Menzies Clan Society

Newsletter 3

November 2011





Clan Gathering - August 2011

The 2011 Clan Gathering was one of our most successful gatherings ever, despite having fairly mixed weather, and certainly no match for the sunshine of the previous year.

The Welcome drinks on Friday evening had to be held inside the Castle due to showers, and the Pink room was full of buzz and conversation.   An excellent Clan Dinner in the Dewar Room followed, and was thoroughly enjoyed by all, especially our overseas visitors, who all took the opportunity to stand up, introduce themselves and say warmly what a wonderful experience it was to participate in a Clan Dinner in our very own Castle.

Unfortunately, the Aberfeldy Show and Highland Games had to be cancelled due to flooding of the field.   This very rarely happens, and these events have only been cancelled once before.  

However, the Menzies March from the Castle to Weem was the biggest and best attended in recent years.     Dr Steven Bettridge had brought along a German Pipe Band called Pride of Scotland Pipes and Drums and they joined our Clan Piper, Frank Menzies-Hearn, in leading the March.     The German Pipes and Drums were a great success, and fairly enhanced the impact of the March, leading to many more followers than usual, and locals emerging from their houses at the impressive sound of such a large pipe band.


Our Clan Menzies March certainly did make an impact this year, with very high volume!      

The German pipers really enjoyed playing in Scotland, and we do hope they will be able to return in future years.  

Historic Tour of Glen Lyon

The Glen Lyon tour of ancient Menzies estates, proved to be an extremely popular attraction, and included a visit to the Fortingall Yew tree, possibly the oldest tree on earth at over 2000 years, or even older, and the Menzies Clan graveyard. The Menzies estates which were visited, included Culdares and the Meggernie Estate, where there was a special visit to Meggernie Castle, a privately owned residence at the head of Glen Lyon, where the grounds are splendid, and the white painted castle restored to very good condition.     The tour guide was Tommy Pringle, a Clan Council member with a special interest in history, who lives locally. Everyone who attended was impressed by Tommy's very knowledgable commentary.



Wildlife Safari

The Wildlife Safari, which was a new event for this year's Gathering, took place on Friday, during quite heavy rain and thick mist. Except for some wild ponies, most of the wildlife had gone missing and sensibly taken shelter somewhere else !    Despite this, the safari was a fascinating tour with an extremely knowledgable guide, taking us high above the valley in a Land Rover and offering spectacular views of the valley and the distant Loch Tay, despite the mist. We recommend this event, run by Highland Safaris.


Acting President Appointed

At the Clan Society AGM, it was announced that Rory Menzies had been appointed Acting President by the Council to assist our President Audrey Menzies Paton, who has had a difficult year due to restricted mobility following a badly broken wrist.   Audrey and Rory will now share the President's duties, which had previously been proving very arduous for Audrey.   



Message from our President Audrey

I regret very much that my wrist had not recovered enough to allow me to attend this year's Gathering.    I wish to thank all the Council members who stood in for me.   Also for all their work in preparing for a very successful weekend which has been reported from many sources.
After the May meeting, I was extremely relieved and happy to see that it was Rory who was going to follow after me, and that he was also willing to be Acting President meantime when the need arose - and it did sooner than expected at the Gathering.

Although fairly new to Council, Rory has been very active in getting involved in the work and he comes from a family who have also been great workers for the Society and the Castle.   I can personally testify to that as I knew and worked with his parents, Willie and Bente, and with his great-uncle, General Tom, who was the first President of the Society.
All the news from around the world seems very bad just now but I think the Society is weathering that well and the Castle has done very well too although cannot compete with Edinburgh Castle being the top UK visitor attraction with over a million visiting it.
I wish all members and their families a lovely time at Christmas and New Year




Audrey with Neil Menzies, Alan Thornton & the golf trophy at the 2010 Gathering


Message from our Acting-President Rory

It is certainly an honour and a privilege to be voted by your Council to this new position.

At our council meeting in May 2011 at the Castle, President Audrey announced by letter that it was her decision to retire at the end of her current tenure and that we should think about a successor. There were a number of excellent candidates but two of these, young men with young families, thought that this was something they would be prepared to do later, but not immediately. I did not like the way members then looked at me, the one with the most grey, or is it silver hair!

