How to be a Scottish Mum

Image: Ashley Cox / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looking at how people find my blog today in the statistics package, I was struck by how many people find it by asking the words “how to be a scottish mum.”  

I’m not really sure how to take that.   Then I had to think about what makes a scottish mum different from say, an english mum, or an irish mum, or an american mum etc etc.  I could not think of anything, and then it got to me thinking about how some people must portray us as the scottish stereotype. 

Would we be pictured in some peoples’ heads as wild and wiry, long haired, tartan wearing lovelies, such as the Christoper Lamberts onscreen wife in Higlander 1?   Are we seen as knife wielding, redhaired, freckled wild women who fight for their families ala Liam Neesons onscreen wife in Rob Roy?

The truth is quite mundane these days.  There are very few tartan wearing women, and even fewer who live in the wilds, in their little mud huts unwashed and jigging around swords with their tartan sashes and fighting for their families and lands.  That is the stuff of history and fiction, rather like the American Wild West.

Yes, there are some communities which are living in the more traditional type houses, and a few even still living without running water and electricity, but these are very few and far between.

I can tell you about some scottish women in the recent past and what motherhood meant to them, but it might take a whole book to tell that story, and one day very soon, that is what I am going to do. 

In the short version, my family came from Skateraw, around Newtonhill in the North East of Scotland.  Life was hard.  The menfolk were fishermen and the women had to be hardy.   

The cold winters were the hardest.  The women might have several of the family menfolk in the same house, all working at sea in the fishing industry.  It was a very steep hill down to the pier where the boats set to sea.  The womenfolk always went down to meet the boats, and carried the fish up the hill on their creels.

The next day, they would leave early, before light, and walk to Aberdeen with their creels on their backs, and sold as much fish at the market stalls as they could.  Every day, they would make that walk until all the fish was sold, a round trip of more than 10 miles every day.  Their families were well fed, as there was always fish to eat as long as a family had men at sea.

Inbetween walking to Aberdeen and back, these women had to provide food for their families, and wash the sea salt loaded clothes, which would take much  more water than they could carry in one or two trips to the communal taps.  The clothes had to be ready at short notice for their mens sea chests.  

Sadly, many young children died, as when the mums  and grandmothers had to work, there was no-one to look after the children, and often young children succumbed to fatal accidents.  Many fell into the house fires where the supper was cooking, or down the cliffs into the sea.  It was a tough existence, and many a fishermans wife had a broken heart for the tragic loss of her “wee ones.”

When the boats were ready to be loaded out again, the womenfolk had to pick up their men and carry them to their boats, to ensure that they managed to get aboard with dry feet.   Imagine the dainty womenfolk of today managing to carry their six foot husbands out to a boat in freezing water, yet these women did it.

Once their men took off to sea again, the women then began the chores of fixing the nets, a thankless task that was both difficult, and caused many a raw blister.

This was only 120 years ago when my great grandmother was young.   The speed we  have moved forward in since that time is incredible, and todays fishing industry, and the expecations and duties of scottish mothers has been transformed.    Back then, a toonser woman would not have wanted to marry into a fishermans family.  They might have been well fed, but they sure had to work hard.

So how can someone be a scottish mum?  

I don’t have the answer to that.  I am a scottish mum, but have no idea that the difference might be.  Perhaps we cook some slightly different foods, perhaps we have a funny accent. 

Maybe there is something that differentiates us, but I don’t know what it is. 

If someone has any suggestions, then I’d be happy to listen to them, and now, finally, when someone finds my blog in the search for how to be a scottish mum, they will actually find a post related to what they are looking for.

Image: Tom Curtis / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Comments

  1. says

    Really interesting. I’m a mum in Scotland, does that make me different to a Scottish mum? Surely the 2011 mum experience is largely universal.
    And I had no idea about the lifestyle of the fishermen’s womenfolk. Thanks for that. What an interesting story.

    • Scottish Mum says

      Thank you Ellen. I don’t see any difference these days. I have lots of tales of the fisherfolks life, and need to get to putting them onto paper.

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