My journey into tartan design stems from my love of how tartans are a tangible connection between a family, ancestors, and heritage. They’re like a kindred link with the like-minded people no community should ever forget.
When I thought of the idea for the Eurasian Otter Tartan, I first wanted to call it the Otter Tartan. However, the Scottish Tartan Authority wouldn’t allow me to call it that, which inspired further thought on the topic.
The connection with otters, and to my main clan The Balfour’s, comes from the symbol of an otter’s head. It is central to the Balfour Coat of Arms, and it can also be found on some Bethune devices (the Balfours and Bethunes have an intertwined history and are sometimes called Balfour Bethune).
The otter’s head has two origins. First, it represents the head of a Dane named Ottar whom my ancestor slew, later removing his head. Second, and just as gruesome, The Balfours are associated with the Rivers Orr and Leven along with the Lochs of the same name in Fife, Scotland. Otters were once plentiful there, and unfortunately they were hunted for food and for their pelts.
So, the Eurasian Otter Tartan is my way of making amends for my ancestors doings – not necessarily to the Danish rival (as the Balfour founder Siward, Earl of Northumbria was also a Dane), but rather to the fact I have always loved otters. They are cute, playful creatures who live life to the fullest. Sadly, due to past hunting, which is now banned, and environmental devastation otter populations have dwindled – not only in Scotland but worldwide. In fact, numerous otter species have been brought to the point of extinction.
Lucky due to the conservation efforts of many organizations, in particular the International Otter Survival Fund based on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, otters are making a comeback.. Even more good news, which is like a silver lining during this pandemic, is that otters are also making comeback in the US and in Asia.
The second inspiration for the Eurasian Otter Tartan is one of the peerages to which I have a claim – Baron Of Otter. The Barony of Otter lies on the shores of Loch Fyne in Argyll. It was originally in the hands of the Ewans of Otter, and then passed to the Campbells. I am descended from both clans via numerous ancestral lines, and being, in effect, Lord Otter I find it my duty and responsibility to do all I can for otters.
There is also another factor that had some influence when designing the Eurasian Otter Tartan. This is the Gay Otter factor. For those who are not in the loop, “otters” in the gay community are hairy, sometimes bearded, lean-to-thin, average size men. Not like “bears” who are bigger men, or cubs who are less hairy and who like these bigger, hairy men. Yes, it’s a little confusing and I don’t quite get it all myself, but I do find Gay Otters attractive, so this also found its way into my design.
Feeling the pull to otters by love, family and titles and a splash of gay sub-culture, I created the Eurasian Otter Tartan. The colours of Brown and White represent the wee creatures, and the Blues represent the rivers, lochs and the sea where otters live and play. I even designed an Otter Coat of Arms inspired by the Scottish legend of the Otter King and the Seven Black Otters. It bears the motto in Latin “Vivet Vita ad Plenissimam”. This translates to “Live Life To The Fullest”, which otters do. Proceeds from the sale of the Eurasian Otter Tartan go to the ISOF, and I also intend to donate to the Otter Habitat at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio. (You know the one Jungle Jack Hanna made famous.)
I sell the Eurasian Otter Tartan on my website, JustKiltMe.com. I offer all clan tartans in addition to selling this charity tartans, and being a tartan designer I can create something special for you. I have designed a plethora of tartans based on themes such as; Fort of the Venicones aka Clatchard Craig in Fife, the Families of Fife, and the Balfours and MacDuffs. There’s even one for the descendants of Arthur Mac Adean, aka the real King Arthur, who was a Welsh/Dalraidan Prince. I have also designed tartans for branches of Clan Stewart and Clan MacDuff, both of which have vast branches of my family tree… and probably yours too.
All of the tartans I stock are available in kilts, mini-skirts aka Billie Kilts, and trousers for men or for women.
To order the Eurasian Otter Kilt please visit JustKiltMe.com/product/otter
Thanks for reading
Al Balfour Geiner
Lord Gwyddelwern~Baron Otter