There cannot be a Masonic tartan and here is why...
Why no Masonic Tartan?
When the Grand Lodge of Scotland was founded in 1736 there were approximately 100 Lodges in existence, scattered across Scotland. These were mainly stonemasons’ lodges, although there were a few with a mixed membership and at least one that had no stonemasons at all as members.(1) Scottish Freemasonry in the form of The Grand Lodge of Scotland was confronted with difficulty from the outset as it attempted to regulate the affairs of so many independent Lodges. Indeed, support for the new body appeared to be lukewarm at best. All known Lodges were invited to attend the inaugural meeting held on 30 November 1736 in Edinburgh. (2) Only 33 attended or sent representatives to that meeting. Of those, 12 decided not to pursue membership of the new body any further and never became part of the Scottish Grand Lodge 'system'. (3)
It was not until 1891 that the last of these independent Lodges became a Daughter Lodge of the Grand Lodge of Scotland. (4) In order to be accepted as the governing body, the Grand Lodge of Scotland had to compromise on many issues, and it is those compromises which make Scottish Freemasonry unique in world Freemasonry. The new Grand Lodge of Scotland ‘granted’ a great deal of power to existing Lodges - it could not do otherwise, as such lodges preceded it by many years and already had such powers. (5) For this reason, Lodges under the Scottish Constitution are independent, sovereign, bodies in their own right, and Grand Lodge has quite a different relationship with its daughter Lodges than other Constitutions have with theirs. That relationship, together with the culture and history of the Scottish people, has ensured that Scottish Freemasonry has a very different character from other forms of Freemasonry. Perhaps these are some of the reasons why Scottish Freemasonry is so attractive to men outwith Scotland. (6)
Lodges which had existed prior to the formation of the Grand Lodge retained many of their local practices and traditions, which nearly always differed from place to place. This is one reason why Scottish Lodges have the right to devise their own ritual — within reason, of course! There is no such thing as a ‘standard’ Scottish Masonic ritual, and in theory there could be as many rituals as there are Lodges, although in practice Lodges adopt an existing ritual and adapt it to suit their aspirations. (7) Given that all Scottish Lodges had this amount of independence before Grand Lodge, then Lodges founded after 1736 expected - and gained - the same degree of independence. This applied not only to Lodges in Scotland but also to those in other parts of the world such as the United States of America and Canada where many Scottish Lodges were established.
This local autonomy manifested itself not only in wide variations of ritual but also had an effect on many other aspects of Lodge organisation and practice. (8) The most obvious difference is Scottish regalia, particularly aprons. A Lodge in one part of the country may have used red for its aprons and other regalia, whereas a Lodge on the other side of the country may have used blue or green or a combinationof colours. With no standard colours imposed on daughter Lodges, they continued with existing designs. (9) For this reason, all Scottish Lodges can choose which colour(s) to use for their regalia.
The reasons for the choice of colour might be obscure, but more often than not there is a conscious decision taken by the founder members when choosing a particular colour or combination of colours. For instance: Lodge Tullibardine-in-the-East, No.1118 (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) chose Murray Tartan as this was the clan tartan of the Dukes of Atholl, and John George Murray, Marquis of Tullibardine, was Grand Master Mason at the time the lodge was founded (1913). (10) Lodge Celtic No 291, founded in 1821, uses Royal Stewart tartan, and one of the Lodge’s avowed intentions was to ‘promote the wearing of tartan within the Scottish Craft’. This was a romantic - and late - reaction to the repeal of the Act of Proscription of 1746, which, among other things, had banned the wearing of tartan and the playing of bagpipes. (11)
The choice of a tartan for Scottish Masonic regalia can, like other colours, be for a number of reasons but, because tartan is uniquely Scottish, several specific reasons for their selection can be identified:
The use of a clan tartan by a Lodge which is located in the clan’s area. The use of the tartan of a particular Freemason, e.g. the Grand Master Mason at the time a Lodge was founded,The clan tartan of the Founding Master.The Tartan used by the majority of members, e.g. a Lodge founded by members of the Black WatchThe selection of a tartan for ‘romantic’ reasons; e.g. one associated with Bonnie Prince Charlie - the Royal Stewart tartan. (12)The Founder Members of the lodge simply liked the colours! (13)
What becomes clear fro