Tattered Tartan by Isabel Cameron

Tattered Tartan cover

Tattered Tartan by the Scottish author Isabel Cameron was first published in 1950 and I only realised after I had finished it that it is actually a sequel to her earlier book But and Ben. I’ll have to find a copy of that one.

The setting is the Scottish Highlands where Dr Grizel Gillespie has settled in well after a year in Glen Craigan, where the locals have accepted the ‘leddy’ doctor. Things are changing in the glen though as there’s a rich new ‘laird’ who is English and he’s shaking things up a bit.

There’s also a hydroelectric scheme being built which means that the inhabitants will have electricity in their homes and also water will be brought into their homes. This will be a boon, especially for the women and young girls of the area as it’s their job to carry in the water in buckets. In fact the older girls in families are often kept off school by their mothers who think it’s more important that the girls help in the house than get an education.

There is of course jeapordy and romance, it’s an entertaining read but for me it was the social history aspect that interested me most.

It seems hard to believe now but in the mid 1960s when I was a five year old living in Glasgow, the family who lived above us came from the Highlands, and even at that time they didn’t have running water in the house they had had on the Isle of Skye. On Saturday night they had to get lots of buckets of water from the well and stood them all under the kitchen table as they weren’t allowed to do anything on Sunday/the Sabbath except go to church and read the Bible, they couldn’t even cook anything, that had to be done on Saturday. So being able to just turn on a tap to get water would have seemed almost like a miracle. How times have changed. They went back to live on Skye anyway so that lifestyle didn’t put them off.