Waulkin & Waulkingsong — at work with a song
Tweed is famous for its unparalleled qualities: thickness, resistance to bad weather. Besides, tweed embodies British traditions, which remain unaltered over the centuries.
All wonderful qualities of tweed are not natural, it is a result of painstaking work. This material is made thick and dense deliberately. In good old Scotland all happens in the same way as many decades ago. Process includes cleaning-up of the fabric from oil, dirt and admixtures of all kinds and following thickening of material.
This process was spread in different countries since ancient times. For example, under the Roman Empire cleaning was carried out with the help of... urine! It was poured in bathes, and slaves were forced to beat time with foots stamping calf length in this liquid. But don’t worry: today usual soap is used for cleaning-up of the fabric.
After cleaning process tweed is made thicker by means of connecting wool fibres. It increases waterproofing course of the material and stayed it. This process is called milling and takes place with the help of beating of the material. The fabric was beaten with hands or foots and was stretched on special frames. In Scotland peculiar wooden hammer for beating of tweed were invented.
Up to now this procedure can be seen in Scotch villages: the fabric is soaked in soap solution and then is beaten fastened on special table. By doing so people... sing!
Waulkingsong are songs, which are sung by old Scotch tradition by beating tweed. Rhythm of the song corresponds to strokes of hammer on the fabric, what makes the work simpler and more cheerful. The songs begin with quite slow rhythm, which accelerates then, when the fabric softens. The interesting fact is, that during singing the fabric is moved in clockwise order only, back run is considered to be unhappy.
Usually, someone leads a verse, and others bear bobs. A song does not have a strict structure: the verses can be added or removed, depending on the size of fabric, which should be treated. Often improvisation or mixture of verses from different songs can be heard.
There is a great amount of songs for beating of tweed, at the same time each of them consists of quite a lot of verses. It can be explained with a Scotch folk saying: during one “session” of tweed beating no one song must be repeated, otherwise there will be no luck.
Today waulkingsong is considered to be a part of cultural heritage of Scotland. These songs can be heard at the local folk fairs.