We're sometimes lucky enough to receive very intriguing letters about our family and Kemnay House that people have found in their own archives or through personal research. This month I was sent a wee gem that reflects the importance of nature during challenging times, but in a rather unexpected way:
An article in the Aberdeen Bon-Accord and Northern Pictorial (published Thursday 18th June 1942) was enclosed in a correspondence, educating me in the uses of Sphagnum Moss, and its importance during the Second World War.
As mentioned before in an earlier blog, Muriel Burnett (my great grandmother) was the driving force behind the Kemnay branch of the SWRI. She also transformed Kemnay House into a respite home for airmen from Poland and Czechoslovakia during the Second World War. It seems that every part of the Estate became of use to the war effort as Muriel, and many other ladies, harvested moss from the wilderness for the Red Cross.
Sphagnum moss was collected, cleaned and made into dressings for hospitals and first aid posts due to the shortage in cotton wool. The plant is very absorbent and highly acidic, therefore inhibiting the growth of bacteria, making it the perfect dressing to use during the nightly blitzes across Britain. This amazing, usually overlooked plant, is still used for preserving, insulating and improving soil condition (especially in arctic regions).
During the 4 months leading up to the end of September in 1942 volunteers around the county gathered the moss from boggy, peaty areas such as our woodland. The bales from Aberdeenshire were then transported to Marischal College, where women diligently cleaned the moss and made it into useable dressings by encasing it in muslin sacks.
Each day we are becoming more aware of how precious our natural environment is to us, so when I next walk through the wilderness at the back of the house I'll note this small marvel of of the plant world, rather than deride the oozing mud and moss beneath my boots.