The Clan recognizes two tartans - a dress tartan and a hunting tartan, each with three separate colour variations. Members of the Clan and friends of the Clan who show allegiance to the Chief of Clan MacNeacail are authorized wear the tartans of the Clan.  

Despite several sources giving different definitions, and even more confusingly listing several ‘MacNicol’ and ‘Nicolson’ tartans most of which are unrelated to our own, Clan members should rest assured that our Clan's tartans are precisely defined and were duly recorded in the Books of the Court of the Lord Lyon Writs Section on 21 December 2001, pursuant to the petition by our late Chief, Iain MacNeacail of MacNeacail and Scorrybreac.

His petition was based on the tartans illustrated by Color Plates Nos. 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 contained in our Clan’s history book entitled The Highland Clan MacNeacail (MacNicol) A History of the Nicolsons of Scorrybreac authored by W. David H. Sellar, the current Lord Lyon, and the late Dr. Alsadair Maclean, and edited and funded in toto by the late Harman Nicholson of Balvenie who extensively researched the question of Clan tartans and produced an extensive and magisterial report to our late Chief which underpinned the latter’s petition.

For the purposes of historical accuracy, here is a transcript of Iain MacNeacail’s Petition to the Lord Lyon, dated November 22, 2001:

BE IT KNOWN unto all by these presents I, IAIN MACNEACAIL of MACNEACAIL AND SCORRYBREAC, Chief of the Name and Arms of MacNeacail, Considering that it is my wish that tartans be worn and used as the hunting and dress tartans of the name of MacNeacail and that for this purpose the tartans should be defined and recorded to the effect that the same shall not be subject to unwarrantable or inconvenient variations WIT YE ME that in the exercise of power competent to and vested in me as Iain MacNeacail of MacNeacail and Scorrybreac, Chief of the Name and Arms of MacNeacail, I have ordered and appointed likeas I now order and appoint that the said tartans for the name of MacNeacail are and shall be of the colours and proportions hereinafter specified videlicet


Blue 12 Black 2 Green 2 Black 2

Green 2 Black 2 Blue 12 Red 4   

Black 8 Red 4 Green 12 Black 2  

Yellow 2 Black 2 White 2 Black 2

Green 12


Black 2 Red 12 Green 2 Red 12 Green 20

Red 2 Black 8 Azure 2 Black 12 Red 12 

Green 2 Red 12 Black 2



And I consent to registration of these Presents in the Books of the Lord Lyon King of Arms in Scotland: IN WITNESS WHEREOF these presents are subscribed by me at Ballina, New South Wales, Australia on November 22, 2001

Iain MacNeacail of MacNeacail and Scorrybreac 

EDINBURGH,  December21,  2001;  The within Deed of date November 22, 2001 is recorded in the Books of the Court of the Lord Lyon (Writ Section) pursuant to the Petition of Iain MacNeacail of MacNeacail and Scorrybreac and Conform to Warrant for Recording of date November 22, 2001 by the Lord Lyon King of Arms.

(signed and sealed) 
Elizabeth A. Roads
Lyon Clerk and Keeper of the Records

 In a prior letter addressed to the late Burke Nicholson of Balvenie dated 25 October 2001, the Lyon Clerk, Mrs. Elizabeth Roads provided the following instructive points:

‘I can confirm that there are in effect, only two tartans – MacNeacail Hunting and MacNeacail Dress.  The tartans being described as Modern, Ancient and Weathered are trade terms and have nothing to do with the thread count.  The Weathered term applies to the interspersing of each coloured thread with a dull one, usually brown, to give artificially an ancient, faded appearance. The term Modern refers to the darker, harsher colours introduced in the mid-1800s with aniline dyes, while the term Ancient refers to, surprisingly, the use of the lighter fresher colours introduced in the 1920s.  It is thus the case that in each case there are three different coloured versions of the same thread count. Thus the thread count given for the Hunting tartan applies to tartans [Plates No.] 8, 10 and 12 in History of the Highland Clan MacNeacail  and that the Dress thread count refers to tartans [Plates No.] 9, 11 and 13.’

By a tradition extending to 1951, the Lord Lyon has given the right to clan chiefs to determine officially their own tartans based on verifiable tradition, a right which was duly exercized by our late Chief Ian MacNeacail. We should take comfort that our tartans have been precisely defined by our late Chief (based on long tradition) and after being vetted by the Lyon Court's Tartans Committee, duly recognized and registered by the chief heraldic authority of Scotland, the Court of the Lord Lyon.  

Other colour variations can be found in books and on the web, and there are special tartans set aside for dancers which enhance the look of the Clan tartan with white or other bright colors to stand out, but those are not officially recorded by our Clan Chief. Another interesting note concerns our Ancient Hunting colour variation - the same tartan is used by Clan Cunningham, although we are unsure how this came about.

Modern Red (Dress)Modern Hunting
Ancient Red (Dress)Ancient Hunting
 Weathered Red (Dress) Weathered Hunting

Each of the Tartans with three colour variations