'A great way to remember her': Tartan memorializes Sydney woman

·3 min read
Heather Adams and her husband on their 25th wedding anniversary. (Submitted by Sarah Holland - image credit)
Heather Adams and her husband on their 25th wedding anniversary. (Submitted by Sarah Holland - image credit)

A Cape Breton family is celebrating a dream come true more than a decade in the making.

Heather Adams, 49, of Sydney died in October 2010 from pancreatic cancer. One of her last wishes was to have a tartan of her very own.

Her daughter, Sarah Holland, said Adams loved all things Scottish.

"Her father was in the military — he was in the pipe band. So he wore a kilt all the time. When I was five, I was put in Highland dancing, so I wore a kilt all the time. And when I met my husband, he was in the pipe band," said Holland.

"[Adams] really revolved around the Scottish heritage, and she loved the tartan."

Not long before she died, Adams shared her wish with a close friend, who happens to be a kilt-maker and tartan designer.

Submitted by Sarah Holland
Submitted by Sarah Holland

Deana Lloy of Red Label Kilts recalled her last visit with Adams in the hospital, shortly before the Nova Scotia designer headed out on a trip.

"We were talking about me going to Scotland, and she said, 'I would love to have my own tartan,'" Lloy said. "She said, 'I see a tartan, I see a Christmas tartan on a little girl.'"

Holland said not long after her mother's death, the family gathered for a dinner and talked about what colours would be best for a memorial tartan.

"We were just telling old stories, and, you know, green was her favourite colour, so that's where we started, and Christmas was her favourite time of year, so obviously we had to include red in there, and it just trickled down from there," said Holland.

Holland said the family wrote a poem about Adams and the significance of the six colours they had chosen, and then contacted Lloy for her help.

Scottish Register of Tartans
Scottish Register of Tartans

Holland said Lloy came up with a design soon afterward, but the family didn't do anything with it until recently.

"Last year, I got pregnant with my first child, and just reminiscing about Mom and everything, I said, 'You know what? It's time. We gotta follow through with this,'" said Holland.

"I contacted Deana and she said, 'I was thinking the exact same thing, let's do it.'"

Officially registered in Scotland

This week, Heather's Christmas Wish tartan was officially added to the Scottish Register of Tartan in Edinburgh, the country's official department for registering and recording tartan designs from around the world.

The official entry for the tartan describes it as "bright and vibrant," representing what was important to Adams.

"Red is for love, green was her favourite colour, blue represents her husband and sons, pink is for her daughters, and purple represents pancreatic cancer. Yellow represents the rose planted by Heather which blooms every year, even in the snow," reads the official registration.

"We were blown away. It's absolutely beautiful," said Holland. "Mum would have been so excited and so proud."

Submitted by Sarah Holland
Submitted by Sarah Holland

Adams's other daughter, Kelly Adams, agrees.

"We thought it was just a great idea, a great way to remember her," she said.

Lloy said it's not common for a family to request a memorial tartan.

Quite a process

"It's not overly popular because it is quite a process. And, you know, when it does come time to weave, it does take quite a while to have the weave done," said Lloy. "And of course, there's a huge cost with having a full weave done, as well."

Lloy sends her designs to mills in Scotland to produce a weave — a process that can cost thousands of dollars.

Submitted by Sarah Holland
Submitted by Sarah Holland

Holland said the family plans to do that, so that they can turn their mother's tartan into items for the family, such as hair scrunchies, neckties, blankets, and of course, kilts.

"I definitely want a little kilt made for my daughter," said Holland. "I definitely want that."


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