Amanda Edmiston Storyteller, Artist and Writer

Botanica Fabula



A Magical Tree

Posted on 30 July, 2017 at 9:25 Comments comments (2)

A Magical Tree

As part of nearly every session throughout the Kist in Thyme project the students got time to sketch, write or create small elements of art and words to illustrate the stories that they'd heard or had created themselves inspired by the archive material and plants they'd heard about.

Many of these elements have been included in the bigger art pieces, or have been used to line the Kist, they're a little bit of magic to lead you into story worlds, through memories and plant use through the eyes of the children.

One particular drawing stood out, the artist herself described it as 'just a doodle' but she could relate the story behind it beautifully, it had aspects of real plant use and fairytale, that went beyond what she'd just heard and took the us further along the path of the had grown organically and then become a magical tree.

Charlotte told me how the berries were Hawthorn from a fairy tree, but when they'd fallen onto the ground beside the tree, there was a star left behind where every berry had been....just beautiful.

And this simple doodle was a fantastic design, the story was clear just from looking at it, it lent itself perfectly to becoming a symbol of the project on top of the Kist. skillfully engraved by the very lovely Simon Baker from Evergreen (who can be found here: )

The Kist has since been filled with a selection of remedies the classes helped me make, herbs gathered from the school grounds and other items - a kind of 'cabinet of curiosities meets medicine box'!

Thanks so much to Charlotte for her beautiful design and please do come and see the Kist for yourself in our forthcoming exhibition at The Scottish Storytelling Centre from 7th September til 6th October 2017.

A Kist in Thyme Exhibition

Posted on 21 July, 2017 at 13:45 Comments comments (1)

All the art work, photographs, some of the stories and the Kist itself will be on exhibition at The Scottish Storytelling Centre from the 7th of September 'til the 6th of October 2017, please get in touch if you'd like an invitation to the launch or for more info.

For details see:" target="_blank">

To accompany the exhibition I'm also delivering a family friendly Kist in Thyme Scottish Special 'Herbal Magic and Potent Potions' workshop on Saturday the 16th of September from 2pm...I recommend booking fairly quickly the last few have sold out pretty's aimed at children (and adults) aged 7 and over but younger ones are welcome to attend a long as parents are aware that the stories and activities are aimed at an older age group!

Be brilliant to see lots of you there, and keep in touch if you fancy joining us for a wee dram and a blether at the exhbition launch!

For facebook event see[%7B%5C%22surface%5C%22%3A%5C%22page%5C%22%2C%5C%22mechanism%5C%22%3A%5C%22page_upcoming_events_card%5C%22%2C%5C%22extra_data%5C%22%3A[]%7D]%22%2C%22has_source%22%3Atrue%7D" target="_blank">

Storytelling becomes picture part 2

Posted on 30 June, 2017 at 17:55 Comments comments (0)

Primary 7  turn stories and memories into art

The creation of a stunning picture re-telling one story from A KIST IN THYME with Primary 7 pupils from Doune Primary School,

All photos (c) JaneSumner 2017

I feel so chuffed and a little bit overawed by the comments P7 wrote in response to being asked to write a line or two about the project. I've decided to post them because what the group themselves have to say brilliantly illustrates how valuable storytelling and creative workshops can be in schools and because you can also tell by reading the children's own words what an interesting, bright, focused and lovely group of people they are!

I need to add something: I have worked with this class and the P6 group at Doune primary for 3 years and over that time, whilst I've been 'sparking creativity' and the rest, these two groups of children have helped me expand my practice, they've inspired this project and others and they and their teachers have given me so many good ideas that my practice has flourished and my skill as a storyteller has expanded no end.


A Kist in Thyme was itself inspired by this group's questions following my very first Herbal Magic and Potent Potions class that I created initially just for them to tie in with their topics that term.

They asked about the truth behind family memories of plant use and about Scottish folktales they knew and a seed was Thank you Year 7 Doune Primary School 2017, Mr Fleming, Miss Hallworth, Mrs Buchanan, Mrs MacNair, Mrs MacKay...and everyone else in the school (especially Miss Fowler who wasn't involved in this but contributed so much the previous year) you have been AWESOME!


I loved how the tree (the group created as an artwork illustrating the stories and their memory collecting branch of the project) was made with all the tags with all the stories we collected (from older family members and friend) on them and how the stars were made.