I quickly nominated another 'older' member who immediately declared that he was too dottery to do the job. When eyes started to turn again in my direction, and feeling not just a little dottery myself at times, I quickly stated, well maybe I should do it now before I get more dottery myself.  Unfortunately, or not, the vote was unanimous. 

Certainly, after 50 years of dedicated service to the Clan, Audrey needs and deserves some help in her position. I just hope that I am worthy.

I have worked well with Audrey in the past and look forward to lightening her load.   Audrey will be the hardest act to follow but I intend to help her and represent you all ; honourably and faithfully.

  Rory and his wife Lisa live in Scotland but also have a winter home in Florida, and so we are sure that he will be the ideal man to strengthen links with the Menzies Clan Society of the USA, and all our North American members.  

AGM Resolution to thank Dave Mathewes

On behalf of all the United States and Canada members of the Menzies Clan Society, Jerry Minnis proposed a Resolution at the AGM to thank David Mathewes and his entire family for all the wonderful work that they have done for the Clan.   After approximately 30 years of very conscientious service to the Clan Society, Dave has decided to retire from an active role due to personal and family health concerns, as well as advancing age.

Dave was the key figure in building up Society membership in North America to over 300 members. He and his family have managed to do all this organizing at their own considerable expense and have devoted countless hours of time.     

It was suggested that Dave Mathewes should be made an Honorary Vice President of the Society, and this has now been considered by the Council, and approved.


Dave Mathewes (right) at a US Highland Games, several years ago Dave Mathewes (right) with his wife Maggie and Lisa & Rory Menzies (left) at the Stone Mountain Games, October 2011




Other Items from the AGM

The full minutes of the August 2011 AGM will be available soon on Two other key points were :

Improved financial position

Luke Menzies, our Treasurer, was pleased to report that the Society had made a surplus of just over £3,000 for the year just ended.   

We did well at the 2010 Clan Gathering, with a surplus of around £1,000. However, the most important rise was in Membership subscriptions, our chief source of regular income, which has leapt from just £380 in 2009/10 to £2,450 in 2010/11, the highest it has ever been.    Luke praised the tireless efforts of our Recruitment team, particularly Stuart Menzies and Rory Menzies.


The Paypal facility   is now working perfectly, currently taking payments for membership subscriptions, clan gathering tickets and general donations to the Society. The ease with which one can now join up as a new member and pay by credit card will hopefully help membership numbers rise year on year.



New Members who have just joined in 2011

We would like to extend a very warm welcome all our new members who joined in 2011. 

They will all be named in a feature in our Clan Magazine No 32, which will be published very soon.



Website Survey - your views can help set the priorities

The Clan Council are discussing a future plan for website developments, and we would like to hear what you think of our current website at

We would be very grateful for replies to the survey below. Since it is not possible to send this out as an attachment to this newsletter, please just include the question numbers below as part of your reply. If you prefer, I will also be happy to send you a copy of the survey on a Word document, if you send an email to the Secretary's email address below.

Thanks very much for your help ! Alastair Menzies


Menzies Clan Society        Website Survey

Please answer questions 1 to 8 with a number from 1 to 10

( 1 = very poor, 5 = average, 10 = excellent )

  1. Structure :      Please rate the structure of the Menzies Clan website.   How easy is it to find your way around ?
  2. Appearance :      Please rate the design appeal and attractiveness of the website, including colour scheme etc.
  3. Content :     How relevant and interesting is the information ?
  4. Timely Information :     How up-to-date is the information on the website ?
  5. Photographs :     Please rate the quality of the photographs.
  6. Electronic Payment :     How useful is the facility to make electronic payments by Paypal ?
  7. Upgrades :    Are upgrades to the site performed in a timely manner ?
  8. Total score :   Please give an overall rating for the website.

Please answer questions 9 to 11 with improvement suggestions

9. What additional information would you like to see on the website ?

10. What should be removed or changed ?

11. Any other comments

Thank you very much for your comments which will be carefully considered as part of our website review.



CANADA  REPORT    by Jamie Mennie   to Society AGM

I have signed up to attend 3 Highland Games this year. The first was in Durham (see photo of Jamie & family below) and was a relatively small games.    It was a very hot day but the clan tents were in a shaded area so it was very pleasant. The next two games are at Fergus in Mid August, and then Bracebridge the next weekend. Fergus is the large games so I am hoping for better weather this year and a good turn out.   The last 2 years I attended were complete wash outs with torrential rain.

