In March I received a phone call from someone who’d seen our article A toe-tapping return to Scottish Country Dancing in the Independent Herald.
However, she wasn’t looking to come dancing, rather to offer us the donation of a kilt, in the hopes it would find a new home with someone ‘from the Scottish Country Dancing community’.
Like many of us, Jane Aim has accumulated a lot of possessions over her life, and is in the process of doing a clear-out. Amongst the many items, was her childhood kilt, made from fabric ordered from Scotland.
You might expect Jane’s kilt to be child-sized and well worn. However, she only wore it for special occasions, and it was made with lots of room to grow (as many clothes were in those days).
Jane tells us the story of her kilt:
About 70 years ago my Mother ordered two kilts. I would have been 13 or 14 and my sister eight or nine. She ordered Lindsay tartan and they were made by Mr McPhee, who was the kiltmaker of Wellington at that time.
This kilt is special by virtue of its age, its connections to Jane’s childhood, and its historical links to her forebears in Scotland. Jane’s great-great-grandmother, Jane ‘Jean’ Lindsay, was born in Annan in Dumfriesshire, Scotland in 1816.
The kilt itself was made by N & A McPhee, Highland Outfitters of Wellington, established in 1946 and still operating today as McPhees, supplying kilts, sashes and dancing shoes to the Scottish Country Dancing community.
Adding more interest to the story, Jane is a fifth-generation kiwi, with links to longstanding New Zealand families, including the Blundells and the Seddons.
Definitely a kilt with lots of stories to tell, read on for a few in brief.
Jane ‘Jean’ Lindsay
Namesake and great-great-granddaughter Jane Aim gives us a short history:
My great great grandmother was Jane Lindsay (sometimes called Jean) who came from Annan, a market town and port in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. Jane married Thomas Seddon of St Helen’s, Lancashire and this is where they lived. They were both teachers.
Jane taught junior school at Eccleston denominational school and Thomas was headmaster of an endowed ‘free school’ and taught about 50 pupils. Later their second son, Richard John Seddon came to New Zealand, lived on the West Coast and was Premier of New Zealand from 1893 – till his death on 10th June 1906.
N & A McPhee
Neil McPhee was a Detective Sergeant in the New Zealand Police, where he set up the Wellington (now New Zealand) Police Highland Pipe Band. From some time early in the 1930s he started making bagpipes, and when he retired from the police in 1945, he opened his own bagpipe turning shop with brother Alan.
In 1946, Neil then founded N & A McPhee, Highland Outfitters. The company has had a long connection with Scottish Country Dancing in New Zealand, with a full page ad on the back page of the first edition of The New Zealand Scottish Country Dancer magazine in 1954.
N. & A. McPhee were ‘Always at your service’ offering ‘Ladies and Gents Kilts made to measure’ from ‘a fine selection of Hand Woven Tartans in Ancient Colourings just to hand from Inverness.’ Also ‘Ladies Sashes and Dancing Pumps’.
By 1957 their ad had moved to the inside of the front cover of The NZSC Dancer, and the company was now known as McPhee’s Highland House, stocking ‘everything required by Scottish Country Dancers’. They now also offered dance books and ‘Country Dance recordings by Jimmy Shand, Bobby MacLeod’ and many other musicians whose music the club holds in its music collection.
The company has continued to operate continuously since 1946, under different owners over the years and is now known simply as McPhee’s. It still makes kilts and still advertises in The NZSC Dancer – now with full colour illustrations of their range of dance shoes and sashes.
You can see some fantastic old photos of Neil McPhee on the New Zealand Police Band Facebook page.
Jane is well embedded in the Wellington community, to which she has given great service, and for which in 2016 she was presented with the Queen’s Service Medal.
Jane’s family has a long history with Old St Paul’s and she was very involved with its preservation and enhancement. As a life member of the Oriental Bay Resident’s Association, Jane has also been involved in many projects, such as the children’s playground at Freyberg beach.
In addition to her family connections to the Seddons, Jane is also a descendant of Henry Blundell who founded The Evening Post newspaper in Wellington.
Both Jane’s father and grandfather worked at the newspaper and she was present at a function prior to the opening of the new Press Hall in Willis Street, on the site that once housed The Evening Post’s printing presses.
All this history tied up in one kilt, with only one small repair to hint at its longevity.
Many thanks to Jane Aim for the donation of her kilt, and the stories that go with it.
5 May 2022