Home Tags Posts tagged with "world war one"

world war one

Bloomers, 1954 <em>Picture: Dominion Post</em>

Bloomers, 1954 Picture: Dominion Post

By Elizabeth McQuillan

The whims of ladies’ underwear have varied according to the culture, practicalities and fashion of their time. More about avoiding draughty drawers than inspiring eroticism, these close-contact items of clothing, throughout their clandestine history, have nonetheless caused men to quiver and stand to attention.

In warmer climes, the ancient Egyptian civilisation favoured simple loincloths that presumably allowed good air circulation and fast access. Likewise, the Etruscan and Roman women would wear a similar pelmet arrangement or shorts called a subligaculum.

This would consist of a cloth belt arrangement around the waist with a piece of cloth stretched between the legs to cover the genitals, with the more fashion conscious opting for material draping the buttocks and side-ties.

Roman ladies with cash to splash would have had the luxury of silk next to the skin and would thus have avoided any problems with overheating or chafing. The less well-heeled tolerated the bulkier and scratchier linen or wool options.

Donate to us: support independent, intelligent, in-depth Scottish journalism from just 3p a day

Along with the Rennaissance came men wearing underwear as outerwear, and the fashion of hose and large codpieces. These solid crotch ornaments served as a hatch through which urination, and sundry other activities, were made possible without removing clothing.

Henry VIII was renowned for his super-sized codpiece. This may have housed something personal and bulky, but the object in question was likely a cankerous willy with bandages soused in various unctions. Other less syphilitic individuals stored coins and keepsakes in their codpiece, close to their heart.

For the ladies, it did mean that the chaps were “at liberty” without too much trouble. At the same time, the ladies had nothing of substance to interrupt progress, with a simple shift and petticoat underneath the dress. The bodice would do little more than squeeze the breasts flat, and allow a heaving overspill, to raise the pulse and ardour of any codpiece-wearing admirer.

Through the 18th century, stays encouraged erect posture, ridiculously small waists and breasts to practically pop out of their prison. Laced in from an early age to form the much admired “wasp waist“, women endured physical damage to developing bones and internal organs. Petticoats and bustles filled the void beneath the skirt, but still the breeze circulated freely.

As the hemlines of the skirts crept up a little, the need for pantaloons became necessary for the pious Victorians. The word is derived from an Italian comedy character called Pantalone, who wore garments down to his ankles. These served to maintain modesty, and may have tantalised the hot-blooded young men of the time. The word “drawers” derives from the fact that one would “draw on” one’s pantaloons.

Elizabeth Miller invented loose trousers to be worn by women and this idea was promoted by Amelia Bloomer from 1849 – and thus they became known as bloomers.

Most often made with cotton, and wool for the colder months, until the 20th century these sexy numbers were crotchless and still allowed for good air circulation and passion on the move.

In 1913, the New York socialite Mary Phelps Jacob fashioned the first brassiere by attaching two handkerchiefs together and securing with ribbon, and so breasts were supported and contained thereafter. Perhaps she was bored in a restaurant one day and inadvertently invented the napkin-bra trick.

Underwear, and the accessible nature of undergarments, became less libertine with the progression of time. With the arrival of world war one, men were issued with button-fly shorts and thus their bids for freedom were curtailed, or at least slowed down. Women too were a more complicated prospect for the average lusty chap, wearing fully encapsulated drawers that disallowed draughts and discouraged exploration.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Donate to us: support independent, intelligent, in-depth Scottish journalism from just 3p a day

Sir Robert Peel, 1788–1850

Sir Robert Peel, 1788–1850

By Elizabeth McQuillan

Scottish physicians, as early as the eighteenth century, recognised that poverty was inextricably linked with poor health. Whether in the overcrowded industrial centres, or working the land, the effects of poor diet, overwork and inadequate shelter led to “debility”.

In 1846, the potato blight that had caused the Irish poor to suffer the pain of starvation arrived in Scotland. The areas hardest hit were the Highlands and Islands, where the people relied on a successful crop for sustenance. The result was a Highland famine.

The humble potato provided a high yield on the small plots of land left for cultivation due to the Highland Clearances. With little other food being grown to sustain the local people, the failure of the potato crop proved disastrous.

Find out about donating to The Caledonian Mercury

The crofters looked to their chiefs to provide help at their time of greatest need, but help was often not forthcoming, with the landlords by now looking to replace their tenants with sheep at the earliest opportunity. Many turned a blind eye, some simply evicted their tenants (many were reduced to living on the streets of Inverness), and a few hired boats to transport their tenants off their own land to foreign territories.

The government did eventually intervene and provided rations of oatmeal – 680 grammes for men, 340g for women and 280g for children – but not without the crofters showing that they were still working for their food. Despite having a calorie input that barely sustains basic physiological function, the crofters were expected to work eight hours per day, six days per week.

Unsurprisingly, the people suffered terribly with the many medical problems that famine brings: malnutrition, scurvy, typhus and cholera. This lasted for a full ten years while the crops failed. There was little, if any, medical help available.

