Deeside Lavender

LAVINIA’S LAVENDER AND THE DEESIDE LAVENDER PROJECT

LAVINIA’S LAVENDER is a story I developed for another project in 2013 ‘the lavender project’ created by the lovely Helen Smith http://www.helensmith.co.uk/content/lavender-project at the vibrant and stunning Woodend barn arts centre http://www.woodendbarn.com/ in Banchory Aberdeenshire, the former home of Scotland’s lavender industry.20140406_174609

Unbeknownst to many, Deeside once had it’s own cultivar of lavender, this mediterranean herb had made cold, granite clad Aberdeen the place of my birth it’s home.
The subtle and understated but actually brilliant Caroline Gausden, my friend who illustrated Euan and the Elder for me was doing her Phd at Aberdeen with Helen and was involved with the project and introduced us, my herbal stories seemed like the perfect match for the project.
I went away and researched the Ingasetter lavender factory, the dates were a treat it tied in with a great story written by my fellow Living Voices
facilitator Lorna Irvine: ‘Maimie Make Do and Mend’
and my mothers own inherited WW2 silk parachute…a section or two missing where it had been used to make a dress.

I’ll let the story tell the rest…
The year was 1943 and as some of you may know Britain was at war, if you ask the older members of your family some of them may just remember it.There were many shortages,everyone who had a garden grew their own food, young woman known as ‘land girls‘ went to help on farms as so many of the young men who had been working as farm labourers were away fighting in the war, and many things were rationed including fabric.
Now this is the story of a girl called Lavinia, she worked in a laundry, in those days before every home had a washing machine, the laundry had a vital role to play, they washed linen from big houses and hotels during peace time and soldiers uniforms and hospital bedding during the war, amongst many other things.For many years the laundry had washed the linen and used lavender flowers to scent the wash water…indeed the word lavender comes from the french word lavare meaning to wash. Although lavender was harder to find during the war as the fields were used to grow crops of food, the scent of lavender fresh washing was still one that people remembered and loved.~Indeed love is a word associated with lavender rather a lot.Legend had it that if you drank an infusion of lavender (a spoonful of flowers steeped in boiling water and strained and the liquid sipped like a tea) on the 18th of October: St Luke’s day and said the rhyme:
‘St Luke, St Luke, be kind to me,In my dreams, let me my true love see’
that when you fell asleep (and you probably would as lavender is a soporific: meaning that its something that helps you fall asleep) that you would see the face of your future true love. Interestingly St Luke is thought to have been a physician or doctor from Syria, one of the countries Lavender is believed to have originally come from, maybe having been brought to the United Kingdom by the Romans who would have used it for its healing properties, the oil especially being useful for sore skin and burns.~
Back to Lavinia’s story, well, so hard had they worked in the laundry that as Christmas time drew near the management decided to throw the workers a party, everyone was very excited, new dresses were dreamed of, dances learnt and plans were made. Many girls looked through the house for a spare bit of fabric, or an old bit of trimming to decorate a dress, but Lavinia found nothing and she began to think she would have nothing beautiful to wear for the promised party.
Finally just when she began to to think she’d have to go wearing her everyday work wear, her brother Richard a pilot in the Royal Air force came home on leave, bringing her the most amazing gift: a whole silk parachute, she wondered as she stroked its soft folds at how it had rescued him as he’d slipped from his plane brought to earth safely by its cream coloured canopy.
But times were hard, this was the era of make do and mend.So Lavinia took the silk parachute and thought and knew at once what she should do
she would wash it
draw it
cut it
pin it
and sew it

