Royal Celtic SocietyThe Royal Celtic Society

For nearly 200 years, the Royal Celtic Society has been at the cutting edge of activity to support the language, literature, music and culture of the Highlands and Western Islands of Scotland. The Society holds regular events for members, awards medals for excellence in music and literature and sponsors a wide range of organisations dedicated to the traditions, language and arts of the Highlands and Islands.

 
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Vincent Lamarque has been in touch to enquire about a silver button embossed with the Royal Celtic Society's logo, which he unearthed in his garden in Charmes la-Cote in Lorraine, Eastern France.

Royal Celtic Society jacketThe find has been investigated by Council member Charles McKerrell of Hillhouse, himself a silversmith, who identified it as identical with the set of buttons in his possession which have been passed down through his family.  The key, says Hillhouse, is that it is made from Old Sheffield plate, which pre-dates electro plating and close plating.

This places Vincent's button among the earliest of these items manufactured on the Society's behalf, certainly in the 1820s and probably for the Celtic Society's uniform which was created for the ceremonial role our forebears played in George IV's groundbreaking visit to Edinburgh in 1822.

Hillhouse has been in touch with Graham Hunter, a well known Edinburgh costume designer, who confirms his findings.  Mr Hunter, who collects period costume and advises film makers on authentic clothing, identifies the button as one-piece plated and believes it dates from the late Georgian period.  Some years ago, Mr Hunter acquired a black evening jacket (pictured) in Edinburgh which dates from the 1820s.  He says the piping and buttons at the back, called a 'ladder', were typical of military uniforms of the Napoleonic period.  This design survives in watered down form in the modern 'Prince Charlie' evening kilt jacket. 

Mr Hunter continues, 'The interesting factor for me is that the co-founder of the Royal Celtic Society was General Stewart of Garth, who was in the Black Watch.  The cut and design of my Royal Celtic Society coatee is not far removed from an officer's Black Watch coatee from the 1790s-1800s, which would make sense if General Stewart had a hand in coming up with a Hghland dress evening coat for the Royal visit.'

It seems the Society's dress has been much travelled in the intervening period.  Mr Hunter acquired a similar jacket on e-bay from a seller in Wales.  That particular item came as part of an early 19th century uniform with a MacGregor tartan kilt.  It is believed this is also associated with George IV's Edinburgh visit, when Sir Ewan MacGregor of MacGregor provided a company of Highlanders as a ceremonial guard.

So it is clear that Vincent's button is a genuine survivor from the Royal visit of nearly 200 years ago, although he has no idea how it came to rest in his garden in Lorraine.

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