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the James Watt Bicentenary

“Raphael paints wisdom, Handel sings it, Phidias carves it, Shakespeare writes it, Wren builds it, Columbus sails it, Luther preaches it, Washington arms it, Watt mechanizes it.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

One of the rare historical myths that has a basis in fact, Scottish inventor, mechanical engineer, and chemist James Watt (1736-1819) did indeed mark a childhood incident as contributing to his ideas for his later improvements to the efficiency of the existing Newcomen steam engine which substantially contributed to the Industrial Revolution. According to stories passed down since his lifetime, James Watt got the idea for a steam engine while still a boy, watching steam lift the lid from a teakettle. Dismissed for many years as fanciful embellishment, the original first-hand account of the kettle incident in 1751 is among a £750,000 archive relating to the Scottish inventor which surfaced in 2002 in the form of letters and other family correspondence! This tartan marks the 200th anniversary of this death and the 250th anniversary of his patent for the steam engine's "separate condenser." The power unit "Watt" is named for him.

One of the rare historical myths that has a basis in fact, Scottish inventor, mechanical engineer, and chemist James Watt (1736-1819) did indeed mark a childhood incident as contributing to his ideas for his  later improvements to the efficiency of the existing Newcomen steam engine which substantially contributed to the Industrial Revolution. According to stories passed down since his lifetime, James Watt got the idea for a steam engine while still a boy, watching steam lift the lid from a teakettle.  

 

Dismissed for many years as fanciful embellishment, the original first-hand account of the kettle incident in 1751 is among a £750,000 archive relating to the Scottish inventor which  surfaced in 2002 in the form of letters and other family correspondence!  

 

This tartan marks the 200th anniversary of this death and the 250th anniversary of his patent for the steam engine's "separate condenser."  The power unit "Watt" is named for him. 

Register notes:

James Watt (19 January 1736 – 25 August 1819) was a Scottish inventor, mechanical engineer and chemist, who was born in Greenock. He improved on Thomas Newcomen’s 1712 Newcomen steam engine with his Watt steam engine in 1781, which was fundamental to the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution in both his native Great Britain and the rest of the world. He developed the concept of horsepower, and the SI unit of power, the Watt, was named after him. The James Watt tartan was designed as part of a year of commemorative events in 2019 held by Inverclyde Council to mark the bicentenary of his death in August 1819. Colours: dark grey represents industrial works and tools; light grey represents steam; orange represents the signage and colours within the James Watt Institution and blue has been included to represent Inverclyde Council.

For more on the 2019 Bicentenary, click the engraving of young James contemplating the tea kettle.