Feedback from P7 pupil Doune Primary

Imagination is the key to this experience, it took me on a dream I’d never thought I would experience.

Feedback from P7 pupil Doune Primary

This has been an extremely fun project. We have done lots of great activiities that we don’t usually get to do and we heard a lot of fun mythological stories. The finished result was brilliant I have really enjoyed doing this.

Doune primary P7 pupil


When I spend time with Amanda I enter a world of imagination that I don’t want to exit. I love spending time with her and I will miss her awesome stories when I leave.


I loved all the stories-they were amazing. I loved learning about the silk parachute from WWII. I am so proud of the finished results of the project and our years worth of work.


Hearing the mythological stories is magical. It has a great sense of adventure, it really captures my imagination and sparks my creativity.


I absolutely loved listening to amazing Scottish stories, myths and legends. It was so interesting and intriguing. Amanda was extremely good at telling stories and the whole project has been a really fun experience.


All the art work, photographs, some of the stories and the Kist itself will be on exhibition at The Scottish Storytelling Centre from the 7th of September 'til the 6th of October 2017, please get in touch if you'd like an invitation to the launch or for more info.

For details see:

Storytelling becomes pictures

Posted on 26 June, 2017 at 5:30 Comments comments (1)

The 12 Months

The creation of pictures re-telling the stories from A KIST IN THYME with Primary 6 pupils from Doune Primary School, all photos (c) Jane Sumner 2017

All the beautiful work created, the stories and photographs taken during the project will be on exhibition at The Scottish Storytelling Centre from 7th September 2017 , with an accompanying Potions Workshop telling the stories and creating some of the Plant potions and magic told as part of the project for families on Saturday the 16th of September.

For details of the exhibition and to book the workshop see :

#KistinThyme WWII Plant ways

Posted on 24 October, 2016 at 17:00 Comments comments (0)


It wasn't an auspiscious start the two ladies I was expecting from the group of communtiy elders both phoned to cancel shortly before the session.

But it immediately got better...the P7 group were clearly pleased to see me...that just made my day...I've worked with this group several times over the past three school years and they're great to work with I look forward to seeing them, they're easy to engage, interested and full of intelligent questions and open to creative ways of working.

Their topic this term was going to work brilliantly for A Kist in Thyme WWII.

These little beauties were my plant starting point

and what they and their cousins  turned into`...

Their headteacher had initially sent me off on this path, when we first discussed the project.

She'd told me about when she'd been a child (she's only in her early 40's) they were paid to collect Rosehips, they got weighed in at school and the children paid for their efforts.

The community group remembered that too...

One of my older ladies remembered the news during WWII that rosehips conatined more Vitamin C than oranges and how it had been a free supplement that she gave to all her children in the post war years.

As memories go this is recent...I remember my in his early thirties getting rosehip syrup as a baby...and I remember nagging my mum to let me have it.

Remembering how delicious good rosehip syrup can be I had brewed up a batch for the initial session with the Heritage Society and added juniper and hawthorn berries...I use the lovely Glasgow based herbalist Catriona Gibson's recipe, which you can find here:

But for the school it was a better plan to go with a really good shop variety that had been produced ethically on a small scale...knowing it came from a nut free environment... the taster cups came out.

With its sweet syrupy, warming, fruity taste it was a winner, way more palatable than today’s preferred vitamin drops and chewy tablets.

We looked at berries...passing round hawthorn from the tree in the school grounds that some of the youngest pupils ( not knowing the ancient wisdom in their words) call ‘the fairy tree’, not many people knew they were edible.

Hawthorns or Thorn trees often appear as fairie trees in legends, the Eildon tree in Thomas the Rhymer is often thought to be a thorn tree, the faery folklorist talks about it here:

Rowan? the tree that was once planted outside every protect its inhabitants from mischevious broonies and still waves it’s watchful branches outside the school doors...also edible.

We passed round the bottle of rose-petal perfume I’d made the night before. Deep red petals had dyed the water pink, it was simple, many of the group had made it before, but for those who haven’t : Take roses, the most scented you can find, pour boiling water over them ( a clean, sterile, glass jar will help the perfume last longer), leave overnight...two days at most, strain and keep in the fridge, use often and quickly, it makes a great skin toner, room spray or laundry scent and in wartimes was a free and available source of perfume.