I have mailed out 100 of the recruitment flyers to just the Menzies surname in Ontario. Hopefully it will generate a few new members, and then I will consider doing a further mail out later this year.  

I have not done much with the Facebook page lately but had added in information regarding the Clan gathering and AGM, as well as the Fergus games here the same weekend. I would really like to get one or more person per country that I can make a page admin and then they can update it with local events.

I am looking out for some help with the Canadian Highland games.   I will try to make it to 2 or 3 games a year but there are many held across the country that I would like to see the clan represented at.    There are also games further out in Ontario that are too far away for me to make. I would even appreciate some help at the games I do attend as it would be nice to see more than just myself marching in the parade.     


Genealogy update - the Menzies Index

Following the genealogical work which he carried out in the Castle library in 2007, Robert Menzies from New Zealand has now been further collating and indexing the material in the genealogical library in 2011 and is pleased to say that some good progress has been made.   Some members will recall that in 2005, Rob suggested the creation of The Menzies Index as an admirable goal for the Clan Society and he has continued to work on that project, despite everyday life getting in the way of this goal, sometimes.    He encouraged everyone to keep sending in family trees in order to add to the index.

Email :



Loch Norman Games, USA

The Loch Norman Games is a very large event taking place in Charlotte, Huntersville, North Carolina.     Dave Mathewes reported :   The first day of the Games we had winds of over 50 mph and rain.  We stayed in the tent with umbrellas pointed horizontally to give us some shelter.  We thought that it would be a total washout, but on Sunday the weather was beautiful! 

Frances Mathewes Miller won the kilted mile competition which she has won for the last three years. 

As has been the case for the last 4 years or so, the fiddle competitors came to us for lunch and to sit behind the tent playing for about 3 hours.  The group varied from time to time, but the musicians included five fiddles, a harp, one guitar and a bodhran.  We usually note that anyone can get a pipe band to march by and play a tune, but the Menzies's can be entertained by a fiddle concert for hours!




DVD - Virtual Tour of Castle Menzies
This disk has been playing in the castle for visitors throughout the last season.    Initially produced to comply with disabled legislation, it has proved to be very popular with able-bodied visitors too, who buy it as a souvenir or to take back to relatives.     If you are interested in Castle Menzies, this DVD is a very good buy at £15 including post and packing, and also makes a very nice present.
Contact :


Menzies Tartans

Following some discussion at the last two Clan Gatherings about Menzies Tartan, I was very pleased when Jerry Menzies accepted my invitation to write the main article for this newsletter. If you are inspired by this overview and to find out more about the history of tartan generally, there is a great deal of material on the internet. You could click on the links below and try the websites :

I hope you enjoy Jerry's account of the various Menzies tartans, and I am sure you will learn something new about them!



Menzies Tartans : There is more to them than you thought !

By: Jerry Minnis, Chief's Commissioner Western USA and Council Member

When Alastair, your Editor, first asked me if I would write an article for the Menzies Newsletter on our tartans, I wasn't sure that it would be of enough benefit, or information and assistance, (and I'm certainly not an expert) but I said I would try.   I have operated for several years various tartan and/or clan information tents and tables at many highland games here in the USA, and have privileged to have received the designation of Tartan Information Representative for TECA (Tartan Educational and Cultural Association), one of the founding members of the Scottish Tartans Authority.   Therefore, I do have more than a casual knowledge for the subject, and endeavor to always be up-to-date on most when I can.   To begin with, perhaps we must first discuss some of the misunderstandings and confusion about colours, design, etc. of tartan, although greatly abbreviated..........

What are all those terms such as Ancient, Modern, sett, etc. all about?

These days you see tartan advertised in many ways, but the usual names can be misleading, and misunderstood.   For example, what's the difference between Modern and Ancient?   In reality, most are marketing tools to get everyone to buy more tartan materials in several different presentations.  

            In reality, those labeled Ancient are actually more modern than Modern.   Ancient does not refer to the age of a tartan, rather it actually refers to the older shades of the threads used in weaving.   The tartan weavers would like us to think that those older colors were from the old vegetable dyes, but often those older dyes came from animal parts of minerals, in addition to the vegetable dyes.



