Eight skinny silk scarves, just over six inches wide, edged in white, interwoven to make the design of this American scarf. I have worn this scarf a lot as I love the colours but I had never studied the design. Look closely. Total of eight, made up of three black, two rich rust, two charcoal grey and one shocking pink, 8=3+2+2+1. I like the proportion of the maths of this equation. This lockdown has given one time to look closely at things and appreciate hidden detail. The scarf is from a very old New York company started by a couple in 1923 and still run by the family today. It’s a romantic story with Edgar C Hyman marrying his bride Theresa and setting up their scarf business soon after their marriage, using his initials as the Company name ECHO. They survived the Depression, World War Two, even designing a scarf with an air raid warning advice and last year introducing National Scarf Day on September 27th. Have just looked in my diary to see which scarf I wore on that day in 2020. Surprise, surprise…..that was when The New York Times published the article about the blog under IN HER WORDS and I had just written Mexican Flowers. I am still amazed that this humble story of one old lady fighting Covid 19 merited such attention, considering this week it is about President Elect Biden’s wife and a few weeks ago Meghan, Prince Harry’s wife told her story about a lost baby in this same column. I have just learned about National Scarf Day for the first time. That will be an excuse for a new one for 2021. Will have to keep going until next September!
So, where will this American scarf take me today? ECHO……surely everyone reading this will have a memory of an echo in their life. Pause for a moment and think. Despite this being a vintage scarf from New York, mine takes me back to when I was ten years old. I am going to share a bit of Scottish folklore with you about two cousins, one a little more legendary than the other.
The lesser known of the two is Bailie Nichol Jarvie, a Glasgow magistrate who was visiting an inn in Aberfoyle, a beauty spot in The Trossachs. A fight broke out and the bailie went to draw his sword against the advancing opponent, found it rusted in the scabbard and reached for a red hot poker from the fire to use as his weapon. When I was a child, we went to live just outside Aberfoyle and a Sunday treat was afternoon tea in the Bailie Nichol Jarvie Hotel standing on the site of the old inn, with finger sandwiches, scones and ‘dainties’ served on a wooden three tiered stand. Opposite the hotel stood the Poker Tree, with a rusty old poker hanging there with a notice about the history. I was amused to learn that the tree had recently been damaged in a storm but the poker was in ‘safe keeping’. As a child, even I knew that the poker was constantly being stolen as a souvenir and replaced by suitably aged replicas!
But you must be asking where is the memory of the echo.
I now come to the bailie’s famous, or infamous cousin, Rob Roy, an outlaw but now a folk hero. So much has been written about the red haired Rob Roy Macgregor. At eighteen years old he joined his father in the Jacobite Rebellion, his father being sent to prison for many years for his part in it, and his mother dying whilst her husband was locked up. Rob Roy became a cattle thief, then hit upon the idea of charging landowners a fee for protection from such thieves. The Gaelic word for money is mail, the cattle are black…..was this the origin of the word blackmail? It may just be something made up by tourist guides. Anyway, Rob prospered for a bit, had his own herd and sent his chief herdsman with a borrowed thousand pounds to buy more cattle. The herdsman disappeared with the money, Rob Roy could not repay the loan and went on the run from the law for seven years, hiding in caves. There was one such cave just outside Aberfoyle, a couple of miles away from where his cousin had the poker fight. As children, my sister and I would walk there and nervously call in the cave….Rob Roy are you there? I suppose it was an accompanying mischievous uncle who called out at the same time, but that echo made shivers run down my back. Poor Rob, after 21 successful sword fights, he succumbed to blood poisoning after his last one.
So there is my memory woven from an Echo scarf with links across an ocean. An echo from one of the lesser known of Rob Roy’s caves. There is a more famous one by Loch Lomond to lure tourists, four films on his life from both American and British studios, a tale from Sir Walter Scott, an overture from Berlioz, a poem from William Wordsworth, even a new statue in Aberdeen of this folk hero to commemorate a leap across some stream and still a question about those missing thousand pounds. Did that herdsman do a runner to America? That is also part of the folklore.
I believe they invented a cocktail called Rob Roy in New York and now there is even a blog about him! See how one scarf can weave so many elements together? Where will your echo memory take you?
Busy Bee, Scarf Face!
Series 2, Blog 23.