly murdered Duncan, now houses the 23rd Baron Glamis.
Highland farms like these near Spittal are islets amid bare hills. Spittal (hospital) means the place where travelers were offered shelter.
Outtake from essay on Scotland, 1947.
Outtake from essay on Scotland, 1947.
A man throwing an eight pound weight, Scotland 1947.
Outtake from essay on Scotland, 1947.
Competitors for the world championship, dancing the Reel of Tulloch, Scotland 1947.
Hans Wild—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Celebrate Tartan Day with Gorgeous Photos of Scotland in the 1940s

Apr 06, 2015

Spectators of this weekend’s Tartan Day Parade in New York City would do well to refresh their knowledge of traditional Scottish dress before the sound of bagpipes fills the air. A tartan, as LIFE explained to readers in 1947, “is a cloth bearing a pattern of overlayed checks in several bright colors.” A plaid, contrary to popular usage, “is actually a blanketlike piece of tartan worn over the shoulder.”

National Tartan Day, observed annually on April 6 in the United States, commemorates the anniversary of Scottish independence, declared in 1320. Six centuries later, LIFE profiled the country’s landscape, economy and traditions, touting Scotland’s most celebrated exports — among them whiskey, golf, tweed, herring, ships and bagpipes.

Tartan Day also recognizes the contributions of people of Scottish descent to the United States, and as LIFE added to its list of fine Scottish goods, “Another major export has been men.” Andrew Carnegie, James Gordon Bennett and Alexander Graham Bell, to name just a few, “left their needy land to win high fame elsewhere.”

Hans Wild’s photos for LIFE, and the hundreds of outtakes never printed, capture the intricate detail of Scottish culture down to the shearing of a wooly sheep and the fingering on a traditional bagpipe melody. Pride, in both national heritage and familial lineage, courses through the images. It was, after all, a matter of serious — and legal — business, as the magazine laid out clearly: “A person who wears the crest of a clan of which he is not a member may be fined £8 6s 8d.”

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

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