When Plaid Goes Bad: The Unsolved Mystery of the Missing Ogilvy Plaid

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KEPT in an Invercargill bank vault for three generations, the Ogilvy Plaid, believed by some to be a priceless relic of the 18th century Battle of Culloden in Scotland, made headlines around the world in 2015 when its last Kiwi owner called the cops on the Earl and Countess of Airlie.

The mystery of the now-missing Ogilvy Plaid is detailed in a collaborative history book recently profiled in The Southland Express – Da Flittin’ of the Nicolsons from Shetland and the Duthies from Kincardinedshire

The book was put together by the descendants of a young Scottish couple (William Ogilvy Duthie and Grace Nicolson) who eloped to settle in Quarry Hills 125 years ago.

It details the histories of the couple’s journeying in New Zealand and the lives of their many descendants, but also includes many fascinating stories of the couple’s ancestry, with some of these stories stretching back as far as 18th century Scotland.

At this time, the Jacobite army loyal to Bonnie Prince Charlie (heir of the house of Stuart) did battle in 1746 with forces loyal to King George 1 at the Battle of Culloden, near Inverness.

The Jacobite army, which included clansmen from across the Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland, lost the battle, but a plaid said to be worn by an Ogilvy at the battle was brought to New Zealand by William Ogilvy Duthie at some point after 1861, the book’s co-author Kathy Hill said.

The plaid’s ownership was left in the care of one of William Ogilvy Duthie’s nine daughters when he left New Zealand to live in Australia, she said.

This daughter was Ivy MacIntosh, one of the nine daughters of William Ogilvy Duthie and Grace Nicolson.

The nine daughters of William Ogilvy Duthie and Grace Nicolson (from left), Laura McDonald, Mary Maddox, Grace Goulter, Jean MacIntosh, Ellen Ryrie, Eva Maddox, Florence Neill, Rose Whitehead and Ivy MacIntosh), pose for a photograph at their last reunion in Invercargill in 1936. Photo: Supplied

The plaid was passed on to Ivy MacIntosh’s daughter, Alice MacIntosh, of Christchurch, who never married and who wanted the plaid to be returned to Scotland, Hill said.

After Alice MacIntosh’s death it came into the possession of her niece, Robyn MacIntosh-Handtschoewercker, of Cardrona, who honoured her aunt’s wishes, returning the plaid to Scotland via courier in 1998.

The plaid was received at the other end by Lord Airlie, of the Ogilvy Clan, who at the time lived at Cortachy Castle, the Ogilvy ancestral home near Dundee.

However, in 2007, when Mrs MacIntosh-Handtschoewercker wrote to Lord Arlie to inform him she intended to visit the castle, Lord Airlie wrote: “I well recall receiving an Ogilvy tartan plaid some years ago and placing it carefully in one of the many cupboards in the castle. You will appreciate the castle is large with numerous cupboards and as I write, and after a search, I cannot be sure which of many tartan plaids placed in the castle is the one in question.”

There was further correspondence, and in April 2014 a letter from a representative of Lord Airlie seemed to indicate all was well at last.

“… the plaid has been found safe in the linen store – it had lain there undiscovered due to someone placing a curtain on top of it.”

Mrs MacIntosh-Handtschoewercker then asked two members of the Scottish Tartans Authority to help determine the plaid’s provenance, but when they arrived at the castle they were presented instead with a box containing the photos of the plaid she had taken in Christchurch and a silk scarf in the Ogilvy tartan.

What became of the Ogilvy plaid?

Despite Mrs MacIntosh-Handtschoewercker involving the police and a subsequent inquiry by police in Scotland, the mystery remains unsolved; but you can read more about it here:

READ MORE:

ODT: Case of the missing Culloden tartan

THE TIMES: The earl, the art teacher and the missing Culloden tartan

To buy the book, Da Flittin’ of the Nicolsons from Shetland and the Duthies from Kincardinedshire, go to www.lifelogs.co.nz

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