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I teach on the beauty and ingenuity of ancient Scottish clothing which mainly centres around the great plaid (feileadh mòr), the small kilt (fèileadh beag) and their accessories either daily or in times of war. It was only upon seeing the painting ‘Crossing The Moor’ by Richard Andsell (1863) that I discovered a piece of Scottish outerwear that I had not seen before and after some online detective work I discovered it was called a ‘Shepherd’s Maud’ (‘maud’ being Scots Gaelic for blanket).

Plaid Two (1).jpg

I discovered that the tartan was also known as the ‘Border Tartan’, ‘Border Drab’, ‘Northumberland Tartan’, ‘Falkirk Tartan’, ‘Shepherd’s Check’, ‘Shepherd’s Plaid’ and ‘Galashiels Grey’, amongst others. The tartan itself is one of the oldest on records and dates back to Biblical times.  So, being so moved by the painting and feeling the image was very representative of myself I made the decision to find one for myself! – easier said than done.

After a lot of hunting online I finally found a shepherd’s maud that I could buy, not a second hand one (as they’re rarer than seeing a white whale!), but a new one. The company that was selling it is based in America, had only one in stock and although it had originally been woven in Selkirk in Scotland I had to buy it from them and have it imported back to Scotland (a costly endeavour). Upon receiving it I loved it and enjoyed having it around me out in the fields and being able to incorporate it into my teachings, but I was always just a little disappointed in its appearance. The checks were black and white, but the black was dyed black and the white was bleached white so it was never what I had imagined in its colouring and also in its thickness as it hadn’t been waulked and fulled after been woven, saying that though I had a maud and it was a blessing to me and to the others whom I introduced it to.

It was only a few days later that after teaching at a conference in Manchester that God, (I’m a Christian) asked me to give the maud to a lady who needed some comfort after the passing of her husband.  Unbegrudgingly, I gave the lady my maud as a gift and I have learned since that it has been such a blessing to her in many ways.

So it was in November 2016 I found myself maudless and most definitely feeling a little “naked” when out on my walks and also when teaching! It was then I stumbled upon a photo on the internet of Mr Peter Arnold from the Northumbrian Language Society sporting a maud, but this wasn’t an old vintage photo, it was a recent photo! and his maud was glorious!! After some more online homework I discovered that Peter’s maud was woven by Flight Weaving in the Borders and not only that but it was woven by hand – it hadn’t come off a factory machine!! This maud was using untreated wools and it had been waulked and fulled – this was the real deal!

After 4 months of consultation with Janis and her creating the subject of this writing I am now the very proud owner of a beautiful bespoke and unique shepherd’s maud which is as close to the original garment as you’re ever likely to get – in its colour, in its thickness, in its length and in its design. It has been hand created by a border weaver exactly as it was done back in the day and rightly so.

Remember “man made” is rarely as good as hand made.

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