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Caithness Field Club

Caithness Historical Notes 1750 - 1900
D Omand - Moravian Field Club

Clothing and Footwear
Many of the Ministers who reported for the Old Statistical Account believed their flocks to be extremely healthy and sometimes attributed this to the wearing of sloorins (a flannel made by the crofters’ wives). Some Ministers blamed the increasing incidence of colds and rheumatism on the introduction of linen which was made into undergarments. To ward off these and other ailments many superstitious practices wore invoked. Recourse could be made to a herbal variety called Heelan Bladies which was widely used for medicinal purposes. A poultice of mouldy animal fat smeared on cotton cloth (an application known as trets) appeared to have healing properties.

Every croft had a small flock of sheep which supplied the family with wool. The crofter's wife carded and spun yarn on distaff and spindle, to make blankets and cloth which were generally a dull grey colour. From the same cloth plaids were made for women and men, who also wore a belt around the garment. Underneath the plaid men wore a course woollen shirt. Gradually vests breeches and coats of the same hodden grey material came into vogue. For Sunday attire the men had clothing of a finer material called Hanky, which was dyed blue, The women wore plain gowns of drugget (course woollen material) . As the colour became gayer women commonly adopted a short blue gown with long red sleeves (Calder). This finer dress clothing was brought into the county.

In the mid 18th century the standard footwear was rillins. These were light shoes made from an oval piece of raw or untanned leather, worn hairy side out and drawn together round the foot by thongs. They did not keep feet dry and indeed some had holes punched in them to allow water to drain out. In 1775 a pair of rillins, which could be expected to wear for five to six weeks, cost seven and a half pence to purchase. Much heavier shoes called brogues could be obtained for 13p (Henderson).

Published October 1974