Tartan is generally woven in four main shades of thread, and thus the current terms:   First, the brighter Modern ones were made possible by new dyes after 1960.   The softer Ancient or Old colours are just that, colours that appear more ancient, etc.   There are also some that are woven in Weathered formats, which are supposed to appear as thou they might have been left out in the various weather situations or in an old peat bog for centuries, where red become orange, brown or green becomes black, etc.

            Tartans names, as generally listed today, actually have little exact references to a particular tartan.   For example, Dress is what was originally for, and worn by the women, but now is considered to be the fancy form of evening, etc. wear for anyone.   Hunting comes from the alleged need for hiding the wearer from being see by wee beasties while hunting or when in the field, so that they may not be seen by the animals.   In truth, most animals are colour blind so they couldn't see the tartans anyway.   Mourning is the darker colours to be worn at funerals or wakes.  

There is a Menzies branch (Shian), now extinct, that used black on his coat of arms exactly where our Chief's arms are red.   There is another weaving that is usually worn by highland dancers called Fancy or Dance but there is no historical fact documenting them as far as I can see, used to describe the number of spaces of each colour in a line in the pattern.   There can be both larger and smaller weaves of a particular sett, depending on what the desired tartan is being woven for, such as larger for men, smaller for women, ties, scarves, etc. and the exact size and number of the actual threads will vary, but they will remain in the proper proportion.   MOST of those tartans we know today are repeating setts, where there is actually a pivot point location in the line where the colours start reversing in the exact pattern and so on until the end of the line.   The usual pattern for most Menzies tartans those of the Red and Green, and are distinctive as a tartan when woven horizontally then vertically.   Ogilvie, however is not, and is what is called a non-repeating sett.   Let's try the Menzies Hunting as an example, which is:   Green   96-0-4-0-12-0-6 and then Red 0-8-0-8-0-4-0-18    alternating each colour, and starting with the green 96, then alternating the spaces with red at 0 and then at the end of the first Red 18, it begins repeating with the Red 18 again, the Green   for 6, Red for 0 and so on just backwards, until the Green 96 is repeated then we start all over again.   There also can be a smaller number of spaces of colours if the things being woven are smaller, but we must remember that they MUST be in proportion.  


OK, I'm not enough of an expert to go into more detail, but I would suggest if you want to explore tartan things further, you should check with some of the books and articles authored by members of the International Guild of Tartan Scholars (GTS) Fellows, who are real experts .   These would include such as Dr. Philip D. Smith, Jr. (personal friend and great mentor to me on things tartan, and managed to certify me as a Tartan Representative for highland games for TECA. He has written numerous tartan books, lectures on the Celtic language (amongst others), and was the designer of many tartans such as the Arizona (USA), the Confederate Memorial, and others.   He also authored the 'Tartan for Me' series, and co-authored the 'District Tartans' book.   Also, check the works of other GTS scholars such as Col. Peter MacDonald, Tartan Historian and expert Hand Weaver (he weaved the tartan cloth for my personal favorite kilt of the three Menzies kilts I own) who lives in Creiff, Perthshire,   Bob Martin, Kilt Historian (who actually built/tailored my favorite box-pleated kilt),   and Matthew A. C. Newsome (Curator of the Scottish Tartans Museum in Franklin, TN) who writes the Tartans column in 'The Scottish Banner'.   There are others, but the GTS has only about 11 scholars worldwide at this time.   There have been many tartan books written over the years also, and I would encourage that you check your libraries for any of those to study.

Now, let's get to the specifics about our own Menzies Clan Tartans (there are several)!

(I'll show many of OUR tartans at the end of this article.)

            First, a reminder that the most common Menzies sett, described above and applies to all of this section, and that tartan is the Red and Green , which also happens to be the one preferred by our Chief, David Menzies of Menzies, and is also the one most generally worn by the other clan members (I also have a kilt in that), and that is recognized by most of the public.   That sett and colours are usually referred to as the Hunting Menzies by most today.   Next is the Dress Menzies or what we call the Red and White , in the same set but usually smaller proportions.   It is very striking and easily noticed!    Now we turn to the Black and White or Mourning, which, unfortunately is also now a very popular fashion rendering for many types of ladies' clothing, and is sold in lots of venues, both in the UK and abroad.    (My wife, Patricia, also has several pieces and has given some as gifts that she purchased in Scotland and the USA.)   Finally, we come to the variations, all of the same basic sett : Brown and   White, Blue and White, Violet and White, Green and White, etc., just choose your main colour plus white.    Please remember that the colours can be changed and the weavers have taken full advantage of that, so if you happen to encounter someone who is wearing the sett, they may or may not be a Clan Menzies member!.   The exact threads may change from time to time, but the proportions will be relatively the same, and some have only one sett square then a huge black space or such.


