New Brunswick Looms a Tartan

Did you know that 2019 marks the Diamond Anniversary of the New Brunswick Tartan? What began as a special gift from the Royal New Brunswick Regiment to their honourary colonel, Max Aitken Lord Beaverbrook in October 1958, blossomed in 1959 into one of the most recognizable symbols of New Brunswick identity. And all thanks to Patricia Jenkins and the Loomcrofters.

Patricia Jenkins with the New Brunswick Tartan, 1960

Patricia Jenkins with the New Brunswick Tartan, 1960

The following is a transcription of a June 1960 article in the Ottawa Citizen in which Miss Jenkins describes the origins and design of the tartan.  The feature Ottawa Citizen magazine article appeared 11 June 1960. The cover photograph features Sharon McQueen, 14, a Saint John band piper dressed in the new tartan. Main article photograph features Patricia Jenkins holding a New Brunswick Tartan motor rug (see 2014.10.4) seated inside the Loomcrofters Studio.

Transcription: A comparative handful of energetic New Brunswick women, most of whom are housewives, are spearheading a revival of the once-flourishing hand-loom weaving industry in New Brunswick. Sparking the drive is Patrica Jenkins, of Gagetown, a talented, pleasant-mannered woman whose recent design of a gay new tartan has given the revival its impetus.

The idea for the tartan came to Miss Jenkins while she was returning by boat from Grand Manan Island off the New Brunswick coast. As director of The Loomcrofters, a hand-loom weaving organization at Gagetown, she had been commissioned by the Royal New Brunswick Regiment to weave a motor robe for presentation to the regiment’s honorary colonel, Lord Beaverbrook.

Sharon McQueen, 14, a Saint John band piper dressed in the new tartan

Sharon McQueen, 14, a Saint John band piper dressed in the new tartan

“The problem was to get the idea out of my head an into cloth,” explained Miss Jenkins. She wrestled with the problem and had soon designed a tartan with symbolic significance. The larger block of the design was forest green, for the province’s vast timberlands. A lighter green stood for the meadows. There was blue for the rivers, lakes and the sea, and gold for the province’s potential wealth. A rich red contained the color of the coat-of-arms and stood for loyalty to crown and country as well as for the proud record of New Brunswick regiments. Beaver brown was included to express appreciation to New Brunswick’s eminent benefactor, Lord Beaverbrook.

When The Loomcrofters turned out the finished robe in this design the effort won wide acclaim. It was presented to Lord Beaverbrook in 1958 and he was highly pleased with it. Premier Hugh John Flemming liked the design so well he announced that the New Brunswick government would adapt it as its official tartan. And, from Scotland, came the word that the Court of the Lord Lyon, which rules on matters of Scottish heraldry, had officially approved it.

For The Loomcrofters, composed of 35 to 40 women, most of whom do the weaving in their own homes, this was not their first big achievement. They were the originators of the Royal Canadian Air Force tartan.

“I’m chiefly interested in having the tartan products produced in this province rather than have the work done outside,” said Miss Jenkins.

One of the big producers is a plant in Moncton, run by John Collie, of Scots descent. Most of the others are in the Gagetown area. Products include scarves, stoles, car rugs, blankets, tams, skirts, purses and shopping bags.

Credits:  Robinson, Cyril, Weekend Staff Writer. New Brunswick Looms a Tartan, Ottawa Citizen: Weekend Magazine, 11 June 1960, Volume 10 Number 25. Photographs by Bert Beaver.

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