I tell them about the stories on Tobar an dualchais about a sprig of St John’s Wort, Hypericum perforatum being given by a lady who knew about herbs in Killin to a young man about to fight in WWI, in this recording he mentions that he still has it and that there must have been something in her assertion that it would keep him from harm. I tell the group about it’s antiviral, wound healing properties, its ability to dispel the black dog of depression, about the fact that in order for it to be most effective it must be chanced upon.

Then with my version now laced with memories from local elders who remembered the pre war days of the big estates and this lovely clip from nearby Killin, of memories from the traveller community about differing attitudes to their arrival to help on farms, about ‘hippens’ being rosehips but also nappies.

I tell a story my mum, who has mentored me through some aspects of this project (it is my first intergenerational project as lead artist and her feedback and support has always been a vital component in my work) told me...she learnt it from the magical Mary Medlicott and a synopsis can be found on Mary’s blog here:

This is a excerpt from the beginning of my take on it:


Once upon a time not so long ago, when the big estates all around and about had gardeners and housekeepers, stable boys and chamber maids and every gate-house and gardeners’ cottage had a neat front garden bedecked with geraniums, rows of golden marigolds and towers of scented sweet peas. There lived a laird and just as all the landowners nearby did, this Laird had a gardener and plenty of other staff aside, each married couple had a cottage of their own in the grounds and each stable boy and chamber maid had their own neat little room to call their own awaiting the day when they would marry and gravitate to a cottage of their own.

Now the Laird was a kind good hearted old man, he thought of his employees as his friends and neighbours, people who he cared for and worked alongside to keep the beautiful old house and glorious grounds vibrant and alive.

His agreement with his tenants had always been that he was happy for them to have a share of anything that grew in the every house had a supply of fruit and veg and bunches of fresh flowers in the window, the estate children gathered hippens...the rosehips for threepence a pound...weighing them in with the gardeners wife who set to making syrup to sell to the villagers in the area and to ward off the winter colds for young and old as the summer turned to autumn. The traveler families pulled up for the berry picking and the tattie howking as the seasons dictated. With so much to share and go round the travelers were made welcome, they brought stories and songs a change of pace with the change in the seasons and news from further afield.

The Laird also knew that the better he treated his workers the better they wanted to treat him, so the estate thrived there was never a shortage of good things growing or hands to harvest them.

Now amongst all these people coming and going and all the plants thriving and growing there was one couple who even in this happy place...shone out as happier than most. The head gardener and his beautiful wife loved the place and everyone there loved them.

but sometimes beauty upsets people, sometimes happiness makes folk covetous...they imagine maybe that happiness is in short supply and what someone else is using, they can’t have. What’s more the gardener’s wife had caught the eye of the laird’s nephew...the man set to inherit the estate when the laird passed on....she’d caught his eye and made him angry...angry that she wouldn’t marry him, angry that she didn’t want to cast her husband over for a life of luxury in the big house, angry that she valued her own happy, busy life more than his gold and carriages, big house, leisure, luxury and fancy lifestyle.

The years rolled by, the estate was well tended and well loved, the tenants and visitors new and old spoke well of the laird and worked together for the good of everyone. But nothing lasts forever and the time came when the Laird who was by now over 110 years of age grew frail and died and his mean spirited nephew took his place as gentleman of the estate...

The story ends with a riddle...

The gardener’s beautiful wife is turned into a rose by the jealous mean-spirited Laird, but every night she transforms back into a woman...she meets with the gardener who desperately searches for a way to bring her back permanently as he realises when summer ends she will fade and fall a mass of petals to the floor, she says he must wait for the morning and then choose one flower, spot her amongst the others, pick her and if he chooses correctly the spell will be broken, but if he gets it wrong, she will be lost forever..he only has one chance.

As the sun rises she disappears and he does not see which rose is new amongst the many on the bush...but he ponders and picks the right one.

How does he choose?

P7 and their brilliant teacher now know the answer...if you want to find it, come back for the next episode of my blog and I’ll tell you!

We end the session with everyone taking a luggage those worn by the children evacuated from cities to rural areas during WWII, with a request for a few words to be added to each one, maybe a memory from a neighbour or relative.

...and I think I’ll leave the rest of the brilliant labels ‘til next time too...

Amanda Edmiston October 2016



Seasonal shifts #KistinThyme

Posted on 22 October, 2016 at 16:15 Comments comments (0)


At this time of year our hedges are covered in plump ruby red berries...

