Saturday, August 26, 2006
The pamphlet depicted right is a facsimile (done by the Eryr Press, 2000, Edinburgh)/image courtesy of Minawear.
It is believed that hemp appeared in Scotland much later than it did in England, though a recent artice (October 1999, vol. 4 of Environmental Archaeology: The Journal of Human Palaeocology) described fibres found from the Bronze Age as being comparable to hemp, and definitely not flax.
An increase in agriculture ca. 1200 AD occasioned more hemp to be grown in Scotland, generally near fishing communities. Hemp fibre was then widely used for ropes and nets, and the seeds of hemp attract a variety of fish to the surface (see related posts on this site with the key word search). Pollen samples from Black Loch show Cannabis sativa to have been present ca. 1045, with large amounts grown in 1210. Similar samples of C. sativa pollen were also found at Kilconquhar Loch. The grounds of medieval hospitals often contain hemp pollen samples as this plant was widely used medicinally.
Many place names in Scotland today reflect this history, including: Hemphill (Aryshire), Hempland (Dumfriesshire), Hempriggs (Caithness) and Hempy Shot (East Lothian). Out of date maps include more, such as: Hemp-buttis (Fife), Hempriggis (Morayshire), Hempisfield (Roxburghshire) and Hempshaugh (Selkirk).
Hemp was an important crop for the British Isles before steam replaced sails and abaca replaced hemp ropes, at one time it was mandated by the Crown. At the peak of demand, however, most hemp was imported from Russia as overland costs made this more efficient.
Today hemp is legal to grow in Scotland with a Home Office permit. Whilst not in demand for rope and sail, it is for other purposes, such as ethanol, paper fibres, food and medicine, for which it may be more in demand than it ever was in the past. Scotland leads the UK currently in hemp paper production, with the Hemp Paper Co. in Aberdeenshire, which produces lines including pastel wallpaper named after Scottish waterways. The very successful Tree Free brand is also produced in Scotland, sheets of which feature in Hemp for Victory.