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Merilees Tartan

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The name Merrilees comes from the lands and village of that name, now part of the estate of Binns in West Lothian.  The derivation of the name is unclear but it may be from two Old English words ‘murige’ meaning merry, gay pleasant etc. and ‘leah’ meaning a clearing in or by a wood.  Thus the original Merrilees may have been a pleasant clearing.  

The first record of its usage as a surname was in 1529 when Thomas Mereleys or Mureleis was permitted during the pest’ till cum in to his awin house of the Mure’, in Edinburgh.  There was also a place name Mureleyis in Renfrewshire from where those of this name may in certain instances alternatively originate.  

The origins of the tartan are rather obscure.  A sample in the Tartan Society’s Collection is called ‘Meg Merriless’.  It is possible then that it dates to some point in the first quarter of the nineteenth century but was never a tartan in the clan or family sense.  Meg Merrilees was the name of an old gypsy woman in Sir Walter Scott’s ‘Guy Mannering’ and with the popularity of the novels it is quite possible that this would have made the public more receptive to goods marketed under that name.

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