But a huge number of people are uncrtain which s which....

They pause and ask....'Rowan?'

On a day to day basis  identifying berries seldom comes up in 'real' coversation and my web time includes the background hum of the herbal, foraging, creative community who walk my way on social media...

many people correctly identify the big beauties of the British wild berry scene...

But aren't confident enough with their I.D. to actually pick and eat it...

I have veg box buying, kale munching friends, who say " I would if I was with someone I knew what they were doing"

I know gardeners who assert that you can't eat domestic unsprayed rosehips...

But I am currently delivering the Kist in Thyme project in a rural area...

And the elders in the village still know their stuff...pretty much

But one thing I notice with some of the older folk who grew up just before or during the second world war is the vague residue of the association with wild food and poverty...we forget this in our age of trendy foraging... and very quickly during my planning and research for  Kist in Thyme I realised how our current perception of rural life, wild food, storytelling, herbal medicine is rose tinted, we are now far enough away from the famine, disease and clearances that stretched into the 19th century. A class of 10 year old's grandparents grew up with the national health service and the benefit system....

That the National Health Service was only introduced by Bevin in 1948 AFTER my mother was born, causes most adults to pause and consider for a moment.

Rickets due to vitamin D deficiency, lack of sunlight, poor nutrition is not a Victorian was still commonplace in the UK until the 1940's...

To omit these facts in an intergenerational sharing would be obtuse.

We are very lucky.

We may now covet a lifestyle filled with homemade hedgerow jelly, wild mushrooms and herbal tea...

But we have the luxury of choice....

We now know through societies omissions that previous generations hard work and shortages lead to wise ways and creative solutions...

But its about the flow and sharing of knowledge, it's about a respectful and aware acknowledgement of change...we should not seek 're-wilding' without being aware of the huge deprivation our ancestors faced that lead to them stepping away from natures harsh handed bounty.

Awareness is key...understanding, flexibility, respect and listening...and an equality that must pervade intergenerational one group is right or wrong, each has equal value we must accept our value is in our difference...and that is hard, even when you know this is the case.


The P6 class were studying farming; the class, their teacher and I were joined by a retired primary teacher whom I'd talked to at the local Heritage Society session.

The differences in how teachers approach talking to a class of children was immediately very evident for me...

I also realised how much I love a sense of dynamic energetic equal interaction between everyone in the room during my sessions and how although I see this as THE way to learn, bouncing ideas off each other, creating,that in  there is no WRONG in creativity...there are morals and ethics and integrity, authenticity, hopes and dreams but there is no completely wrong.

But this session was interesting because the tight control a different generation of teachers had seen as the desirable norm, (that I admit naturally makes me bridle) worked brilliantly with one or two members of the group who don't flourish as much as others when given an afternoon workshop with me....suddenly the different working ways were interesting and not as black and white as I'd expected.

It was also very interesting because my original community elders group were mostly local born and bred...with the one incomer having moved from less than ten miles away over 50 years ago...and our retired teacher had grown up in a very diffrent part of the country...this was the first time locality of plant growth had been a major consideration.

She shared great memories of how rare a treat strawberries and other fresh berries had been in her childhood...we were looking at how the diverse selection of fruit and veg from around the world which now grace our supermarket shelves is a very recent addition...but of course that's a local variation as we're in berry country round here, or at least close enough to the berry fields of Blair... http/

With regards berries at least it was seasonality that was the key here...and changes in farming methods...we were drawn towards looking at sustainability again.

As we handed round fat juicy strawberries from a nearby grown in polytunnels on raised shelves for easier picking and longer seasons (I much prefer the tactile sensory experience of picking strawbs whilst kneeling on straw with warm sunshine and friendly field mice....but I appreciate that recently introduced methods are environmentally friendly, sustainable ways of increasing the crop size and lengthening the season),

I told my version of the classic story of The Twelve Months, shared here so beautifully by Stanley Robertson:


I told the group about Stanley's upbringing, how his grandfather had really, truly, run away to join the circus, about how the travelling people moved around the area to follow the seasonal work.

In my version adapted for this workshop there is a question raised...the first sister goes to find small quantities of unseasonal fruits to mend her sister's ailments and the second sister, maladies mended, goes to get huge amounts to sell in the market and gain wealth and riches.

The class quickly spotted the ideas I was weaving into the story.

