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Pink tartan designed for Japanese

24 August 08 23:30 GMT
By Steven McKenzie
Highlands and Islands reporter, BBC Scotland news website

A designer has created a tartan for Japan which draws inspiration from the country's fascination with cherry blossom and a Scottish industrialist.

David McGill, from Edinburgh, has previously designed tartans for Poland, France and Norway.

His latest design has still to be woven, but on paper includes the colours pink, white, green and brown.

While researching the design, he looked into the story of Fraserburgh-born Thomas Glover, the "Scottish Samurai".

The new tartan has also had input from Shizue Melvin, from Japan, who is married to a Scottish businessman.

The design is called sakura, Japanese for cherry blossom.

Mr McGill, a former chartered architect and champion bowler, runs International Tartan.

At bowls, he was the British Isles Singles Champion in 1977, represented his country in the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Canada, in 1978 and won silver and bronze medals in the 1980 World Bowls Championships in Melbourne, Australia.

Mr McGill has designed tartans for US states and 10 European countries, but admitted this was his first to incorporate pink.

He said: "I do my research before choosing the colours and design and look for links with Scotland.

"With Japan, there is the wonderful story of Thomas Glover."

Glover was born in 1838 in Fraserburgh, a north east Scotland fishing town, and became a leading figure in the industrialisation of Japan.

Cherry blossom

Dubbed the Scottish Samurai, he was the first non-Japanese to be awarded the Order of the Rising Sun - one of the top honours of the country.

The white and pink colours come from the three hues of cherry blossom - white, pale pink and a stronger pink.

Mrs Melvin's husband, John, said the annual eruptions of cherry blossom from southern Japan to the north of the islands was the cause for major celebrations.

He said: "It happens from about mid-March to mid-April.

"The weather forecasts are extended to provide updates on where the trees are blooming.

"Office parties are held and the office junior sent out at dawn to save a seat under the best trees for the rest of the staff."

Mr Melvin, from Edinburgh, said he hoped to have the tartan ready to pitch to Japanese stores by October.

Uses for it include rugs and mini-skirts favoured by girls as school uniforms.

Mr McGill said sakura could be among the first new tartans to be included in a planned national register of tartan.

Plans to enshrine the register officially in law were backed by the Scottish Parliament in June.

The bill, aimed at capitalising on interest around the world, would see a database being set up in Edinburgh.

Holyrood's economy, energy and tourism committee backed the first stage of the bill, put forward by Tory MSP Jamie McGrigor.

There are about 7,000 different tartans, with another 150 designs being created every year.

In 2007, Highland Council convener Sandy Park wrote to First Minister Alex Salmond, and also sought support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, to have the register based in the Highlands.

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