The Elusive Forbes
by Colin Langeveld
Colin wearing his Regimental Kilt
When I joined the Liverpool Scottish regiment in 1961 part of my kit included a regimental kilt in the Forbes tartan. My grandmother was a Hamilton, a fact of which I have always been very proud. Now I had a kilt, not of my grandmother’s clan, but that belonging to a regiment of which to be proud.
Unfortunately, five years later, due to a back injury, I had to leave the regiment and return my beloved kilt. In those days one could purchase it for £10, but as I was earning £7.00 a week, recently married and with a mortgage, this was out of the question.
During the years that followed, due to moving etc, I lost touch with the ‘Jocks’ as they are called. Sadly they were disbanded in the late 1990s. Then, in 2007 a dinner dance was held to fund a statue to commemorate VC and Bar holder Lt. Noel Chavssse. I attended and my contact with the regiment was renewed after a gap of 42 years.
I began attending meetings, regimental reunions and various ceremonies. The only thing I lacked was a kilt. Purchasing the ‘Charley’ and Argyle outfit was easy, but finding the correct Forbes tartan was a nightmare. To date there are about five versions of it, the nearest being Forbes Modern, but still not the old regimental version.
I was about to call it a lost cause when I was told that one of our pipers had saved a bolt of the tartan upon the demise of the regiment, and better still, was a kilt maker!!
Getting measured was a strange experience. The band still play at various occasions and practice every Sunday in an old church. So there I waited, as the band played and upon completion of the day’s practice given the full treatment.
My measurements had been taken earlier at a local Scottish outfitters during my search. Here, to find the length of the kilt, the measurement was taken from my naval to my knees as I knelt on the floor. As I am over 6ft tall this would have resulted, with the minimum of stretch movements, a gap revealing white shirt between kilt and waistcoat. Take note those planning to join the esteemed ranks of the Society of Venerable Kilt Owners.
Thankfully, the piper knew his stuff. I was told to kneel on one knee. The top of the tape measure was place under my first rib, the other end, to the floor. In other words, my kilt reaches two inches above my belly button.
It is a good 16 ounce kilt, cut in the military style and I wear it with pride at every suitable occasion. Worth my 40 odd year wait.