We went outside...

I love this little wild herb garden in the school grounds

We  made a few decisions, 3 children volunteered themselves as 'good at maths', I gave them a ball of string and asked them to think about how they might divide the roughly circular pace into twelve months, when the string ran out the class found them fallen sticks to mark the spaces.

Then we thought about what grew when, what foodstuffs people might have used before modern farming and transport expanded our choices.

Betsy White's brilliant recollection of foraged food and herbal cures is a great resource for this project http/ we talk about it...I weave Betsy's memories into stories...the children are open and interested in the potential for food stuff in the hedgerows, children always love to know what they can eat in the natural environment it adds a layer of possibility to games and adventures, it brings reality to modern classics of children's literature like Michelle Paver's 'Wolf Brother', or indeed Harry Potter...

They find armfuls of dry leaves for October

Bare branches for November,

The bleak months when we think about it bear so little....we end up with stones representing the cold, seeds symbolising snow...I tell them about the old activity of children being sent to harvest thistle down to fill bedding...the seeds now also represent winter warmth, one girl remarks they would also be germinating under the soil during January...February

We look at the berries in the school grounds, they can all now happily identify hawthorn and rowan and many try the hawthorn berries, they become September

We had flowers...representing the summer months, three of the group chose their favourite colours for their birthdays, but we also thought they were rather appropriate as summer was so bountiful that it gave us time to appreciate flowers.

Nettles are grasped and their properties discussed, they are going through a phase at this point in September where they are re-groeing in the Autumnal warmth as if we are experiencing a second Spring...the new tips become March...

Fennel seeds guzzled...the Romans who once lived on this site were known to appreciate the seeds for their restorative powers, we imagine legionaires eating them where we stand now...

Holly and Pine cones for December.

The teacher has clearly enjoyed herself hugely and remarked on how great it's been to sit within  the class and watch them work and create things and process ideas and information....she says how 'great it is to have had an afternoon not teaching from the front'...we've created a bit of environmental art, temporary but beautiful...

We went back indoors, the bell was about to afternoon had rarely passed so quickly...

I left them some books, a bit of a display...a few had been asking questions they could research for themselves tomorrow...

The project has grown, I'm going back to recreate a story box represention of our landscape season clock...

Come back for an up-date!

With thanks to Feisean nan Gaidheal for funding the project so far.



The kist #KistinThyme

Posted on 4 October, 2016 at 17:15 Comments comments (0)

The Kist

The Kist used to be a really important part of Scottish life...

From being a seat behind which to hide your loathed tripe:

To being a place to store your shroud:

Being called A Kist in Thyme and working with an archive called The Kist of Riches I couldn't not have an actual physical kist.

I've been making 'mini-museums', story-boxes, cabinets of curiousities since I was a child.

This project needed a kist

I found the perfect box at a local shop full of antiques and interesting household objects with a bit of age.

And behind it I found an old golden sweety tin, a vivid enamel picture of a young woman and a witch vibrant in the centre...a story tin to fit in our kist.

The label explained that the wooden box, the kist, was handmade locally...the provenance seemed good, the lady remembered the man who'd had it in his shed....he made things from wood, he used to keep his plant seeds in it....the perfect back story.

Saying wasn't very interesting yet...but in a way I liked that about it, it meant I didn't feel that I had to be overprotective I could allow everyone the project worked with help to add to it, make it exciting, a kist of stories, of thyme, of...whatever we wanted.

When I did the Tattie Bogle session with the infant group at Deanston Primary we were joined by Jimmy a brilliant grandad, the perfect person for a project like this he pointed out the dovetail joints holding the box together, talked about how in his childhood every home had a kist, how they were once the place everyone stored important papers and documents...

We've now started adding to the kist and I'll add some more pics in the coming will be a thing of beauty with the contributions enriching it...and hopefully one day soon it will travel and share our stories further afield, a travelling kist...and I promise I won't let anyone drop their tripe down the back of it!

Weaving words #KistinThyme

Posted on 23 September, 2016 at 14:40 Comments comments (0)

Weaving Words for a Kist in Thyme, the second school session

Deanston home of one of the Primary Schools I'm working with for A Kist in Thyme, is an old mill town on the river Teith, the mill which dates back to 1785 is now Deanston Distillery and visitor centre, but is still plays a very central role in the village, it's vast rectangular structure dominates the dainty village and brings coach loads of visitors in, keen to sample the famous single malt.

