It never ceases to amaze me that just over 20 driving miles away from our pop-up mill lies a landmark that is one of the most significant to our cause and identity. I live pretty much bang in the middle between both sites with my family, and what will be the permanent home for Prickly Thistle.
Every year, the 16th of April marks the anniversary of the Battle of Culloden and the impact this event had on the people of the Highlands and the life of tartan. The day was treacherous, long and painful with the screams of Jacobite fighters believed to have been heard from miles away from the site. This was true bravery and the tenacity to never give up on something they cared for for us, their future.
The aftermath was devastating to the Highlands in an abundance of ways, from the unbearable loss of loved ones to thousands of families who also lost their homes, to the implementation of the Dress Act which saw the British Government ban cultural dress and tartan.
There is evidence that in the early years that it was quite strictly enforced in staunch Jacobite areas. A report from 1748 tells of a young man in Stathglass who drowned trying to swim a loch to avoid capture whilst wearing a full plaid; and Orinoco, servant to MacLean of Duart, was arrested in Mull for wearing Highland Dress and imprisoned for 6 months.
So much of what we do at Prickly Thistle is a result of this battle. The restoration of tartan to the Highlands was a very significant beginning and following on from that we still at times feel the weight of the textile’s history as makers today.
But now, our cause has an even more powerful purpose, how could fabrics worn to protect us and proudly share our identity become one the biggest destroyers of the planet and the quality of peoples lives?
Conscious consumerism is the battle, and everyone is part of this fight and you have the choice as to what side you fight for with every pound, dollar, euro you spend.
Spread the word, shop with a conscience, buy less by investing only in things you truly need (repair and recycle is always a first!) and love more. That saying loved things last is true, be it relationships, your home, your little veg patch on your window ledge and yes your clothes. Wear your values, because sadly in the fast fashion supply chain blood is actually spilled, and decent welfare is denied to so many. This, along with the deterioration of our planet is the ‘true cost’ of that cheap garment that may only be worn once or twice. Money talks, and we are fighting to lift the blindfold so that many can learn and not finance all of the hardships that they fundamentally oppose in their heart.
We have remembered, we have reflected, now we must revolutionise and envision the future that our youth will live in. What do we need it to look like? Here we are always asking #whatwilltheysayin200years. Will they remember and reflect, as we are doing now, about the fight we put up to preserve this planet for them? Hopefully they will thank us, and even still be wearing clothes that have lasted from now.
Do you know what side you are fighting for?