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Sunday 20 January 2013

Old Style Sticking Plaster

The Highlanders of old had to be inventive and they would make use of anything that they had to hand. Here, for example, is the way in which they used to make sticking plaster from a calf’s membrane. Allan MacDonald, or MacDonell, from Inverroy but latterly staying in the village of Inverlochy, related this anecdote to Calum Maclean on 16th of January, 1951:
Gearradh – Nan gearradh duine a làmh bha leigheas uamhasach math ac(ha)a. ’N uair a bheireadh bò laogh, bha sgrath mu’n cuairst dha’n laogh agas bha e tana. Bhiodh iad a’ toirt a’ sgrath dhe’n laogh agas ’ga sgaoileadh ri dorus na bàthcha, mar a sgaoileas duine bian féidh. Bha e uamhraidh math air son gearradh. Bha e mar a tha ‘sticking plaster’ an diugh. Bha luibh aca ris an canadh iad a’ slann-lus. Bhiodh iad ’ga bhristeadh le fiaclan is ’ga chur air a ghearradh. Bha e uamhraidh math.
And the translation goes something like this:
Cut – if anyone cut their hand they had a very good way of healing it. When a calf was born, a thin membrane covered the calf. They used to take this membrane and stretch it over a byre door, like folk would do with deerskin. It was very good for cuts – like sticking plaster today. They had a plant or herb called slann-lus [lit. healing grass; ribwort or sage] which they broke with their teeth and they would put it on cuts. It was very good.
References to the use of ribwort plantain as a way of staunching wounds go right back to the ancient Greeks. This herb is remarkably versatile for not only can its leaves help to stop wounds bleeding when applied directly to the surface but also its leaves can be heated and applied to inflammation of the skin, ulcers, cuts, stings and swellings.

Calum I. Maclean, The Highlands (Inbhir Nis: Club Leabhar, 1975)
SSS NB 1, pp. 13–14

Ribwort Plantain/Slàn-lus. Other folk-names for this plant are Way Bread, Lord of the Ways and Wodan’s Herb.

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