Sphagnum Moss

Sphagnum Moss

Sphagnum moss, or peat moss, is commonly found in the Moray area and was used extensively for dressing wounds during World War 1. It is extremely absorbent, being able to hold around 20 times its own weight in liquid, and its acidity helps to restrict bacterial growth.

It was extremely common in this area for local youngsters to be given the task of collecting sphagnum moss and moss gathering parties were frequently arranged in the Buckie area and local groups registered as official moss parties with the Red Cross. In June 1918 parties from Shielburn School, Inchgower Junior War Work, Boy Scouts, Enzie Moss Party, Portessie Moss Party, Girl Guides, the League of Honour, Rathven Moss Party and the Buckie Moss Party gathered 45 bags of moss.

Once the moss had been collected it was cleaned of all rough particles and sewn loosely into bags. Those bags collected at Buckie were collected together by Mrs Wilson, Inchgower and then dispatched from the Great North of Scotland Railway by special van to the Edinburgh War Dressings Supply where the moss was sterilised before use. Local businesses also played their part in the process of preparing the moss for use. A book on the history of Kynoch's Isla Bank textile mills at Keith notes that sphagnum moss gathered in the local area was dried in the rising heat on the floor above the spinning department there before being sent south.

An early mention of the gathering of sphagnum moss for dressing appeared on 12 June 1915 in The Northern Scot:

We are asked to state that sphagnum moss in fairly large quantities is wanted by the Red Cross for war dressings. Keepers and men living in the hills are asked to collect it and send it to Miss Culbard, Oldmills, Elgin. This moss, which is soft and absorbent, is now taking the place of cotton wool, which has become very expensive during the past few months. The moss is put into white muslin bags and used with boracic lint for dressing purposes. We believe the use of the moss for this purpose is simply a reversion to the practise of former times. The local Boy Scouts have already collected two carts, but, of course, it is impossible for them to devote all their time to this work. The moss when collected and arranged, is sent to Edinburgh to be sterilised.

Three sphagnum moss gathering parties at Rothiemay.