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Bonnets (was: Banning of Pipes act of postcription 1747)

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  • Sharon L. Krossa
    ... The pre-1600 Highland evidence either says nothing about headgear, describes the men as going bareheaded, or describes a helmet (that is, is describing
    Message 1 of 8 , Jun 1, 2002
      At 8:05 AM -0400 5/31/02, Collin wrote:
      >Which brings me to another question someone might be able to feild..........
      >I have read that the bonnet ......wasactualy a lowland invention....A. is
      >that true? B. if it is whats the earlyest Documented
      >bonnet ???....and thirdly when did the Bonnet move into the highlands?

      The pre-1600 Highland evidence either says nothing about headgear,
      describes the men as going bareheaded, or describes a helmet (that
      is, is describing what is worn with battle gear, not every day wear).

      In the 16th century you get references to Lowland men wearing bonnets
      (I think the reputation for blue bonnets may already be established
      by 1600).

      Early in the 17th century you get descriptions of Highland men in bonnets.

      Ah, yes, in Dunbar _The Costume of Scotland_ p. 154 (regarding Lowland wear):

      "And yet this form of head covering was given a particular Scottish
      context by 1540, when coins made of native gold were known as the
      'bonnet pieces'. This was because on their obverse side they showed a
      bust of King James V wearing one."

      And page 155 (regarding Highland and Lowland wear):

      "The bonnet was being worn in both wide and close-fitting form under
      the description of 'bonet' and 'cap' throughout Scotland at the end
      of the sixteenth century. Fynes Morison visited Scotland from
      Cambridge in 1598 and remarked on the 'flat blew caps' being worn by
      the Lowlanders. Taylor wrote of the 'blue caps' being worn in the
      Highlands in 1618."

      Though Dunbar says bonnets were worn throughout Scotland by the end
      of the 16th, this seems to be based on assuming that the 1618
      reference indicates late 16th century Highland use as well. Also, I'm
      not sure how he knows that both "wide and close fitting form" were
      worn. He does talk about "three early Scottish caps" that are in the
      National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland, but he doesn't really
      give clear dates for some and for the others they are 17th century or
      later. Anyway, it is worth remembering that whatever pre-16th century
      evidence for the specific kinds of bonnets, it is apparently all
      Lowland evidence.

      Another data point is that, according to Dunbar p. 155, "When William
      Cleland described the Highland Host of 1678 in his satirical, poem,
      he drew attention to the fact that whereas the rank-and-file were
      bare-headed, the officers appeared: 'With good blew bonnets on their

      I do think it is reasonable to speculate that in the late 16th
      century some Highlanders as well as Lowlanders wore bonnets -- and
      the closer the Highlander lived to the Lowlands, the more plausible
      the speculation. And based on the above it is clear that some
      Highlanders wore bonnets and some went bare-headed into at least the
      late 17th century.

      Anyway, regardless of whether the bonnet was worn by any Highlanders
      in the 16th century, it seems pretty clear that the particular style
      of headgear came to the Highlands from the Lowlands, and also that it
      was not unique to the Lowlands -- this style of headwear was
      apparently found generally in Europe. Dunbar p. 154: "'We'll hae nane
      but Highland bonnets here' declared Sir Colin Campbell at the battle
      of the Alma in 1854. This rousing cry from the Commander of the
      Highland Brigade typifies the symbolism of a very ordinary form of
      head-dress. It had been worn in most European countries since
      medieval times but nowhere had it become associated as a national
      emblem except in Scotland. .... Almost certainly the Scottish knitted
      bonnet with its flat crown and double-sided head-band or brim had its
      origin in the sixteenth-century cloth bonnets or caps worn in western
      Europe." (So, yes, this is another case of something that originated
      outside of Scotland -- like bagpipes -- coming to be regarded
      modernly as being peculiarly Scottish ;-)

      With regard to whether bonnets were knitted or cloth in the 16th
      century, I think the evidence points to cloth. Even as late as the
      end of the 17th century, Martin Martin describes the bonnets in the
      Western Isles as being made of cloth. Dunbar above indicates that the
      general European bonnet of the 16th century was cloth. So while in
      Scotland in the 17th & 18th century there were many knitted bonnets
      in Scotland, for the 16th century I would go for cloth rather than
      knitted. (Again, I would expect a flow of Lowlands first then
      Highlands for switching from cloth to knitted, and of course in both
      places a period when both cloth and knitted are found -- indeed, even
      today certain modern styles of Scottish bonnets are cloth rather than

      (Trivia note -- one of the things the Scottish bonnet apparently grew
      up to be was the golf cap. You can use this to help remember how to
      arrange your bonnet on your head -- think golf cap, not green beret

      So, to sum up:

      >the bonnet ......was wasactualy a lowland invention....A. is
      >that true?

      No. The bonnet was not a Scottish invention, Highland or Lowland --
      it was a general European late medieval and 16th century style of
      headwear. But the bonnet seems to have come to the Highlands from the
      Lowlands. (Note that what came to be particularly associated by
      contemporaries with the Scottish perhaps as early as the late 16th
      century and certainly by the mid-17th century was not bonnets but
      specifically *blue* bonnets. Note also that even so the Scottish
      evidence indicates that not all Scottish bonnets were blue ;-)

      > B. if it is whats the earlyest Documented
      >bonnet ???....

      Earliest mention/depiction I've found so far for Scotland is 1540 and
      Lowland (King James V on a coin), but I don't know if there are any
      earlier mentions/depictions.

      >and thirdly when did the Bonnet move into the highlands?

      Earliest mention for the Highlands is 1618.

      Sharon L. Krossa, krossa@...
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