As I said it's not always been a distillery...for nearly 200 years the building was a cotton mill, manufacturing sheets and cotton lace.

But look a little further back and there appears to be evidence to suggest that even before the current building was built Deanston was still involved in the Scottish fabric industry, it seems to have started out in flax production, something that many people have told me isn't true...but the distillery itself has evidence to the contrary...and it would make sense (more on that shortly) Perthshire the county the area borders grew flax successfully for a very long time.

The class I was working with on this occasion was a composite, as small village schools in rural Scotland often are...P4 to P7...around 18 children in total aged between 7 andf 12, they were a great group, really focused and interested. They were studying sustainability this term, so the villages connection to Scotland's changing fabric industry was a really interesting subject for me and fitted in beautifully.

With the local connection to flax, this story was one of the first I used for this session, I augmented mine with folklore about witches counting flaxseeds before entering a house and poured piles of the smooth brown seeds onto the children's table, but the story is so perfect for this session I left it very much as it is here and the website has a useful list of other resources:

Tobar an Dualchais has great archive material about the flax industry in Scotland, memories of the 'retting pits' sat alongside the story perfectly highlighting the inherent facts, bringing it home...

It also gifted me fantastic flax based remedies from the fields of Perthshire from Betsy White who in this great archive recording talks about the traveller lifestyle and shares great plant based remedies:, we talked about the modern uses for flax as a digestive aid and passed around my granny's linen tablecloth.

But when the mill was built the area moved away from flax embracing the new fashion for cotton...we chat about the reasons they may have done this and why it eventually stopped being economically viable...we ponder the import of fibres....I share the story behind my WWII silk parachute, silk imported from India, as cotton was for many years...

We look through fabric sample cards and i ask the question which fabrics offer a sustainable option, asomeone has spotted the nettle fabric, it's unexpectedly soft and luxurious...

This leads me naturally to a third story I favourite...Seven Swans, there is no need to retell it is so widely known, but it also feels like my very own, it is one of my all time favourite stories and it's a story that says so makes me tingle and occasionally shed a tear as I tell it...I love that story.

Betsy White's thoughts also include the use of young nettles as food, one of the foraged plant foods that my community groups have also mentioned, one lady also remembered hearing about nettle fabric as a child during WWII, she'd thought it was still used in Scotland (this is a memory I've encountered before in other groups), but now isn't sure as she'd read it was German's who used it...but whichever version is true nettles used in fabric, paper, soup and as a Spring tonic is something familiar to many of us and the children love the idea.

A lady asked me at the session with the Kilmadock Society the other week how nettles were prepared for fabric as she recalled someone trying to source 6 foot high plus plants for fabric making in the last few weeks and had thought now hers were reaching a peak she might give it a go...this lead me to research creating nettle fabric in detail and i found this great website;, Ive ordered the book, but meanwhile I now knew what I'd long suspected nettles needed retting like flax....the children were interested in all this information, they quickly saw the connections.

There were thoughts on sustainability, on working with the things that naturally thrived in our environment, on shorter distances between suppliers, producers and consumers....we talked about specialisation and diversifying, about supplying small speciality high quality amounts of goods, one girl mentioned mthat maybe everyone just needed less of things...less waste she pondered would help.

We made our way outside....wrapping a box with recycled sari silk...ribbons from India...representing the journey made by fibres to the mill in a bygone age, the children took strips of paper, including strips of paper made from recycled cotton and with the aim of working on their own went and wrote a line or two, maybe their thoughts on sustainability, a short poem, their favourite story, a thought they would like to share about the session, there was no wrong answer, they were free to write..

the first children back helped me weave the box loom with barley to represent the present day distillery, we added some leaves and plants from the school grounds and then started to weave the paper slips, the words and thoughts in amongst the barley.

The end result was gorgeous...

I'm planning on putting this into a deep frame and keeping it, my hope is I can get further funding in order to display all these gorgeous creations and the Kist itself once completed into an exhibition accompanied by a small book.

If you are able to help to achieve this or would like to book sessions for your school or group connected to the project please get in touch [email protected]

Tattie Bogles #KistinThyme

Posted on 14 September, 2016 at 10:40 Comments comments (0)

Tattie bogles #KistinThyme

The first school session for #KistinThyme was created for a class who were studying Scottish Food this term, I like to create links between my sessions and the children's topics, that way the multi-faceted nature of storytelling becomes more tangible, children can see the connections...sometimes with even greater ease than the grown ups!

