My Mum’s been doing a massive clear out of her house since the new year so I’ve been coming home with various scavenged bits and bobs along with several boxes of my own detritus. During the recent attic tidy up, I spotted some little faces peering out at me from one of the many boxes that had been decanted to my brother’s old room. It turned out to be full of dolls that my Dad made. Mum thinks they date to the late seventies. I don’t remember ever seeing them before so I guess they were packed up before I was born.
Each doll is decked out in historic Scottish dress; Jacobite soldiers, identifiable by their blue bonnets, Royal Scots Greys, and a couple of chaps in suits of armour, though I suspect that their outfits aren’t necessarily historically accurate! The attention to detail in the uniforms is amazing. I love their tiny sporrans, the dirks and broadswords, and the little powder pouches inscribed with the ‘G.R’ monogram.
At the bottom of the box there was a bag full of accessories; rifles made from carved wood and leather, canons made from spent bullet casings, extra weaponry and headgear, and a kit bag made from a matchbox. When I opened it up I found a pair of breeches, a pair of hose with leather garters, and a little pair of buckled shoes.
Of the twelve dolls in the box only one of them is female. She’s beautiful, and I’m absolutely in love with her. Like the rest of the dolls, the majority of her body is carved from wood, though I suspect there’s quite a bit of Milliput in there too; it was a great favourite of Dad’s for modelling. She has pivoting, jointed arms, perfect for holding her swaddled baby.
Every item of her clothing has been hand-stitched, from her silky white hose to her heavy tartan shawl. Underneath her gathered tartan skirt and cotton and lace blouse, she’s wearing a silk and lace kirtle and silk knickers, probably a bit more extravagant than the underclothes that would actually have been available to a Jacobite wifey! Her shoes are made of soft brown suede, and her heavy drill waistcoat has lacing detail at the front.
It makes me smile to think that my Dad had aspirations to make dolls long before I did. I’d like to recreate them in textiles rather than wood – yet another item to add to the to do list!
You can view more photos of the dolls on my Flickr.