So I was about to start painting the highlanders that I've got ready for Whiskey Priest's Oldhammer challenge, when suddenly I was paralysed with angst and self-doubt.
Not so much an existentialist crisis as an example of the kind of annoying niggles that crop up everytime I need to make a big painting decision. And the big question causing all the hesitation was this:
Should I paint the kilts of the clansmen all in one tartan, or should I go for a load of different tartans?
An incident in the rebellion of 1746, by David Morier - note the highlanders are wearing several different tartans.
If I was an historic gamer, there might be a somewhat definitive answer to that: if I was wargaming the Jacobite uprising, say, the evidence would point to the fact that the warriors wore a whole gaggle of tartans. Certainly the idea of everyone wearing a common "clan tartan" is a much later development, and in terms of battle dress has more to do with the raising of the Highland Regiments in the 18th century, when each regiment was dressed in a uniform tartan. It's only really with the highly dubious claims of Vestiarium Scoticum of 1842 (largely a historical fabrication - FABRICation, geddit? eh? HAHAHAHAHA oh forget it) that we derive the idea that there was such a thing as historic tartans associated with particular clans, taken up by the Highland Society of London... and kiltmakers have been trading on that ever since. So it's kind of a 19th century fantasy of how Scottish highlanders used to dress. But then, what we're wargaming here is fantasy.
The Albion clansman designed for McDeath, all decked out in their highland dress, inhabit a romantic dream, born of Sir Walter Scott's "Land of brown heath and shaggy wood,/ Land of the mountain and the flood", but in the hands of the Games Workshop designers it's a dream cut through with 1980s British cynicism... competitors at the Highland games become rival football hooligans armed with broken bottles facing off over the playing field. (Incidentally, the Warlord Games "arrant scum" selection of beer swilling highlanders captures this mixture of romance and hooliganism quite nicely.) High fantasy with a vein of snide humour.
Such is the nature of fantasy - the past as it is imagined, and as we use it to tell stories about the present, not than the past as it was lived. So ultimately, the question is which fantasy I want to depict when I come to paint these wee fellows: the fiercely independent highlander banding together with his fellows, or the loyal men tied to kin and territory through unbreakable bonds of blood.