The Poor Law in Scotland did not make provision for the care of the walking sick (which most of the victims were) in the local parish. William Pulteney Alison, Professor of Medicine at Edinburgh University, along with other Scottish social reformers of the time, demanded in the House of Commons that the Poor Law must be altered to ensure that every parish had the services of a resident medical officer.

Sir Robert Peel, the prime minister, was not keen, but the pressure remained on and Peel eventually (in 1848) conceded a compromise. An annual grant of £10,000 was made to the Board of Supervision of the Poor Law to finance a subsidy for any parish that agreed to finance the formal appointment of a medical officer.

The people of the Highlands and Islands needed particular help. Following the Napoleonic wars, cattle prices had dropped to make their meagre stock worthless, the kelp industry that provided employment collapsed, herring fishing failed and there was a general recession in Scotland. The potato blight simply compounded the problem of abject poverty.

Ultimately, the Poor Law did not help much. The doctors who relocated to the Highlands and Islands as medical officers, hoping to make a living, soon realised that life was tough. Attending patients was difficult due to the large distances and inhospitable landscape, as well as bad weather and the problems of having to often travel by boat. Most patients were so poor that they could not afford to pay. Many doctors returned home.

Sympathy for the plight of the suffering Highlanders was not overwhelming from lowland and English quarters, and the notion of state handouts was not encouraged. Many ideas were put forward to deal with the problem, but the physician Coll MacDonald could see the way forward:

“The simplest and cheapest plan to give medicines and medical aid to tens of thousands living in the Hebrides would be to employ a few sober men of good character and energy, provided with medicines and instruments and a small steamboat (as the Marquis of Salisbury has done for Rum) to move constantly about among the people when they could conveniently assemble to be cured of their diseases. By this plan [salaried medical practitioners] would more economically and efficiently be brought into contact with the sick and the maimed than by the establishment of stationary practitioners.”

This idea was ahead of its time, but in 1913, the same ideas reappeared in the creation of the Highlands and Islands Medical Service, the first comprehensive and free state health service in Britain. Though the advent of world war one delayed the roll-out of the Highlands and Islands Medical Service, more than 300,000 people across Scotland were covered by the 1930s. It offered a model for the wider national scheme, the National Health Service, which finally came into being on 5 July 1948.

Reference: Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh

Find out about donating to The Caledonian Mercury

A stooshie, <em>by Abraham Diepraam</em>

A stooshie, by Abraham Diepraam

By Betty Kirkpatrick

Last time I wrote about stramash and its connection with commotion and disorderliness. This time I am staying in the same general area and writing about stooshie.

Stooshie, whose spelling indicates its pronunciation, means an uproar, a commotion, a fuss, a row or a brawl.

It is often used in connection with protest. In this context it is often attached to the verb raise or the verb create. People can create a stooshie about anything that displeases them, from the major to the trivial. Stooshies have been created about suggested extensions to motorways, traffic congestion, the introduction of trams, changes to bus timetables, closure of schools in bad weather, dogs barking, neighbours parking their car in front of someone else’s bit of street and so on.

Find out about donating to The Caledonian Mercury

Stooshie is still quite commonly used in Scotland and is even found being used with reference to the august Scottish parliament where disagreement and rows are often the order of the day. However, stooshie has not had the success that stramash enjoys when it comes to making its mark in the south. True, it is occasionally to be found on the lips and in the writings of Scots who have emigrated south, but others seem to have remained immune to its charms.

Why is this? The reason might come down to sound. Stramash has a more international ring to it. If you did not know better, you might even think that it was a piece of modern slang. Stooshie, on the other hand, sounds distinctly homely. Then, although I am sure that stooshie is quite often to be found in a football context, it lacks the almost official connection that stramash seems to have with the game.

Stooshie is an excellent example of the Scots language’s lack of a standard spelling. It is also commonly spelt stushie, but the problem does not end there. If you are looking for the word in some Scots dictionaries or in the online edition of the Scottish National Dictionary, you could find yourself out of luck. This is because the word is located under the entry stashie and given such alternative spellings as steeshie and stishie.

Stooshie follows many Scots words in being of uncertain origin. It has been suggested that the word, in the form of stashie, is a form of the English word ecstasy. Certainly, there are people who so love a good stooshie that they go into ecstasy when they are creating one.

The other day I came across the Australian and New Zealand word stoush meaning a fight or dispute. It can also be a verb meaning to fight or quarrel. Apparently the noun version can be applied to a war, and world war one was sometimes referred to as the Big Stoush.

Several dictionaries indicate that the origin of the Australian word is unknown. But surely it must bear some relationship to stooshie. If so, then stooshie has probably been even more successful than stramash when it comes to infiltrating other countries.

Betty Kirkpatrick is the former editor of several classic reference books, including Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary and Roget’s Thesaurus. She is also the author of several smaller language reference books, including The Usual Suspects and Other Clichés published by Bloomsbury, and a series of Scots titles, including Scottish Words and Phrases, Scottish Quotations, and Great Scots, published by Crombie Jardine.

Find out about donating to The Caledonian Mercury