Scottish Baby Sling Stories – Using the Plaid

Scottish Baby Sling Stories – Using the Plaid

Learn about the Scottish traditional sling - the Plaid, memories of how it was used and a demonstration of the Scottish Plaid sling in use.
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Vicki delves into historic Scotland to find out more about the age-old tradition of carrying children in slings! She meets our designer Evonne's granny and great aunt over a cuppa to hear about their personal experience in using the 'Plaid'.

When our designer Evonne told her granny about the products Oscha makes, her granny said,

"Oh I know all about that, your great granny carried me in the plaid"

Intrigued, I drove westwards on Scotland's hottest day of the year (temperature reached a miraculous 27C!), navigating the tangle of motorways which slice up Glasgow, and out the other side to Dalry, once a thriving textile town, where the last mill closed only a few months ago, to find out more.

Evonne's granny, May (Mary), and her sister Fay, greeted me with tea in china cups, lots of cake and a fascinating glimpse into 1930's and 40's Scotland.

3 women standing together using the Plaid for their children

Their mother had nine children and they lived in a two-roomed tenement flat with no running water or electricity."We had to carry buckets of clean water up a flight of stairs and the dirty water back down again,"

Fay leans forward to tell me. "There was a big open range along one side of the room for cooking and beds set into the walls on the other side.

Four of us slept in one bed, head to toe, and our parents slept in the other with the smallest ones laid across the bed at their feet."

May takes up the story. "But mother kept everything very clean. We tucked all our stuff under the beds below curtains and we were warned when visitors came not to go pulling it out. We did love to play below the beds!"

They fetch the plaid their mother used. 'We washed it for you coming, though it was clean, it has been washed before!' May grins. She shows me the label; it's a Princess Mary tartan woven on a home loom in a Highland cottage.

May and Fay with the plaid sling

When I try it feels very comforting and certainly would have kept mother and baby warm, cuddling in together on a chilly day.

"My mother didn't have a pram, they couldn't afford it until her two youngest children were born and even then she filled it with the shopping more often, and still carried the baby in the plaid.'

May says.

But how did she manage to go out with so many children? 'The big ones had to carry the little ones and Mother kept the smallest with her,' Fay explains, 'she'd take us all out on the bus for the day. Once we missed the last bus home and had to stay the night in the Salvation Army Hostel.' I think of the logistics of taking all the children out for the day and shudder.

Scottish people walking in a procession with kilt, child in plaid, man playing bagpipes

Image with child in Plaid and bagpipes in pram!

May nods back in agreement and tells a story of yet another use for the pram. 'One day when I was 8, I fell in the school playground and hurt my leg. Mother came with the big pram and wheeled me away home in it. I was mortified.' I can feel the mortification for her; mothers can be so embarrassing.

'But when my first baby was born I could never get him to settle, Mother used to carry him in the plaid and he'd be quiet within 5 minutes.

He had colic so I soon learned to use the plaid myself because it did quiet him. I did it with all three children, and then with my grandchildren, I used to tuck them into my clothes to carry.' Fay nods, 'me too,'

she says.

I think of this unbroken line of strong women as they tell me more amazing stories of their childhood; how their mother was hired out at a hiring fair aged 14 and her wages all paid to her sister, when their father tried to get social housing but was told they 'weren't a priority' because they didn't have tuberculosis in the family, of Sundays with no play and lots of church.

It is wonderful to see that this tradition remains and we are still seeing the benefits of carrying our children here in Scotland, and around the world.

In this video you can see how the Plaid, a square shawl was folded and used as a sling. It is really more of a carrying aid so one arm still supports the child.

At Oscha you can find a range of slings for hands-free carrying from ring slings to baby wraps and buckle carriers, all hand made in Scotland. You can also find some tartan options!