When I arrive at the school, we start off with a chat about the sort of vegetables we like to eat, where we get them, what time of year...

Broccolli, cucumber, butternut squash, sweetcorn and red peppers are all faves

This great bit of archive material recorded just up the road from the school was one of the inspirations for me to look at how dramatically the way we eat has changed in just 100 years.

I've brought my Gran's copy of 'The Scot's Kitchen' by F. Marian McNeill with me

The vegetable chapter is a real eye opener to modern readers...

I open the page and start listing recipes:





Banffshire Potato pie,

There are ony a few pages...every recipe features potatoes, carrots make one appearance, cabbage and turnips two.

We end with an exotic one,

No potatoes included...

We hold our


Turnip Purry...ingredients: turnip.

In 2016 the list sounds like a comedy creation.

The children are genuinely surprised as they realise, cucumbers, broccolli, peppers and even the humble brussel sprout don't even make it onto the page of a 100 year old cookery book!

So tatties, we ponder...clearly a staple, where did they come from...

"Who's got plans already for the October holidays" I ask P4, a class of 7 and 8 year olds.

Hands erupt into the air....

'We're going to France',


' my Granny and Grandpa's'

'I'm going to rugby camp'

' camp'

'I'm going to complete lego star wars on my PS4'

'I'm playing with my wii' (older people's groups love the hidden hilarity clearly inherent in this one)

You get the all sounded pretty good.

"I've got a leaflet here about and I quote: the perfect activity to keep young children amused during the holidays, how does that sound, shall I send one home in your school bags?"

A cheer of positivity; hands held out for a look at this promising sounding source of holiday fun.

I continue...

"AND instead of your family needing to pay for you to go, YOU'LL get paid"

My mum storyteller Jean Edmiston, who is herself 69, is joining me for this session, she's mentoring me through this my first fully intergenerational major project, she's also a valuable source of older person info at this first session, where the older people I've worked with for the project have intended on coming but had unavoidable changes of plans and here only via recordings and my notes...

I turn to my mum

"How much did you need to live on in 1969?"

'Well, she replies your dad earned 15 shillings a week, we were both students and you were new-born, we were incredibly hard up but we just about managed on that'

"Ok, I say to the children, you can earn 2 shillings a week for doing this holiday activity, how much could you earn in a week"

They quickly work out that they can earn nigh on an adult wage in a week....

'I'll do it', 'I'll go' 'What is it"

I tell them they'll need to work hard and wear wellies, one boy figures out it's farm work, they're a rural school...

But they're still keen,

"5am" I warn...

They nod eagerly

This brilliant cartoon helps

https [:/] /

Then I go and spoil it all by showing the the reality...

Even to a seven year old this immediately looks like back ache...

There are some brilliant memories about tattie howking in nearby Callander in the 1970's on this BBC forum:

http [:/] /

I produce a neep...that's a turnip, sorry a Scottish (or Swedish...) turnip, a Swede in England, a snep in Gaelic, tumchie is my favourite name for them...the old Scots word.

but what's our tumchie got to do with tatties?

I ask who's heard of a 'tattie bogle', only one or two....a tattie bogle is literally a potato ghost...a scarecrow...a bogle is something that scare things and in this case the tattie bogle is there to scare the crows aways from the potato crops and Tattie bogles, always have a neep for a heid.

I've adapted a great story by the legendary Duncan Williamson for the session, the original from his book 'The Flight of the Golden Bird' can be found here: The Hare and the Scarecrow

In my adaptation I add some of the fantastic bits of folklore and plant use I've found in Tobar an Dualchais, so the tattie bogle sees turnips being used as a poultice, as a cold cure, in purry.... this is one fantastic example of an unexpected but perfect use for a neep:

This is my working synopsis, this is the way I learn a story when I'm working....I can add description and detail as I go.

The farmers children build a tattie bogle (one of my community elders is a really lovely local farmer, her comment that farmers children never went tattie howking as there was too much -unpaid- work for them to do on the farm is added to this bit)


It sits in the tattie field


October holidays come round


School breaks up folk come from far and wide to dig up the tatties.


