The 'Benedict Bounce' set to benefit the Borders

BORDERS weavers are working flat out to cope with demand for the new St Ninian's tartan after millions around the world watching television coverage of the papal visit to Scotland saw the Pope wearing a scarf in the new design.

In the days preceding Pope Benedict XVI's three-day visit to the UK, which ended on Saturday evening, ties and scarves in the new tartan were presented to all 129 Scottish MSPs by Scotland's most senior Roman Catholic clergyman, Cardinal Keith O'Brien.

Designed by Matthew Newsome, from North Carolina in the United States, the tartan is a limited edition specially created for the start of the papal visit to Scotland last Thursday - St Ninian's Day.

It was created in conjunction with two Scottish companies - Ingles Buchan of Glasgow and ClanItalia of Falkirk.

However, the firm of Ingles Buchan originally started life in Galashiels and, to this day, still has 90 per cent of its weaving carried out in the Borders - at Anthony Hains Textiles in Selkirk - and that includes the new tartan.

The company produces 600 tartans and also has much of its cloth finished at Schofield's mill in Galashiels.

Ingles Buchan managing director Colin Brown says he and other company staff were stunned to see a scarf in the new tartan being draped round the pontiff's neck by Cardinal O'Brien, after Pope Benedict boarded the 'pope mobile' following his welcome by the Queen at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.

Cardinal O'Brien himself was also sporting a similar scarf as he joined the Pope in his gleaming white official vehicle to travel the length of Princes Street.

Television pictures of the event were beamed to millions of viewers around the globe and the so-called 'Benedict Bounce' in terms of financial spin-offs from the visit has already started to make itself felt, even here in the Borders.

Mr Brown told TheSouthern that as soon as the Pope was seen wearing the scarf, the company's phones started ringing off the hook.

"We had calls from Poland, America and Canada, asking: 'Where can we buy your products?'. You can't buy that kind of publicity," he said.

"One of the photographs of the Pope wearing the scarf, which appeared in some of the national papers, even showed our label and the ‘Ingles Buchan Made in Scotland' wording which was even better."

Mr Brown says the number of enquiries has continued to grow steadily, and a second batch of the cloth will become available in the second week of October.

"The weavers are working flat out to get more of the cloth ready and we will be heading to Rome for a second launch of the tartan next month."

The visit to Italy was at the suggestion of the Scottish Catholic media office and Mr Brown says the hope is to capitalise on the publicity of the Pope's visit to Scotland with Italian customers.

"It was the Scottish Catholic media office's idea to have another launch and hopefully that will further boost sales. The next batch of cloth will be made up into kilt material, scarves and ties of all weights."

Mr Newsome, who is the director of the Scottish Tartans Museum in Franklin, North Carolina, explained about his design.

"The white line on blue field draws upon Scotland's national colours, while the green reflects the lichens growing on the stones of Whithorn in Galloway. It was there that Ninian first brought the gospel of Jesus Christ to Scottish shores more than 1,600 years ago.

"The white lines are also accompanied by a pair of red lines, reflecting the colours of Cardinal John Newman's crest. And finally, the thin yellow lines in the tartan, together with the white, reflect the colours of the Vatican.

"In terms of the weaving, each white line on the green contains exactly eight threads, one for each Catholic diocese in Scotland. There are 452 threads in the design from pivot to pivot, representing the number of Catholic parishes."

Cardinal Newman, who died in 1890 and is regarded as possibly the greatest religious figure of the last 200 years of British history.

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