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The O'Keefe Tartan

by Anthony Okieffe

The O'Keefe Tartan (also called the Murphy or Tara tartan) was a tartan copied and re-designed off the Maclean of Duart tartan. It was sold to Irish costumers in The Kilt Shop in Edinburgh in 1967. Like many of the Irish tartans on record, it was thought to have been included in the book Clans Originaux, published in Paris in 1880. However, recent research undertaken by the Scottish Tartans Authority has shown this work to be a tartan sample book of sorts, containing no Irish tartans whatsoever.

Most Irish tartans were designed, produced and marketed by Scottish tartan manufacturers. Most were made during the end of the 19th century due to the fact that Irish people wanted to revive the Gaelic traditions, such as education, the Gaelic language and literature. The revival started due to the Irish wanting to separate themselves as a reaction to the British rules at the time.

The O'Keefe Tartan has two variants, the Ancient coloured tartan then the Modern coloured tartan. There is also a Reproduction coloured tartan, but not many companies make this style of tartan.

The Ancient coloured tartan:

The Modern coloured tartan:

tartan tartan

If you look closely, you'll notice that they are in the same design and colours, but the Ancient coloured tartan appears look washed out, whereas the Modern coloured tartan appears to be more eye-popping and brightly coloured.


Dunlevy, Mairead. Dress in Ireland. Doughcloyne, Wilton, Cork: Collins Press, 1999.

McClintock, Henry F. Handbook on the Traditional Old Irish Dress. Dundalk, Ireland: Dundalgan Press (W. Tempest) Ltd., 1958.