Scarecrow watches them eating stovies and soup, gald thats not him, using neeps from the nearby field to cure a cold, glad thats not him, as a poultice on a chafed hand (I expand with memories and archive) glad thats not him...but glad that neeps are so useful


Halloween comes around and the scarecrows left in a field all on his own, thinks he’s of no use and remembers all the useful things the other neeps did


Local children running around guising, carrying turnip lanterns flickering eyes look like neeps have come to life...wishes that was him alive and making children laugh...(I add memories of local customs


Halloween and the walls are thin ...a hare asks him whats upsetting him he wishes he can come to life...and he says ok but only if you remember you cant speak... or otherwise the spell will be broken....


Farmer has party...find scarecrow on doorstep, takes him inside at childrens request. But he joins in with party games (here I add in the games from last weeks blog)...and spell is broken, but because he has made the children so happy...every halloween the tattie bogles were brought back to the farm and that was the start of scarecrow festivals.)

The class loves the story

They ask as children always do 'is it real'

I like my mum's answer best

"I always say all stories are real whilst they're being told".

Guess what we do next?

This is Tumchie Snep....we (me, my mum, and Doune primary school P4 with teacher Mrs MacKay) made him outside using found things, leaves and of course the snep

The next session was with Deanston primary lower school (primary's 1 to 3 a composite class) it was a similar session with some different more age appropriate elements and some brilliant in put from Jimmy,  a local resident and one of the chldren's Grandpas's. We made Leafy...she is I'm sure you'll agree lovely...

We round the session off with a gorgeous song in's one we looked at: a lullaby or dandling song about a child being allowed to go and lift potatoes....but not go to the well!

http [:/] /

Other resources I loved but didn't use this time include:

This bit of vintage film is great as support for sessions on seasonal food and changes in how we eat, how many types of food do you see?

One of the reasons I dreamt up this project was to allow me to create new sessions and build a library of resources and ideas to draw on over the next few years, this first one is definitely a keeper, I loved every minute I'll be adding this one to #KistinThyme very soon...

A Kist in Thyme

Posted on 12 September, 2016 at 10:30 Comments comments (0)

A Kist in Thyme


So I’ve kind of been keeping it fairly quiet...for me...but a little while ago the rather lovely folk at Feisean nan Gaidheal awarded me Tasgadh traditional arts funding to research, create and deliver a project that I dreamt up: A Kist in Thyme.

I’ve been fitting in research, organising, planning, meeting and chatting so far and have been waiting until I know I’ve got the right sort of material and I’m really starting to get excited about the stories and sessions before I talk about it too much I guess.

It’s that shiver you get when you’re excited about a new story and how it connects and works that I wanted to really feel...before I talked about it too widely, the sensation of magic beginning to tingle, knowing that everything was starting to root into place, I needed time for that to happen first, ( well that and my youngest to sleep more than 3 hours at night!)

The project goes to the very heart of what I wanted to achieve with storytelling when Botanica Fabula first started to grow 6 years ago. It aims to research and develop some of the plant folklore, traditional use of botanicals and legends where plants play a role, that are hidden within the Tobar an Dualchais collection (http/ ) and then transplant them into appropriately chosen storytelling pieces. My plan is to use a blend of traditional Scottish stories, excerpts from relevant classic literature and local community knowledge of place, heritage and native flora, collected from intergenerational sessions working with a group of older people and local schools to create new dynamic participatory oral storytelling workshops. Sessions that have the potential to be shared beyond the initial project, providing me and other groups with a resource for continued use.

The aim is to highlight the relevance of Tobar an Dualchais curating elements to keep the oral tradition relevant and allow it to grow beyond the historical record, whilst creating a vibrant interactive way of sharing memories and experiences of older members of the community.

That’s the ‘proper description’.

But I’m also hoping that we all have some fun, sharing songs, stories and games, brewing up a few magic potions as we go and so I’m going to start you off with this classic:

In and Out the Dusty Bluebells

Elspeth my neighbour who’s in her eighties laughed and said ‘Oh I’d forgotten that one’

My Mum who’s 69 always used to get us playing it at playgroup when I was little, it reminds me of my 4th birthday party...and when I mentioned it on a herbal walk at the weekend one lady mused about how she’d traveled to see a bluebell wood in full flower in the late Spring...

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s how to play:


now you’ve got that lets all join in shall we!


I've got with sessions booked in over the next month or so and lots of lovely things please check back in and I'll keep you up-dated!