Now, on to some of the lesser-known Menzies tartans:

            First, and the one that is used for my personal favorite kilt, is the sett re-discovered by Peter MacDonald from in his research, and comes from one of the very old pattern books (circa 1790 to 1810) of the Wilson Brothers in Scotland, who were the authorized tartan weavers for the British military for a great many years.   That tartan and sett is now known as the Old Menzies, and the sett is varied from our usual Red and Green, etc.:

            Red:                                    10-0-0-0-10

            Light Blue or Aqua:                0-4-0-0-0

            White:                                0-0-2-0-0

            Green:                                0-0-0-10-0  

You can clearly see that is different in the space colourings and sizes.    The USA branch of the Clan Society had made a silk scarf for his wife, and a plaid for Chief David made for them in 1995 when our Chief was the Honoured Guest at the Stone Mountain Highland Games in Atlanta, Georgia.      Next, comes the tartan described (plus a slight variation of that shown) in the old, but now long-discredited Vestiarium Scotium (VS) of the infamous Sobieski-Stewart brothers in an attempt to capitalize on the alleged fact that they were the heirs to the Stuart throne, especially during the time of the great period of Scottish acknowledgement during the years after Sir Walter Scott's writings. (Scott, many say, was responsible for the Scottish Renaissance after the Proscription.)   The Vestarium Scotium version has also been called Clan Origineaux but I cannot easily find any specifics as to why that was so called., and you will see both in the display at the end of this presentation.   There is also one slight variation of the VS that I know of, and that is with the Black lines around the main squares : they may be absent or extra emphasis in the size of the line black lines.

            Finally, we have various colours and some totally different sett(s) used by highland dancers, which are called, appropriately, Dance tartans because they are quite flashy and colourful and absolutely look very nice during the turns, steps, etc. of a highland dances.    Again, they may vary greatly in the colours used.

A Final Word before the Menzies Tartans display!

            Regardless of which tartan one might prefer, we must all remember that it is possible that if a chief of a clan wakes some morning and says something to the effect of 'you know, I think I would prefer that my Clan should adopt this tartan of Brown and Pink!', then that is the tartan that   all of his clan members should/would adopt and wear it is no longer legally required and enforced by prison, abandonment, or prison/execution. However, that's what a Chief could do and still has the authority to do (usually not the final punishments), however!   We must remember that what a Chief of the Name and Clan is truly the absolute and final word on what tartan the Clan should wear.   Fortunately, for those of us of Clan Menzies, our Chief has not done such an outlandish thing!    And, from what I know about Chief David from working with and representing him, I'm sure he will continue to maintain such a position even though he personally does prefer the Red and Green, but gives his approval to any Clan member wearing the tartan he or she prefers.




Castle by Night

The two night photos of the Castle below, were taken by Aberfeldy professional photographer Iain Struthers.



Message from our Secretary : Alastair Menzies

I am afraid that publication of this Newsletter has been delayed due to a busy couple of months since the Clan Gathering.   My wife Janice and I were on holiday on the Isles of Lewis & Harris and we visited St Kilda, a very remote and amazing place.   Then our son Neil was married to Kala on a beautiful October day in London. Probably some photos, both travel and wedding, will appear next time !     Ideally there would have been a bigger gap between this Newsletter and the Clan Magazine, which will go out very soon, but at least you will have plenty of Clan reading material this Christmas !

We would welcome any items for inclusion in future Newsletters, and also any updates to members' email addresses.   Our records have been greatly improved this year, but we do rely on you to keep us up to date.

If you are planning to attend the next Clan Gathering or make a trip to Scotland at any time , I will be very happy to provide travel advice !

The Clan Council would like to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and a happy and healthy Year in 2012 !

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