and she made the most beautiful silk evening dress ready for the Christmas party, scented with lavender picked from her mothers garden, she looked so beautiful and smelt so sweet, that it was no surprise to anyone when a handsome young man insisted on every dance that night.Indeed as the months went by and Spring arrived, that young man: Robert and Lavinia had fallen in love and they were planning a June wedding.But what to do? The war was still on, and there was no spare fabric to be had for a new wedding dress.
Times were hard, this was the era of make do and mend.
So Lavinia took the beautiful evening dress made from the silk parachute and thought and at once she knew, what she should do
she would wash it
draw it
cut it
pin it
and sew it
she made the most wonderful lavender scented silk wedding dress that anyone had seen, the wedding was a delight and everyone said what a lovely couple they made.But whereas nowadays many brides would pack away their wedding dresses to look at in future years, times were hard, this was the era of make do and mend.
So Lavinia took the wonderful wedding dress that had once been an evening gown made from the silk parachute and thought and at once she knew, what she should do
she would wash it
draw it
cut it
pin it
and sew it
and make herself something useful and glamorous she could still wear everyday and get a bit more use out of. The dress became a very glamourous dressing gown, lavender scented to soothe her to sleep.
But as the year wore on and Lavinia and Robert had a new born baby, they began to wonder where they would find the fabric for a christening gown.
Times were hard, this was the era of make do and mend.
So Lavinia took the glamorous dressing gown made from wedding dress that had once been an evening gown that had originally been the silk parachute and thought and at once she knew, what she should do
she would wash it
draw it
cut it
pin it
and sew it
and she made the baby a fine long silk christening gown, lavender scented to keep the baby calm and happy, she gurgled all day long and everyone said she was the bonniest baby on her christening day and remarked on Lavinia’s fine needlework.
But the summer was a long hot one and a christening gown is only worn once and as the baby lay outside at the bottom of the garden in her big pram Lavinia began to think of parasols and pretty shades to keep the sunshine from her gurgling baby girl.
Times were hard, this was the era of make do and mend.
So Lavinia took the fine christening gown cut from the dressing gown, made from the wedding dress that was fashioned from an evening gown that had once been a silk parachute and thought and at once she knew, what she should dolavend13-s
she would wash it
draw it
cut it
pin it
and sew it
and she made a lovely silk parasol to place over the pram and keep the sunshine out of her baby girls eyes, lavender scented to help keep away the midges.But the wind blew and the fabric finally got worn and tatty, Robert and Lavinia’s daughter was now five years old and all set to go to school, they’d saved up ration coupons for a new checked school dress.
But this was still the era of make do and mend and Lavinia had not finished with those scraps of silk just yet
She took the pieces of parasol that had been created from a fine christening gown, that was cut from the dressing gown, that had been made from the wedding dress that was fashioned from an evening gown that had once been a silk parachute and thought and at once she knew, what she should do
she would wash it
draw it
cut it
pin it
and sew it
for one final time and covered tiny buttons with the silk for her daughters first school dress, and with the little scrap that was left she made a tiny silk bag and stuffed it full of lavender and popped it in her drawer as a keepsake forever of the silk parachute and the days when she had had to make do and mend.
Now the end of my story has nearly arrived, there’s one final thing you all need to know…as war ended Robert came home for good and having graduated from university as a chemist he was inspired to take the lavender that grew so beautifully in Lavinia’s mother’s garden and grow field upon field of the purple petalled flower… infact he
grew it
cut it
distilled it
and extracted the oil and made the most beautiful lavender scented perfume, everyone said how lovely its aroma was and I’m not sure where that lavender farm and perfume producer was maybe it was in Mitchum near London, maybe in Norfolk, or maybe, just maybe it was in Deeside near you!
(c) Amanda Edmiston 2013 ‘Lavinia’s lavender’ is a tale which takes history, folklore, facts and the traditional uses of lavender and uses them as trimming for a story washed and drawn, cut , pinned and sewn from Lorna Irvines story ‘Mamie make do and mend’

I told the story to the pupils of Struan Primary in the fantastic wild garden at the Arts story-telling-_0centre, they joined in the chorus, we explored the natural amphitheatre and unfurled the parachute…they then created pictures and worked on sustainability elements with other practitioners, the most frequently asked question was about whether or not the piece was true….the answer to which is always…well some of it is and some of it isn’t.

It also features on the Battlefield story spiral website: http://battlefieldcommunityproject.weebly.com .
This story has served me well…this variant of it complete with lavender bag making session was much loved by my Living Voices ladies…and like lavender itself I’m sure it has many more uses, it’s been a pleasure telling it!

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