Part of the enjoyment of this tapestry project has been the time spent researching the so-called badges that will be added to along the top of each panel. Our panel – which I’ve written about before – is on the Great War 1914-1918, so the range of possible choices is enormous. We wanted to include as many aspects as possible, but also – and I think this view was shared by all of us – to emphasise the role of women in the First World War. I have to admit that I have a particular interest here because of my grandmother, Olga Campbell (later Byatt), who became a quartermaster with the Women’s Military Hospital. (I’ve written about this, too, elsewhere – try here and also Mary Byatt’s lovely piece in the fabulous, Saltire-shortlisted book, Women of Moray.)
I’ll be blogging about a few of the ideas that I’ll be taking to Andrew Crummy, the designer of the Great Scottish Tapestry, in a couple of weeks’ time.
This was the panel as I last saw it (or almost, because I added a bit of the curving line that encompasses the spirits and the two figures). You can just make out the circles (badges) along the top, the ones to be filled in.
First, the poem for the “bandages”. As you can see in the picture, both figures are wound in stylised bandages and one of the group suggested embroidering verses onto them: the idea was inspired by Craiglockhart Hospital (have a look at this lovely website run by University of Oxford), where both Sassoon and Owen were treated (as brilliantly evoked, of course, in Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy of novels). But then I found this lovely poem (thanks to the Scottish Poetry Library), written by Violet Jacob, a poet from Angus, whose only son was killed on the Somme in 1916. It is called The Field by the Lirk o’ the Hill and it seems to fit the image we have particularly well:
Prood maun ye lie,
Prood did ye gang;
Auld, auld am I,
But O! Life’s lang!
Ghaists i’ the air,
Whaups cryin’ shrill,
An’ you nae mair
I’ the field by the lirk o’ the hill –
Aye, bairn, nae mair, nae mair,
I’ the field by the lirk o’ the hill!
Here is a picture of the ‘ghaists’ as I last saw them. The outlines are now being finished by Karen, whose lovely blog you can find here. (For anyone interested, whaup is Scots for curlew, a coastal bird whose shrill cries are hauntingly beautiful; and a lirk is a hollow in the hill.)