Apparently Cath Kidson is selling wool tam o’shanters at £25 a throw. I wish I’d saved mine from when I was a kid. I’d have made a fortune. I wonder what’s the going rate on eBay for a vintage tam? Unfortunately mine all met sticky ends.
My Caithness Granny must have spent most of the year knitting and sewing as around Christmas, a bulging parcel would arrive. Along with a blackbun, some oatcakes and sometimes a very dead black hen, (she was convinced we couldn’t get wholesome food in the wicked south) would be several individual parcels. Usually my Mum’s contained a tartan pinny, for wearing on a Sunday, instead of her week day floral overall. My Dad, a son in exile down south, had the most beautiful hand knitted stockings, complete with knitted garters.
My father always wore tweed plus fours. This caused huge embarrassment to us girls, but Caithness Granny made sure he had proper wool stockings, so he‘d look really smart. In fawn or lovat green, those stockings were the work of a superb craftswoman and looked well with his ‘tackety’ boots. It was an unusual outfit for a father to wear in Surrey, in the late fifties and swinging sixties. If we begged him not to wear them, a threat to wear his kilt was enough to bring us to heel.
I can’t remember what came for my big sisters in that parcel, but I often had a fairisle tam o’shanter and once a fancy pixie hood and mittens. Though I seldom saw her, I loved my Caithness Granny but I hated every scratchy stitch she made for me, even if her knitted presents were works of art.
A visit to see her meant huge expense, at two day train ride to Inverness, hours in a rickety red bus and a bumpy ride in the back of my Uncle’s van, before we reached her isolated house, out in the hills by the Grey Cairns of Camster. I now realise those presents were acts of love to granddaughters she seldom saw, the daughters of a son she missed so badly, but to me they were an embarrassment. No one else had to wear hats like mine and worse still, they were physical torture.
To this day I can’t bear wool anywhere near my skin, but off I’d go to school with my Granny’s headgear pulled hard down over my ears, my head itching like it was on fire. I didn’t dare scratch for fear of a,
“You’ve got nits”, taunt from my sisters.
I lost those lovely tam o’shanters. I left them on the school bus, dropped them in puddles, abandoned them to hang lonely and unloved on school pegs in draughty cloakrooms. The pixie hood was quietly hung up a tree. I wouldn’t be so thoughtless now. I think they’re rather smart and I’m quite tempted by a Cath Kidson’s snazzy little number, but the thought of what my thrifty Granny would have said keeps that £25 firmly in my purse. I’m sure she’d have approved of my thrift or may be she’d just be dismayed that I couldn’t knit one myself.
( The pictures are of my Dad as a young man wearing his plus fours and my Caithness Granny and Grandad)