15/04/2013
Share this story Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Designing the Bell Rock Tartan

14522905-f6d7-4e8c-ac23-47f260ecced0

Tartan designer Steven Patrick Sims spoke to History Scotland about designing the Bell Rock Lighthouse tartan, which has also been adopted as the official tartan of the Northern Lighthouse Board.

How much did you know about the Bell Rock Lighthouse before starting this project?

I’ve lived in Arbroath all my life and the lighthouse has always been there as long as I can remember, flashing on the horizon like a beacon at sea. I’d been to visit it by boat prior to doing the tartan. I’m also an artist and had been previously commissioned to paint the lighthouse, so I had a previous knowledge.


What was your starting point for designing this particular tartan?


This was actually the very first tartan that I designed. I have design experience and have been an artist but it was when the bi-centennial of the lighthouse was celebrated two years ago that I started to develop an interested in tartan.
I’ve become fascinated by the diversity of tartan – you can start with as little as two colours, and as many as six, and make an amazing design. I researched clan tartans to start with and then started I could design my own tartans. I looked into how tartans were produced historically (when people painted the designs) through to more modern methods, using software.

And I’m not just using these colours randomally; a lot of depth and thought goes into it behind the scenes. What I think I’ve done is created something unique. I’ve created an image of the lighthouse in the tartan. It’s designed like a flash of light and there are ninety threads which represent the ninety blocks that make up the tartan. There’s also a red and white light, as this was the distinctive red and white flashing lights that the lighthouse had in bygone days.

Because the lighthouse has a history tinged with sadness, did this affect your design work?

It did absolutely. There's black in the tartan as well I see that as serving a few purposes. The lighthouse is a light in the darkness; black marries with blue for the North Sea; and black is a tribute colour and a tribute to the thousands of lives lost.

Is there another tartan that you’d really like to design?

I do have a tartan that I’m working on, and quite a few projects in the pipeline, but in the future I’d like to do a tartan for the Ryder Cup. I’m very proud that the Bell Rock tartan has been chosen as the official tartan of the Northern Lighthouse Board. The Bell Rock Lighthouse and those who worked there deserved to be recognised, and it was a natural progression for me to do this.

To find out more about Steven’s work, visit his website The Tartan Artisan.

Image shows Piper Jack Newth of Arbroath British legion Pipe Band with Steven Patrick Sim © Robert France

Keep up to date with the latest history news, discoveries and research in every issue of History Scotland and Scottish Memories magazines, available in print and digital versions.

Sign up now for our FREE e-newsletter for more news stories, sneak previews, exclusive content and special offers.

Back to "Features" Category

15/04/2013 Share this story   Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Recent Updates

Scottish author A J Cronin was born - On this day in history

Scottish author A J Cronin was born on 19 July 1896. ...


Was Aberdeen the birthplace of Scotch whisky? Exciting new 16th-century find

Historians have uncovered the earliest ever reference to a still for distilling Scotch whisky which suggests ...


Actor John Stuart was born - On this day in history

Scottish actor John Stuart was born on 18 July 1898. ...


Large number of finds at battle of Waterloo site in dig led by Professor Tony Pollard, University of Glasgow

A team working at the Waterloo battlefield in Belgium have uncovered uniform buttons from the Scots Guards ...


Other Articles

17th-century gold armorial ring found at Loch Lomond to go to auction

A 17th-century gold armorial ring found by a metal detectorist who has also discovered a rare Richard III of ...


Economist Adam Smith died - On this day in history

Scottish economist Adam Smith died on 17 July 1790. ...


105 Shetland fishermen were lost in the Bad Day - On this day in history

On 16 July 1832 over 100 Shetland fishermen were killed in a storm. ...


Surfacemen, a sixteen-year-old, safety and the Scottish Railway

Dr Mike Esbester introduces the Railway Work, Life and Death project, a free resource that is shedding light ...