Scottish and Irish Merchant: Celtic Connection
FIELD TRIP – November 2013
by Veronique McAree | photography Amanda Kowalski
For over a decade, Linda Clifford has been bringing a bit of Celtic style to Bethel
Visitors from around the world come to Bethel, located in western Maine, to golf in the summer, watch the leaves change color in the autumn, and, in the winter, to ski, dogsled, or snowmobile at the nearby Sunday River ski resort.
In addition to memories of time well spent outdoors, visitors lucky enough to discover Bethel’s Scottish and Irish Merchant might also leave with a Celtic treasure in hand.
“So many people have Irish or Scottish connections,” explains Linda Clifford, owner of the tiny Main Street shop, which started online in 1997, then opened its brick-and-mortar business in 2001. “And the Irish and Scottish are all fiercely loyal to their countries, and often as loyal to the products of those countries, as well.”
This was just part of the impetus for Clifford to take the leap from her quilting business to curator of stylish Celtic imports.
Clifford’s passion for the British Isles took shape while she was working in the music business, when she discovered a recording of Scottish music. The interest resurfaced years later when, on a trip to Scotland with her husband (former marketing manager of Sunday River), she visited a Celtic trade show displaying crafts and fabrics. Although she perused the fine crafts with no business intention in mind, the idea for the Scottish and Irish Merchant was soon hatched.
When one thinks of Celtic specialty retailers, images of shamrocks, Guinness beer mugs, and Kiss-Me-I’m-Irish sweatshirts may come to mind. Clifford’s business doesn’t look like that.
The shop showcases the fine craftsmanship of the Emerald Isle, the Scottish Highlands, and a few American and English pieces too. Customers will discover unusual and beautiful collections, including Celtic diamond rings, Claddagh rings, hard-to-find Nicholas Mosse Pottery, Heritage Irish Crystal, Mullingar Pewter, and Connemara Marble, to name just a few of the finds.
Customers tend to seek out the Scottish and Irish Merchant with one brand in mind: Barbour. The shop is one of the few Barbour dealers in Maine and visitors arrive with the sole purpose of purchasing a legendary waxed-cotton jacket.
Clothing and fine crafts aside, what truly sets this small specialty store apart is tartan. Linda Clifford is a veritable tartan scholar and leading U.S. authority on its history and patterns.
Over the years, she’s identified and sourced tartan plaid for dozens of interior designers, academic institutions, law enforcement offices, events, and more.
The shop sells tartan fabric by the yard along with custom-made kilts, tailored by some of Scotland’s finest kilt makers. Notes Clifford, “We’ve helped with all kinds of projects, from outfitting the University of California at Riverside’s Pipe Band to interior work for Oprah Winfrey and Billy Joel.”
When it comes to tartan, Clifford leaves no stone unturned to identify what a customer is looking for. The company website explains tartan terminology to help customers learn about Scottish plaid. She also designs tartans herself, including a firefighter’s tartan, the proceeds from which are donated to a national firefighters’ assistance fund.
Above all, the Scottish and Irish Merchant prides itself on customer service. Have something in mind? Clifford and her team thrive on Celtic conundrums. Whether you are Scottish, Irish, or not, you’ll love discovering the unusual artistry of these lands, and a dose of Celtic style right here in Maine.
Tartan fabrics can be used for curtains, throws, upholstery, you name it. But how do you find the tartan that’s right for you? Just ask Linda Clifford and her team at the Scottish and Irish Merchant. Here’s what she has to say on the subject.
If your ancestry is Scottish and your surname is not on the Scottish Tartan List (see website) there is still a good chance that it may be a “sept” of another clan. There are two types of septs: a family that was related by blood or marriage to a clan; or a family that sought the protection of a clan. If there is no clan connection, the name may be associated with a District Tartan.
If your family is from Ireland, one of the Irish County Tartans will most likely be appropriate, as there are only a handful of Irish Clan Tartans.
What’s more: simply email your surname information and the team will do the research.
1.These Irish Tweed walking hats are fetching and built to last.
2.Linda Clifford’s team, including store manager Maureen Ginther, will help you choose a gift, research a family tartan, you name it.
3.How about an Irish County Tartan Necktie? They come in all manner of pattern and colors.
4.Cue the bagpipes, a view of the shop’s exterior.
5.You’ll find plenty of gift ideas, like this lovely embossed leather journal and Irish Knit Sweater (in background).
6.Lots of Scottish and Irish symbols and traditions are rendered onto jewelry like this Celtic Tree of Life necklace.
7.The Scottish and Irish Merchant knows a thing or two about tartan—and kilts. Here’s just one example, a Great Kilt in Ross Hunting Ancient Tartan.
8.The shop is one of Maine’s only dealers of Barbour products including this Wool Tarras Bag.
9.Show your love the Emerald Isle way with this Diamond Claddagh Engagement and Wedding Ring Set.
10.Need a sip on the ski slopes? Stow it in this pewter flask shown here atop a Firefighter Tartan designed in-house.
11.Looking for a great wedding gift? The shop offers a selection of world renowned Heritage Irish Crystal.
Take a field trip to the Scottish and Irish Merchant at 91 Main Street in Bethel, or find online at lindaclifford.com